It's a dog's life being a headteacher, but it's even worse being a headteacher's dog.

Marnie, the King Charles spaniel who belongs to Desmond Hamilton (right), the outgoing president of the National Association of Head Teachers, accompanied him to the union's annual conference in Bournemouth last weekend.

But the sprightly mutt did not have access to the plush beds and mini-bar enjoyed by her master and other delegates at the Highcliff Marriott hotel.

Marnie had to content herself with the delights of a camper van in the car park.

Mr Hamilton and his wife had driven from Northern Ireland in what became Marnie's makeshift kennel when her official boarding accommodation fell through.

But Mr Hamilton told The TES that his pet's stopover was not as bad as it might seem. His wife took her for lovely walks on the sunny beach each day.

Delegates, meanwhile, endured hours of debates in a conference hall.

There, David Tuck, the incoming president, also warmed to the animal-in-a-van theme.

Criticising Alan Johnson's unquestioning delivery of Downing Street policy, Mr Tuck compared the Education Secretary and former postie with Postman Pat. Tony Blair, he said, was the black and white cat.

"The problem is, I don't think Postman Pat is in charge," he said. "I think the black and white cat is driving the van."

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