Select Committee on Education and Skills Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (SQ08)


  As far as ATL is concerned there are four issues which we consider would repay further discussion. These are:

    —  teacher retention and the quality of school staff;

    —  equal opportunities;

    —  curriculum breadth; and

    —  assessment for learning.


  1.1  We are very much in agreement with the Report's four-fold analysis of the factors that lead teachers to leave the profession. Put together, poor pupil behaviour, excessive workload, poor public esteem and a rate of pay insufficient to cover the cost of living in expensive parts of the country all conspire to create a worrying wastage rate. In his Report, the Chief Inspector has made a helpful contribution to repairing the damage done to public esteem for teachers, and issues of pay lie outside the OFSTED remit. But the Annual Report is notably sensitive in its description of the excessive impact disruptive pupils can have and here the Committee might usefully explore further.

  1.2  ATL is equally concerned about the effect of sustained periods of excessive working hours of teachers. The Report's cautions against over-detailed lesson planning were therefore particularly welcome, as was the observation on page 20 that

    The Government, its agencies and LEAs must strive not only to reduce their requirements on headtechers and teachers but also to provide more strategic planning across the various initiatives.

  In this area ATL is very much hoping that the Select Committee will use its good offices to ensure that this advice is taken to heart and, indeed, given official support.

  1.3  It is sometimes claimed that the use of teaching assistants can help to relieve pressure in schools. Indeed this Report is generally positive in its comments on assistants. But there is a striking omission. Whereas there is a section on recruitment and retention of teachers, there is no similar treatment of assistants. Paragraph 383 gives statistics on the qualification of teachers; there are not statistics for assistants.

  1.4  It is encouraging to read of the strength of self-evaluation in some successful schools. ATL has traditionally been very supportive of school self-evaluation. However, increases in workload over recent years now lead us to feel concerned about the impact of extensive self-evaluation on already high workloads. The Chief Inspector may have views on how OFSTED could help to ensure that school self-evaluation does not further burden an overloaded system.

  1.5  We were concerned—but not surprised—to read of schools' reluctance to allow ITT trainees to join them. Concerns not to endanger SATs or public examination results are understandable and we are well aware of how difficult some of our student members find it to gain school placements. This is an area where the Select Committee might wish to discuss possible ways forward with the Chief Inspector.


  Particularly welcome in this Annual Report is its pervasive concern for equal opportunities and for ensuring that marginalised groups gain the attention they deserve. It is to be hoped that this emphasis will continue under the new Chief Inspector.


  One of the more worrying themes in this Report is the way in which the curriculum is at risk of being narrowed as a result of other pressures. As far as primary schools are concerned the picture is mixed, with some grounds for optimism as literacy in particular becomes integrated into subject areas. The secondary situation is less healthy, particularly in relation to the erosion of Modern Foreign Languages. In this case the OFSTED plan to look at Connexions (and thereby at support guidance) looks very well-judged.


  Both in the primary and secondary sectors it is clear that teachers could make more use of assessment data, particularly in relation to curriculum planning. What is less clear from the report is whether it is predominantly SATs results which are being disregarded or teacher assessment. If it is the former, then the Select Committee may wish to consider the implications. If it is the latter, then there are issues of professional development which have yet to be addressed.

Association of Teachers and Lecturers

March 2002

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