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Take a break, book the boss

Education director has a new way to banish Monday morning blues. Helen Ward reports

Cannot face your class first thing on Monday morning? So why not ask the director of education to take literacy hour for you?

Mick Waters, Manchester's chief education officer, is giving city schools the chance to book a team of his officials to take classes. And, as a former primary head, he counts himself among the team.

He already teaches in schools about once a month and his Manchester Monday Mornings scheme, which started this month, is designed to give teachers time together to plan school or department initiatives.

Up to 200 education officials are taking part in the scheme, which will run on the third Monday of every month. Schools will be expected to pay at least pound;50 towards the cost of the scheme.

Mr Waters said: "Schools can call and book a Monday morning. Then we'll put a team together and go into school to give them time to get on with other things."

Primary schools can ask for a team to take every class, in secondary schools enough staff are available to provide cover for a department or year group.

Pam Charleson, head at Chorlton Church of England primary, said: "The team turned up early, with all their own planning and worked right through until lunch, including supervising breaktime. My staff completed work on assessment, which would otherwise have taken several evening meetings to cover."

Under the new workload agreement, headteachers must give all staff half a day off each week by 2005. But Mr Waters said the Manchester Monday Mornings scheme was no substitute for such arrangements.

"This is separate from the workload agreement. It is to enable schools to get on with the developmental work and to show schools we are all in it together. There will be limits on how often they can book."

Education department staff who are qualified teachers will take classes and be supported by non-qualified council staff, acting as teaching assistants.

Schools are not expected to prepare lessons for the Monday Mornings team, but will be able to choose what is taught from a number of given subjects.

Mr Waters said: "We chose Monday because I imagined that if I were a teacher, just how how nice it would be if I knew that someone else would be taking my class first thing on Monday. I also loved the alliteration: if we were in Wigan, we would have probably have had to do it on Wednesdays."

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