Ask a teacher

5th October 2007 at 01:00
Our headteacher has decided teachers and teaching assistants are to do playground duty every day, but breaktime is often when important staffroom conversations happen. Please do not advise we speak to the head as she is not willing to listen to the views of her staff.

Christina, Surrey

A This sort of autocratic leadership should have gone out with the Ark. There are a number of channels you should pursue: a grievance procedure if anyone is brave enough to be a test case; call in your local union official; through the governors and especially the staff governor. The governors should be horrified to hear of this management style. Pat, Brighton

A It might be wise to "uncouple" the situation faced by your teaching colleagues and the teaching assistants. No one wants to be elitist on this, but you have different contracts, status and claims to professionalism. A united front against a head who is over-assertive is all well and good, but you need to defend your professional interests first and foremost. If the head is encroaching into your conditions of service, you need to act independently, as teachers. John, Worthing

A What is really encouraging about the way you frame your problem is that you are including the teaching assistants. It's all too easy sometimes to play the "professional" card and drive a wedge between teaching and support staff. This would be a foolish tactic in your situation, with a head who is impervious to reasoned argument. In these circumstances the reflex of the autocrat is to "divide and rule". By standing united you are demonstrating that this won't happen. Stick together and get the unions involved. Sue, East Grinstead

A This situation can easily be resolved, but it concerns and surprises me that your head will not listen to the views of her staff. Teaching assistants are skilled and their impact is often undervalued. They have a working knowledge of a range of pupils so their input during playground duty can be invaluable. But they should not be taken for granted. Discuss a timetable with them so they can have a daily break within a weekly rota system that incorporates their usual timetable of support John, Cumbria

Coming up

Q: The lecturer introducing the final year of the primary teaching course says: "I can guarantee you're going to be up until the early hours studying most nights". Can I avoid this?

Q: I am new at my school and it has come to my attention that another new member of the senior leadership group has recruited spies to root out anyone bad-mouthing the school and members of staff. I am appalled this happens in a professional environment. What are my rights?

Send your answer or any question you would like answered by your fellow teachers to askateacher@ We pay pound;30 for any question or answers published.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today