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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 16:04 GMT
Teacher workload deal signed
Teachers
Workload cuts will be balanced with a new 'flexibility'
The government and most of the education unions in England and Wales have signed what they are calling an "historic" deal aimed at reducing educators' workloads.

It will free teachers to spend more of their time on teaching

Education Secretary, Charles Clarke

But ministers are on a collision course with the largest teaching union over their decision to allow classroom assistants to teach classes.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) was not at the signing ceremony in London.

And Conservative members of the Local Government Association (LGA) - representing some of the biggest education authorities - are also opposed to the agreement.

'Better focus'

Speaking at the ceremony, the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, said it was "a good deal for everyone".

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

"It will free teachers to spend more of their time on teaching and to focus on the individual learning needs of all their pupils."

He thanked those who had had "the wisdom and courage to sign up to a constructive, collaborative process".

The agreement will mean more support staff in extended roles - which is the big issue for the NUT.

Deploying large numbers of classroom assistants is intended to reduce teachers' workload on routine tasks and make time during the school day for planning and marking.

The overall agreement applies to England and Wales.

Teachers' pay and conditions are not a devolved matter - but the Welsh Assembly plans to consult schools on what sort of support staff they want to deploy.

Classes of 60

The NUT rejects allowing "unqualified" people to have responsibility for whole class teaching.

The union wants a more clearly defined limit on numbers of assistants in schools and the extent of their responsibilities.

It objects to an aspect of the deal which it says could mean pupils in classes of 60 or more.

This is because one qualified teacher and one or more assistants might be used to cover "a double-sized group of pupils".

Political opposition

Tory LGA members include those running the education authorities in Essex, Kent, Surrey, Hampshire and 40 smaller areas.

Their lead negotiator, Cllr Ronnie Norman, said the main issue was funding.

"To sign an agreement without the financial resources in place is simply not sustainable and would be irresponsible on our part.

"Local authorities do not have the resources to deliver the measures set out in this document," he said.

Trying to "could open the floodgates in terms of industrial or legal action" he said.

"Ironically we could actually witness cuts in teacher numbers and a rise in class sizes thanks to this document."

It also failed to recognise the difficulties that would face rural authorities with small schools of only two or three teachers.

'Centralised decision-making'

The Tories also share the NUT's concerns over the level of responsibility and classroom cover that unqualified staff will provide.

The government have gone for a typically bureaucratic New Labour solution

Tory spokesman Damian Green
"Conservative representatives are strongly in favour of measures that reduce unnecessary burdens on teachers and improve development training for support staff, but feel that the practical results of these proposals will not meet that aim."

The Tories' national education spokesman, Damian Green, said: "This is using a hammer to crack a nut - you could simply get round this problem by giving heads real power on hiring and organising staff.

"Instead the government have gone for a typically bureaucratic New Labour solution, with a paperwork 'tsar' prescribing from Whitehall what responsibilities a teacher should and should not perform."

The National Association of Head Teachers - which recently warned that schools did not seem to be getting enough money - said everything depended on the government making good its promises on resources over the next three years.

"Changes of this magnitude cannot be delivered unless there is the right amount of money in school budgets. No money means no reforms," it said.

Lib Dem concerns

The Liberal Democrats have agreed to the proposals - with reservations.

Their LGA representative, Cllr Val Cox, urged the government not to compromise children's education by replacing fully-qualified teachers with teaching assistants.

"Cutting workload is essential if we are to recruit and retain the teachers we need," she said.

"The government must not use the proper campaign against workload as a back-door for improper reliance on teaching assistants."

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  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"The plan is to train assistants up and allow them to take whole lessons"
Reports on the issue of teachers' workload in England and Wales

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