Bleak, unless you are a man with dog

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
Your front-page article containing the suggestions for "substitute" teachers for phase 3 of the workload agreement makes very depressing reading (TES, November 19).

Of late we have been told by David Miliband among others that standards are up in schools and this is all down to the hard work of teachers and school leaders. The workload agreement was sold to a profession eager to obtain what has been long overdue - the opportunity to do the job they are paid for and to be given some time for marking, preparation and planning.

Phase 3, the 10 per cent planning, preparation and assessment time, was always going to be difficult in terms of organisation, personnel and, of course, the means to pay for it. Primary schools have been told they will get 1 per cent above the next budget settlement to pay for this and it does not take a level 5 in maths to see that this will not be possible for many schools.

The Government has again, it seems, come up with a good idea and then bottled out when it comes to funding it properly. If ministers are to be believed, then higher-level teaching assistants, instructors and people from all walks of life will be given the responsibility for minding classes whilst teachers plan and assess.

The whole tone is becoming redolent of the view once infamously articulated by John Patten, when education minister, that "any rosy-cheeked girl could teach reception". However, few of the ancillary staff who very ably assist teachers either have or will want the responsibility for running a class on their own. When this article is read alongside the one about the ticking bomb of 45 per cent of heads being due for retirement in the next 10 years, then the future looks even bleaker. Another initiative has not been thought through, hopes will be unrealised, friction will occur between heads and staff when the money is not there and standards will fall.

However, if the current ideas are followed through, then governors who cannot find a suitable candidate for their headship from the ranks of the profession can always go wider and draft in the man on the park bench with his dog thrown in!

Tony Roberts 144 Cop Lane Penwortham, Preston

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