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Lightening up

Since the introduction of the national curriculum, the amount of time taken up by planning has been a contentious issue, especially for primary teachers and their unions.

In response to complaints about overwork, the Government has issued guidance since the 1990s on what jobs teachers could pass on to support staff. But planning is deemed to be an integral part of the profession, not to be entrusted to unqualified assistants.

Recognising that what keeps teachers in the profession is teaching and contact with children, and that effective learning involves thorough and time-sapping planning, the Government has introduced the Pathfinder scheme to encourage schools to find ways of streamlining.

This summer, 32 schools successfully bid for a share of pound;4 million to spend on developing and testing projects to reduce workload. Every teacher in the scheme received a laptop, while each Pathfinder school had its computers networked so lesson plans could be shared online. Heads will be able to hire more support staff, and give teachers more time in the school day to mark work and prepare lessons. (Gainsborough is not a Pathfinder school and did not have extra funds but was motivated to solve the problem of teacher retention.) The other major development this term has been the publication of ministers' response to the School Teachers' Review Body proposals to cut workload. They pledged that, by September 2005, a tenth of teachers'

working week would be set aside for planning, marking and lesson preparation. But the Government refused to accept a target to reduce teachers' weekly hours from 52 to 48 by 2004 and to 45 by 2006.

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