A load of promises...

9th January 2004 at 00:00
... but a new TES poll suggests last year's workload agreement is not yet delivering a better life for teachers. Jon Slater reports.

Teachers are spending more time working at home in the evening than they were before the introduction of the much-trumpeted deal to cut their workload, a TES poll reveals.

More than four in 10 say they now spend at least two hours on schoolwork during a typical weekday evening compared to 31 per cent a year ago.

Only one in 10 teachers reported doing less than one hour per night and just one in 50 said they usually did no work at all.

The finding is just one of several in The TES poll that calls into question how much the agreement, which came into force last September, has so far delivered.

It shows that while they acknowledge that pay has improved under Labour (p6), many teachers doubt that ministers can deliver the promised time for marking and preparation.

Half of teachers do not believe that, by September 2005, their school will be able to guarantee them the half a day a week for planning, preparation and assessment set out in the agreement.

Those in primaries are most sceptical: only a quarter of staff are confident that the deal on marking time will happen, compared to 59 per cent who say it will not. Opinion is more evenly divided among secondary teachers, with 42 per cent saying they will get their time and 45 per cent who are doubtful.

This difference in opinion reflects a situation in which two-thirds of primary teachers at present get no planning, preparation and assessment time compared to just a third of secondary staff. Only 3 per cent of primary teachers get at least the four hours a week promised in the deal.

The figure for secondaries is 14 per cent. Younger teachers are also more optimistic than more experienced colleagues.

The agreement does not appear to be achieving its fundamental aim of cutting workload: of the half of teachers who say their workload has changed in the past year, 70 per cent say it has got heavier compared with just 30 per cent who report it is lighter.

Complaints about the workload deal are strongest among those who opposed it in the first place and members of the anti-agreement National Union of Teachers.

Four in 10 NUT members say workload has risen compared with just a quarter of National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers members.

Opponents of the agreement are also more likely to report that the deal has failed to reduce their burden.

Half of NUT members (49 per cent) and 61 per cent of other union members opposed to the agreement say that September's transfer of more than 20 routine tasks to assistants has failed to save them any time. By contrast, six in 10 NASUWT members say the changes have freed up time. However, as NUT members are more likely to be primary teachers, this may account for their views.

And both primary and secondary teachers continue to do many tasks that were supposed to be delegated to support assistants.

All teachers are most likely to be continuing to display pupils' work, do their own filing and order equipment.

But while secondary teachers still spend time chasing absent pupils and transferring pupil data on to computers, their primary counterparts are more likely to be collecting money from parents or preparing and maintaining materials and equipment.

Not surprisingly, teachers in schools who have benefited from increased numbers of support staff are more likely to report a reduction in workload.

But while half of secondary teachers say more assistants have been recruited at their school since September, only 28 per cent of their primary colleagues do so.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We have difficult choices. Teachers may say they do not want assistants covering for absent colleagues but they do not want to do it themselves."

Friday magazine 17

Give us a break 23

Timetable of changes

Transfer of more than 20 routine non-teaching tasks to assistants. These are:

* Collecting money

* Processing exam results

* Stocktaking

* Chasing absences

* Collating pupil reports

* Cataloguing, preparing, issuing and maintaining equipment and materials

* Bulk photocopying

* Administering work experience

* Copy typing

* Administering exams

* Minuting meetings

* Producing standard letters

* Invigilating exams

* Co-ordinating and submitting bids for cash

* Producing class lists

* Administering cover for absent teachers

* Seeking and giving personnel advice

* Keeping records and filing

* ICT trouble shooting and minor repairs

* Managing and inputting pupil data

* Putting up classroom displays

* Commissioning new ICT equipment

* Analysing attendance figures

* Ordering supplies and equipment Other reforms:

* New worklife balance clauses in teachers' contracts

* Reductions in excessive hours to be promoted

* Time in the day for teachers to fulfil management responsibilities

* Review of use of school closure days

* New limit of 38 hours per year on the time teachers can spend covering for absent colleagues

* Introduce guaranteed time in school hours for planning, preparation and assessment equivalent to half a day per week

* Introduce dedicated headship time

* Introduce new arrangements for exam invigilation

Polling company FDS International interviewed 500 teachers in England and Wales over the phone for The TES. The interviews were conducted between November 26 and December 12 2003.

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