Turning the screw on key stage 3 standards drive

Nic Barnard

TEACHERS have been told to refuse to co-operate with key parts of the Government's new secondary literacy and numeracy strategies as the largest classroom union hardens its stance over workload.

As his members prepared to return to school, Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, also urged them to use their new right to take time off in lieu if they cover for absent colleagues.

The twin moves signal that unions will not ease the pressure on the Government for a new contract and a 35-hour week, despite conciliatory moves that include a review of teachers' workload.

Unions will work with employers and Whitehall officials to draw up proposals based on the findings of the workload study by consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Ministers have not ruled out a new contract. But, until then, the NUT says, its industrial action on cover will continue. New NUT guidelines will say that, unless heads drop other duties to create more free time, secondary teachers involved in the key stage 3 strategy should not:

* rewrite lesson plans unless needed; * change their personal targets; * cover for colleagues attending training days; * teach "catch-up" classes for low-achieving pupils before school, during lunchtimes, or after school; or * mark the new "optional" tests in Years 7 and 8.

Similar advice is given to primary teachers as the Department for Education and Skills promotes optional tests in Years 3, 4 and 5.

Both the NUT and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers have set up hotlines for members to report vacancies at their schools. The NASUWT warned last week that some children would be sent home as it too urged members to follow the new agreement on cover to the letter.

The agreement, reached with employers, gives teachers the right to time off in lieu if they cover for absent colleagues or unfilled posts. Employers have accepted that the deal may lead to some schools sending pupils home.

Both unions have told members to keep a close track of the extra hours they do and take any time off they are owed within four weeks. NASUWT members are also being encouraged to disclose how many staff in their schools are covering lessons they are not qualified to teach.

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Nic Barnard

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