Workload: teachers speak out

9th January 2004 at 00:00
They were promised freedom from routine admin and long hours. Many are still waiting. Jon Slater reports.

Nearly half of teachers have yet to benefit from the workload agreement despite ministers' promises that all would gain, a TES poll reveals.

Most continue to do administrative tasks that they should have given up four months ago.

But while the poll raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the agreement it also poses questions for the anti-agreement National Union of Teachers. Despite its limited impact on their workload, nearly two-thirds of teachers support the agreement. Even among NUT members, more support the deal than oppose it.

The first survey of how the agreement is working in schools across England and Wales found that after the first term of the first phase of the deal, seven of 21 tasks that should have been delegated to support staff are still being carried out by teachers.

Twice as many teachers say their workload has increased as say it has been cut in the past 12 months, the poll found. Fewer than one in six teachers reported a reduction in their workload.

The NUT is the only teaching union not to sign the agreement, which offers teachers guaranteed preparation and marking time in return for a "remodelling of the profession" with teaching assistants taking more classes.

Four out of five teachers say they still routinely put up classroom displays; three-quarters continue to keep and file records; and almost two-thirds still order supplies and equipment for their school.

Preparing materials and equipment, bulk photocopying, collecting money from parents and pupils and typing manuscripts are also still routinely undertaken by more than half of teachers, despite the fact all of these tasks were supposed to have been transferred to support staff last September.

Some schools have said funding the agreement is the problem. In others teachers say they are putting up the displays because they want to.

The result is that only a quarter of teachers save more than an hour each week as a result of the agreement. Forty-five per cent save nothing at all, leaving them to catch up on marking and preparation in the evenings and at weekends.

The TES telephone poll of 500 teachers was conducted in November and December by FDS International. It shows that one in eight teachers supports classroom assistants taking lessons, with two-thirds saying it is unacceptable for them to cover even short-term absences in order to reduce teachers' workload.

The poll also shows that teachers take a dim view of Labour's record on education. More than half say that their job has become less satisfying and morale has declined since Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "I think there will still be schools struggling to move tasks over by next September."

"A very significant proportion of the profession has yet to be persuaded that using support staff to deliver lessons is an acceptable way forward."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:

"It has been immensely difficult for some schools to implement the agreement when they are having major funding difficulties."

Platform 21, Leader 22

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