Not whining, but drowning

21st July 1995 at 01:00
As a teaching head in a rural primary school I, like Tony Stephens, (TES, July 7) enjoy my job, finding it challenging, satisfying and full of variety. However, I am conscious of the unreasonableness of expecting one person to fulfil all the demands made upon them, a consciousness given particular clarity because I also care for my mother, who is severely disabled with rheumatoid arthritis.

The competing demands of these two responsibilities leave little time for personal interests and friendships. It ought to be possible to care for my mother without feeling resentment when that care interferes with my performance as a headteacher, but it is not.

Growing anecdotal evidence suggests that, where personal circumstances do not run smoothly, professional circumstances suffer, there being no slack in the system. The issue is not, therefore, are we willing to work long hours for the pleasure of doing the job well, but are we able to do so? If the job cannot be done well without the investment of long hours, then we must question the system, since we cannot assume that all of those most capable of being effective heads are able to work the necessary hours.

We cannot afford to side-step this issue. The evidence suggests that too many of our colleagues are retiring early through ill-health. Those of us who perceive the difficulties are not whining, rather we are seeking to resolve them now for the good of the education system as a whole.

PENELOPE CAMPBELL Clavering county primary school Manuden Road Clavering Essex

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