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'There is nowhere else to go'

John Wells, 53, is head of Mount Pleasant junior in Southampton and except for a brief stint as a librarian has taught all his working life.

He is married, with two children aged three and six, and his wife will return to work as soon as they are in school to help pay the mortgage. He earns Pounds 40,000.

Although he wanted to go into advertising, his passion for art led him to train as an art teacher. But his first job was in a primary school - he found he loved it and has stayed ever since.

But he would not try and push his children into teaching, he says, nor dissuade them if they wanted to pursue it as a career. "I will support them in whatever they want to do," he said. "But I have found teaching narrows your horizons, once you are a teacher there is nowhere else for you to go."

He commutes from Salisbury, about an hour each way, leaves home at 7am, and returns around 6.30pm.

He eats dinner after his family, before bathing the children and putting them to bed. Then if work needs doing, he will do it between 8.30pm and 10pm, or watch television, or sit and relax with his wife. Although he tries not to take work home during the week, this is often unavoidable.

"As a couple, my wife and I have been out together about once in the past three years," he said. "We do things occasionally individually, but it is a question of childcare."

Once a fortnight, Mr Wells, a season ticket holder for Reading FC, goes to a match where he meets old friends and fellow fans.

"That's my little space, and I suppose it is my main social outlet."

At the weekends, the family visit places of interest or go to the park. Mr Wells will also make time for an hour-long run to keep fit, and usually several hours work on Sunday before the week starts.

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