Cash crisis leaves workforce plan in tatters

23rd April 2004 at 01:00
As a governor for the past 12 years at a small junior school and an enormous secondary, I have watched the teaching staff become bogged down with ever-increasing bureaucracy and administration. So I welcomed the Government's workforce agreement plans: teachers would at last, I thought, have a life.

But that was before I sat down with my fellow governors at the junior school to consider its implementation. Having recently lost a teacher, primarily because of falling pupil numbers, we had merged two classes, and yet here we were, just a few months later, discussing redundancy criteria again.

And the reason? With a five-figure carry-forward budget deficit, we cannot afford to employ another teaching assistant. Yet with the school's single TA fully occupied with our "merged" class, we are obliged, by the workload agreement, to provide the extra help for our teachers' well-being. So we are faced with (a) retaining our "full" complement of teachers (where "full" already means one short), but failing to implement the workforce agreement - and think what the unions would make of that; or (b) laying off a teacher to finance help in the form of teaching assistants.

Our LEA says "funding should not be seen as a barrier to creative solutions to a new staffing structure". But when consulted about our problem, it advised us to get rid of a teacher. I can't help wondering how she will feel, knowing she is being sacrificed so colleagues can have an easier time.

The situation is different at the senior school. With teaching assistants in abundance (that's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean), and with adequate administrative staff, I thought there would be no problems. But we now find that the teacher who is paid a management allowance for overseeing the administration of exams - a job she loves - will have to lose much of this work, and with it (unless other responsibilities can be found) her promotion points. This is a teacher who has at her fingertips an almost innate ability to deal with all manner of lists of data and pupil records, but who now finds that all the training she has undertaken and all her experience seems to count for nothing as she watches her job change under her.

She surely can't be the only teacher who enjoys the whole spectrum of teaching her subject, dealing with many wider issues on a pastoral basis, and co-ordinating all relevant paperwork? As it is, she has the choice of returning to the role of classroom teacher (with a cut in salary) or taking on another extra role for which she has no training and no real enthusiasm.

I fear she will not be staying at the school much longer, such is her sense of disappointment. As for worklife balance, I'm not sure that equilibrium has been achieved.

Max Field

Max Field writes under a pseudonym

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