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Teachers refuse 'red-tape' requests
“GIVE us the time to teach”. That is the message from teachers across Oxfordshire who are preparing to take industrial action from tomorrow in response to concerns about what they say are unreasonable workloads.
Members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers and the National Union of Teachers are set to refuse to carry out what they claim are unnecessary bureaucratic tasks, such as providing lesson plans to senior leaders, chasing up attendance and ordering stationery.
Guidance has been issued by the two unions to between 4,000 and 5,000 teachers across the county, including 25 instructions on actions they should take.
The tasks the unions are taking issue with are not legal requirements for teachers to carry out but are decided on a school-by-school basis.
Gawain Little, secretary of the Oxfordshire NUT, said: “We hope we will see a real impact in terms of work-life balance and an increase in the quality of teaching and learning in schools.
“In some schools it will have little impact because they are already carrying out good practice but in schools where heads are put under pressure which is then brought down to other members of staff, we will be seeking positive changes to allow teachers to focus on core duties.
“The message from us is give us the time to teach.”
The impact in schools is set to vary hugely. Mr Little said he had heard directly from about 50 county schools.
In about a quarter, there will be no action taken as teachers are not required to carry out any of the tasks the unions are taking issue with.
For about half, he said there were one or two small issues which he hoped could be resolved with headteachers so the changes would be agreed with the senior leadership.
In the remaining quarter, there are more substantial issues and teachers will be taking a stand.
Mr Little, a teacher at St Ebbe’s Primary School, Oxford, said union members at his school were happy no action needed to be taken at the school.
But he added: “Still in many schools teachers are being asked to do things they shouldn’t be asked to do.
“People are doing unreasonable and often meaningless tasks due to a fear of accountability.”
The industrial action is not the same as ‘working to rule’ which has in the past seen teachers refusing to take part in after-school and lunchtime clubs.
During the action, which the unions say will continue until Education Secretary Michael Gove makes moves towards improving workloads, teachers will continue to carry out activities outside the timetable – provided they are doing so through choice – but will not participate in “excessive observations” or paperwork which they say takes away from teaching time.
Simon Spiers, headteacher at King Alfred’s Academy, said that all extra curricular activities at the academy would continue as normal.
He said: “I have sympathy with the action the unions are taking.
“We are watching the situation carefully and we will be working with our staff and union representatives to do all we can to avoid any significant impact on the wide range of activities that we offer our children.”
Paul James, headteacher at The Cherwell School, Oxford, said: “We will use this as an opportunity to reflect on our practice but we are not anticipating any major impact.”
Members of NASUWT started action last week and are set to be joined by members of the NUT tomorrow.
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