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Teachers' week should be cut by seven hours, says review.

Teachers should have their average working week cut from 52 to 45 hours within four years, a landmark report on ways of reducing the profession's workload recommended yesterday.

However, the School Teachers Review Body, which is responsible for advising ministers on pay and conditions, rejected union demands for a legal cap of 35 hours and a limit on the time they have to spend in the classroom.

While the unions welcomed some aspects of the report, schools still face the prospect of an autumn of discontent, as they warned the option of taking industrial action to cut working hours remained open.

The STRB's report is the latest stage in the process of negotiations between ministers and teachers over workload that has been going on for more than a year. While union leaders welcomed parts of it, the STRB has effectively sided with Education Secretary Estelle Morris on the crucial points.

She rejected the idea of a 35hour week as 'potty' and theSTRB said the Government could 'realistically aim' to reduce average hours from 52 to 48 a week within two school years and from 48 to 45 within four. But this should be a target, not a legal obligation, the report stressed.

'We recommend this approach in preference to placing a statutory limit on total hours, which we find unconvincing on practical grounds and unusual for professional people.'

It could add to, not reduce the amount of paperwork schools had to cope with, the report added.

Ms Morris has never expressed support for a limit on the number of hours teachers actually have to spend in the presence of children.

While the STRB said it did not object to this key union demand 'on principle', there were other ways of cutting the number of hours teachers worked.

These included transferring tasks such as photocopying and chasing absent pupils to support staff. But the STRB acknowledged that was not necessarily the end of the debate.

'If however, within a reasonable time, the volume of non-teaching work cannot be sufficiently reduced, then the demand for setting a limit on contact or teaching time will reemerge,' it added.

The STRB dismissed the unions' claim that the standard teachers' contract should be changed to remove their obligation to work a potentially limitless number of hours if ordered to by headteachers.

Instead, that clause should be 'moderated by a reference to the work-life balance principle'.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 9, 2002
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