Teachers clash with heads over hours

To headteachers' dismay, classroom unions have renewed demands for a 35-hour week. Warwick Mansell reports

A NEW rift opened this week between classroom unions and headteachers'

leaders over renewed calls for a 35-hour week for all teachers in England and Wales.

Five classroom-dominated associations are now urging ministers to introduce the 35-hour cap as a "target" from September next year. The suggestion came as around a thousand teachers gathered at a rally in Westminster on Wednesday to protest over their workload and to lobby MPs.

But the move, in an official response to the Government's long-running workload inquiry, was immediately condemned by the National Association of Head Teachers as "unsustainable".

NAHT general secretary David Hart said: "If you start talking about 35 hours a week for 38 weeks a year, you are at risk of seriously undermining your cause, not just with the Government but with the public."

The School Teachers' Review Body has recommended that ministers cut teachers' weekly working hours from 52 to 45, a figure Mr Hart said was more realistic. The NAHT and Secondary Heads Association this week submitted separate evidence to the Government on workload.

Although the largest unions last year threatened industrial action in support of the 35-hour week which had been given to teachers in Scotland, it was not mentioned in their joint evidence on workload to the review body in January. Mr Hart said he was surprised the figure had been "resurrected".

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "I cannot see how setting a limit on the number of hours that teachers are required to put in is so reprehensible. We are simply re-stating what we would like to see."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"Our aim is that teachers in England and Wales have the same overall limit as those in Scotland."

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