No going back on workload reform

24th September 2004 at 01:00
Heads told budget cuts cannot hinder progress. Karen Thornton reports

Education authorities have to deliver on workload reforms - regardless of budget cuts, headteachers in Wales were told at their annual conference.

Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, told members of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru that LEAs had a legal obligation to help headteachers reduce workload, including their own.

The minister was responding to questions from heads worried they would not have enough cash to implement legally-required changes to teachers'

contracts - including 10 per cent non-contact time from next September.

Rebecca Griffith, head of Cradoc primary school, Brecon, and the association's secretary in Powys, told the minister: "The bottom line is money.

"In Powys, we are struggling because the remodelling money that came to the authority was just about equivalent to the 2 per cent cut in our budgets this year.

"In real terms, we have had no money for addressing the statutory requirements of the school pay and conditions document. That's put an extra burden on heads and does nothing for our own work-life balance."

Ms Davidson said education funding overall in Wales compared well with England, and that the Welsh Assembly had agreed increases of more than 5 per cent a year for the past five years.

And she added: "LEAs as employers cannot get away from their statutory role under this contract. The workload money we gave was genuinely additional.

Powys will have to deliver because it is part of the contract, as will every other LEA. Every initiative we introduce has new money attached.

"Where there are new Assembly policies to be carried out, that new money comes with it - and the workload agreement is a good example."

Wynn Jones, head of Rhostyllen primary school, in Wrexham, called for education cash to be taken away from councils and given to schools directly via a national funding formula.

But Ms Davidson said there was already such a formula in place, used by the Assembly to allocate school funding to LEAs. A system paying cash direct to schools would generate "some very poor and very rich schools".

"Some of our LEAs put additional investment into schools, over and above the amount that comes through formula funding, and we would not want to lose that either," she said.

The conference, in Llangollen, was also addressed by Susan Lewis, chief inspector of schools in Wales, and Rona Tutt, NAHT's national president.

Pat Clarke, head of St Mary's school, Wrexham, was installed as NAHT Cymru's new president.

* A Welsh headteacher has been suspended since early May for shouting at pupils. Anne Hovey, NAHT Cymru regional officer, told its annual meeting that these "relatively low-level" allegations had become "translated into mental and emotional abuse". She was speaking as the meeting discussed calls for improved guidance on how allegations of assault against teachers are investigated. The suspension was lifted last week.

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