TRAINING sessions for the Government's new key stage 3 strategy are to be boycotted by many secondary heads, who say their schools are too stretched to release staff.
Anger over the extension of the literacy and numeracy drive to the early secondary years boiled over at the Secondary Heads Association conference in Wales last weekend, with KS3 strategy director Anita Straker receiving a fierce reception from delegates.
Heads in Bromley have told their local authority that they will not comply with the training, which would see as many as 20 teaching days lost in the summer term alone.
Other schools around the country say they will simply not release their staff. SHA has already told the Government that the literacy and numeracy programmes are being introduced a year too soon. Heads say it is madness to expect them to release maths and English staff for training at a time of acute staff shortages.
The new strategy is to be launched in mid-May. Problems over training are certain to continue into the autumn term, when maths departments will be expected to release their entire staff for four days' training. The Department for Education and Employment expects schools to run further training days throughout the year, but many schools say they have already set their training timetable.
"It is simply outrageous," said John Atkins, spokesman for Bromley heads and principal of Kemnal technology college. "They have n idea of the difficult position we are in."
Heads who support the strategy in principle say ministers should wait for the result of this year's pilots before pressing ahead.
At present 200 schools are piloting the new programmes. Mrs Straker said:
"Training has been well-received, observing primary lessons has had a positive effect and pupils like what is happening."
Mrs Straker, the former director of the national numeracy strategy, admitted that staffing difficulties had been a constraint in the pilots, but said money was available from the key stage 3 budget to pay teachers to attend training out of school hours.
She also said schools should consider buying in exam invigilators to maximise time for departments to plan together in the summer term.
Sue Kirkham, chair of SHA's education committee and head of pilot school Walton high in Staffordshire, said: "The new GCSE specifications come in from September; post-16 we're entering the second year of the new A-levels.
"Departments are madly planning for both and we don't have time to review all our schemes of work for key stage 3."
A spokeswoman for the DFEE said that training programmes had been staggered across the year so they did not place too great a burden on individual teachers and so that English and maths teachers were not out of school at the same time. Detailed arrangements were up to local authorities.
"Some of the pilot local authorities have successfully provided training out of normal school hours," she said.
Michael Barber, 19