In 2001 some teachers were threatening industrial action over workload and refusing to cover for absent colleagues. The TUC became involved and the talks also involved Unison, TGWU and GMB. David Miliband, when appointed as schools minister, chaired a series of meetings involving all the lead partners over a number of months.
The plan was for all of us to agree to promulgate a new workload agreement to be implemented over three years.
The key parts of the package are, in 2003, the transfer of 24 administrative tasks from teachers and the introduction of leadership and management time; in 2004, a 38 hour a year limit on cover for teachers; and in 2005, 10 per cent planning and preparation time for all teachers, including primary teachers.
At the same time the employers were working with unions on developing the career structure for support staff. The Teaching Training Agency was asked to develop the concept of high-level teaching assistants.
The purpose of this is to free teachers up to concentrate on teaching and allow support staff to do the administrative work such as bulk photocopying and collection of dinner money.
I very much regret that the National Union of Teachers did not sign the workload agreement, because it is in no way intended to replace teachers with teaching assistants. There will continue to be a qualified teacher for every class.
The main aim is to assist in raising standards in schools by allowing teachers to focus on their key duties. The second benefit is the elimination of excessive workloads. This is recognised as a key factor in recruiting and retaining teachers. The third benefit is to develop career structures to recognise the contribution of support staff.
From a speech given last week at the conference LEAs: Taking remodelling forward (Taken from a speech given last week at a conference on LEAS: Taking remodelling forward)