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EDITIONS
Monday, 29 November, 1999, 09:12 GMT
Teachers seek working hours limit
teacher writing
Excessive bureaucracy is a long-standing complaint
One of the main teachers' unions in England has toughened its demand for a limit on working hours, in the continuing tussle with ministers over performance-related pay.

A special conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers on Saturday rejected activists' demands for an outright boycott of the government's pay proposals.

But the union's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, still raised the possiblity of industrial action in the New Year to reduce teachers' hours, which could hit sport and other after-school activities.

He told delegates at the conference in London that a campaign to cut excessive workloads could become a key weapon.

He said that annual appraisals of every teacher, as part of the new system which will link teachers' pay to children's exam results, threatened to become a "bureaucratic nightmare".

Mr de Gruchy told journalists that unless the government used next year's pay settlement to cap teachers' hours, the union would consider balloting on industrial action.

'Benefits children'

It might support members who agreed local limits on working hours, prioritising classroom teaching.

nigel de gruchy
Nigel de Gruchy: Called on members to recognise potential of new system
"If that meant that unnecessary lesson preparation and marking had to go, or attending endless meetings, then so be it," Mr de Gruchy said.

"This would free teachers to teach. It would not harm the interests of children, instead it would benefit them."

But he acknowledged that it could affect school sports or other after-hours activities.

Delegates at the conference complained of the stress imposed by continuous government education initiatives.

From next year, the government intends to introduce annual appraisal of teachers, linked to annual pay increments.

Stress

In addition, teachers would be able to volunteer for a separate assessment which could boost them over a new pay threshold, ensuring an immediate rise of up to 2,000 and access to a new pay scale, with salaries of up to 30,000 for the best classroom teachers.

Simon Whitney, a teacher from Norfolk, said: "There are many teachers who would say to the government, you keep your 2,000. Just give me back my life. I want to be able to speak to my children."

Martin Johnson, a member of the union's national executive, said: "We have had enough ... of being reasonable. The result has been stress and disillusionment amongst teachers on an unprecedented scale.

"For their sake, and for the sake of the nation's young people who don't want to see teachers collapsing with exhaustion, we need decisive action to reduce the burden of excessive workload."

Mr de Gruchy urged members to recognise the potential in the new system for rewarding the majority of teachers who were good at their jobs.

'Modernisation'

He said the union had already extracted concessions from ministers - a delay in the new appraisal system until next year, and no requirement for a new contract for teachers crossing the pay threshold.

It would be working for more concessions - especially breaking the link between pay and children's results, judging teachers instead on how they performed in the classroom. There was still "all to play for".

In response, the education minister Estelle Morris said: "We have worked with NASUWT and the other teacher unions to discuss their concerns about reform of teachers' pay and to offer reassurance about implementation and funding.

"I welcome NASUWT's support for our proposals for a new upper pay spine offering initial increases of up to 2,000 for good teachers. However, I deplore the threat of industrial action.

"We want to modernise the teaching profession, it is vital if we are to continue to raise standards for children. We will continue to work with the teacher unions to bring about our aims."

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