Nothing to fear but everything to gain

18th April 2003 at 01:00
Governors have a key role to play in helping to implement supportive measures, says the school standards minister

EVERY child in our country deserves an equal chance. That is why people in all walks of life are passionate about education.

The Government wants schools to be inspiring, exciting and enjoyable places in which to learn. Governors have a vital role to play in achieving this vision and helping young people fulfil their potential.

There is a lot to be proud of. The Office for Standards in Education says we have the best generation of teachers ever. International studies applaud progress in primary education and give high marks to the achievements of 15-year-olds. But when 50 per cent of young people leave secondary education without five good GCSEs, we know we have challenges still to meet.

Central to our approach are teachers. They are the key to education. How they are paid, trained, supported and respected is vital to the nation's future.

Earlier this year, the Government, employers and school workforce unions signed an historic agreement that will benefit teachers, support staff and pupils. Our plans to remodel the school workforce will reduce teachers' workload and free them to focus on raising standards through high-quality teaching.

By cutting back on bureaucracy, we will ensure that teachers have the time and space to focus on what they do best - teach. And we will support headteachers in implementing change through additional resources and a national "change management" programme.

For too long, we have let teachers be diverted to a range of tasks, like administration and child supervision, at the expense of their teaching. As a result, they are spending only a third of their time on teaching. We need to give them time to focus on standards.

Under the plans we are committed to appointing 10,000 extra teachers this Parliament. But schools will increasingly deploy a wider range of adult expertise, from the learning mentor to the lab technician to the language specialist. We anticipate around 50,000 more of these vital support staff.

Do teachers in your school need information and communications technology specialists, personal assistants or cover supervisors to deal with short-term staff absence? Then that is what should be provided.

The Government is doing its part in that the first changes will be made to teachers' contracts this September and will continue over the next couple of years - but your school needs your support if the best is going to be made of these opportunities.

In your school, as in any organisation, the senior management team must be behind reforms if they are to work as well as we believe they can. We want to create a new cadre of support staff: highly-skilled, highly-trained teaching assistants who can help pupils with their learning under the direction of qualified teachers.

Qualified teachers and high-level teaching assistants are not interchangeable - and appropriate training will be provided to support the new roles we envisage. Teachers have everything to gain and nothing to fear.

From 20056 they will be given guaranteed time for planning, preparation and assessment. This is critical to raising standards. It will give teachers time in the school day to focus on how individual pupils are progressing, and to work with colleagues and support staff.

We want teachers' hours to reduce progressively over the next four years and this will be monitored - but target-setting to reduce bureaucracy could well add to the problem it is trying to monitor.

Governors will want to be involved in the way these changes take place in schools. An important part of the national agreement will be about looking at the most effective way of using existing resources - for example, using support staff or ICT to relieve teachers of many routine administrative and clerical tasks, without incurring extra costs.

There is also significant extra money in the system, and we want to ensure the reforms can be delivered in a timely and manageable way. Teachers and pupils alike will benefit from these radical reforms.

I am convinced that these changes are a tremendous opportunity for the teaching profession. I hope that, as governors, you feel that your expertise and experience will be used to the full in implementing these reforms in ways that are right for your school.

We have offered the National Association of Governors and Managers and the National Governors' Council the opportunity to meet ministers and discuss the implications of the agreement with the signatories.

It is vital for management at every level to be committed to changes such as these, to ensure that teachers and support staff feel that their school is a more rewarding, challenging and satisfying place to be.

Thank you for your hard work. Generations of children will benefit from your commitment, imagination and contribution.

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