Crisis proposal suggests pound;5 for every extra pupil
The move is being considered as employers and ministers prepare to meet classroom unions representing 400,000 teachers next week in the wake of the unions' unprecedented agreement to threaten joint industrial action in pursuit of a new contract.
Employers have already offered pound;20 an hour or time off in lieu to teachers who use their free periods to cover for colleagues.
The pound;5-a-pupil offer is aimed mainly at primary teachers who do not have free periods but who may be asked to take all or part of other teachers' classes at the same time as their own.
The Easter conferences of the National Union of Teachers, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers and Association of Teachers and Lecturers voted unanimously - bar one rogue NASUWT delegate - to pursue a review similar to the McCrone inquiry in Scotland which guaranteed teachers there a minimum 12-and-a-half hours non-teaching time, and protected their 35-hour week. The Welsh union UCAC is expected to follow suit in May.
Ministers have already sanctioned an independent review of workload in return for the NUT and NASUWT decision to call off last term's "no cover" action. Next week's talks will centre on its remit - unions are certain to say it does not go far enough.
The pound;5-per-pupil offer is one of the short-term measures proposed by employers to alleviate or compensate teachers for the staff shortages, which unions say have reached crisis level and which prompted the cover action.
And they are examining the feasibility of setting up their own arms-length, not-for-profit supply agencies, effectivly recreating the old local authority supply lists which many LEAs abandoned during the cuts of the 1990s.
Graham Lane, leader of the National Employers Organisation, said private supply agencies were cashing in on the crisis by stinging schools for up to pound;170 per day for teachers - most of whom were paid nowhere near that amount.
The unions will press for any inquiry to take into account pay and working hours. But a blunt schools minister Estelle Morris told NASUWT delegates in Jersey: "I am not in favour of a 35-hour working week... it is not the mark of a profession to campaign for a 35-hour week."
Talks on pay are also ruled out because the unions' annual submissions to the school teacher review body are so close.
NASUWT general secretary Nigel de Gruchy said the minister's comments were rubbish. "Lawyers work by the hour; consultants work by the day. Even if we got 35 hours there would still be many cases where teachers would do more."
Ministers are offering extra clerical support staff for schools to relieve some of the burden of form-filling and other administrative work that now falls on teachers. NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy said that was welcome but did not go far enough.
Headteachers' leaders this week gave strong backing to any moves to reduce workload, but are unlikely to support a 35-hour week.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said his members were "philosophically opposed" to a limit on hours, while David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers said a guarantee on non-contact time was more important.
As The TES went to press, the NASUWT was poised to vote to consider a ballot on boycotting post-threshold performance-related pay.
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