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Nothing but teaching

Staff could be freed of all other duties under phase 2 of the workforce agreement. Helen Ward and Joseph Lee report

Teachers could find their jobs transformed under proposals agreed by the Westminster government and unions, which would free them from all non-teaching duties, such as providing pastoral care and taking assemblies.

In what is essentially phase 2 of the workforce agreement, they would not have to attend any meetings about administration or school organisation, take registration or attend assemblies, if the School Teachers' Review Body accepts the proposal.

The submission by the Rewards and Incentives Group (RIG), which includes ministers, four teacher unions and the employers, comes as a TES survey of 545 schools found that most schools will be able to carry out the first phase of the agreement, but will not have enough funds to pay for the cover needed to provide staff with half a day each week for marking and lesson preparation the following year.

The survey found that 88 per cent will meet the legal requirement to give teachers 10 per cent of their time away from their class each week. But only one in five said they would be able to do so after April, when the new financial year starts.

In order to pay staff to cover classes, schools told The TES that they have had to set deficit budgets, use reserves, increase class sizes and cut back on other spending including training, building work and curriculum resources.

Just under 60 per cent of schools said they will have budget problems. More than one in four are having to cut staff posts to balance their books, and 136 support staff and 125 teachers' posts are due to be cut. If the poll findings are replicated nationwide, 3,500 support staff and 3,900 teachers could lose their jobs.

But Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the second largest teacher union, said the funding is there.

The TES poll shows heads are determined to use teachers rather than support staff to cover at least some of the classes.

More than one in four heads said they would spend more time teaching. In three-quarters of schools, teachers will cover at least some planning, preparation and assessment time for colleagues.

Many heads say it is unfair to ask teaching assistants to take on the responsibilities of teachers without their training or salary. Fewer than half of schools are using teaching assistants to take classes, and one in five says higher-level teaching assistants will be used.

One head said: "We want to provide an education, not just a babysitting service."

It is proposed that the second round of workload reforms will be phased in from 2006. But unions outside the workforce agreement, and not all of those within it, oppose some of the reforms.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the RIG reforms were just options for discussion. He believes that most of them are unrealistic or undesirable.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, which is not a member of RIG, said: "We need to make sure we can deliver the existing agreement before we start getting more ambitious."

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said it was important for teachers to give guidance on social and career issues, and be paid for it.

"You can't separate social and learning needs," he said. The RIG group had no credibility, he added, because most primary school teachers are not represented as they are members of the NUT or NAHT.

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