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Location, location

Where you live can make or break you in a new job. Sheryl Simms weighs the perils of tortuous commuting, living next door to a Year 10 terror, and expensive housing

It takes Chris Hunt an hour each day to travel to work and an hour to get home. He lives in south London and teaches at Barnet College of Further Education in north London.

He takes two trains. If there is a delay or cancellation, it takes a lot longer. He admits that he's been able to cope only because he works part-time.

"I think it would be hard going if I did this journey five days a week," he says. "I do all my preparation at home. I'd love to work closer to home. It would be less stressful."

For any new teacher, minimising stress should be a priority - and, for many, the journey to work plays a huge part in determining stress levels.

Once you've been offered your first full-time teaching job, which should mark the beginning of a fulfilling and challenging career, the next task is to find somewhere to live.

This is not a process that should be taken lightly. Generally speaking, living close to the school is considered to be the best option for a newly qualified teacher. You need as much help and as few hindrances as possible to be able to cope with what can start out as a stressful job, and long journeys will inevitably eat into precious time needed for preparation and marking.

Lloyd Marshall, deputy head at the Brits school in Croydon, south London, endured a gruelling journey to and from school every day for three years.

"I was at the Phoenix high school at Shepherd's Bush in west London and I lived in Sutton, Surrey. My main problem was negotiating Hammersmith Bridge, which I had to cross before 7am because after that it was just horrid.

"There was the added complication of having to join a senior management team meeting every day at 8am. So, in order to get through some of my own work, I'd try and get in for seven in the morning, which meant I had to leave home at six.

"I was an experienced member of staff by then, so I could cope, but if I had been less experienced it would have been too much for me to take."

The case for living close to school is strengthened when you consider travel costs and the unreliability of public transport. But, most importantly, having time to yourself at the end of the day is vital for your sanity.

On the other hand, there are those, like Lucy Downham, who started at Clifton primary school in Salford, Manchester, in September, who prefer to live away from school. "I live in Manchester," she says. "It takes 30 minutes to drive to school. I prefer living away because I get the work-life balance right. I have the benefits of being in the city but I work at a school I like.

"It makes me feel I can leave it all behind, have my own life and return to school fresh," she says. "When you're shopping in the supermarket, it is nice knowing you're not going to bump into the children or their parents."

Sometimes you can't afford to live close by. London schools are likely to suffer problems recruiting and retaining staff because of accommodation costs.

Elisabeth Baldrick, recruitment and retention manager for Haringey in north London, explains: "We offer information on rented property, property to buy and shared ownership, as well as information on the keyworker homebuy scheme, which offers loans to aid and assist in buying a home on the open market."

Living close to school can help new teachers settle in. Kate Bradley, in the second year of her first teaching job at St James C of E primary school, in Muswell Hill, north London, lives a five-minute walk away.

"I come from Derbyshire, where there are small communities, and London seemed huge when I got here. So to bump into someone I know from school gives me a sense of security," she says. "On the other hand, you do feel you should have a professional hat on all the time."

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