Dispute in Oldham over new support staff who take lessons in teachers' absence. William Stewart reports
The first industrial dispute linked to the school workload agreement has blown up in Oldham where a school has employed learning managers to cover for absent teachers.
Around 60 National Union of Teachers members at the Radclyffe school are refusing to prepare, plan, mark or assess lessons taken by the new managers, who are not qualified teachers.
Head Hardial Hayer, employed four extra staff at the start of term in line with the new regulations. He says they have already cut teachers' workload.
The NUT is the only major union not to sign up to the national workload agreement on the principle that only qualified teachers should take whole classes and is now pressing its point home.
Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, visited The Radclyffe - one of 13 secondaries which trialled the workforce reforms - on Tuesday where he met his members and Mr Hayer. But the talks failed to resolve the issue.
Afterwards Mr McAvoy said: "There has never been any doubt that the NUT would act to protect the professional status of teaching. That is what we are doing."
But Unison, the union that represents the four managers, claimed Mr McAvoy had gone back on an assurance not to boycott working with staff who took on extra roles envisaged in the agreement. It said it would raise the issue with the TUC.
Mr Hayer said the NUT action was not causing any major disruption to the school where managers were continuing to provide cover.
The learning managers had already made a big impact, he said, with the number of hours teachers spent providing short-term cover falling from 171.6 hours in the first five weeks of term last year to only 16 in the same period this year - a reduction of more than 90 per cent.
No teachers had had to provide short-term cover during 17 of the first 23 days of term this year, compared to 2002 when cover had been required every day during the same period.
"Learning managers are not taking on a teachers' role," he said. "They are outstanding people absolutely committed to the school, trained in our systems and they are following up issues such as discipline that the short-term supply teacher never did."
He said the new managers had been through a rigorous selection procedure, and had been assigned to an assistant headteacher to ensure they received training and support. The mangers would only provide cover for up to the first 10 days of a teacher's absence, after that a specialist teacher would be brought in.
Each manager is attached to a department and they spend the rest of their time carrying out more than 20 administrative tasks that teachers are no longer expected to perform from this term under the workload deal.
The news came as the Teacher Training Agency invited bids from organisations wanting to train the higher-level teaching assistants expected to take on the same role as Radclyffe's learning managers in most schools.