Minimum staffing levels plea rejected

14th February 1997 at 00:00
WORKLOAD. How the review body weighed up the evidence and reached its conclusions - two pages of extracts from the report

The school teachers' pay and conditions document lays down provisions on working time for teachers, other than heads and deputies, employed full -time as follows:

* they must be available for work for 195 days in any school year, of which 190 shall be days on which they may be required to teach pupils; * they are required to be available to perform such duties at such times as may be specified by the head teacher for l,265 hours in any school year. Those hours are to be allocated reasonably throughout those days on which they are required to be available for work. In addition, they are required to work such extra hours as may be needed to enable them to do their professional duties. These duties will include marking pupils' work, writing reports on pupils, and preparing lessons, teaching material and teaching programmes.

Average total hours were at a generally higher level in the 1996 survey than in the 1994 survey (see right).

A report on the qualitative research was circulated in September, 1996. It confirmed that workloads were seen as having built up steadily over a period of years and that teachers at all levels felt they were working harder, for longer hours, and with extra responsibilities.

It is true that we continued to reject new nationally prescribed conditions of employment, but it is incorrect to describe our examination of the issues as perfunctory. We have conducted two surveys of teachers' workloads and the underlying factors involved over the past three years, and we will want to undertake further surveys and research that throw more light on these issues.

We have considered a great deal of written evidence from the parties on teachers' workloads and conditions of employment, which have also been main topics of discussion during our oral evidence sessions with them. However, views have differed and we have yet to be convinced that the introduction of new centrally prescribed minimum staffing measures would be the right approach to resolve problems of workload.

We do not consider it appropriate or practicable to set a limit to the additional time needed by teachers for the completion of their work. It is in the nature of professional work that there should be a commitment of this sort. We accept that some rules are appropriate in respect of teachers' obligations to provide cover for absent colleagues but we do not think it appropriate to impose a rigid detailed framework on how teachers spend their time.

We also believe that rigidly defined minimum staffing measures would constrain the flexibility that school managements need to make the best use of available resources in the light of local circumstances. Schools have welcomed the local responsibility that has come with delegated budgets in grant-maintained schools and under the local management of schools for those maintained by LEAs. It would be wrong to restrict this responsibility and discretion, although school managements must work closely with their staff to maintain their support and goodwill. Class size and non contact time are inter linked and the dilemma that action on one can interact on the other is best handled at school level rather than tackled nationally. In our discussions with the classroom teacher unions it was acknowledged by them that even if there were to be national rules there would also need to be some element of local flexibility to avoid grounds for unnecessary disputes within schools.

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