Headteacher's school hours warning

A SCHOOL in Essex is considering sending children home at lunchtime on Fridays in order to meet new Government laws on non-teaching time for teachers.The headteacher and governors at North Primary School, Colchester, have sent a wide-ranging questionnaire to all parents at the community school and one section relates to the new workload agreement, which from September gives teachers 10% non-teaching time for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA).

By Juliette Maxam

A SCHOOL in Essex is considering sending children home at lunchtime on Fridays in order to meet new Government laws on non-teaching time for teachers.

The headteacher and governors at North Primary School, Colchester, have sent a wide-ranging questionnaire to all parents at the community school and one section relates to the new workload agreement, which from September gives teachers 10% non-teaching time for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA).

Parents are asked for their opinions about three options for providing non-teaching time - cover from teaching assistants or teachers and changes to the school week.

The survey asks: "Would you be happy for the school day to end 30 minutes later on Monday to Thursday and for it to close at 12.30 on Friday?"

North Primary headteacher Alan Garnett, who earlier this year said he would have no alternative but to break the law in September and deny his teachers their 10% non-teaching time, said: "Governors felt it would be interesting to find out parents' views over the implication of the workload agreement because they're the one interested party that's not had an opportunity to voice its' opinion yet."

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He said: "From September we are proposing to offer 5% PPA time to teachers, who will be replaced for that period of time by qualified teachers known to the children and that will require us to spend more money than we have been allocated."

Mr Garnett added: "In my personal opinion, the best way forward would be for the Government to introduce a change in hours of the school day so that all schools shut at lunchtime on Friday and that working practises would change everywhere in the country to enable working parents to have that time off with their children as well."

Essex National Union of Teachers executive member Jerry Glazier said was the first school he knew of in Essex which was canvassing parents' opinions about sending children home on Friday afternoons.

"I can understand why that may well be seen as an attractive proposition," he added. "I maintain it will be attempted to be used as a lever to make the case for schools having sufficient financial flexibility."

Mr Glazier said 30-40 jobs have been lost in Essex schools over the last few months, mainly due to natural wastage and population changes.

He suggested maintaining existing staffing levels throughout such changes would provide a solution in which cover could be provided by qualified teachers.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) at its annual conference this weekend warned the issue of the workload agreement will come to a head in September, with schools either breaking the law, making teachers redundant to fund it, or sending children home on Friday afternoons.

The NAHT pulled out of the agreement last month, saying the Government had not given schools enough money to make it work.

Teaching unions and teachers fear standards will slip if their classes are taken by non-qualified teaching assistants.

Schools would have to give a year's notice before changing their working week.

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