'Most staff continue to work more than 35 hours'

28th September 2001 at 01:00
Alan Graham Primary class teacher Raigmore Primary, Inverness, Highland

"Keeping to a 35-hour week is unrealistic especially with the additional planning and preparation at the start of the session. I'm probably doing 40 hours at the moment, though it might get easier later in the year.

"We've just finished our New Opportunities Fund training in information and communications technology and I've been doing the Modern Languages in Primary Schools course in French. These add extra hours, as does any new initiative.

"We've tried to work out at school level how to spend the remaining hours, which involves a lot of number crunching, but whatever agreements are reached you can't just set a cut-off point. These children are in your care. So the 35 hours won't really make any difference.

"A lot of primary teachers are saying the curriculum needs to be streamlined, that we need to prioritise. I agree that sometimes you just skim the surface.

"Fortunately, Highland has simplified the 5-14 reports, so they will take less time. But we need to look at class sizes. That's what really has a bearing on the workload."

Elizabeth O'Rourke Depute headteacher Notre Dame Primary, Glasgow

"I've found no tension between collegiate time, the teachers' individual planning and preparation time.

"Most teachers work the 35 hours anyway, so some ask what does it really change? But it's a great thing that it does acknowledge the time teachers put in.

"It doesn't affect my work as a depute. If something needs to be done, it simply needs to be done. It's better, I think, to look at tasks than time.

"We have to cope with a lot of curriculum development and I often feel that ideas arrive in school only half-developed. Curriculum development is onerous, time-consuming and can't possibly be coped with within 35 hours.

"Workload and time constraints are such that you have to prioritise. I don't mean with regard to a 35-hour week. I mean there are only 24 hours in a day.

"Similarly with continuing professional development, teachers who are really interested and motivated will pursue it in their own time and often at their own expense."

Angela Moore Headteacher Glencryan Special School, North Lanarkshire

"Headteachers had a briefing with the directorate about the 35-hour week but agreements are worked out at school level. We have used most of our remaining hours for development work, for pupil teacher conferences and for collegiate time with our occupational and speech and language therapists.

"All of these are important in our school with pupils ranging from four and a half years old to 18.

"There were some initial teething problems but it's working well because McCrone has given us a lot of flexibility. Our class contact time (22.5 hours per week) is currently less than secondary mainstream (23.5 hours per week; 25 hours in primaries) so that does give us more collegiate time.

"Most of our staff have always worked and do continue to work more than 35 hours but they feel more valued now. They respond like professionals as they always have. It's worked out very well so far."

Phillip Thorne Principal teacher of music St David's High, Dalkeith, Midlothian

"It's very unfortunate that the pay and conditions of music instructors, who are the life blood of the school in so many ways, have not been made clear. They do untold extra hours with orchestras and bands, yet they have been left outside the 35-hour week agreement. A strange anomaly.

"But for music the 35-hour week is irrelevant anyway. You either meet the needs of the pupils or you don't. We have 80 Higher pupils whose individual needs cannot be met adequately in the classroom or in class time alone.

"We work until 7pm or 8pm two or three nights a week, training pupils in recording, sound engineering, directing and so on. So the 35 hours will make no difference to us. We were never paid for these hours and we won't be now.

"Our difficulty is getting the kids to leave at the end of the day."

Anne Brown Assistant principal teacher of physical education Dumfries High, Dumfries and Galloway

"We're still in the consultation process but I can't see the 35-hour agreement altering our working practice as we will continue to be involved with extra-curricular activities.

"The only thing it may affect are inter-school or regional activities. I take regional hockey and this could be affected if PE teachers from other schools had to be in school under their own school agreements on certain nights when they were needed for regional tournaments or activities.

"But in general terms if you're doing your job as a PE teacher, you're working over 35 hours anyway, so the figure is meaningless. You work nights, Saturday mornings and sometimes have the pupils away for a weekend. It's difficult to quantify the hours you work.

"I asked my principal teacher how many extra hours he did last week. He shrugged and said: 'Half a week?' "

Graham MacKenzie Headteacher Dingwall Academy, Highland

"We're finding it very convenient to have the staff together after school hours. It's highly beneficial for senior management and allows more direct communication, especially being able to attend departmental meetings after school hours.

"We use three and a half hours per week as collegiate time out of about eight hours. This clogs up the 35 hours, though we do try to retain flexibility. Teachers always worked after 4pm but now it's more formalised and they're more likely to be here.

"Highland has argued it is not fully funded for McCrone and it's difficult to see where the money will come for it.

"Each Highland school works out its own agreement. There's really no local authority template. You only go to them if you can't come to an in-school agreement.

"We'll review our agreement in April or May next year. We're open to change, to further negotiations. Things will evolve.

"Morale has improved and teachers are eager to move forward. So far it's a step in the right direction."

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