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Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 14:14 GMT
Schools get staff cash support
Teacher and school pupil look at work
Money will be used to free teachers' time
A new agreement has been signed in Westminster giving schools in Wales the flexibility to hire support staff who can help cut teacher workload.

In England, the agreement will automatically be used to hire 50,000 classroom assistants, but in Wales, schools can choose how the money is used.

Girl writing
Teachers want to spend less time on paperwork

This might be through hiring a bursar, secretary, or other administrative staff and the kind of support will be decided through a process of consultation.

Neither the National Union of Teachers Cymru, the largest teaching union, nor UCAC, one of the smallest, says it will sign the agreement, but the deal will go ahead anyway.

The unions are concerned the money could create what an UCAC spokesman describes as a tier of "higher level teaching assistants".

Education Minister Jane Davidson welcomed the agreement, saying that it would help by: "reducing unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and providing increased support for teachers inside and outside the classroom".

The minister said it also fully recognises devolution.

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

She said: "Schools in Wales will need to consider how best to use the new and existing resources to suit their individual needs.

"The Assembly has also committed 21m over the next three years to increase the level of administrative support in schools.

"This money will be targeted where it is most needed."

The Welsh Assembly has set aside 1.4m over the next three years to pilot a programme to help teachers manage and reduce workloads.

The deal for Wales differs markedly from those for England, where ministers will simply introduce advanced classroom assistants - non-graduates who can lead classes and step in for absent teachers.

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.

This 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 2002.

It has gone some way to reassuring the NUT which in July 2002, 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 said of Cardiff's plan, when it was first announced: "[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."

Uniquely, schools in Wales can choose 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".

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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