Reforms hit support staff

4th August 2006 at 01:00
Professional Association of Teachers' conference hears workforce change has not benefited all schools. Jenny Legg reports.

Workforce reform has improved conditions for teachers at the expense of support staff and needs careful monitoring, according to England's smallest classroom teaching union.

The 35,000-strong Professional Association of Teachers passed a motion at its annual conference this week calling on ministers to better monitor the implementation of the workforce agreement.

Ann Nuckley, administration manager at Bacon's college in Rotherhithe, south-east London, proposed the motion at the Oxford conference. She said:

"It's absolutely right to give teachers the freedom to teach but support staff should not be expected to take on extra work without proper training and financial remuneration.

"In some places the reforms are working well but in others they are not and teachers are benefiting at the expense of support staff."

A survey of 300 members of the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses (PANN) and Professionals Allied to Teaching (PAtT), which form part of the PAT, found 26 per cent did not think their school benefited from the reform.

More than 60 per cent said they had been offered no training and 54 per cent that they had been asked to take on what they considered to be teachers' roles.

Philip Parkin used his first conference speech as general secretary to highlight the importance of voice coaching for school staff, saying that half of teachers experienced problems.

Mandy Morley, a reception teacher from Newton Longville primary, Buckinghamshire, has been off sick for five months since contracting a throat virus.

She said: "As a typical teacher I didn't want to let anyone down so I kept going. I couldn't even whisper for 10 days and I only got what I consider to be a normal voice back about a month ago."

Outside the conference room, delgates, reputed to be more eccentric than their counterparts, threw balls at each other in a workshop on self-development through inner awareness, fun and laughter.

It was the first time in a decade that no government minister attended.

Instead, delegates heard Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Commons education select committee, speak about raising the school starting age to seven.

Mr Parkin said PAT members were "miffed" at being snubbed by ministers.

"Are we a social partner of the Government or not? It wouldn't have happened with the National Union of Teachers or NASUWT," he said.

The conference defeated a call to make parenting classes compulsory for key stage 4 pupils.

Deborah Lawson, PAT's national chairwoman, called for the introduction of minimum entry standards for post-16 childcare courses.

She said Britain risked creating a "generation of Vicky Pollards" because of a decline in applicants' speech and literacy standards.

Nursery nurses should gain C grades in GCSE maths and English and undergo an interview or observation before being accepted on courses, Ms Lawson said.


Do teachers need voice training?

Simon Smith, 46, from Sweyne Park school, in Rayleigh, Essex:

"Voice-training needs to go hand in hand with better classroom acoustics.

So often you fight a losing battle against scraping chairs, and bad acoustics where the tiniest sound reverberates."

Louise Lindsay, 52, teacher with the specialist teaching service in Leicestershire and Rutland: "I was off with laryngitis quite often while I was a primary teacher. Voice problems are quite a common problem.

It's something newly qualified teachers should be taught in their first year before they get into bad habits."

Gail Holland, a nursery nurse at Birkett House school, Leicestershire: "I know of teachers who can hardly speak by the end of term. It's vital teachers are taught how to look after their voices. After all they are the most valuable resource in the school."

Paul Skelton, 49, who works with visually impaired children at Hanson school in Bradford: "It does seem to be something you can train so teachers should learn how to look after it. I've come across lots of teachers who have problems with dry, sore throats."

Linda Howlett, 49, a teacher at Nunney first school in Frome, Somerset: "I was taught how to project my voice at college but I don't know how common that is now. It's a case of when to squeeze it in on training courses or inset days."

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