Heads besieged by paper

21st September 2007 at 01:00
More than 70 Assembly government documents are on their way to a school near you

HEADTEACHERS WILL be bombarded with more than 70 Assembly government documents and guidance to digest this term, it has emerged.

The sheer volume of paperwork, detailed in the government's autumn newsletter to schools, was said by education unions to be "daunting" this week and could mean heads working longer hours than ever before.

Among the consultation documents are the introduction of three-year budgets, good practice in first aid and new legislation measures for the 14-19 learning pathways initiative. Information papers to be scrutinised range from ideas for healthy lunchboxes for primary pupils to key stage 3 assessment arrangements for 2008.

Also to be looked at are 19 guidance circulars, which include advice on school uniforms, involving pupils in decisions that affect them and the availability of Welsh-medium qualifications.

Gareth Jones, secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, said the "staggering amount of documents" was believed to be a consequence of the new Coalition government and its new agenda in the One Wales report. But he believes it could discourage prospective heads at a time of expected shortages.

"We need to start offering incentives to make headship an attractive proposition," he said. "At the moment, senior classroom teachers in secondary schools can earn more than some heads in primary schools. We have to ask whether this is right when heads now have multiple accountability and are being stretched in all directions."

The latest pay survey to emerge from the Schools Teachers' Review Body reveals there are 220 heads mostly from inner London and in large schools on the fringes who now earn more than pound;100,000.

In Wales, headteacher pay at the top of the pay spine is not far behind, with an average salary quoted of pound;95,631 compared with pound;93,297 last year a rise of pound;2,334. However, heads' salaries like these will probably only be found in Wales in schools with more than 800 pupils, the benchmark for high pay.

But while pay for both heads and teachers has gone up since 2006, a report released by the STRB on the same day reveals that heads are working less for their money this year, with many claiming to spend more quality time with their families and on management courses.

The survey found the average secondary head worked 57.6 hours in January 2007 compared with a record 65.1 per cent the previous year, figures that have been widely welcomed but which appear impossible to keep down as the new school year begins.

Anna Brychan, secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, believes Wales-based heads have a raw deal compared with those over the border. She said heads in England had more help in achieving a work-life balance, financially and in courses available.

"We are seeing more courses to help heads with workload so maybe this is reflected in the survey. But there is not the availability within the Better Schools Fund to pay for courses, and sadly many heads in Wales may not be able to afford them," she said.

Longer working hours for heads has been a major issue since the introduction of the workload agreement that was intended to cut hours and ease the burden on all school staff.

But in a report last year, Estyn claimed classroom teachers had benefited most from the agreement while many heads were now working more than 50 hours per week. Jane Hutt, education minister, said in interview with TES Cymru on her appointment that she aimed to reduce paperwork and ease up on initiatives.

More on workload, 18-19

Leader, page 32

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