Let them sing, as teachers prepare

15th October 2004 at 01:00
Schools have been advised by the Government to set up choral sessions, theatrical rehearsals or debates to release teachers for marking and preparation.

Support or non-teaching specialist staff could take merged classes or even whole-year groups, to help relieve teachers according to a "toolkit", produced by ministers, employers and unions signed up to the workforce deal.

All teachers are entitled to 10 per cent of their teaching time for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) by September 2005.

Schools have been told they could consider teaching classes via video conferencing or software packages in computer suites, staffed by technicians. The vision of children being taught in 60-plus Victorian-style classes was evoked by the National Union of Teachers when it refused to sign the workload deal in January last year.

However, Chris Keates, acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "This is not the same as double class classes or increasing class sizes to save money. It is about looking at innovative ways of delivering and enhancing the curriculum using the strengths of particular members of staff."

Providing PPAtime is seen as the most expensive and difficult part of the agreement to introduce, particularly for small primaries.

But the "toolkit" says that: "Not all strategies have cost implications. It is often possible to free up significant amounts of PPA time through remodelling the workforce and making better use of existing time and resources."

But some believe the strategies are unrealistic. Denise Knutsen a teaching assistant at Falmer high, Brighton, said even single-class groups would be too big for support staff. "Groups of 10 are the maximum for the kind of pupils we get in schools today," she said.

So far the agreement has not gone smoothly. A survey commissioned by the School Teachers' Review Body in March found that the average number of weekly hours worked by primary teachers actually increased following the introduction of the first phase.

The toolkit says schools should consider whether tasks such as pastoral activities could be moved from timetabled teaching time to elsewhere in the school day. Alternatively, some pastoral duties could be transferred to support staff, who along with instructors, higher-level teaching assistants and specialist staff such as sport coaches, dancers or local business people, could be shared by schools.

Paul Woodward, head of White's primary, Cinderford in the Forest of Dean and regional secretary for the National Association of Head Teachers, said many schools would not have the money to bring in additional staff and even if there they did there could be problems with availability.

Jane Capon, from the Choir Schools' Association welcomed the advice saying several cathedral choirs worked with primaries to promote singing.

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