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Ministerial response to union

I WAS surprised to see a National Union of Teachers advertisement (TES, November 22) attacking the Government's proposals to reduce teacher workload. Your readers should be reassured to know the facts.

* It is nonsense to suggest that the proposed 10 per cent time for planning, preparation and assessment will be found by requiring extra time to be added at the end of the school day. We have said it will come from within the contractual 32.5 hours per week.

* It is quite untrue that there will be no limits to the teaching duties of support staff. Qualified teachers in schools up and down the country will be setting the limits, within a regulatory framework which will clarify, for the first time, the relationship between teachers and support staff. The role of teaching assistants is to support qualified teachers over teaching and learning.

* It is astonishing that we are accused of resisting references to worklife balance in the proposed new contract for teachers, when we have said publicly that we want to agree such a provision with the unions and are having intensive discussions with them about the wording.

* It is a distortion to say that we are refusing to tackle workload. We have said that weekly term-time hours must be reduced from the current average of 52 and that schools should have the objective of progressive reductions in average overall hours over the period to 2006.

* There is clear evidence that the availability of additional support staff does reduce the stress of teachers and the NUT's own survey has shown that the vast majority of teachers welcome support from teaching assistants.

Our support staff reforms, the 10 per cent preparation time, contractual worklife balance, our attack on red tape and our proposed limit on cover by teachers, all mean that the Government's reforms will reduce teacher workload and alleviate stress. We are working with all teachers, headteacher and support staff representatives to get an agreement that will deliver serious change in the education system.

The advert is political; the discussions are serious.

David Miliband

Minister of state for school standards

Department for Education and Skills Sanctuary Buildings

Great Smith Street

Victoria, London SW1

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