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Why pay teachers when support staff are cheaper?

Anyone questioning the motive behind the DfES paper's controversial new proposals for workforce reform does not have to look far for the answer.

The paper spells it out: money, or rather a lack of it, is driving officials to think the previously unthinkable.

There are other important factors: the paper refers to the teacher supply situation and the need for schools to remodel staffing so they can "raise standards and embrace modern management practices".

But funding is the theme that the paper keeps coming back to. Just two paragraphs in, the author states that the "value for money dilemmas" set out in 2001, when the Government first proposed an enhanced role for support staff, will not be solved by the current workload agreement.

It then goes on to warn that the Government's next three-year comprehensive spending review, due to published next summer and covering 2005-08, will be "very tight, with new reforms largely needing to be funded from reworking existing budgets".

More "zero-based" budgeting is needed by schools, with reform paid for by "reworked budget priorities, not ... additional funding".

It is in this context that the paper goes on to point out that schools no longer need to employ qualified teachers and that support staff - who are of course substantially cheaper - could play a bigger role in teaching.

The first priority, it says, is to talk up the idea of the "school team" of a variety of staff and illustrate how it is "affordable within current spending levels".

The solution it suggests is to pay for more support staff by reducing overall teacher numbers.

The National Union of Teachers always warned that the Government could use the workload agreement to cut spending by replacing teachers with support staff. It seems that it was right.

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