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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Teachers split over workload offer
Teachers
Workload cuts will be balanced with a new 'flexibility'
Teachers in England have given a mixed reception to proposals to reduce their workload.

The package of workload reforms, presented by the government on Tuesday, promises extra support staff and protected time for lesson preparation.

Workload reforms
50,000 extra classroom assistants
'Advanced' assistants who can take lessons
10% teaching time for preparation
Support staff take on non-teaching tasks
Teachers to have more 'flexible' role

This will include recruiting 50,000 extra classroom assistants, some of whom will take lessons in their own right.

But the proposals were rejected as "hugely disappointing" by the biggest teachers' union, the National Union of Teachers.

The deal on offer was "too little, too late", said general secretary, Doug McAvoy.

'Ground breaking'

But the National Association of Head Teachers welcomed the proposals as "ground breaking" which could "deliver a better deal for all those working in schools".


Teaching assistants provide vital support in classrooms but they are not teachers The government is asking the theatre sister to take over the brain surgery.

Doug McAvoy, National Union of Teachers

And the second biggest teachers' union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, welcomed the offer as a "genuine opportunity to reach an agreement".

Extra classroom assistants will take over non-teaching tasks, such as photocopying, and these will include a new grade of better-trained "advanced" assistants who would take some lessons.

These assistants could work alone with classes, but under the overall supervision of a qualified teacher.

They could also provide cover for absent teachers - prompting claims that this could be a back-door way of tackling staff shortages.

The government wants teachers to take on a more managerial role, supervising staff such as classroom assistants.

And the proposals will allow teachers to have a guaranteed time for marking and lesson preparation - set at 10% of teaching time.

Meanwhile the Welsh Assembly has announced that schools will receive 3m to pay for administrative and classroom support staff.

'Flexible' teachers

The government's response seeks to balance a reduction in workload with its own agenda to "re-model" the teaching profession.

Photocopying
Non-teaching tasks such as photocopying will be taken on by assistants

"We are proposing a radical re-structuring of the teaching profession. This is essential to delivering excellence in education to pupils and their parents," said the Education Secretary Estelle Morris.

This re-structuring will mean that the role of teachers will be more "flexible" with "less demarcation".

And it envisages a more flexible approach to the length and style of lessons.

Instead of the standard classroom lesson, there could be lecture and seminar-style lessons for older secondary pupils.

This could include both small-group and one-to-one teaching and larger groups than the conventional class.

The re-modelled teaching profession envisages teachers as better-paid, better-trained, flexible, classroom managers.

And non-teaching and administrative tasks would be taken over by less well-paid, non-graduate support staff.

Industrial action

While the reforms would reduce teachers' working hours, unions will pay close attention to the detail of other changes.

Teachers' unions had threatened industrial action over workload - and a joint union campaign has demanded a 35-hour working week.

But the divided responses to the government's proposals suggests that such a joint policy towards workload might be over - with the two biggest unions taking different stances.

The NUT has voiced the strongest opposition to the deal, singling out the classroom assistants proposals for criticism.

"Teaching assistants provide vital support in classrooms but they are not teachers The government is asking the theatre sister to take over the brain surgery," said Mr McAvoy.

The teachers' workload campaign highlighted the link between teacher shortages and excessive hours.

Long hours of marking and preparation in teachers' own time were claimed as causing stress and leading to many teachers leaving the profession.

A report into teachers' workload, commissioned by the government, recommended a target of 45-hours per week, but ministers have refused to set an inflexible upper limit to the working week for teachers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"Teaching assistants have become essential to the running of all schools"
Schools Minister David Milliband
"This is about ensuring that pupils and teachers get what they deserve"
Reports on the issue of teachers' workload in England and Wales

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18 Oct 02 | Education
21 Oct 02 | Education
16 Sep 02 | Education
02 Apr 02 | Education
22 Oct 02 | Education
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