28 May 2004
The extra resources being poured into education will not deliver results unless the government frees up teachers' time, ministers were warned this week.
Academics and teachers' leaders came together to call for an independent inquiry into the organisation of teaching. Professor Maurice Galton, of Cambridge University's faculty of education, said teachers needed to be better supported and schools more adequately resourced.
'Schools cannot do the job without quite a lot more money. We calculated that an extra three teachers were needed for each school to give teachers time to do their job,' he said.
Galton, with colleague Professor John MacBeath, was commissioned by the National Union of Teachers to determine how far teachers' professional lives had been affected by recent government policies – an attempt to 'capture the teacher voice'.
Their report says that teachers' overriding concern is a deterioration in pupil behaviour, which obstructs their ability to teach and eats into time set aside for lesson preparation and marking.
The number of non-teaching periods allocated to teachers has not kept pace with increased responsibilities, and teachers in middle-management positions have experienced a disproportionate increase in their workload, the report found.
'We need a damn good inquiry about the structure of schooling,' Galton said. 'More than any other country, we think teachers have to be social workers and counsellors as well.' He pointed to the example of the US and Sweden, where teachers have extensive networks of support staff and youth workers who take on many disciplinary and pastoral responsibilities.
NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy supported Galton's call for an independent inquiry – provided that ministers were prepared to give serious consideration to its conclusions.
'Even with increased investment, schools won't achieve unless government looks at this report seriously and looks, with the NUT, at the terms of an inquiry that might take place,' he said.
'Fundamentally, teachers need more time. This can be achieved only by reducing class sizes and ending the constant external demands on teachers.'
But the Department for Education and Skills said a survey of just 230 teachers did not provide a 'balanced picture' of school life. A spokeswoman said: 'There are now 29,000 more teachers than in 1997, who are better and better supported, with Ofsted reporting that teaching standards have never been higher.
'Programmes to improve pupil behaviour are providing positive working environments for teachers, while our reforms to the school workforce are cutting bureaucracy and reducing the burden of work for teachers.'