Cracks behind workload unity

11th July 2003 at 01:00
It is six months since the deal to cut teachers' hours - now some unions are worrying if the cash will be there, reports William Stewart

in a public show of unity, signatories to the workload deal this week celebrated its six-month anniversary - but serious concerns remain.

Ministers, local authority representatives and unions all praised the progress made through the agreement, which is designed to cut teachers'

hours, at a conference in London.

But unions representing teachers, heads and support staff are warning ministers that the reforms, due to start in September, will not work unless the Government puts in more money.

The deal means teachers will hand over many administrative tasks to support staff and schools will make more use of teaching assistants in the classroom. It has been opposed by the National Union of Teachers.

In London, members of the GMB, the second largest support staff union, are pushing for a ballot on withdrawing from the deal unless support staff get extra pay for the extra duties they are expected to take on in September.

Martin Smith, a GMB regional organiser in the capital, said: "The GMB in London think the National Union of Teachers position (on the agreement) is dead right. It amounts to teaching on the cheap."

Jude Brimble, GMB national education officer, did not threaten to withdraw at the conference but said funding was needed to make the deal a reality.

Last week, after a lengthy debate, the National Association of Head Teachers decided to stay in the agreement. But it wants ministers to provide more money by the autumn, when it will again review its position.

And in a letter to Charles Clarke, Education Secretary, this week Gerald Imison, Association of Teachers Lecturers joint acting general secretary, said his members felt the Government was not taking their concerns over this year's financial situation seriously. Unless ministers acted quickly some schools would have "tremendous difficulty" in delivering the deal.

Speaking at the conference Mr Clarke admitted uncertainty over funding had been the biggest problem the agreement had faced.

He restated his aims for raising budgets in the future but offered no assurances for this year.

Mr Clarke also urged the NUT, which is concerned that the deal will lead to assistants taking lessons alone, to "come aboard and be part of the process".

But the largest teaching union refuses to budge from its anti-agreement position. It picketed the event this week.

The NUT has also placed two more full page adverts in today's TES stating that teachers' positions had deteriorated since the agreement, while the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers countered with an advert saying teachers would benefit from its implementation.

Guidance sent to NUT members pledges the union's support, which could amount to industrial action, where they are expected to teach merged classes, or where schools employ unqualified staff to teach whole classes under the deal.

* School support staff unions this week issued a national pay claim demanding year-round wages for the 200,000 support staff estimated to be on term-time only contracts.

CLASS OF 80 IDEA 'IS NOT CRAZY'

TEACHERS have given a mixed response to a leading head's proposal that they could take classes of 80 in a bid to reduce workload.

The suggestion from David Carter, a director in the new National Remodelling Team, was condemned by classroom union leaders.

But many emails to The TES from grassroots teachers were more positive.

Shane Worrall from Louth said that Mr Carter had not achieved success by shying away from innovation and should be given credit for considering all options.

And Karen Wilde from Milton Keynes said she had successfully taught a class of 60 pupils herself and that the idea was not as crazy as it seemed. But other teachers labelled the scheme as "idiotic" and a "sick joke".

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