Longer school days? Board says no …

One of the many features of our Education Cannibal Michael Gove’s plans were to cut school holidays and make the school days longer, describing the current hours as ‘a relic of an era when children were expected to also work in fields.’

Well, the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) which was set up to advise the government on teacher pay and conditions, has published a report which rejected these proposals as unnecessary as teachers already work well beyond their hours.

Chair of the STRB Patricia Hodgson states, ‘We endorse the current provisions of 195 working days and 1265 hours. We note that teachers currently work additional hours beyond directed classroom sessions and there is already flexibility for heads to deploy teachers according to the needs of their pupils.’

The report highlighted concerns that attempts to extend school hours could kill off the culture of after-school clubs. It found that “Teachers who currently run after-school activities on a voluntary basis might not do so if working hours were extended. This would mean that in future, schools would have to pay for work that is currently undertaken by teachers on a goodwill basis without extra payment and a likely consequence would be that many schools would have to stop providing these activities due to lack of funding.’

Another problem I can see with increasing the working hours comes the time for planning. Teachers are heavily prescribed as it is, which has resulted in the need for Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time. In order for these extra hours to be accommodated, more PPA time will be needed to cover it.

The report’s findings perhaps unsurprisingly have been welcomed by the unions. General Secretary of the NUT Christine Blower said, ‘The STRB has delivered Michael Gove a huge blow by rebuffing his recommendations for further attacks on teachers’ conditions and pay. Michael Gove sought to persuade the STRB that the teachers’ contract undermined professionalism and that the provisions were over-prescriptive. He failed on all counts.’

Mary Bousted of the ATL adds, ‘We are relieved the STRB has sensibly resisted pressure from Michael Gove to increase teachers’ formal working hours and has also decided to protect the existing limits on what teachers are expected to do in their own time.’

All this isn’t to say the STRB completely rejected everything that Gove proposed. The STRB agreed with proposals from Gove to remove regulations restricting teachers from conducting tasks such as bulk photocopying and filing. They also agreed that schools should be given greater flexibility to give headteachers large salaries. Make of these what you will …

The Department for Education claim to accept the conclusions and key recommendations from the report, subject to public consultation. Anyone else reckon this is their way of saying ‘we want to tell the public the STRB are wrong and we want to do this and that and make things better’?

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