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Wish you were (Pounds +D) + P + L + T...

Nick Hilborne discovers the mathematical formula for the perfect teachers' holiday - and a vital factor is to minimise the number of pupils you bump into

The summer term has been a triumph, and you are in a Zen-like state of calm. Your yacht sails over a tranquil sea away from the Caribbean island of Montserrat. As the sun sets, you see a small plume of smoke waft from the craggy top of the island's volcano. Your new partner refills your champagne glass, while you close your eyes and recline in the knowledge that you still have five weeks before the new school year... Now, imagine the summer term has ended in complete chaos. You are massively behind in marking and planning. You and your other half have just bought a new home. Your boiler is not working, and you begin the holiday by failing to repair it.

Against your better instincts you take your four children and two dogs to the Welsh Marches for five days' camping. When you arrive , it is raining and your car is hit by a football. You are about to shout at a group of teenagers when you notice some of them look familiar. Surely it can't be... Concerned that your holiday this summer might not be perfect? Worry no more. The TES has obtained a mathematical formula that could make stressful holidays for teachers a thing of the past. The formula, and an explanation of the symbols, are shown in the box, right.

Duncan McMillan, software editor of Maths Whizz Teacher Resource, who devised the formula, said it aimed to help teachers maximise their holiday pleasure. Alternatively, it could warn them when it would be better to stay at home. Positive factors, such as having a lot of spending money, a new partner, an exotic holiday destination and plenty of time, each earn different amounts of points, and are added together.

Negatives, such as taking children or pets with you, or summertime stress caused by moving house or marking books result in lower marks.

The biggest catastrophe of all, meeting children you have actually taught while you are away, reduces your total dramatically, depending how many children you bump into.

"Teachers have infinite potential for the most fantastic holidays, but success is in the planning," Mr McMillan said.

He said the formula could be used during the holiday, for example to calculate the improved score should a member of the party have to leave, or for post-holiday evaluation.

He suggested Montserrat as a perfect holiday destination for teachers as it combined the exotic beauty of a Caribbean island with an active volcano that presented a serious risk for children.

In contrast, Mr McMillan said the Welsh Marches were accessible to most teachers without flying, making them a low-scoring option. He added that he had been told both sides of Offa's Dyke could be beautiful in summer.

Ben Mills, maths teacher at Hedingham secondary in Halstead, Essex, recorded a score of 45 points (Grade C) for a two-week trip with his wife to America, taking pound;500 spending money. "I could have improved my score by taking more spending money, and not doing any DIY," he said.




( (Pounds D) + P + L + T - S) ( 1 + C )

Pounds = Spending money. Award 30 points for more than pound;1,000, 20 points for pound;500 to pound;1,000, 10 points for pound;100 to pound;500, five for less than pound;100.

* = Number in your household. Includes you, your partner, children andor pets. Add one point for each.

P = Your holiday partner. Award 10 points for a new partner, five for anyone else.

L = Your holiday location. Award 10 points for a flight of five or more hours, five for less.

T = Your holiday time. Award 20 points for one week and five for every subsequent week.

S = Summertime stress. Add 10 points for moving house, five for DIY, five for having in-laws to stay, one point per day for lesson planning and the same for marking.

C = Children. The number of children you have taught that you bump into while you are away.

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