Arnold's world

13th February 1998 at 00:00
A curb on early retirement simply doesn't go far enough to ease the impending teacher crisis. Instead, it seems reasonable to ask teachers to stay in harness for as long as the Department for Education and Employment deems it necessary that they should so do.

It's true that an ageing staff may lack the enthusiasm of youth but their years of experience should be more than enough to compensate for this. The campaign to allow educationists to claim tax relief on computer equipment tcould be extended to include Zimmer frames, bath chairs and ear trumpets.

With suitably qualified paramedics on hand to provide blanket baths, sweet cups of tea, oxygen and suchlike, there is no reason why teachers - following the exemplary lead of the Queen Mother - shouldn't remain in active service well into their nineties and beyond.

Although teachers currently in the profession might have misgivings, it would do much to encourage young graduates to take up teaching. They'd naturally be attracted to a career which offered them endless work for long enough to be able to pay back their student loans.

This week's tip for teachers has been provided by a primary school deputy head who seems remarkably immune to the stresses and strains normally associated with the job. His simple advice is to buy a caravan.

He takes his to school every Friday and when the bell rings at the end of the last lesson, he is first out of the gates. He picks up his wife (who also teaches), and his children from their schools and is on the motorway before the rest of his colleagues have decided which pile of marking to take home for the weekend. He parks in some delightful beauty spot and the family forget all about school for a couple of days.

It's true that there are some ghastly chores associated with caravanning but these, too, play a crucial role in ensuring that the weekend is free of unnecessary stress. The chores are the ultimate deterrent. They are assigned to anyone who has the temerity to utter any word which could possibly be construed as having an association with education. There is a sliding scale.

Say "blackboard" , for instance, and you'll have to wash the dishes. Say "Woodhead" and you are lumbered with the chemical latrine.

Although I've never been on a caravanning holiday, I do own a mobile home. We pronounce it the French way - "mob-eel omm" - in a sad attempt to make it sound marginally less naff. Of course, there is nothing mobile about a mobile home: the lorry delivers it to your chosen site and there it stays, depreciating in value, attracting small rodents and springing leaks.

Whenever we feel thoroughly cheesed off with work, we escape to our beloved mob-eel omm where we sit, watching the Pembrokeshire rain and listening to the familiar pitter-patter of flaking rust. It's remarkably therapeutic: within hours we are desperate to be back at work. Oddly the rest of the family are very fond of the old place and I have had to promise never to attempt to sell it. (30ft, eight-berth, Pounds 500 ono. In need of some attention.) l ArnoldEvans@virgin.net .

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