Bad feeling over reforms

16th March 2007 at 00:00
Workforce deal benefits undermined by new responsibility points, says inspection agency

THE FEELGOOD factor of reforms in teacher workload has been diluted by resentment over the introduction of new responsibility payments (TLRs), a major report by Estyn claimed this week.

Gloomy findings of low staff morale and heads struggling to achieve a worklife balance were all included in feedback on the effects of workforce remodelling in Wales's schools by the inspection body.

The new report, Impact of Workforce Remodelling on Pupils' Learning and Raising Standards, found the quality of teaching in some schools had improved as staff were freed up to plan for lessons more effectively. But senior staff had little or no leadership and management time in a quarter of schools investigated.

Rhys Williams, communications officer for the NUT Cymru, said the extra workload for heads in devising TLR arrangements had split staff rooms.

"The TLRs have undermined a sense of togetherness," he added."

The Assembly government had asked Estyn to assess the impact of workforce remodelling on schools, teachers and pupils. But the verdict of 20 per cent of schools was that things had not improved at all - especially with the TLRs.

The reforms came about after the Department for Education and Skills struck up a deal to ensure that teachers and school leaders were not burdened with excessive workloads. The agreement guaranteed a minimum of 10 per cent planning, preparation and assessment time for both teachers and heads. It also freed qualified teachers from exam duty.

However, inspectors found that 60 per cent of heads in primary schools had little or no dedicated headship time as they struggled to manage the changes.

Estyn now recommends that heads should receive guidance on achieving a good worklife balance.

Anna Brychan, director of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, said: "Heads are worried and feel under tremendous pressure. Eventually that will affect recruitment for the job."

TLRs were intended, along with workforce remodelling, to free teachers to focus on teaching and learning. However, it has led to sporadic strike action as some were given a pay cut as previous responsibilities were taken away.

Some heads had also witnessed a decline in pupil behaviour as more support staff were being used in class to ensure PPA entitlement.

Susan Lewis, chief inspector, said the workforce agreement had been broadly positive for teachers, particularly in secondary schools.

Both schools and the Assembly government have now been asked to monitor the workload of heads and senior teachers.

Leader, page 30

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