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Partnership has won rewards

Your analysis on teacher unions relationship with government (TES, January 7) contains inaccuracies and omissions.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers and other unions are fulfilling their prime responsibilities to their members throughnegotiations with employers and the Government. While isolated opposition may be glorious and leave one's principles unsullied, it achieves nothing for members.

Through partnership working, an experienced teacher now earns 36 per cent more than in April 1999, excluding allowances. The Government made the funding decisions which enabled this, but your assessment might have given unions more credit for their part in this very significant improvement.

It is, moreover, ludicrous to imply that the achievements of the workload agreement are theoretical when, in September 2005, all state school teachers will have 10 per cent planning, preparation and assessment time.

The agreement is an ambitious, purposeful and practical response to the pressures upon teachers caused by excessive workload.

Its worth is highlighted when one notes that teachers working in schools in England and Wales cite excessive workload as a major cause of stress and illness - leading to all too often, to early retirement.

Of course partnership entails some give and take. It does not always work, and the ATL knows that it has to avoid being incorporated into a Government agenda, but in the circumstances there is a shared interest in creating a new professionalism in teaching. What partnership will never mean for the ATL is the surrender of deep principles about how teachers' working lives and their rewards ought to look.

ATL demands a teaching force with appropriate professional autonomy, enabled and rewarded for being learners. As long as workforce reform is moving in this direction it will continue to be in the interests of its members for the ATL and its allies to pursue partnership with government.

Mary Bousted General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

The Editor writes: The analysis did not omit to mention overall pay rises since 1999 but noted that they had "soared above inflation". Current partnership working began in 2003 not 1999. A School Teachers' Review Body survey carried out six months after the first phase of the workforce agreement was supposed to be implemented found average hours worked by primary teachers had increased.

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