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Lack of trust of teachers and their own fear of being caught out are forcing teachers to do too much detailed plann...
Lack of trust of teachers and their own fear of being caught out are forcing teachers to do too much detailed planning for lessons and monitoring of pupil progress.

Any agreement designed to limit teachers' working time must include statutory guidance which specifies the nature and extent of the planning and monitoring required.

Teachers want clear, specific and authoritative statements of good practice, nationally endorsed and backed up by precise criticism from OFSTED of managements which fail to conform to these statements, according to a study* carried out for the National Union of Teachers. The study comes before the School Teachers' Review Body's report recommending changes in teachers' contracts is published today.

Without such statements, the lack of trust of teachers and the ever-growing pressure for accountability means that teachers will continue to over-prepare to avoid being caught out and judged wanting by government and OFSTED inspection teams whose expectations of plans and records vary widely.

The teachers call for an overview of all the administrative, monitoring and assessment work they are required to do to deliver the National Curriculum and to cope with changes in the examinations regime. Too many of those responsible for loading further work onto teachers had only a piecemeal perspective, and could not see how their demands contributed to the pressure.

Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, said:

'Too much unnecessary preparation and planning for the purpose of self protection is a major cause of teachers' excessive workload. The extent of that workload is known from previous independent surveys. This study gives the clearest picture yet of the causes.

'The majority of primary teachers are teaching for 25 hours and spend a further 25 hours marking, planning, monitoring and recording: 50 hours' work before the additional time for curricular and staff meetings, parents' meetings and other tasks, causes intolerable burdens for teachers.

'Much of the time spent on preparation, planning and monitoring is unnecessary and unproductive. Teachers want those responsible for setting standards for lesson planning and monitoring, and for imposing frequent revisions to these standards and to syllabuses more generally, just to stop and consider the impact of their demands.

'Those responsible should show teachers how all they are required to do can be accomplished within 30 minutes for every one hour lesson. If OFSTED, QCA and the Department for Education and Skills do this, then much of the workload issue can be resolved at a stroke.

'Until this happens, teachers feel there is a real danger that workload and bureaucracy busting initiatives are merely cosmetic.

'The introduction of time for marking and preparation in primary schools - many of which have none at all at present - would be a major breakthrough as would a guarantee of that time in secondary schools.'

So great is the pressure from external bodies that teachers are nowspending almost an hour on preparation, planning and marking for every hour taught. A 1:1 ratio, causes some primary teachers 50 hours of work a week before staff meetings, meetings with parents, extra curricular activities and more are added. In secondary schools where time outside the classroom during the school day is more common, the comparable figure is approximately 44 hours.

The workload results from:

- the demands of SATs and external assessments generally

- over-elaborate, and in teachers' views unnecessary, detail in lesson planning and preparation

- over-monitoring of pupils' progress, leading to complicated and extensive monitoring records that, in many instances, were never subsequently looked at

- a never-ending supply of revisions to syllabuses and curricula

-initiative overload' generally.

Lesson planning, preparation, and monitoring were seen as largely driven by OFSTED. Teachers said that individual inspection teams vary widely in what they expect. Schools therefore over-prepare to be sure they are not caught out when allocated a particularly zealous team.

Teachers saw increased demands for accountability as symptomatic of a deep lack of trust in them which government and OFSTED seemed to want to foster rather than allay.

Most primary schools were still operating a full 25-hour teaching week. Where teachers did get time outside the classroom during the school day, the amount varied from at best half a day every three weeks (one school in the survey) to 20 minutes a week during assemblies.

Where teacher support time was available, teachers felt obliged to provide lesson plans and materials for the person replacing them, and to do the follow up marking and recording.

In the one school where teachers were released for half a day a week, a teacher was employed specifically to cover the session with that teacher undertaking the preparation and marking for the session concerned.

All secondary schools in the sample provided non-contact time of two or three hours a week. They were also more careful at ensuring teachers received some of this non-contact time no matter how difficult the emergency.

Despite the plethora of new announcements, initiatives and requirements launched annually some teachers said they had never been asked to stop doing something. This led them to believe that no central account was kept of what the Government had asked schools to do, and thus the burden on them.

Particular attention was drawn to the difficulties of keeping up with curriculum changes in smaller primary schools. A school with eight teachers does not have the same planning resource as one with 25 teachers yet the same amount of work to keep up with the changes has to be done.

Three typical working patterns were given by teachers:

- 6:30am to 5:30pm in school, plus two hours per night and most of Sunday;

- 7:30am to 4:30pm. plus two hours a night and weekends;

- 8am to 5pm plus three hours per night.

These patterns put flesh on the bones of what -sixty hour working weeks' actually represent.

Finally, teachers feel they have little or no control over their workloads. It is this lack of control not just the number of hours that leads to stress.

Teachers do not expect, or even want, to work school hours. Most think it would be reasonable to spend the equivalent of:

- one extra hour in school per day, either before or after the children are present;

- a further two hours in the evening marking and preparing, five nights per week;

- one or two extra hours at weekends, especially if there is something special to do.

Depending on school timetables, they regard a working week of around 40 hours as not an unreasonable voluntary workload by the standards of other professionals.

Limiting class contact hours

Primary teachers, particularly those who received little or no release from classes, thought a minimum of one session a week for preparation and marking within school time would be acceptable. This represents around 2.5 hours in most schools.

They were quite specific about how this would need to be implemented. Additional teachers would be employed to teach the class. Teaching assistants are valued, but they cannot take the class to allow non-contact time for the teacher.

The teachers pointed out that release from teaching needed to include release from the preparation of and marking for that session. This could be accomplished only if the teacher covering the session was permanently employed by the school, and permanently assigned to the relevant classes. All secondary teachers in our sample receive non-contact time of around 10%. On paper, therefore, the recommendation to limit contact hours for these teachers to 22 per week would do little more than confirm present practice.

A contractual limit to contact time would have the effect of guaranteeing minimum of teachers' non-contact time from being poached for cover.

There was general endorsement for the principle of limiting class contact hours as probably the only way teachers could be guaranteed protection against being overworked.

If class contact is to be limited, the time freed up should not be sucked into in other duties, but should be allowed for marking and preparation. Guaranteeing some of this time within the school week would send a signal to headteachers and governors that any contractual reduction in class contact was not to be swallowed up in meetings and planning sessions.

* The report. -Reducing Teachers' Workload' was commissioned from John Atkins, an independent consultant formerly of Coopers and Lybrand. The research was carried out through in depth interviews in 27 schools of all types in a representative sample of education authorities in England and Wales. Mr Atkins reported on Teacher professionalism and workload, the cost of the National Curriculum, funding of education and the bureaucratic burdens faced by teachers, for the NUT.

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