One for all is all over

25th July 2003 at 01:00
Primary teachers appear to be doing well out of the post-McCrone deal, and parity with their secondary colleagues in terms of classroom hours and management time will be a reality within three years. There are already substantial numbers of assistants supporting classroom work, particularly in the early years, and more administrative back-up is being ploughed in.

These are clearly positive and long-overdue developments that respond to the demands of the sector.

But parity of teaching hours introduces uncertainties into primary teaching and opportunities for more restructuring. This is where it grows murky.

There is no consensus among primary teachers and decision-makers about ending the tradition of the one-class, one-teacher approach to delivering the curriculum. Visiting specialists in music, art and physical education have, of course, always been a feature of primary schools and the presence of assistants and auxiliaries is changing the landscape. The teacher as an isolated island may be less of a norm.

But as primary teachers' time in front of pupils reduces, scope for further experimentation grows. What will fill the gap as class teachers focus on their professional duties? Will it be a specialist in science, French, technology, drama? Will it be an extra member of staff who works between classes or across cluster schools? There is no set template, although many people have a vision of altered images of the primary classroom.

Ministers may want specialists - probably drawn from the secondary sector - deployed in upper pri-mary, but many harbour doubts about the practicalities. Primary staff remain suspicious of the available expertise and teaching specific subjects in secondary is different from work in upper primary. Highland's pilot in which it will deploy specialists from the primary sector will be watched closely.

But it will not just be one-way traffic. Primary staff, highly skilled in core work, are being lined up to teach the basics in the first two years of secondary as part of an improved P6-S2 transition programme. How will that go down in departments? There are in fact significant barriers to increased specialisation, not least in training, career structures and sectoral regulations. This one has a long way to run.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today