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Pain and passion in the staffroom;Sideways Look;Briefing;The Week in Education

NEWLY qualified teachers were being advised this week on how to deal with school lust and staffroom politics.

The new Handbook for Newly Qualified Teachers, published by the Stationery Office, offered a zany treasure trove of tips for the staffroom ingenue, including lessons on how to be "discreet about your blossoming romance". "Pupils will catch on very quickly and any public displays of affection will undoubtedly fuel the rumours," the authors advised. The headteacher might also become interested, particularly "if you start arriving at school in the same car", but "if the idea of having the entire school community as chaperone doesn't faze you, then go ahead".

On a less positive note, the guidebook warned of the dangers of the staffroom feud: "It would be great to report that the days of military-style occupation of certain items of furniture are over, Sadly they are not. Observe your colleagues for a few days before attaching yourself to a particular area in the staffroom."

While their teachers veer between lust and recrimination, the nation's youth are bent double under the weight of their studies. The National Back Association warned that children were risking their health carrying sackfuls of books through the school day. Palmers Green high school for girls, north London, got so worried that it issued rucksacks.

Over in the Canary Islands, pupils were adding a new textbook to their daily burden. The tiny island of La Gomera decided that all its children would have to learn the island's whistling language, Silbo.

Students will be expected to carry out conversations between hilltop and hilltop in the centuries old tradition of Gomeran shepherds by the end of their studies.

Ukrainian teachers, meanwhile, were whistling for their supper. President Leonid Kuchma noted that "for the first time in recent years", no teachers' strikes were reported on September 1, making the atmosphere "more optimistic". That leaves the sticky problem of the pound;36 million he owes them in back pay.

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