Accord is lost in funding fog

28th March 2003 at 00:00
"We think the workload agreement is a bit of a joke at the moment," one headteacher commented this week (pages 8-9). But in a school short of half a million pounds just to keep things as they are, the joke is not creating much mirth. Far from relieving teachers' burdens, the unprecedented increases in funding which schools were supposed to receive this year seem likely to result in bigger classes, fewer teaching assistants and less non-contact time in many areas. The only teachers having their workloads reduced are those made redundant.

How has this come about? Ministers are committed to the agreement. But the department seems to have massively miscalculated the other additional employment costs schools face and the impact of new funding arrangements.

With higher salaries, National Insurance and employers' pension contributions, few schools are enjoying any of the promised real increase this year.

The Education Secretary Charles Clarke will hear about this directly from heads this week at the Secondary Heads Association's annual conference. So far the SHA's response is to treat this as a funding issue, not one related to the workload agreement which, it argues, does not carry large costs in this first year. The National Association of Head Teachers, on the other hand, is far less enthusiastic about the agreement and the extra management headaches it promises its primary members. It upstaged SHA this week with a dramatic rejection of the timetable for workload reduction, claiming that the agreement requires all signatories to agree any changes to the rules governing teachers' pay and conditions.

The NAHT, like the French at the UN Security Council, has, in effect, exercised its veto, ruling out in advance any such resolution and demanding more time to implement the agreement. Charles Clarke's response - an extra pound;28 million spread between 36 authorities - seems unlikely to keep the NAHT in the coalition. It is a dire start to a vital reform. The refuseniks at the NUT must be hugging themselves.

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