Too much admin? Use child labour

24th October 2003 at 01:00
Schools are being advised to put pupils to work at break times to help support staff as they implement the workload agreement.

The suggestion has been approved by the Government, employers and unions that signed the agreement and the national remodelling team overseeing its introduction. It is outlined in an ideas bank on the team's website.

Under the heading "Releasing admin officers to complete more of the 24 tasks for teachers", it reads: "Utilise pupil enthusiasm to help with basic admin tasks at break and lunchtimes eg taking letters to classes, tidying resources, and sorting catalogues." The website describes the idea as being appropriate for primary, secondary and special schools and advises that it would cost nothing.

The National Union of Teachers, the only major education union not to sign the deal that relieves teachers of more than 20 routine tasks, described the suggestion as "quite extraordinary". It also condemned other ideas on the site. They included creating a teaching space large enough for two classes to be taught together. Another proposal was that deputy or assistant heads should be replaced by a business manager or director of finance.

The ideas are among 80 suggestions from schools to help colleagues implement the workload agreement.

Howard Kennedy, the remodelling team's assistant director, said they had all been checked with the workload agreement monitoring group, which includes representatives of all signatories. "We have been filtering the ideas to make sure they are in keeping with the intention of the national agreement," he said.

But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which signed the agreement, said the idea should be treated with "extreme caution". However, John Dunford, Secondary Heads Association general secretary, said if lessons were not disrupted and pupils were not dragooned into it then he could see no reason why they should not help.

Lucie Acraman, 15, chair of Lipson community college's school council in Plymouth, said her fellow pupils were already helping with photocopying and reception duties in a scheme that had helped to build their confidence.

Website visitors invited to rate the idea gave it four out of ten.

Martin Rowson 22 The workload ideas bank is at www.remodelling.orgib

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