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Helping hand to cut bureaucracy

School information desks, not classroom assistants, could be the answer to cutting teachers' workload. Karen Thornton reports.

TEACHERS could be saved from much-resented administrative tasks such as photocopying and collecting dinner money for just pound;226 million a year, according to consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers.

The company drew up proposals to reduce the bureaucratic burden on teachers in a study commissioned by the National Union of Teachers.

The report recommends time-saving innovations - including employing technicians in primaries (shared between smaller schools).

Secondary schools should have "help desks" for pupils and teachers, staffed by librarians, technicians and study counsellors. Teachers could be supported by "associate teachers" - people with some expertise in their subject. For example, a music teacher might be helped by a musician; a PE teacher by a coach.

Ideally, a two-form entry primary school should have 14 associate teachers - although an "interim" staff of nine would still make a significant difference, says the report.

For a six-form entry secondary school, 30 would be the ideal with 19 in the interim.

The NUT prefers the fully-staffed and more expensive model - costing pound;838.3 million. But it argues that the pound;226m interim system would be an important step for teachers lumbered with administrative tasks.

Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said that the proposals offer a more comprehensive solution to the problem of teachers' workload than the Government's pledge to employ 20,000 classroom assistants.

That initiative will only provide help in the classroom, whereas the NUT models also offer some relief from bureaucracy.

Mr McAvoy said: "If teachers are carrying the burden of these bureaucratic tasks they shouldn't have to do plus uncosted government initiatives, then the Government has to provide a support system.

"Price Waterhouse Coopers have come up with a set of costed models that the Government should work to. There's never before been a nationally costed model of classroom support."

Price Waterhouse Coopers interviewed primary and secondary teachers, working in different types of schools across five education authorities, about their needs.

The report notes how in most primaries "teachers regard clerical support as a special favour for which they have to ask, rather than as an entitlement."

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