Room for improvement

27th April 2012 at 01:00

I wonder how many teachers spotted the news item suggesting that the government thinks staffrooms could be done away with. It would be down to headteachers to make the final decision, ministers said, but the idea seemed sound enough in principle... Can you imagine the dialogue at the Department for Education, that bastion of value for money where the audio-visual equipment looks like a high-tech console from Nasa and the average pot plant costs the equivalent of a class teacher's wages?

Ah, come in everybody. Plenty of room around this enormous oak table. Pull up a chair ... I'm glad you like them...The design was inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Now then, the budget for schools is very tight and we haven't sent them a directive for over half an hour, so I'm wondering if a leaflet on budget management might be useful ...

Excellent plan, Richard. I've got an idea. What about recommending they do away with their staffrooms?

Interesting notion, Jeffrey. What's in it for us?

Well, at least they can't smoke in them any more. But I'm sure they gather in them to moan about their pensions and their workload and so on. And there's usually a huge queue at the tea urn because everybody's in there at once, so that means they could be late for their next lesson.

Yes, I see where you're going with this, Jeffrey. Increased productivity, driving up standards and so on.

Exactly, Richard. And there could be health and safety benefits, too. Every staffroom gets filled with clutter. Just show me one where Mrs Smith hasn't left a pile of PE equipment in the middle of the floor. It would stop Mrs Jones tripping over it and then suing. Wasn't really a problem when the councils had to pay, of course, but with our academy and free school initiatives, headteachers would relish the idea of not having to pay out.

What do you think, Elspeth. We're on a roll here...

Well, the staffroom could be turned into a storeroom for important things like government initiative documents. They could be filed and dated so that teachers could find them easily and read them.

Absolutely. As long as they do the reading in their leisure time, after they've done all their marking. But they do finish at 3.30pm, so they aren't exactly overstretched, are they? In fact, if staffrooms are dispensed with, they won't need to congregate for a grumble and they could work an additional 15 minutes in the classroom. Think what that will do for standards. What's your opinion, Andrew?

Well, there are other issues, Richard. Teachers do need this time for a toilet break. After all, we're asking them to work until they're 186 now, and I think the older ones might feel some bladder strain...

I'm sure we can organise countrywide courses on bladder control. Then we could dispense with the toilets, too. Another useful space. Any other concerns?

Well, my sister is a teacher and she says her staffroom is buzzing with humour, interesting discussion and educational ideas. Would it be fair for teachers to miss out on that?

But Andrew, they don't need to have educational ideas. We tell them everything they need to know. Now then, I think it's almost lunchtime, isn't it? I wonder if we could get teachers to bring sandwiches and eat them in the classroom while they're teaching?

Mike Kent is a retired primary school headteacher. Email:

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