Perfection is bad for your health

4th March 2005 at 00:00
It was when job applications dropped off dramatically that the school realised there was something wrong. Elleray preparatory and day nursery in Windermere would normally be heavily oversubscribed by teachers looking for a getaway lifestyle, working amid the stunning scenery of the Lake District .

"It was the trigger that made us start talking about work-life balance, and bringing these issues into the open," says headteacher Susan Cooper.

The perfectionist culture at the school was leading to long working hours, stress and isolation among the staff. An independent consultant interviewed staff and confirmed these problems. The pressure was made worse by the many out-of-hours activities undertaken. There was a burden imposed by non-teaching activities and administrative tasks.

"I realised that I was a poor example," says Ms Cooper. "Once we'd recognised the problems, we identified practical steps we could take to deal with them. For instance, we bought a laptop computer which is available to all staff on which were loaded a number of standard forms and documents and any member of staff can take the PC home to prepare reports, lesson plans and so on. I've rearranged the timetable so that free periods are now blocked into whole mornings or afternoons; that way, staff can take time out if they need to for personal reasons or simply to work at home."

A recent Ofsted inspection confirmed the positive impact these initiatives have made: the school scored the highest available grades. "In the end," says Susan, "this is what matters. We can give more to the pupils now."

Taken from the Department for Trade and Industry website: www.dti.gov.uk

which has a useful work-life balance section

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