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We want our photocopier time back

It might seem hard to imagine pining for photocopying. But a study by Cambridge University has found that some teachers actually miss the "low-level" tasks - such as putting up displays and checking times tables - that have now passed to teaching assistants.

Teachers have been prevented from carrying out 24 mundane administrative tasks since the national workload agreement came into force in September 2003.

"Within a time and motion study, these may appear fairly low-level activities ... but for teachers, any of these tasks may carry emotional overtones," the study said.

"One headteacher appeared to recognise this fact. Standing around the photocopier ... waiting one's turn, she said, often provided important 'collegial moments'. The same was true of putting up displays. Those were times for ... discussing children's work ... exchange of expertise and an important source of professional satisfaction."

The report* - published by the National Union of Teachers, which refused to sign the workload agreement - found that a typical primary teacher worked 54 hours a week, two hours longer than in 2002.

"Workforce reform has effected no improvement in work-life balance, most categorically not for heads, (nor) for increasingly put-upon teaching assistants, and not, it would appear ... for the majority of school staff," the report said.

But it stressed that there was "much to celebrate". "Good teachers have always known how to be educationally subversive. They refuse to collude with the victim mentality that relinquishes initiative, self-belief and a sense of agency."

* Pressure and Professionalism: The Impact of Recent and Present Government Policies on the Working Lives of Teachers.

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