Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the National Association of Head Teachers (TU 03)



  1.1  The means by which the PWC study is translated into action is critical. Reference to the STRB after initial discussion implies that STRB will not be presented with any agreed proposals. This would be a mistake and place STRB in the position of having to rule on a number of disparate views.

  Surely we ought to be able to devise a programme that:

    —  provides for intensive discussions leading to as much agreement as possible, on STRB issues;

    —  recognises a timescale that enables STRB to work both pre 31 March 2002 and post 1 April 2002, so as to take into account the July timing of the CSR; and

    —  supports the dire need for a comprehensive package and action plan, covering all the PWC issues, both "macro" and "micro", both "expensive" and "inexpensive". Certainly the NAHT is not prepared to support a "twin track" approach.

  1.2  The reference to performance management, outside the threshold, is somewhat optimistic. There are real concerns about management of the process. The government is well aware of NAHT's views on the funding arrangements and the potential they have for undermining the whole process.

  1.3  Our response to the White Paper outlined our worries about the "autonomy" agenda. The definition of "success", the need to get permission to be more autonomous and the neglect of primary and special schools are all in need of attention.

  1.4  CPD needs thrown up by the Performance Management System, must be addressed. We are not convinced that the Standards Fund can cope with the demand.

  1.5  The comments on pay flexibilities for recognition of excellence via a pay structure do not fully recognise the management challenges involved, nor do they support the need for a simpler pay structure. The existing structure is too complex and accompanied by too many separate allowances and other pay discretions.

  1.6  Heads are only too ready to help teachers focus on core teaching but need a post PWC well funded package if we are to turn this into reality.

  1.7  Reform is possible: change is necessary: challenges will always be with us. But reform and change have to be based on well-founded arguments, not on preconceived notions.

  1.8  The arguments surrounding teacher supply are somewhat defeatist—the suggestion that extra staffing is an inappropriate response to extra resource is quite extraordinary. Just when some schools are making a start on moving towards decent PTRs they are told that the government wants to "change tack". Please note that many schools have not been able to start improving their staffing at all.

  Of course the use of more support staff and better ICT will make a significant contribution. But the pamphlet's key message will be rejected by the vast majority of school leaders. It will lead to a number of highly undesirable conclusions:

    —  an abandonment of any attempt to reduce class sizes, not least at Key Stages 2 and 3;

    —  an approach to CPD that is misguided. Overtime payments do not reduce workload. If schools were staffed up to proper standards, they could cover CPD from their own resources;

    —  a failure to look at the true "cost" of supply cover. If the millions spent on supply staff were spent on recruiting and employing permanent staff, there would be a fundamental difference;

    —  a description of the teacher's role that hardly does justice to the need to recruit and retain teachers with flair, capable of delivering stimulating lessons to their pupils. To single out target setting and pupil progress, and to then use these arguments to support classroom assistants as teachers, is misguided.

  NAHT believes strongly that the 10,000 recruitment figure was always too conservative. Our own paper, submitted to PWC and DfES, showed that the demand was likely to be for more like 40,000 teachers, as the graph shows.

  The argument that the profession needs to be "remodelled" to fit a preconceived notion that teacher numbers can never meet demand, is highly questionable. The five reasons for the mismatch between demand and recruitment have been known for years. They result from a consistent failure to deploy sustained and coherent recruitment and retention policies at national level. To admit "defeat" now seems to be a particularly retrograde step, just as we seek to tackle the real staffing needs.


  2.1  We can share a great deal of the vision, save where it supports "education on the cheap". In particular its attempt to use teaching assistants in a teaching role will make no contribution to raising standards.

  There can be no doubt that the greater use of teaching assistants, bursars and other support staff will free up heads, other school leaders and teachers. So will more integrated use of ICT. But this will not diminish the need for many more teachers.

  2.2  The comparison with consultants/junior doctors/nurses is largely flawed. The core function of the vast majority of teachers is to teach children of all abilities well. There are tasks that teaching assistants should perform and this needs to be examined in detail. But the consultant/junior doctor image is not replicable across most teaching situations.


3.1  Headship

  Teaching must be a function for those with QTS. Any dilution will lead to a lowering of standards and will send a wrong signal to both existing and future members of the profession.

  Heads are more than happy to drive necessary reforms but they do not perceive there to be a partnership. There is too much prescription and too little regard for self-management. There is not enough real autonomy; only autonomy that is over-regulated.

  Extra resources that lead to implementation of the PWC Study and to real management time for Leadership Group members are vital to leadership and management needs.

  The GTC does not have any role to play in giving practical advice. This is quite outside the remit and should be left to those who already give advice to school leaders.

3.2  Organising and Managing Support Staff

  There should be no attempt to do Pathfinder work until a comprehensive PWC package and action plan has been agreed by all parties at national level.

  The reference, again, to teachers concentrating on "more difficult matters" has to be challenged. What does this mean? The hospital/GP analogy is by no means replicable. We doubt if these ideas will help to recruit and retain if too big a role is given to teaching assistants.

3.3  Rewarding Excellence

  The government's over-reliance on PRP is highly dangerous. Its policy is made more risky by its grossly inadequate approach to funding pay discretions.


  Whilst we are pleased that the government does not rule out further investment, our view is strongly that such investment will be needed. All the ambitions in the pamphlet will need substantial extra resources.


  Reference to the STRB without substantial agreement between the key parties nationally is a recipe for disaster.

  See earlier comments on Pathfinder projects.

  See earlier reference to GTC. This is simply not a role for the GTC. Nor do we think that the NCSL is in a position to give advice.

  We are ready to work in partnership with government but our real concerns set out above must be met.

National Association of Head Teachers

January 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 12 April 2002