Miserable? Teachers? I don't believe it I

6th February 1998 at 00:00
A report by Guy Cumberbatch of Worcester University found that teachers were among the most miserable public servants in Britain. They joined nurses and tax inspectors in being most likely to suffer from a dose of the Meldrews (named after Victor Meldrew of television's One Foot in the Grave), a condition caused by long winter days and family problems.

Perhaps winter blues drove Michael Feeney and Mark Jones, two Essex teachers who were captured on closed-circuit television attacking a policeman who had reprimanded one of them for urinating in the street after a late-night drinking session. The policeman lost his radio, baton, glasses and helmet in the fight. The two, who admitted assault, will be sentenced next month. Kevin Arkell, headteacher of Boswells School in Chelmsford, where both teachers were acting heads of department, said he was "shocked and appalled".

Years of watching telly and being driven to play-school are apparently taking their toll on little waists, not to mention little hearts. But Britain's under-fives, said to be among the least healthy in Europe, will soon be able to work out in the comfort of their own homes. For Pounds 50 (all right, Pounds 49.99), Little Tikes will be selling activity gyms accompanied by aerobic workout programmes designed by a former PE teacher.

A similar kit should perhaps be invented for big tikes to exercise on while they watch the telly. A survey by the Independent Television Commission has found that, after sleeping, sitting in front of the box is the most time-consuming leisure activity in many households. One family in seven watches more than six hours a day. But, despite the advent of Channel 5 and the growth of satellite TV, viewing is not on the increase.

Those who do rise from their couches seem increasingly to be taking to basketball, which is said to be hugely popular among British schoolboys. It is growing more popular among girls too, where it is threatening the more "sissy" netball.

Students applying to Oxford University who want to have plenty of free time should perhaps apply to study human sciences, a mixed discipline of biology, anthropology and sociology. A survey of the total number of hours students worked found that the daily grind for human sciences students was less than three hours. Fine arts students, on the other hand were putting in more than six hours and jurisprudence , chemistry, theology and engineering also took a fair chunk out of the students' day.

Over at Cambridge, meanwhile, lecturers have been sent to drama school to learn how to keep those students who do turn up from dropping off. Some spent a day with a voice coach in Loughton, Essex, learning relaxation and breathing exercises and reciting dramatic poems to make their lecturing style "more imaginative".

Graduates entering the workforce are said to be reacting against the burn-out culture of the Eighties and demanding that employers take on a caring, pastoral role. They want time for themselves, their families and friends. One City law firm has promised not to push graduates too hard.

While the doings and reported doings of Bill Clinton continued to hog the headlines, confirmation that he is macho came from a study in New Zealand. Valerie Grant, a behavioural scientist from Auckland, has found that men whose jobs require egotistical toughness - police officers, soldiers, pilots and, no doubt, busy US presidents - are more likely to produce daughters. Sensitive, artistic types are more likely to father sons. So Chelsea Clinton's father is true to type.

While pundits debate whether the president has indeed offended, the Vatican has no such doubts about its church's teachings. It has condemned a Roman Catholic textbook widely used in British secondary schools, Roman Catholic Christianity, because it is "not in full conformity with the Catholic faith". The book states, for instance, that the church considers premature withdrawal an acceptable form of birth control, when in fact only the "rhythm method" is permitted.

Christian, the eight-year-old adviser to the Millennium Dome, has delivered himself of the view that the dome should not be restricted to humans. "It should be for bugs and dogs and crabs as well," he says. He could be on to something there. How about banning humans from the place and turning it into a Pounds 750 million free-range zoo?

Biddy Passmore

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