Workload survey backs up union

16th January 2004 at 00:00
I found your survey on teacher workload fascinating (TES, January 9), but aspects of your interpretation are confusing. It comes as no surprise that teachers would want to support an agreement that reduced workload.

The National Union of Teachers was involved in productive discussions with the Government on reducing teacher workload, having suspended its industrial action. Those discussions were then hijacked by its proposal to deregulate requirements on who should teach.

We do not have an agreement simply on workload, therefore. We have one which envisages classroom assistants taking lessons and covering teaching absences in exchange for limited changes to the teacher's contract.

Your survey reported that teachers are overwhelmingly opposed to a deal which depends on such use of support staff. This does not represent an awkward question for the NUT. On the contrary, it confirms our view that the union represents the teaching profession.

I am prepared at any time to discuss with the Secretary of State next steps on from the School Workforce Agreement. The Government could agree a minimum teaching staff establishment for each school.

Falling rolls could be used not to cut teacher numbers, but to get smaller classes and deliver planning, preparation and assessment time with qualified teaching staff. These measures would reassure teachers that the Government had dropped the thinking in the Blue Skies paper (TES, December 5).

The NUT will not, however, be a party to measures which could jeopardise standards and teacher numbers and neither, from your evidence, will the rest of the teaching profession.

Doug McAvoy

General secretary

National Union of Teachers

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