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Say 'Non' to workforce subjection

There is a tendency for governments in their third term to take a decent idea and stretch it beyond its limit, like comedians who must take a funny joke and wring it dry.

Workforce reforms are in danger of reaching this point. The Rewards and Incentives Group's latest proposals to free teachers from all "non-teaching" duties, including assembly and pastoral care, may represent that step too far.

What is a "non-teaching duty", and is it the same in a secondary school as in a primary? Does the absence of the biggest representatives of the primary sector - the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers - at the negotiating table mean these distinctions have been forgotten?

The younger the child, the more difficult it is to distinguish between pastoral care and education. In the foundation stage and the infant curriculum, learning to share, building relationships, developing respect among the children and between teacher and child are all central. Would a primary teacher hand over circle time, when children share their ideas and worries, to someone else?

Yet again, government education policies are in conflict with each other.

The Children's Workforce Strategy, currently out to consultation, calls for more trained teachers for the under-fives and says they should have "a good understanding of child development and learning". Is there a cut-off point when a child no longer needs this combination from the same teacher? If there is one, surely it is not at age five. And what about assemblies? Virtually all primary schools and some secondaries use them to create a sense of community. They give children a chance to share their achievements with the whole school, and pupils often work for weeks with their teachers on impressive presentations. Can this be separated from other teaching? And what message would teachers' non-attendance give to the children? The School Teachers' Review Body needs to think hard about the implications of these proposals. Does this country want our primary teachers to be like the pedagogues of Europe, who only teach subjects? We say "Non".

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