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Workload issue set to take centre-stage

THE burning issue for members of the second largest teachers' union meeting in Llandudno this Easter, is one of workload rather than pay.

And the call from leaders of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers for a ballot for industrial action over red tape is certain to receive strong support from teachers, who are now working an average of 51 hours per week.

"People are up to their necks in it and fed-up," said Dave Battye, a past president and member of the NASUWT's national executive.

"Every time someone thinks up a new idea they say, 'It'll only take five minutes' but they all add up to several hours. It is a real farce."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary, reckons there are now 30 different ways in which teachers are held accountable - from central government through to local authorities, headteachers and school inspectors.

"There is so much doubling up and it is unnecessary," he said. "We need a streamlined system."

The idea of a central database of information is one already put forward by a Cabinet-appointed task force, which has warned that schools have too many reporting requirements.

The Better Regulation Task Force, whose chairman, Lord Haskin, has close links with the Prime Minister, believes red tape is now distracting from the demand to raise standards.

The Department for Education and Employment has to respond to its recommendations by the end of June. In the meantime, members are likely to be balloted next month and action, if sanctioned, would be based on the Government's own recommendations for cutting bureaucracy.

These include refusing to collect money from pupils, produce class lists or classroom displays, administer exams and chase up truants.

The new pay structure will no doubt also generate heated debate, particularly from those who believe everyone should have been given the pound;2,000 pay rise.

There are deep concerns about the objectivity of some heads and fears that it could generate unhelpful competition between staff. Nevertheless large numbers of teachers are expected to apply.

Where hostility is likely to remain is over the General Teaching Council. Some NASUWT members have already dubbed it the "gullible teachers' club".

"It's a waste of money, doesn't do anything for teachers and takes money off them," said Mr Battye. "What would they like to see it do? They'd like to see it ended, full stop."

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