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Warming to duvet days

Heads and teachers need to get a life to raise attainment and lower their stress levels.

Ideas suggested at a work-life balance seminar in Edinburgh last week included running a creche, hiring a life counsellor, allowing senior management to work from home and providing a quiet room for staff to take time out from school life.

Hobbies and spending time with family were important in ensuring teachers and heads had a life outside school.

Keynote speaker Deborah Duncan, head of Horbury School in Yorkshire, said she was considering other more radical ideas, such as duvet days. An American invention, the idea was to give staff two days a year when they could phone in, saying they were well but would not be coming into work.

In business, the idea had worked well, because staff who knew they could take a day off were less inclined to do so, Ms Duncan told the event, which was organised by the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Ms Duncan, author of Work-life Balance: Myth or Possibility, argued that happy, unstressed teachers mean better attainment and less expense.

One school in Surrey had even reduced the cover bill to zero, which allowed the head to invest in personal concierges who performed chores for teachers, such as collecting their dry cleaning.

Lindsay Roy, HAS past president, said tired, burnt-out leaders would not be effective in their jobs. "We can be our own worst enemies," he said. "There is a time to say no and that should be a sign of strength rather than weakness."

He said heads should empower colleagues to delegate while support staff could provide an invaluable service: "We need to ask why we are doing something. We've not been good at filtering in schools, local authorities or between authorities."

* www.worklifesupport.com or www.unison.org.ukworklifebalance

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