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Plan and prepare for time changes

Pat McDermott answers your leadership questions

My governors' finance and staffing committee has asked me to outline the implications of implementing the introduction of guaranteed planning, preparation and assessment time for staff at their next meeting. What should I tell them?

When briefing anyone it is always important to know your audience and here you have the advantage over me. Let us assume that your committee contains the full spectrum of awareness about this, from those who know little to one or two who have heard something about this before. Your briefing should therefore provide information, outlines of decisions that need to be made and a list of possible ways forward.

You will need to inform them that:

* From September 1, 2005, all teachers, including teaching heads, will have a contractual entitlement to guaranteed planning, preparation and assessment time (PPA).

* The purpose of this is to relieve teachers' workload and to raise standards by providing some time for PPA within the timetabled teaching day.

* A minimum of 10 per cent of teachers' timetabled time is required for PPA and must be allocated in blocks of 30 minutes or more.

* PPA time must not be used to cover for absent colleagues

* The teacher decides the PPA priorities for each block of time. Some can be used to work with other teachers.

You could also share with your governors the experiences of schools that have piloted PPA. Some teachers feel the change has helped them to teach better and has contributed to improved results for pupils. Others have felt that PPA time has enabled them "to get a life" outside the school day. Some schools have found that this time has drastically reduced staff absence due to sickness. Generally, PPA time is seen as a really positive move forwards that will affect the quality of teaching. One assumption is that if teachers are well-motivated with time to plan, this will have a positive effect on pupils' learning and behaviour.

What will interest your governors is how you are going to implement this in your school. You may well have given this some thought already. Other headteachers are approaching this in various ways. Some have started by evaluating the use of non-contact time in their schools, evaluating tasks allocated to this time, and its potential to release PPA time.

They have gone on to consider timetabling additional resources to release PPA time: one school brought in trainees from World Challenge to develop pupils' responsibility and organisational skills. This has provided them with opportunities to analyse the strengths of their school and identify areas where they would like to improve curriculum content and their pupils'

learning. They have also analysed staff skills and community opportunities and resources available to them.

If you do the same, then you may discover that the non-teaching uses of timetabled time in your school include: (a) PPA time, (b) clerical or administrative tasks, and (c) attending external meetings or pastoral duties. The challenges here for us as headteachers are to ringfence the time in (a), discard or reallocate the tasks in (b) and discard, reallocate or move the tasks in (c).

One strategy that many schools are considering is the use of alternative staff to take classes to create PPA for your teachers. If you do this, then make sure the following four conditions are met to your satisfaction.

* They deliver specified work.

* The class has an assigned teacher.

* It is within timetabled time, and

* It is scheduled into the school timetable.

"Specified work" can be carried out by qualified teachers, teachers without QTS andor support staff.

You should now be able to map out the next steps for your school to implement this component of remodelling the workforce.

Patrick McDermott is head of St Joseph's Catholic college, an 11-18 girls'

school, in Bradford. This is his third headship, and he has been a head for 12 years and a teacher for 27. He is a facilitator for the National College for School Leadership and mentored Catholic heads for 10 years.

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