Headteachers facing cash pressures

HEADTEACHERS across Suffolk are facing more pressure than ever before, with many forced to exceed recommended teaching hours due to a shortage of cash, it has been claimed.

By Danielle Nuttall

HEADTEACHERS across Suffolk are facing more pressure than ever before, with many forced to exceed recommended teaching hours due to a shortage of cash, it has been claimed.

More than 40% of headteachers in the county are being forced to cover for teachers who are entitled to a break from the classroom under a new national scheme, according to a teaching union.

They claim the Government has not allocated enough cash to fund classroom assistants to do the job, which has resulted in higher workloads for headteachers and added to the stress many already feel.

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The Planning Preparation and Assessment (PPA) initiative was introduced in September as part of the Government's National Workforce Remodelling Agreement to allow teachers to use 10% of their work time to prepare lessons and assess pupils instead of teaching.

Guidelines advise headteachers spend a maximum of 50% of their time teaching but, according to Chris Harrison, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire national council member of the National Association of Headteachers, many in Suffolk are breaking the 70% mark, especially in small schools where staffing is already tight.

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The claims come as Suffolk County Council admitted eight headteachers in the county were currently on long-term sick-leave, although it would not specify whether these were stress-related.

“At a national level we are aware that the workload and stress on headteachers is probably greater than it has ever been, particularly in relation to the fact we have seen a very significant increase in headteachers undertaking teaching commitments in order to ensure delivery of the Work Force Agreement,” said Mr Harrison.

“In Suffolk, 43% of headteachers are delivering PPA time themselves - in other words they have not got the money in the budget to provide teachers release time.

“All teachers are allocated non-teaching time. The problem is the Government has not fully funded it.

“It has been good for teachers but it hasn't been good for headteachers. It's given headteachers a significant management headache.”

Mr Harrison said schools could not just dip into their reserve funds in order to pay for the PPA time as these are forecast to be at their lowest ever in Suffolk at the end of April at only 5% (£16.8m of about £330m).

Previous years have seen reserves at 10% or above, he added.

“Reserves are there to meet unplanned and unforeseen circumstances not for known circumstances. It's not to meet the holes you already know are in your roof,” he said.

But a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said primary schools in the county had received just under £1million towards PPA.

The spokesman added that the figure of 43%, relating to headteachers covering PPA time, did not mean all headteachers were in the same position.

“It's only going to be in small primary schools where this will be an issue. It's not across the board at all,” he said.

“Forty-three percent of headteachers said they were doing some PPA themselves. That could be as little as one period per week. It doesn't mean they have to do vast amounts.

“It depends on the size of the school. It's not a huge additional burden for those headteachers.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: “There is more than enough money in the system to support PPA and more than 99.5% of schools are now implementing it. Schools that find implementation a challenge can access support and examples of good practice through the national remodelling team.”

Mr Harrison said the increased work load of headteachers and subsequent stress levels would have an impact on the recruitment of headteachers.

“If people within the profession do not see leadership as being attractive, they will not come forward,” added Mr Harrison.

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