Mike Baker wrote about a "revolution" taking place in classrooms in England and Wales this term, as schools adapt to allowing teachers to spend 10% of their time on planning, preparation and assessment.
Here is a selection of your views from the many responses we received.
From the UK originally, I am currently studying for a Bachelor of Education in Brisbane, Australia. The primary school that I attend to complete my practical placement already has what they term here "non-contact" time, where the teachers have half a day away from the classroom.
Teaching assistants will play a bigger role under the changes
This system seems to work extremely well. The teacher is able to plan effectively for the term and ensure that each child's development is carefully considered. The school has a well-organised routine to schedule these non-contact times.
I can only imagine that most teachers in England will be extremely happy to have the time made available to them in school to do something that they no-doubt already do in their own time.
Nicola Judd, Brisbane, Australia
If teachers are to be treated as professionals, and if they are to be adequately prepared for classes, this is a step in the right direction. Whether teachers use the traditional teacher-centred methods of teaching or the progressive student-centred methodologies such as reflective inquiry, providing more time for preparation guarantees better quality lesson planning, individual student planning and assessment.
Giving release time provides teachers with the time to do all the paperwork that many people do not acknowledge exists. However, providing TAs with supervision responsibilities brings with it legalities and the question needs to be raised: Do they possess adequate training and preparation? What about liabilities? Have the government and the teacher unions addressed these questions?
Lydia, Edmonton, Canada
Although Mike doesn't mention it here, the DfES are quoted elsewhere on this site as saying "Fewer than 15 schools in England have said they would have difficulty implementing the agreement." This statement, if true, is such a piece of blatant spin that it needs to be vigorously challenged.
Implementing this agreement has been one of the most difficult tasks I have been faced with in my terms as governor. I know many other governors feel the same.
I am not yet convinced that this scheme will work, especially as there is only minimal extra funding provided to cover it.
In fact I doubt that there are even 15 schools across the country who had no difficulty in implementing it.
Feargal Hogan, Surrey, UK
"Personalisation" simply won't work. Instead of 30 students being required to meet one standard, now one teacher is required to meet 30 standards!
I taught for 11 years and what I have to say is this: The teaching leadership just love to play games and come up with some new "gimmick" that can be all the rage so everybody can jump on the bandwagon. The funny thing is that the students themselves will see right through all this.
Gregory S. Wood, Bessemer, Alabama, USA
In well-run businesses performance of individuals is monitored and regular coaching and feedback takes place. This maintains or improves performance with benefits to the individual and the organisation. There is no reason why these benefits should not be seen in students at school if similar techniques are applied.
However, this will need an open-minded approach from teachers and their unions. Change is always scary but change is sometimes good, even though we have an in-built resistance to it! If, and it's a big if, the resources, training and expertise are made available, the benefits to students and to society could be huge.
Mike Bywater, Wakefield
I am a newly qualified teacher and while these reforms are welcome reform to teachers' workloads, it will lead to underqualified staff taking lessons. This is exploitative for the assistants who are paid a fraction of a teacher's wage and makes a mockery of the intensive training teachers undertake.
The problem could be resolved by employing NQTs as cover for PPA time as some schools are doing but the government needs to ensure the funds are there for this to happen.
C. Owen, Cardiff, Wales
Having for a lifetime worked in business a 40-hour plus week and had 30 days' annual leave I had always imagined that the short school day and the long holidays were to allow for such preparation. Can this statutory allowance now be offered to all employees in all occupations?
John Y, Oxford UK
Some teachers have been warning about the long-term implications about this scheme from the start - and well done to the NUT for staying strong against the pressure they have been under. Teachers need to be with the children in order to assess their needs; you can't teach without the personal interaction. No teachers that I know (and I know several across the country) would be happy to be "facilitators" and "paper pushers" - many excellent teachers will leave and do something else instead.
P Edwards, Somerset
As a parent governor of a small local primary school I know the difficulties of meeting the PPA or workload reform. We have had 1% of our budget to implement this. We have managed to do this and have a scheme in place for the start of the new term - yet we are reliant on doubling up classes, the use of teaching assistants and the use of outside "contractors" for sports, and half-day of supply teaching. The result is that we are spending more than we have been given to make this work.
Carl Thomson, SOT Staffs
I am a primary school teacher and also a mother of four children aged from three years to 11 years. I would like to say that very detailed records of individual children's progress are not necessary to ensure good progress is made. I have witnessed throughout my teaching career situations where copious amounts of paperwork, both in the planning process and in assessment and record keeping were kept when the reality of what goes on in the classroom in terms of teacher-child interaction and academic progress is poor. Some of the best teachers need very little written down.
I do not think classroom assistants should be in the classroom without a qualified teacher. I would not be happy if my children were regularly supervised by even two classroom assistants. It is such a skilled job to manage 30 children. The NUT were right to reject this.
Sandra Banks, Sutton Coldfield
This is the very reason that I left teaching. "Teachers" do not want to be away from the classroom to analyse data, thus generating more work and stress. Good teachers are skilled enough to tailor the curriculum to the individual's needs.
Education is not a business for very obvious reasons. It takes far more skill to scaffold children's learning within the learning environment than to be taught how to read and interpret a graph. It will be a very sad year for many.
Personalised curriculum? In a state system of mass education? When I started teaching in 1980 we didn't need 10% of the week out of the classroom because we didn't have to jump through never-ending lines of paper hoops. It's been all downhill since then.
Diane Baker, Leeds
Class teachers have to leave fully planned and prepared work for someone else to deliver during their PPA time. They have to manage an extra body (usually a teaching assistant who is not able to pick up on the finer teaching points and need coaching to understand it) and they have to pick up the threads and mark it all on return. In addition they must justify how they have used their PPA time to the head teacher. It would be much less stressful and a more efficient use of time just to leave the teacher in front of their pupils in the first place!
Mrs A Smith, St Albans, Herts
As a teaching assistant at a small primary I feel that pupils will benefit from having different staff from the school in the classroom on a regular basis. It is after all less daunting for a child to go to a new class if he or she has had that teacher or teaching assistant for some of the time before.
Frances Whiteman, Slough
I believe the reforms are vital in delivering an education system which must be designed for the 21st century. The idea of "personalisation" is innovative and possibly ahead of its time, and anything which could boost a child's confidence, talent and ability should be greatly welcomed, surely. I do not believe half a day week will harm teaching effectiveness and I don't believe incapable people will be put in the classroom - if anything a subject specialist will help at an early age, something which up until now, we only see in secondary schools and higher education establishments.
School budgets must be large enough to cope with this new system otherwise it would not be introduced, and with funding increasing year on year it makes sense to be looking at new ways in which Britain can retain its "world-class" status as an education leader.
Peter Vlahos, Stockport, UK
I am a highly trained and professional sports coach who is entrusted on a weekly basis by parents and professional organisations with the sole care of children while teaching. My job is specialised but incredibly similar to the work of a primary school or senior school teacher. My training is far above the standard required by trainee teachers both in terms of technical expertise and coaching ability and lesson planning and target setting for pupils.
To suggest that children may in some way be at risk on our care is insulting in the extreme to professional sports coaches, the schools and caring teacher and head teacher who utilise our skills in adding to children's curriculum, and to parents.
Schools who choose to use professional sport coaches in order to fulfil the requirements of the new guidelines for planning and preparation should be highly commended for giving their pupils a quality learning experience.
A dedicated and professional sports coach, Mid Glamorgan, Wales
At our primary school we have been doing this for some time, with reasonable success. Our school has a high number of teaching assistants, many of us having done the Higher Level Teaching Assistant or Specialist Teaching Assistant Course. We almost all work with one teacher or class and learn the ways that the teacher teaches and manages the class.
It is much less traumatic for many of our children to be left for half a day with a TA with a discussed lesson plan and the support of your head teacher than with a supply teacher who doesn't know the school, class or children, many of whom have special needs and can't cope with change.
Sue, Lowestoft, Suffolk
I became a teacher to teach! I want to spend my time in front of the class getting to know the individuals in it. The vast majority of people could prepare a lesson or analyse individual data. It is not what is taught but how it is taught that requires the skill. Let someone else do the analysis and let teachers teach. Also can someone explain to me when I teach over 200 pupils in any given week how half a day is enough time to devise individual teaching strategies for each one?
As a head teacher I will find it almost impossible to implement PPA time and continue to raise standards. I get regular phone calls from an LEA consultant who checks up that I am "on target" with my own preparation for PPA time and offers help - none of it financial!
I am told that if I don't implement it I am breaking the law. However, if I do implement it, which I will because I have to, standards will fall. There is no other way to say it. It's not just the PPA time that the teachers have. They are also out of the classroom for leadership or management time, to monitor their subjects across the school, to observe NQTs who they may be mentoring and a whole host of other reasons.
Valerie Rose, Chatham, Kent
I welcome these new changes, for too long there has been a focus on class / school results rather than individual results. Forcing students into 'streams' and labelling them under broad level of achievement headings does nothing for individual self-esteem and development.
We are all unique and each person learns most efficiently in a different way. Hopefully this move towards individually-tailored schooling will reflect this and get the best out of each student rather than simply focusing on the overall results of the class or school.
Dan, Malvern England,
I am amazed that teachers in the UK aren't already provided ample prep time for their classes. I am a teacher in the US and we are allowed at least 20 minutes' prep time for every class we have. Our school district even arranges block prep time whereby all level teachers can prepare together and better for their lessons. (3rd grade teachers together, etc.)
It is vital to provide this time during school hours to allow for creative planning among teachers in order to meet the needs of all students.
Kimberly, Pontiac, IL, USA
I trained in 1995 and taught in the late 1990s in Tower Hamlets. Our head worked hard to ensure we had "non-contact" time then, very similar to the PPA quota. It was a small school. We used it for PPA, also for going on borough training courses, sourcing our lessons, curriculum-post duties, peer monitoring and so on.
I was covered by our shared section 11 staff who mostly delivered my planned lessons. It was good to have that time away from teaching the class, a regular chance to step back and evaluate and do all those other things so intrinsic to primary teaching and contributing to school life that are outside the realm of the classroom itself.
K.H., Kent, England