Social work: teachers' new burden

14th September 2001 at 01:00
All primary teachers need at least an hour of non-contact time each week to deal with their growing social-work role, a study suggests.

The new research also says all schools should have a permanent member of staff with specific responsibility for home-school liaison and social-work needs.

Primary heads, especially in deprived areas, are coming under increasing emotional and administrative pressure as a result of the social needs of parents and pupils, say Rosemary Webb and Graham Vulliamy of York University. Classroom teachers cannot meet these extra demands if they have a full teaching load.

The York research, based on interviews with heads and teachers in 15 schools across five local education authorities in north-east England, found that all schools - not just those in deprived areas - face growing social-work demands.

"The mounting pressure on teachers created by the Government's standards agenda is paralleled by the growing social-work dimension of their role, thus creating increasingly unrealistic and unmanageable workloads," they say in a paper presented to the EERA conference.

This problem will not be solved by simply capping working hours, they say. Teachers need access to proper multi-agency training and school funding should be increased, with part of the budget "ring fenced" to protect at least an hour a week of non-contact time for extra responsibilities, including time for individual children.

Most heads in the survey said they spent between one and five hours a week on social work: counselling parents; work related to child protection; and inter-agency liaison. But six, in some of the most deprived schools, said it took up between 15 and 25 hours a week.

This extra burden prevented them from carrying out managerial and administrative tasks during the school day and so increased their workload during evenings and weekends. One, involved daily with police and social services because of problems with a few children, took two days' refuge with her laptop in a teachers' centre because she was so desperate to find time to set a budget and finalise the school development plan.

Another head had become ill with the additional pressure so his staff moved his office to the top of the building while he was away to make him less accessible.

All schools should have a staff member with specific responsibility for home-school liaison and responding to social work needs, say Webb and Vulliamy.

In small schools and those in more affluent areas, this could be done by full-time special educational needs co-ordinator without class responsibilities.

But in most schools, there should also be on site a home-school support worker trained in social work and counselling, who could work with the special needs co-ordinator and support children with emotional and behavioural problems and their families, organising school-based activities for parents and working with outside agencies.

The outcome of a three-year project showing the value of home-school workers in secondaries will be published by Webb and Vulliamy shortly.

Contact: rew7@york.ac.uk

UNKIND MEDIA

Teachers who feel the British media are uniquely unkind to them may be comforted - or appalled - by figures from Masaryk University in the Czech city of Brno.

Researchers found far more negative than positive stories about teachers in the Czech daily newspapers - especially Pravo, the former Communist paper. And there was not a single television news item praising teachers last year.

Researchers Milada Rabusicova and Katerina Emmerova suggest the negative image will make it hard to build a partnership between parents and schools.

Contact: milada@phil.muni.cz

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