One-man test case for rural TLRs

Andrew Brook is a man alone. Alone in his four-teacher primary school in the village of St Wenn; a one-off in Cornwall; unique in England.

Mr Brook is a national test case - the only teacher the NASUWT union has balloted for industrial action since it accused Cornwall council and local headteachers of arbitrarily denying teaching and learning responsibility payments to teachers at small schools.

When Mr Brook was denied his request for additional payment as head of three curriculum areas, he stopped carrying out those responsibilities, on December 13, 2006.

The row came to a head last week with a meeting between Mr Brook, his union, the school and the local authority. He has now put industrial action on hold while considering an offer by the school to cut back his responsibilities.

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, said at least 10 other Cornwall primary schools faced problems through an unspoken and arbitrary county council policy of refusing to make responsibility payments at small schools.

But Cornwall council claimed the backing of Alan Johnson, Education Secretary, for its interpretation of the rules. They said the payments of up to Pounds 11,275 were given only for responsibilities beyond those performed by other teachers in a school. At Mr Brook's school, all four teachers have curriculum responsibilities.

Lesley George, the headteacher, said it was not feasible to make responsibility payments to every teacher, nor for her to carry all the workload herself in addition to all the government initiatives she was expected to implement.

"I don't see this as a personal issue," she said. "I see it as something that needs sorting out at a regional and national level."

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