Reforms revolutionised staff

12th October 2007 at 01:00
Workforce reforms have created a revolution in schools south of the border and benefited many staff, inspectors reported this week.

But Ofsted found no evidence that the changes had improved standards or reduced teachers' hours, in line with many of the ambivalent conclusions that HMIE reached on the 2001 teachers' agreement in Scotland.

Ofsted surveyed 99 schools to assess the impact that the school workforce agreement, schools' wider responsibilities for children and the new teaching and learning responsibility payments had had on staff.

The inspectors reported that the agreement designed to reduce teachers' workload and give a greater role to support staff had "resulted in a revolutionary shift in workforce culture with clear benefits for many schools".

Teachers' time was more directly focused on teaching and learning because of the deal signed by the Government in England, unions and employers in January 2003.

More than three-quarters of teachers interviewed felt they had greater control over their work and had time to plan collaboratively, develop resources, keep up with marking and talk with colleagues.

Heads and senior managers continued to have a heavy workload, but were increasingly supported by experienced managers from outside education.

Christine Gilbert, Ofsted's chief inspector, said: "There has been an important change in school work-force culture as increasingly highly skilled people from fields other than teaching have taken on responsible and challenging roles in supporting teaching and assessment, and in some aspects of management."

She said the challenge was to ensure this increasingly diverse workforce received the training it needed.

The inspectors found that few schools were evaluating the impact the reforms were having on raising standards and achieving the aims of Every Child Matters, the Government scheme to improve support for children.

Ofsted called on the Government to improve its communication with schools so they understood that these were key goals of workforce reform. It found that pupils had benefited from increased support from staff who were not teachers. Their different skills had allowed schools to improve care and guidance for vulnerable pupils and those at risk of exclusion.

The deal which means teachers no longer have to perform some 20 admin tasks, only have to provide limited cover and have guaranteed planning, preparation and marking time set out to achieve a gradual reduction in teachers' hours over four years. But Ofsted noted that no schools or individual teachers had quantified their hours or monitored workload sufficiently to show it had been reduced.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary south of the border, said: "To draw conclusions on the basis of contact with 100 schools out of 23,000 is risible. Despite the favourable assessment of schools' progress given in today's report, the NASUWT will continue to question the contribution and value to the education service of Ofsted reporting."

Reforming and developing the school workforce: www.ofsted.gov.uk

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