Ask Tom

15th August 2014 at 01:00
Teacher, TES Connect blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

At what point can you use the word "liar" with a child? One colleague says never, some say only when you have 100 per cent proof and others say whenever you suspect that a lie has been told. Is it really that bad a term to use in schools?

A teacher, via Twitter to @tes

My advice is to use it almost never. The problem is that the word is so charged and confrontational that it automatically becomes a slur. Even if you are dealing with bare-faced liars, it's best to stick to "I'm sorry, but that just isn't the way things are" or similar. To call someone a liar might be justified but what outcome are you seeking? If it's a fight, carry on.

I have just been signed off with stress as I am juggling bringing up a young child on my own with full-time work in a challenging school. I wanted to go part-time but the school said no, as their one part-time slot had already been filled. Can I force their hand or do I need to look elsewhere? I really like this school and it is close to my home, but the situation is proving extremely difficult.

A teacher, via email to

You don't have a lot of choices, alas. Unfortunately, the school doesn't have to give you a part-time position, only to consider it. If they have done so then they can refuse you. After all, it is harder to run a school with lots of part-timers. I would seek a part-time position elsewhere or consider supply work. Good luck.

I am feeling overwhelmed at the end of my newly qualified teacher year - I am at a school that is underperforming and where staff are very overworked. Because I started off keen, I have been assigned increasing amounts of work. It has got to the point where I am juggling responsibilities that no other NQTs are being asked to take on, and a lot of them are very time-consuming pastoral duties. I want to do my bit and I don't want to let down the children I have been given to mentor, but I am struggling to cope. How do I find a way out of it? I am here next year and I don't want to have another 12 months like this.

A teacher, via email to

Then make things better for yourself. No one will notice how hard you are working, so you have to be the change you want to see in the world. Tell your line managers you need to give up some extra duties in order to focus on your core concerns. Do it. Otherwise you will burn out and your enthusiasm will turn to ashes. Everyone loses in that scenario. Don't worry about how they will see you if you admit you need to cut back; consider how things will be if you don't.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School in London.

Do you agree with his advice? To have your say or ask a question, visit www.tesconnect.comasktom or email

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