Teachers unite over workload worries

It looks as though the Government won't agree to a maximum working week for teachers, but guaranteed non-contact time for marking and planning appeared to be on the cards as this edition of TES Primary was going to press. The School Teachers' Review Body was due to advise the Government on the issue in late April.

During their Easter conferences, all three main teacher unions voted unanimously in support of a 35-hour week, with the threat of a work-to-rule in the autumn if the review body's recommendations and this summer's financial settlement for education are not satisfactory. But Education Secretary Estelle Morris immediately dismissed the idea of restricting teachers' hours.

The NUT also voted to canvass members on a boycott of tests for seven, 11 and 14-year-olds. However, the Government, which earlier confirmed tough new targets for 11-year-olds in 2004, is unlikely to relent on testing. The targets are intended to "raise overall standards" by aiming for 85 per cent of Year 6 pupils to reach level 4 in English and maths, with 35 per cent reaching level 5 or above.

The Government is providing extra training courses for teachers and catch-up programmes for children.

The National Association of Head Teachers has already advised its members to ignore these new targets and to set their own.

Literacy expert Sue Palmer, who is running a campaign to stop the 2004 targets through a website (www.timetoteach.org.uk) said that if the Government had listened to teachers' concerns earlier, the NUT might not now be threatening industrial action over the SATs.

"The Government underestimates the dedication of primary teachers," she said. "It's as though they believe that teachers are going to stop caring about their children because the 2002 targets have passed, so they have to keep increasing the pressure."

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