Working week

10th October 2003 at 01:00
Your job and career questions answered

Class size matters

Is there government policy that there should not be any classes of more than 30 at key stage 2?

No. Existing legislation does not allow classes of more than 30 at key stage 1, but does not cover key stage 2. This may be a problem for some primary schools in the next few years. Falling rolls will naturally cut classes at key stage 1, so most schools will not be worried about breaching the 30 maximum. However, falling rolls can mean less money and, hence, fewer teachers, so in some cases class sizes at key stage 2 may remain higher.

Days off for training

Is it normal and proper for in-service days to be added to school holidays in lieu of regular training done after school?

Teachers are required to be present for 195 days a year, of which five are set aside for staff development. Normally, these are taken as whole days when the pupils are not present. However, provided that detailed records of the activities are kept, I don't see why they should not be taken as the equivalent of 10 half-day evening or after-school sessions. The down side might be that, after a day's teaching, the sessions might not be as effective as if a separate day was given over to staff development.

Display: whose job is it?

I'm confused about designated tasks: should we still be doing them? Our head has put aside some time for us to put up displays after school one evening a week. However, I thought we were not meant to be doing displays any more. I find the whole thing confusing since I believe that displays are an important teaching aid.

The first part of the historic three-year workload agreement came into force this September. It is enshrined in every teacher's contract. As a result, teachers are no longer required "routinely to undertake tasks of a clerical or administrative nature which do not call for the exercise of a teacher's professional skills and judgment".

Among such tasks, the Government has specifically cited that of "preparing, setting up and taking down classroom displays in accordance with decisions taken by teachers". I know that this has caused anxiety for those staff who view display as an importantteaching tool.

Another job for non-teaching staff is "ordering supplies and equipment".

Here again, teachers need to decide what aids they need, and to keep abreast of new developments. Support staff can be used to find supplies at the best price, and complete order forms.

Similarly, designing and creating a display may need a teacher's contribution - and they should be given time to do this. But support staff can be taught how to assemble and dismount displays.

I acknowledge there is a fine line here. Certainly, teachers should no longer be required to be the only staff involved, and support staff should expect appropriate training to do the job.

In the end, it is the spirit of the agreement that may matter, as much as the exact interpretation of the wording. If there are problems over this, it is generally a sign of deeper problems within a school.

Nevertheless, the workload agreement has marked recognition of the need to address the work-life balance of teachers.

If you have a question for John Howson, please email

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