Way to let us all feel the benefit

28th January 2005 at 00:00
No one can argue against the case for providing non-contact time for primary teachers. Just think of the positive benefits - time to prepare, plan and assess tasks for pupils. If the cycle was carried out properly, the outcomes of assessment could be considered and influence any future tasks.

Someone came up with this great idea, but then it was thrown at us to make it work. I have met heads from across Wales who are all facing the challenges of meeting the legal right for non-contact time, and the concerns are just as real as the wish to have this scheme in place.

How are we going to meet these statutory requirements? There is some funding from the Assembly government. After the local education authorities have top-sliced and shared out the money, there are huge differences in how much each school gets.

I do not wish to benefit at the expense of others but I have to question the rationale behind the perpetuation of an already unbalanced and biased funding system. There have been attempts to influence local education authorities into giving a bigger proportion of the new funding to primary schools, but when we look at the picture across Wales there are still variations between authorities.

As head of a 10-teacher school, to budget for a minimum of 10 per cent preparation, planning and assessment time for my staff I should employ an extra teacher. Realistically, I have to find a cheaper way of managing within budgetary constraints, and cheap is not always best.

Some creative heads are timetabling caretakers to take football practice, and members of the Women's Institute to teach knitting or make calendars.

There are many capable adults out there who could provide a service, although issues relating to training and the support staff of the future have not been addressed.

And is this really the way forward? I thought the underpinning philosophy was to raise standards. Is providing pupils with 10 per cent less teaching time each week the way to do it?

One solution is to offer all the qualified teachers who graduated last year a one-year contract. Each year schools could benefit from having a floating teacher, even if they have to share them with one or two others to make it viable.

We already have an underused pool of qualified people. We need the funding to employ them.

Terry Williams is head of Litchard junior school, Bridgend. He writes here in a personal capacity.

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