In need of more than feng shui;News;News and opinion

10th December 1999 at 00:00
The Government promised pound;40 million to revamp teachers' shabby staffrooms. Will it be enough? Chris Bunting reports.

A DRIVE to revamp "shabby" staffrooms has unearthed teachers crammed into converted stock cupboards or forced into school corridors.

The Government promised last year that "the shabby staffroom and the battered electric kettle - which endured for so long because teachers always choose to put their pupils first - can become a thing of the past".

Ministers have committed pound;40 million over the next two years to improving teachers' working environment. And last year the new chairman of the General Teaching Council, Lord Puttnam, announced a competition, to be run jointly with The TES, to design the "staffroom of the future".

But local officials involved in implementing the improvement schemes are confronting a grimmer reality.

Staff at the 140-pupil St Mary's Church of England primary, near Bath, greeted talk of the "staffroom of the future" as a bad joke: they have not got one at all.

John Whitlock, acting headteacher, explained: "We have an area where staff congregate in between two classrooms: at one end we have a table and a few chairs. But it is open on both sides to the children. You have to be very careful what you say."

Katy Brierley, headteacher of Luddendenfoot junior and infant school, near Halifax, West Yorkshire, said her staff of 18 shared a tiny, six-seat room. "Clearly the Government's money is just for refurbishing your staffroom. It is for getting a new kettle or a wall painted, but some of us need much more radical changes."

At nearby Ash Green junior and infant school, Halifax, teachers voted to give up their staffroom last year to make way for a computer room for pupils. The 36 teachers and support assistants now crowd into a converted store cupboard and small kitchen.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment said new regulations required all schools to have a space for use by teachers for work and social purposes.

He said: "The department is aware that in smaller schools the staffroom sometimes becomes the head's room. The school says it doesn't have a staffroom, but in fact it is just being used by the head."

The Government has promised at least pound;500 to all schools in England over the next two years for staffroom improvement. Another pound;20 million will be divided among schools in particular need.

The total grants average around pound;1,600 per school, enough to buy two two-seat cane sofas and a fridge from the John Lewis department store in London's Oxford Street.

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