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TACKLING TEACHERS WORKLOAD IN WALES

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Welsh education minister Jane Davidson today set out the action that the assembly government is taking to reduce sc...
Welsh education minister Jane Davidson today set out the action that the assembly government is taking to reduce school teachers' workload in Wales.

The secretary of state for education and skills today published her proposals for reform of the teaching profession in Englandand her response to the School Teachers' Review Body's (STRB) report on reducing teachers' workload which was published in May this year.

It is important that teachers and schools in Wales can consider the secretary of state's response to the STRB report, since this applies to teachers in Wales as well as England, in the context of the assembly government's plans. The secretary of state will be consulting on her response to the STRB's report before considering any changes to the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions document and Ms Davidson wants teachers in Wales to take the opportunity of responding to this consultation exercise in the light of our plans.

The STRB report made a number of recommendations on how teachers' workload might be reduced to free up more of their time for teaching and to support the drive to raise standards in schools. Most of its recommendations relate to teachers' conditions of service, which are not devolved matters and are the responsibility of the secretary of state.

In a written statement to assembly members the minister said: 'I gave evidence in person to the STRB earlier this year. In that evidence I confirmed the assembly government's commitment to reducing the bureaucratic burdens placed on teachers, to tackling pupil disaffection and to supporting teachers' continuing professional development.

'I was supportive of the principles of providing guaranteed professional time for teachers to spend on planning and preparing for classes and assessing pupil's performance, and, for limiting the amount of cover a teacher is expected to provide when colleagues are absent.

'I therefore welcome the secretary of state's proposals to amend the teachers' contract so that they are freed up from routine administrative tasks; that the amount of cover for absent colleagues they provide is limited; and that guaranteed time is provided for marking and preparation.

'I agree with the secretary of state that we have to find additional time for teachers to develop and to prepare. I also strongly endorse the need for a healthy work life balance - the evidence shows that some teachers are working excessively long hours - and we need to take action to tackle this. Tired teachers are not effective teachers and a long hours culture is not conducive to raising standards.

'Many of the measures to address workload will be incorporated in teachers' conditions of service. There are nonetheless a number of actions that the assembly government can take, and is taking, to reduce the workload pressures faced by teachers in Wales. These will support the drive to raise standards of achievement and attainment in all our schoolsin Wales and help deliver our agenda for schools set out in 'The Learning Country'.

'We are adopting measures to reduce bureaucracy. The Report on the Project to Reduce the Bureaucratic Burdens on Schools, endorsed by the national assembly in July 2001, fulfils our commitment to reduce the bureaucratic burdens on schools. Good progress has been made in implementing the resulting Action Plans, which cover the impact on schools not only of the activities of the assembly government, but those of local education authorities, Estyn, ACCAC and other public bodies as well.

'For example, all documents issued to schools and LEAs by the assembly's department for training and education work are now scrutinised through a 'gatekeeping' arrangement and issued in a standard format. More documents are being made available electronically, and there is also easier electronic access to curriculum and teaching materials.

'Work to implement the Action Plans is continuing. In particular, I am committed to consulting later this autumn on a revised Circular giving guidance to schools on good practice on reviewing internal procedures in schools so as to minimise bureaucratic burdens.

'A disproportionate amount of teachers' time can be spent on a minority of disaffected pupils. We are taking steps to tackle the challenge of dealing with those pupils who have no interest in school and whose behaviour is challenging. The Task and Finish Group on Attendance, set up following the national conference on Tackling Disaffection last year, is due to produce its report on ways in which the problem of truancy might be tackled at the end of this month. We aim to issue new guidance on tackling bullying in schools early in 2003, as well as revising existing guidance on pupil support and social inclusion.

'The assembly government has funded 10 pilots on tackling disaffection this year, and we are monitoring the effectiveness of those. A workshop with practitioners to produce guidance on learning support units is planned by early 2003, and we also expect to run pilot schemes for providing teachers with training in behaviour management by the end of the academic year.

'Our investment in ICT will have a pay off in saving teachers' time, be it in terms of lesson preparation or quicker and more efficient handling of administrative work. The assembly government has provided£60 million since 1998-99 to help improve ICT facilities and equipment to raise standards in schools in Wales. Some£40m has been made available for the development of the National Grid for Learning, including funding for ICT training for teachers and other school staff and support for collaborative projects between LEAs to develop innovative approaches to the use of ICT in schools. That investment has ensured that all schools are connected to the internet.

'The National Grid for Learning Cymru has been established, to provide online curriculum, education and training resources for pupils and teachers alike.All schools are also benefiting from the assembly's broadband strategy, with nearly£10m allocated to LEAs to provide whiteboards and other multimedia equipment, and a further£1m this year through GEST to support whiteboard training for teachers.

'I want to build on these initiatives through a number of new measures directly targeted at providing teachers with more time to concentrate on their core teaching functions and to help reduce their workloads. A review of teacher's workload, carried out last year by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, found that some 20% of teachers' time is spent on tasks not directly related to teaching - many of them routine administrative tasks which can be done by other people. Similarly, the STRB recommended that the provision of additional administrative support would be one of the most effective means to reduce the amount of teachers' time spent on non-teaching duties. I agree with that conclusion.

'Next year I will therefore be making£3m of new funding available to increase the level of administrative support in schools. This funding will rise to£15m by 2005-06. Over the period, this amounts to a very significant injection of funds in support of teachers.

'Officials will be discussing with our partners in local government and the teaching profession how this additional administrative support might be delivered and how the new funds can be targeted to their best effect. Some schools might need more administrative assistants; others may need a bursar, or to employ specially trained staff to deal with disaffected pupils. What will be important is what works best in freeing up teachers to spend more time on their professional duties.

'Welsh Medium schools have issues around teachers' workload that are unique to them. We are engaged in a process of identifying those issues and the means of tackling them.

'In support of these measures, we intend to pilot a 'change management project' which will test approaches which will enable school leadership teams to identify specific ways of reducing teachers' workload in their own schools. The aim is to help schools make organisational and management changes, within their existing resources, in order to use teachers' time more efficiently and effectively.

'I believe that there could be considerable potential for reducing teachers' workload and freeing up their time by adopting simple changes in the way schools organise their daily routines and allocate tasks. What school leaders need to do this is to be given time to consider, and advice on what has worked in other, similar schools. This will enable them to identify appropriate changes.

'It is important that each school considers its own particular needs in a practical way tailored to its circumstances; this approach will enable that to happen. We intend to pilot the project in 2003-04, and the aim will be to develop principles that can be 'rolled out' in due course to all schools in Wales.

'Funding is, and will continue to be, available through the GEST Classroom Support Fund to help LEAs employ classroom assistants. Classroom, or teaching, assistants - as well as other support staff such as language assistants and ICT technicians - play a valuable role in supporting teachers both in and out of the classroom. In future, they may be able to take on more of the tasks that teachers currently do. Where necessary, that work will be under the direction of a qualified teacher and we will need to ensure that proper training is available for them.

'I want to consider with our partners in education how the role of support staff can be developed and what action can be taken to better meet their training and career needs.

'We are embarking on an exciting period for teaching - one where the professional needs of teachers are fully recognised, and where teachers will be better supported to enable them to focus clearly on their professional functions and so raise their standards and the standards achieved by pupils in Wales.'

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