In the Times, the coverage of Michael Gove’s letter to the STRB focusses on the possibility of teaching assistant jobs being threatened by any change in teachers’ working practices…
Michael Gove has risked another confrontation with teachers by calling for a major overhaul of working practices.
The Education Secretary has asked a review body to lift a series of restrictions on menial and administrative tasks that teachers can be ordered to perform. Collecting dinner money, photocopying, ordering paper and books and keeping records on pupil absence and other data could all be added to teachers’ tasks under the move.
The most sensitive is a requirement to take lessons on behalf of another teacher who is ill or absent, which currently must happen only “rarely” – forcing heads to hire supply teachers.
The demand by Mr Gove for a review effectively rips up a watershed agreement reached between Labour and public sector unions in 2003, which sought to limit teachers’ workloads. This guaranteed teachers free time for at least 10 per cent of their weekly school timetables for marking, lesson planning and other tasks.
The number of teaching assistants in schools in England rose from 79,000 in 2000 to 220,000 two years ago. This was largely due to the deal in 2003, although some learning assistants help children with special needs. Evidence of their effectiveness is mixed. Most primary classes, and many in secondary schools, now have a teacher plus at least one learning assistant. Many may face redundancy as schools seek to save money.
Teaching assistants are paid much less than teachers: their average pay is equivalent to a full-time salary of £17,000. Their total cost, however, has been estimated at £2 billion a year.
Mr Gove’s call for change, in a letter to the School Teachers’ Review Body yesterday, will provoke fury from many teachers, large numbers of whom already complain of excessive workloads.
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