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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 12:50 GMT
Parents sympathise with teachers' action
parent and children
Parents could find it hard to cope say PTAs
Parents are offering limited support to teachers taking action over staff shortages in England.

The umbrella group for parent teacher associations said many parents were sympathetic to the problems faced by teachers.

But they have warned their support will be severely tested if children's education is disrupted.

Teachers at about 1,000 schools in London and Doncaster have said they will not cover for vacancies and many other regions are set to join the action.

It will be interesting to see how much that sympathy will be strained if children get sent home or do not do a five-day week

Marion Williams, parent
A spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA), said the group had sympathy for teachers.

She said: "We think that teachers are being put under too much pressure from bureaucracy and a very heavy workload.

"But parents don't want their children's education to be disrupted.

"If teachers feel it's neccessary to stop covering classes and children are sent home, it is very difficult for parents to manage, especially as so many are working."

Marion Williams is a parent-governor at a secondary school in Essex and the chair of a PTA.

Lord Puttnam
Lord Puttnam says teachers are over-worked
A qualified teacher, she said she thought it unlikely that the industrial action would spread to Essex.

But she said the high number of vacancies was taking its toll on her sons' school.

"The senior staff are shouldering a lot of the burden, and there is a reliance on one or two teachers teaching three or four classes together in a hall," she said.

"At our school at the moment, there are five key vacancies. Senior staff spend a lot of time shuffling names and children. Part of the problem here is that the school is coping so well. "

She does not think her children's education has suffered because of the teacher shortages.

She believes parents are very supportive of teachers - but that this could be tested if the situation does not improve.

"It will be interesting to see how much that sympathy will be strained if children get sent home or do not do a five-day week," she said.

"So many parents work that this could have an economic impact, affecting their ability to work."

Puttnam 'amazed'

Lord Puttnam, Chairman of the General Teaching Council, has also offered his sympathy to teachers over their workload.

In an interview for, he said: "I think 90% of teachers are overworked, and I am not even sure that their time is used as well as it might be.

"I was amazed when I spent a week working at a school in Liverpool.

"You see them coming in to the staffroom for a coffee break. They have barely poured their coffee and sat down then the bell goes off again.

I think 90% of teachers are overworked, and I am not even sure that their time is used as well as it might be

Lord Puttnam
"I was incredibly impressed by how diligent they are. I came to realise that the pressure is enormous.

"I think the amount of responsibility teachers are asked to absorb, much of which has little or nothing to do with the actual process of teaching, is ludicrous."

Lord Puttnam said he thought all officials in the education sector should spend time in the classroom.

"I don't think anyone should be part of the broad world of delivering education without having spent some time in the classroom, if for no other reason than to understand what it's like to be at the sharp end," he said.

"There is a serious disconnection between the people administering policy, and what it is like at the chalk face. Believe me, it is very very different."

See also:

09 Feb 00 | Education
Puttnam's call to 'love' teachers
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