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How to survive the staffroom minefield

FORGET A-LEVELS, degrees, inspection grades and employment rates - having a spare coffee mug and not sitting in the wrong chair are the skills trainee teachers really need.

The advice is spelt out in an official guide for people starting their first jobs in school. It says new teachers should never cry (at least not until the children have left the room) and must bite their tongues when "old timers" mutter. Staffrooms are "hotbeds of gossip", but recruits are told to remember it is "the place where the real power structure of your school is revealed".

New arrivals should take two mugs to school (one bearing their name), as "many a teacher has been known to cry at the sight of an empty mug rack".

Eager newcomers are warned: "You are unlikely to be told the Law of Seating Arrangements until you commit the ultimate offence. Observe your colleagues for a few days."

Elizabeth Holmes, the book's author and a former teacher, writes that personality clashes are "almost inevitable... but there is always a thread of empathy that can be built on". Staffroom romances, however, are a bit more tricky, and "pupils will catch on very quickly about what is going on".

Learn how to butter up secretaries and fellow teachers - and the cleaners, the book says. "Perhaps a small gift for the secretary who prepared worksheets at the last minute or the bursar who dealt with your muddle of monies for the school trip will nurture your relationships."

Teachers are encouraged to spray classroom with "well- diluted essential oils. Neroli is said to be stress reducing, juniper stimulating, lavender relaxing and lemon uplifting."

Handbook for Newly Qualified Teachers, published by The Stationery Office at pounds 12.99