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Tips of the trade 36. Memory lapse or memory aid

In my fifteen years as headteacher of a large primary school I have seen monumental changes. A major headache is the paper mountain, which has grown at an alarming rate, even though the Government has tried to restrict its paper mailing to schools and LEAs have turned to email to save paper.

Still the letters roll in, questionnaires multiply, reports need writing, directives arrive, official documents and policies need to be read and disseminated to staff, returns need to be carried out. And then there is the sudden, unplanned paper trail that can so easily take over the whole day.

Many of these items need to be passed on to staff for a reply, comment or report. Trying to keep track of them and ensure an efficient system of returns is a constant challenge for us all.

I have found a simple and effective solution: the old-fashioned carbon copy book. You just record the date the document was sent and retain the duplicate copy. Once the item has been completed or returned, destroy the copy. A quick flick through the copy pages jogs my memory and serves as an additional written reminder to staff. The system alleviates the need to remember stacks of information. The result? A less stressful life - and more right arms knowing what the left ones are doing.

Gordon Ayre is headteacher at Dene House primary school, Manor Way, Peterlee, Co Durham. Have you any useful tips for new teachers? We pay pound;50 for all tips published. Send yours to

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