Staffroom haven? We're too rushed even for a cuppa

28th September 2007 at 01:00
The staffroom is no longer seen as a sanctuary where instant coffee, chocolate biscuits and gossip provide respite to stressed teachers.

This haven of pigeonholed peace could be going out of fashion, a TES survey has revealed.

It showed more than half of teachers spend less time in the staffroom than they used to. Many said they are too busy with planning, clubs and break duties.

Others complained that the staffroom is more like a workroom, with desks and internet connections that distract from banter and relaxation. Some were even forbidden from eating lunch there.

Of 5,000 teachers, teaching assistants and heads surveyed, 44 did not even have their own central staffroom, reflecting the fact that some new schools, especially academies, are being built without them. Most wanted them back to have a vital space to meet other staff and exchange information.

Teachers in many schools now retire to their departmental or "faculty" workrooms during breaks, allowing the management to "divide and rule," said one teacher.

Even in an era of high spending on school buildings, teachers were also deterred by staffrooms simply not being very nice. There were tales of infestations of slugs and cockroaches, bad smells, soullessness, untidiness and a coffee machine that gave staff electric shocks.

Despite the lack of time and sometimes off-putting arrangements, 80 per cent said they visited the staffroom at least once a day, with half saying they went to chat.

Some said it was important to retire to a "management free" zone, where they could escape pupils for a few brief moments.

These teachers will be pleased to hear that 72 per cent of heads said they spend less time in staffrooms than they used to.

Abbey Wade, a teacher at Kelvedon Hatch Community Primary in Brentwood, Essex, said her staffroom had become crowded since the school had taken on extra teaching assistants, but it had a "very good, supportive atmosphere". She added: "It's the only place you can go where there's an adult feel, you can find sanctuary there. It's also the only place I can get drinking water.

"The main problem is time though I work 10 hours a day and probably take 40 minutes in breaks. There's not really enough."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the findings were unsurprising in the face of increasing workloads. "Headteachers should remember that a tired workforce is not a good one, staff need time and space for a break."

"Everyone talks about the need for a school community, but cutting down on staffroom time or not having a central staffroom at all is not going to help create that."

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