Fear that heads will be workload losers

4th April 2003 at 01:00
As NUT threatens legal challenge to deal, heads are told they face 'breakdown' implementing it. William Stewart reports

THE head of a high-performing secondary is considering installing closed-circuit television in exam rooms because of worries about support staff invigilators.

Chris Nicholls, head of Moulsham high school, Chelmsford, is only moderately confident that support staff will be able to replace teacher invigilators, as proposed in the workload agreement.

Other heads fear the deal will impose a huge burden on them. One warned they face a "nervous breakdown" implementing it.

Dr Nicholls said no one knew whether enough support staff could be found for the deal to work and they had yet to be trained. "The uncertainty comes because we are all in new territory," he said.

Dr Nicholls was the Secondary Heads Association representative in the workload talks. Invigilation was one of 25 tasks teachers were not expected to do from September but pressure from SHA has delayed the transfer until 2005.

Next week, a draft contract based on the workload deal signed by the Government, employers and eight unions, is due to go out for consultation.

It will guarantee teachers time for planning and marking and exempt them from the 25 tasks. It will also open the door for assistants to take classes. Councils will get an extra pound;15 million to help introduce the reforms.

Dr Nicholls also warned of possible conflict in schools with members of the anti-deal National Union of Teachers if heads bring in new support staff while making teachers redundant.

Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary predicted difficulties if heads made teachers redundant, whether it was because of funding problems or the workload deal.

This week the NUT wrote to Education Secretary Charles Clarke threatening legal action if he turned the consultation process over the agreement into a "sham". Mr Clarke has made a plea for the union to reconsider its opposition to the deal in the NUT magazine.

But the union continues to promote its anti-deal position, with an advert in today's TES highlighting the National Association of Head Teachers'

threat to block the deal if sufficient funding to implement is not found.

The NAHT is unlikely to back out. But David Hart its general secretary, said that if it was dissatisfied with funding at the end of the consultation period then it would not agree the changes to the teachers'


The SHA leadership remains behind the deal, but at a conference seminar last week grassroots members were apprehensive.

Veronique Gerber, head of Hurlingham and Chelsea school, London, said the agreement had not been thought through, the timescale was too short and heads had not been properly consulted.

"Headteachers are facing a nervous breakdown trying to implement this deal because it has been signed in our names but it is an impossible task," she said.

Christine McAnea, head of education at Unison, the biggest assistants'

union, said: "I don't think it is going to be that drastic because support staff are already doing some invigilation. We would need to be clear about the guidance and training before we could say whether there would be problems."

* The Government sent out 3,840 pages of paperwork to schools last year, according to the Conservative party, which said promises to reduce workload had not been kept.


* Week beginning April 6: amended teachers' contract and regulations on use of classroom assistants due to go out for one-month consultation.

* September 2003: 24 routine clerical and administrative tasks handed over from teachers to other staff ; worklife balance clauses added to teachers'

contract and leadership and management time introduced.

* September 2004: teachers to spend no more than 38 hours a year covering for colleagues.

* September 2005: teachers stop invigilating exams; guaranteed time for planning, preparation and assessment and dedicated headship time was introduced.

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