Page last updated at 06:45 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Teachers 'still working too long'

Teacher in classroom
The report says head teachers are facing increasing workloads

Teachers in Wales are still working too many hours, according to a committee of Assembly Members.

The enterprise and learning committee says a six-year-old deal on workloads has also seen head teachers face increasing pressure on their time.

Their report also claims that there is no evidence to show the workload agreement has improved standards.

Head teachers' union NAHT Cymru says it is now crucial that the problems facing its members are tackled.

Following its review of the teacher workload agreement, the committee has called on the assembly government to commission independent research into the impact of the deal.

It also wants ministers to "evaluate whether financial or other intervention is needed".

Gareth Jones AM

We are concerned that there appeared to be little or no evidence that... the teacher workload agreement was having a positive impact
Gareth Jones AM

The workload agreement was introduced across Wales and England in 2003, in three phases.

The measures are supposed to ensure that teachers spend at least 10% of their time away from the classroom preparing lessons and assessments.

It also cut the number of hours staff were expected to cover absent teachers, and also the number of clerical tasks they were asked to undertake.

However, the assembly committee's report raises a series of issues for Education Minister Jane Hutt:

  • Concerns that adequate classroom cover is being provided to allow teachers more preparation sessions.
  • Concerns over the lack of classroom space and support provided for preparation sessions.
  • Head teachers' workload increasing as a result of providing the cover to allow preparation.
  • Concerns that classroom assistants brought in to provide cover are treated like second class citizens on pay and access to training.
  • Local councils are failing to engage with schools to ensure implementation.

Committee chairman Gareth Jones said it was clear that the workload agreement had helped "focus" the minds of teachers, but that was not necessarily reflected in an improvement in working hours.

"We are concerned that there appeared to be little or no evidence that the implementation of the teacher workload agreement was having a positive impact on raising standards,'' added the assembly member.

"We recommend that the Welsh Assembly Government commissions independent research to look at whether the teacher workload agreement is achieving its goal of raising standards and whether further intervention, financial or otherwise, is needed."

Work balance

Anna Brychan, director of NAHT Cymru, welcomed the report: "I'm glad it acknowledges that the workload agreement has freed teachers to concentrate on the really important things - educating children and monitoring their performance.

"What's crucial now is that head teachers' workload is taken seriously otherwise we will find increasing numbers leaving the profession very early and recruitment difficulties just at the time when huge numbers of head teachers are due to retire."

Conservative education spokesperson Andrew RT Davies said the report made for "very worrying, but unsurprising, reading".

"If the very agreement designed to try and help teaching professionals achieve a healthy work-life balance is failing, then the assembly government needs to work out why and set about addressing the problems as quickly as possible," he added.

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: "The minister will consider the recommendations made in the enterprise and learning committee's final report on the implementation of the teacher workload agreement once she receives the report and will respond in due course."

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