Squeeze on primary staff time

6th October 2000 at 01:00
WHILE I sympathise with Ron Austin, the Slough secondary headteacher who introduced a four-day week because of staff shortages (TES, September 22), I could not help the resentment of years spilling over.

I am head of a primary school that is coping with the budget devastation caused by five consecutive years of long-term staff absence.

Mr Austin is quoted as saying: "If you are asking staff to work in their free periods, inevitably someone will go ill." In primary schools there are no "free periods", and any non-contact time is so expensive that staff have a rigorous timetable of duties to work towards maintaining high standards in their area of responsibility.

Then thee is marking, review, planning and preparation, as well as endless displays of pupils' work to foster high expectation and self-esteem. The added burden of extra children in class to cover for absent colleagues has the same effect on morale and health as in Ron Austin's school.

When will it be recognised that primary teachers desperately need the "free periods" enjoyed by our secondary colleagues?

It is necessary for all staff to have at least an acknowledgement that marking, assessment, planning and preparation takes time. Those "free periods" go some way towards that acknowledgment.

Carol Kelly

34 Rowan Drive

Handsacre

Rugeley, Staffordshire


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