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Teachers 'too shy' to pass on paperwork

Report on schools' administrative practices reveals that teaching staff are too inhibited to ask for help, reports Helen Ward

TEACHERS are too proud or too shy to delegate administrative tasks to other staff, research has found.

A new study reveals that a huge cultural change is needed in schools if the Government's plans to reduce teachers' workload by using support staff are to succeed.

Some teachers felt uncomfortable about asking support staff to do their menial tasks, while others did not trust them to do a good job, it says.

The National Foundation for Educational Research asked almost 600 schools about the impact of government initiatives to reduce workload on teachers.

Fewer than half of secondary heads thought the measures had reduced teachers' paperwork, and 60 per cent of primary heads reported that it had made no difference or failed to answer.

Teachers said they completed paperwork because no one else was available to do it, the researchers found.

But interviews revealed more complicated reasons. Researchers said secondary teachers often did not trust other staff to do jobs to a high enough standard, whereas primary teachers were reluctant to bother busy support staff.

Some senior teachers felt they should not give administrative jobs to less well-paid colleagues.

"Some teachers did not always feel prepared for, or comfortable with, the notion of delegating to administrative staff.

"School procedures were not always clear to all staff and teaching staff often felt unsure about the extent to which they were able to use administrative staff as a resource," said the report, which was commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills. The most unpopular tasks were filing and photocopying.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Teachers need more training and help in this. It is part of the culture that teachers expect to do everything themselves. They get into this mindset where they think other people cannot do it. But they are highly-skilled professionals and should not be wasting time on jobs that could be done by others."

The report found that a third of administrative staff already felt overburdened.

Ann Jones, headteacher of Wistaston junior school, Cheshire, said: "Our two secretaries are extremely busy already. They work 9am to 3.30pm which is when the teachers are teaching. Teachers do photo- copying themselves before and after school."

Rob Owens, headteacher at Cobbs Brow primary, Lancashire, said: "The secretaries are already up to their ears in admin - you cannot just expect them to do all the work."

The findings came as the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association called for an annual limit on working time for teachers of 1,710 hours - 45 hours a week over 38 weeks. They urged a maximum weekly number of teaching hours of 21. This would exclude routine administrative tasks such as registration. The heads said teachers should cover for absent colleagues for up to 38 hours a year, an average of one hour a week.

The report follows the Price-waterhouseCoopers report into workload published in December which recommended the removal of school trip administration and exam invigilation from teachers and increased admin support.

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What the researchers recommended:

* Administration not related to teaching such as photocopying and collecting money from pupils should be done by admin staff.

* Where tasks cannot be delegated, teachers should have more non-contact time.

* Managers' strategic responsibility should be clearly separated from their administrative tasks to make delegation easier.

* Guidelines to all staff should say what can be delegated and to whom - only a fifth of the schools surveyed had such guidelines.

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