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Clash over cap on weekly hours

Heads oppose classroom unions' call for Scottish-style 35-hour limit. Clare Dean and Warwick Mansell report

HEADS' leaders were on a collision course with classroom union colleagues this week after advising the Government not to set a limit on teachers'

working hours.

The National Association of Head Teachers and Secondary Heads Association are against a Scottish-style cap on working time, which sets teachers'

working week at 35 hours.

Instead, they are pressing for an overall yearly maximum of 1,710 working hours. But even this limit would be specified in guidance to heads rather than in contracts. In addition, teaching time would be capped at 21 hours a week; no teacher would spend more than 38 hours a year covering for absent colleagues; and work carried out under the head's direction would be cut to 1,170 from 1,265 hours, including 30 hours of professional development.

The proposals were put forward in a joint submission of evidence from the two heads' associations to the School Teachers' Review Body, which will advise the Government next month on ways to cut working hours.

Heads claim their plans will limit workloads without allowing school leaders to be held to ransom by staff refusing to go beyond a weekly working limit.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We have decided to blast a hole through the pay and conditions document. We have listened to heads in Scotland who told us not to have a 35-hour week. They are now in the desperate position of trading off meetings for professional development to get within the 35-hour week."

Chris Nicholls, SHA head of salaries and conditions of service, said: "We need the flexibility to run our schools."

Classroom unions welcomed the teaching-time limit but argued that, unlike contracts, guidance to heads could be overridden.

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary designate of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said teachers needed contractual protection from excessive hours. He said: "Teachers may find themselves working longer hours because of bad management... They need protection from that. Giving heads more flexibility is an excuse for bad management."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"It's a good submission in general. But flexibility for heads could mean more stress for teachers."


* A weekly limit of 21 hours' teaching

* An annual limit of 38 hours on covering for colleagues

* Directed time to be cut to 1,170 hours a year from 1,265. This will include 30 hours of professional development

* Overall limit on working time, to be specified in guidance, of 1,710 hours per year

* Time given for middle management duties should be taken out of 'teaching time'

* Governors should ensure that resources, both human and otherwise, should be sufficient to guarantee appropriate workloads

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