Workload problems ironed out by head

19th September 2003 at 01:00
Reducing teacher workload need not only involve relief from bulk photocopying and exam invigilation - staff at a Wiltshire school are also having their clothes ironed and cars valeted.

Fiona Allen, head of Corsham primary, decided to improve her teachers'

quality of life four years ago, long before a workload agreement had even been considered.

Worried that the recruitment problems she had experienced in two London schools were spreading to the South-west, she set out to tackle the issue.

An audit of staff was held to find out what the school could do to improve their working lives led to a variety of novel suggestions.

"Several said 'What gets me down is that Sunday night feeling of I have got the ironing to do'," said Mrs Allen. "So we organised a company to come into school, take their ironing away and do it for them."

She has also made car valeting and manicures available. Staff pay for the services, but the school has negotiated discount rates.

As one of the 32 pathfinder schools, piloting workload reduction schemes, Corsham has employed four personal assistants to take on admin tasks.

Teachers at the school have not had to cover for absent colleagues for at least three years and a nursery for their children is provided on site.

Mrs Allen says the package has already made a big difference to recruitment. She recently received 52 applications for a single post.

Chris Keates, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' deputy general secretary, praised the school's ironing service but she warned that helping teachers with personal and domestic tasks did not, on its own, fulfil schools' duty under the workload agreement to provide them with a reasonable work-life balance.

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