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Teachers feel literacy strain

'Demoralised' staff in primaries say literacy and numeracy drives have piled on the pressure, reports Warwick Mansell

IMPLEMENTING the Government's flagship literacy and numeracy strategies has been the single greatest pressure on primary schoolteachers, according to a new survey.

Tony Blair last year described the strategies as the "most critical education policies of this Parliament". But, when asked to name the three most demanding aspects of their job, 46 per cent of teachers listed teaching the strategies and coping with new technology.

The snapshot survey, by the National Union of Teachers, revealed that other pressures paled in comparison. "Paperwork", "planning and preparation" and inspections were named by 35, 33 and 27 per cent of the teachers respectively.

The results, based on the responses of 168 of 500 primary NUT members in November, are the latest in a string of similar findings by the unions. Ninety-eight per cent of schools surveyed by the National Association of Head Teachers last October said the literacy hour had increased working hours. And an NUT survey early in 1999 found 68 per cent of teachers claimed they had not had enough training for the literacy strategy.

Teachers are, however,divided. Some 23 per cent of those responding to the latest survey said the literacynumeracy hours were among the three things they most enjoyed about the job.

The NUT also found that working with children is the aspect of the job that primary teachers enjoy most.

Sixty-three per cent of teachers listed it among their top three "likes", compared to only 9 per cent claiming they enjoyed managerial responsibility. Ninety-seven per cent mentioned children as a positive aspect of their jobs.

But the questionnaire confirmed that primary teachers feel overworked and undervalued. Asked how they would describe their current mood, "disillusioned" and "demoralised" was the response of most.

The most-requested demand was for more non-contact time to cope with paperwork, planning and preparation.

Nearly a quarter of teachers said they wanted more support and respect from parents, the Government and school management.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, said the findings underlined the commitment of teachers to pupils, despite the pressures.

He said: "This snapshot shows a profession which cares about the future of its children even though teachers feel demoralised, devalued and dispirited."

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