Teacher goes the extra mile

27th January 2006 at 00:00
... or rather 700 from Prague to Norfolk to teach one day a week.

Sophie Kirkham reports

Before you start moaning about this morning's rush hour traffic spare a thought for Mary Page.

Her 700-mile commute involves two buses, a plane, a coach, then a short walk and a car ride to the school gates.

Mrs Page lives outside Prague in the Czech Republic and teaches one day a week at a primary school in Norfolk. In December she moved her home, but continues teaching at Redcastle Furze primary in Thetford, south west of Norwich, every Tuesday. Her specialist subjects are French and German and she is beginning to add a little Czech to her repertoire.

At up to pound;60 out of her own pocket for the round trip, it is obviously love not money that makes her do it. She does it because she wants to continue the teaching and union work she is dedicated to - and pick up the English ground coffee she cannot live without.

"It's not an onerous commute," she said. "It was much worse when I lived in Muswell Hill in London. I leave at about 8.30am. I get a bus to the square in Prague where I catch another bus to the airport. I can have a bit of a read until I get on the plane to Stansted. When I get to Stansted there is a coach to Thetford, then I have a five-minute walk to my car and a short drive to the school. The whole thing takes four or five hours and it is nice to have that time to myself."

The weekly journey starts on a Monday morning, giving Mrs Page a half-day break and a night in a friend's spare room before she goes into the classroom on Tuesday morning. The return leg starts with a dash to the airport at the end of the school day and back home for a late supper.

With many old friends in the former communist country, Mrs Page, 61, and her partner have settled well into the Czech way of life in Roztoky u Prahy, a small village three miles from Prague.

She said: "Without the internet and easyJet this would not have been possible. I now read my newspaper, do my banking and book tickets online, and keep in touch via computer."

Even though she has already been offered work as an English teacher in the Czech ministry of finance, and is applying for permanent right of residence, Mrs Page has no plans to give up either the teaching in Norfolk nor her union work. "It is not just for work that I come back, but keeping in touch with the UK, and buying things that are still difficult to find over here. Every week I take back a packet of Sainsbury's ground coffee, but I will never, ever come back to the UK to live. The quality of life just doesn't compare."

Mrs Page is an active member of the NASUWT union, and is its representative on the TUC's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender committee.

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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