Easing the burden without making waves

HEADTEACHERS taking part in the Government's Pathfinder project to reduce workload and increase non-contact time differ about the use of assistants.

Judith Elderkin is head of the 566-pupil Marlborough Road primary in Salford. She is a member of the National Union of Teachers, the one union that did not agree to the Government's proposal that senior assistants be allowed to oversee classses. "Teaching has to be done by a qualified teacher," she said.

"I have no objection to assistants, but their value is in helping children.

For teachers, assistants mean an extra managerial workload. I am scouring my budget to see if the extra money for teaching assistants may be put towards employing teachers instead.

"The project hasn't involved the provision of any extra teaching assistants. What we are looking at is an information technology package that will help with planning, pupil tracking and forecasting and report writing."

Deryck Noakes is head of 500-pupil Bramford primary in Dudley. He sees a growing role for teaching assistants, saying that in many schools assistants already work with separate groups of children.

"The question is when does a group of children become a class of children?

"I can see a time in five or 10 years when schools will be drastically different with a whole range of professionals. We're trying to work with the GMB union to remodel our workforce - it will probably take two or three years.

"We are not talking about a person taking geography followed by PE. More about a pastoral support manager, working alongside a teacher, to do circle time or anger management. I can see that is a useful way of managing a school."

Helen Ward

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