Let them teach 80

4th July 2003 at 01:00
For tact and diplomacy, the suggestion that some of the non-contact time enshrined in the workload agreement can be created by teaching classes of 80 or more must rank alongside Marie-Antoinette's "let them eat cake" remark about the breadless peasantry. There may well be practical and efficient ways of organising pupils into larger groups for a limited number of activities, as suggested by David Carter, the distinguished headteacher who is about to become "director of programme delivery" for the Government's new workforce remodelling team. But then the ill-fated Queen of France was not entirely wrong either since cakes and bread can provide the same calories.

Both rather miss the essential point. In the case of workload it is that schools are already facing staff cuts in double figures, reduced non-contact time, larger classes and sending children home. Those who signed up for the workload agreement on the understanding the Government would substantially increase funding to pay for it - not catastrophically reduce it in many schools - are unlikely to see in Mr Carter's pragmatism the fulfilment of the Government's promises.

Nor will many of his colleagues find their staffrooms overbrimming with goodwill and enthusiasm for such "remodelling". Teachers are already working harder than ever before, as the Government has accepted. And yet their reward for such effort has this year been widespread threats of redundancy - guaranteed to create demoralisation and despondency in any staffroom far beyond the few eventually chosen - more or bigger classes and fewer resources to support their teaching.

Pay is being squeezed to fund the workload measures (p4). And the news that teachers will in the future have to work until they are 65 for a full pension has added further disillusionment (Letters, 22).

Workload reduction is not even on the radar in many schools as they struggle with unbalanceable budgets. Any remodelling, whether it be classes of 80 or replacing teachers with classroom assistants, is likely to be seen as a cost-saving measure rather than the investment required to reduce workload and improve learning.

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