The wonderful world of the dressing-gown office

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Welcome, teachers, to the wonderful world of Working From Home! Thanks to your PPA time, you can now experience, for the first time, what the rest of the working world has been enjoying for years - the delight of slobbing in your dressing gown with Wogan on the radio, your computer on your lap and a glass of something by your side. About time, too.

Oh, all right, then. I know it's not quite like that. It's true, though, that for primary teachers whose PPA time falls conveniently, there is the real possibility of either leaving school early or arriving late - and plenty are taking advantage of it.

There are good reasons why they should, not least that many primary schools don't have decent workspaces for their teachers. Many a village primary has a combined school office, staffroom and head's room, in a space that looks suspiciously like a landing or a corridor.

In some places, money has already been spent on creating and equipping a workroom, in anticipation of PPA, but all too often the cash, or the space, or both, just aren't there. Aren't there other problems about working from home, though? Surely there are rules about this?

It is accepted that teachers on PPA time are effectively as inaccessible to immediate management demands as if they were away from the building - so there seems no good reason for fencing them in.

At the same time, though, because PPA is part of the working day (within "directed time") it's up to the head to say whether you can go off or not.

In any case, common sense determines that decisions like this are arrived at openly, with the agreement of management and colleagues - and, I'd say, the governors.

As you'd expect, not every head wants to let people out. Relations with the local community seem to be the main preoccupation. One head put it like this: "What about the teacher who does all her preparation on Saturday morning and then goes shopping during school time? I might be comfortable with that, because I know my colleagues. But I'm not sure how parents would feel if they bumped into her pushing a trolley round Tesco at ten o'clock on a Monday morning."

Some of the same worries affect heads, who have management and leadership time as well as PPA time. I know a number who routinely take some of this time at home, because it is difficult for a head to be in the building but unavailable.

In one case, the governors cut through parental doubts and misunderstandings by making it clear that they'd actually directed the head to spend one morning every fortnight working at home.

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