Teacher Talk

Monica Forty, 41, is head teacher at Arnhem Wharf Primary School in the Isle of Dogs, east London. She is in the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT)
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Are you implementing the new teachers' contract, designed to reduce administrative loads?

Yes. I'm very for it. I looked at the budget requirement for taking the 24 designated tasks away from teachers and devised a position for a resource manager, responsible for photocopying, preparing resources and putting up displays. This is part of the workforce reform agenda, which is about more than teachers not having to do certain tasks. By 2005 we have to give teachers a minimum of 10 per cent non-contact time. I hear from the National College of School Leadership, which has a remodelling team helping schools to bring in the reforms, that one school has done this by having support staff running creative activities for the children every Friday afternoon while the teachers are marking and planning. Instead of paying for supply teachers, a creative change is being brought about. I already have a specialist PE and singing teacher, who gives my teachers non-contact time while providing continuity and quality in PE and singing. The NAHT has expressed caution about the costs of remodelling, however. Our budget is healthy but I know a lot of schools are not in such a position.

Do staff socialise outside school? If so, is this a good thing?

My staff were offered free tickets to see a preview of the movie Ned Kelly and a range of teachers and support staff went. Most of us will be going to Canary Wharf on Friday night for our site manager's 40th birthday. Our pupils are fantastic but challenging, and these nights are an opportunity to enjoy one another's company and let off steam. Nobody feels pressure to attend events.

Is school phobia a problem for any of your pupils?

Sometimes pupils don't want to come to school and they will either say so or say they have tummy ache. My job is to find out what the problem is. Sometimes children don't want to leave their families, which might be going through a difficult time - say a bereavement. Fear of failure and issues with friendships can also cause problems. I would always ask a child who didn't want to come to school whether they were being bullied. Children and families are extremely complex. There might be one trigger behind a refusal to go to school and there may be something called school phobia, but this problem is usually about more than school.

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