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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Schools get teacher support staff cash
Teacher and school pupil look at work
Classroom assistants could be widely used
Schools in Wales will receive 3m to pay for administrative and classroom support staff under plans to cut teachers' workload.

Education Minister Jane Davidson said a pilot scheme will take place from September 2003 after money was set aside from the Welsh Assembly Government draft budget.

Welsh schools will be asked how they would like to spend the money.

They can take on classroom assistants to help with routine tasks like photocopying and register-taking, leaving qualified teachers to concentrate on their job.

But, unlike in England, they could instead opt to take on other support staff for backroom clerical tasks such as financial planning.

Teacher support - UK plans
Range of support staff
Schools decide on needs
Advanced classroom assistants
Teachers become 'classroom managers'
Biggest shake-up for 40 years
The proposals for Wales differ markedly from those from Westminster, where ministers are expected on Tuesday to introduce advanced classroom assistants - non-graduates who can lead classes and step in for absent teachers.

It signals the biggest shake-up in education for 40 years but has proved controversial.

The Welsh way demonstrates Cardiff's desire to work closely with the teaching unions and devolve responsibility to schools.

It is a slightly different interpretation of the recommendations of the School Teachers' Review Body report on workload reduction, published in May.

It has gone some way to reassuring the National Union of Teachers Cymru, which in July threatened to abandon routine classroom tasks such as register-taking unless extra help was pledged.

Use of teachers

Dr Heledd Hayes - the union's education officer - gave the news a cautious nine marks out of ten.

"[The Welsh proposals] are better. They allow flexibility and do not have this way of undermining the teaching professional, which the super assistants carry with them.

"Administrative help is what most schools want at the moment. [The money] has to get through to the schools.

"Teachers should not be used as they are at the moment - pumping in data into databases ... and photocopying."

Ms Davidson wrote to AMs: "We have to find additional time for teachers to develop and to prepare.

"Some teachers are working excessively long hours. Tired teachers are not effective teachers and a long hours culture is not conducive to raising standards."

Workload pressure

Uniquely, schools can chose whether they wish to have a classroom assistant an additional secretary or a bursar because the assembly government money is earmarked simply for "administrative support".

Ms Davidson has developed some of the assembly government's most radical policies, testing the limit of the Welsh devolution settlement.

Photocopying could be taken from teachers' hands
The cash in her latest announcement is expected to rise to 15m by 2005.

Hundreds of teachers lobbied at the House of Commons on 3 July, upset they work 50 to 60 hours each week and demanding the implementation of a 35-hour week, in common with their Scottish counterparts.

But an April study by the schools inspectorate Ofsted instead showed classroom assistants at English primary schools were helping children with literacy and numeracy instead of aiding teachers with administrative chores.

Nevertheless, the UK Government pledged to recruit an extra 20,000 assistants before the next general election.

Any support staff plan considered by Ms Davidson, therefore, had to both satisfy unions and tweak the job description of support staff.

Up to 50,000 are expected to be recruited in England by 2006, as plans come into effect to allow teachers one day a fortnight out of the classroom for lesson preparation and marking.

  • Plaid Cymru education spokesperson Helen Mary Jones was unhappy AMs could not question the education minister on the subject (Ms Davidson's news came in a letter to AMs) and warned unqualified staff should not teach children.

    Dr Heledd Hayes, NUT
    "The Welsh proposals are more flexible"
    Education minister Jane Davidson
    "I want to work with the profession."
    Reports on the issue of teachers' workload in England and Wales

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    15 Oct 02 | Wales
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