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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 13:51 GMT
School shakes up the timetable
Trainee geography teacher Lee Molyneux with pupil
The aim is to reduce teacher workload
A junior school in Plymouth has been given permission to vary its timetable in an effort to improve teachers' working lives.

At Langley Junior School, teachers will be freed from normal teaching duties on Wednesday afternoons so they can plan lessons, draw up individual teaching plans for pupils, have training or staff meetings.

Meanwhile, the children will have lessons outside the normal curriculum, taught by teachers and volunteers from outside the school.

Lessons will include French and Spanish, journalism and computing, music technology, chemistry, basketball, soft metal work and cookery.


The school day is being extended by just five minutes a day and break times are being changed to make sure the total amount of teaching time children get is the same as at other schools.

Head teacher Debbie Fuller says pupils and teachers will benefit from the changes.

"The children will have lessons in a wide range of subjects outside the national curriculum.

"We wanted to look to the future to see which skills might be in short supply, to develop interests and aspirations and foster creativity."

Among those coming to the school to run six- week courses are three local secondary schools.

class scene
Teachers will be given more time to plan
Children were asked to choose which of the five courses they wanted to take.

After half-term, they can switch to a different option if they want to.

Ms Fuller said the children were very keen on the project.

"They are very excited and are really looking forward to it,"she said.

And the teachers, she said, were also delighted: "It will give them time for planning, staff meetings and inset training," she said.

"Teachers are professionals and should be treated accordingly."

To make the change, the Education Secretary Charles Clarke gave the school permission to vary its timetable from the start of next term.

Under new legislation designed to promote innovation in schools, he has the power to exempt schools from certain laws governing the way schools operate.

The new legislation is called Power to Innovate in the Education Act 2002.

Ordinarily the school would have had to wait until the start of the new academic year in September to implement the changes.

Cutting bureaucracy

Mr Clarke said the change would allow teachers to focus on their professional duties and help to raise standards.

"The power to innovate has given Langley the freedom to make these changes sooner, rather than later, allowing the school to put its ideas into practice and to get on with the important business of improving teaching and learning.

"In future, the power to innovate will enable more schools to cut through bureaucracy and to explore opportunities to improve the education of their pupils".

Langley is one of 32 primary and secondary schools in England selected to take part in a scheme under which new ideas are piloted.

The idea of the project - called Pathfinder - was to allow schools the chance to experiment with schemes designed to reduce teachers' workload and make better use of support and administrative staff in schools.

The pilot scheme at Langley is expected to run for three years, with the aim being to keep it, if it is successful.

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See also:

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