'Music lesson' for class of 400

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Move to provide staff with non-contact time. William Stewart reports.

A school is to hold a weekly "lesson" in music and personal social and health education for more than 400 pupils, so it can provide staff with non-contact time.

Roger Bateman, head of Holy Trinity Church of England primary in Halifax, will take all 410 of his non-nursery pupils for an hour in the school hall every Friday from September.

He will be accompanied by another teacher and a team of around 10 support staff, but has admitted it would be impossible to teach such a large group of pupils.

However, half of the session will be counted as part of the pupils' lesson or curriculum time. The other half will constitute one of the five weekly assemblies.

Mr Bateman said the session would allow pupils to celebrate their achievements. They would be able to read out outstanding pieces of work or perform pieces of music.

This would fulfill the performance element of the music curriculum and part of the PSHE curriculum.

At key stages 1 and 2 pupils are required to be taught to feel positive about themselves and their achievements and be given the opportunity to show what they can do in PSHE.

This will allow his teachers to receive more than the 10 per cent statutory planning preparation and assessment time they will be guaranteed from September. They were in general agreement with the plan, Mr Bateman said.

But Sue McMahon, secretary of the Calderdale branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: "What is going to be achieved in a class of more than 400 pupils? We would say not a lot. I would be surprised if this has the support of parents; it certainly doesn't have the support of NUT members in the school."

She said staff were also unhappy at the school's decision to cut lunchtimes by five minutes a day.

Mr Bateman said PPA time was not coming out of staff lunchtimes. They would receive an hour a week and another 11 full days over a year which he said added up to more than half a day a week.

The plan, which involves employing an extra teacher, would fulfil his staff's wish to have non-contact time in large chunks.

But Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "Teachers should get non-contact time, but only when the children are being taught by a qualified teacher - and that does not cover having more than 400 children in the school hall."

A survey suggested that three-quarters of primary schools will have to make cuts to be able to deliver PPA time.

The Independent newspaper, which conducted the poll of 500 schools with the National Association of Head Teachers, said the cuts included increasing class sizes, with more than one in 12 schools making staff redundant and one in nine schools declaring deficit budgets.

Meanwhile, the Professional Association of Teachers' annual conference in Buxton this week passed a motion warning that PPA time will damage standards.

PAT conference 11

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