Morris ready to limit teachers' lesson time

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The Independent Online

The Government is ready to concede a key demand made by teachers in their campaign to reduce their workload.

Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, has told the profession's pay review body to consider giving teachers guaranteed time off from the classroom for marking and preparation.

In its demand to the Government, the National Union of Teachers called for a maximum classroom contact time of 22.5 hours a week, which would give teachers five hours a week out of the classroom during school hours. Ms Morris is also seeking to cut teachers' working hours by withdrawing a clause in their contract that commits them to working an unlimited number of hours.

The present contract says they must be available for work for 1,265 hours over 195 days and "work such additional hours as may be needed to enable them to discharge effectively their professional duties". She has told the review body that it is "open-ended and can lead to high demands on teachers over and above their annual 1,265 hours.

"We want to raise standards of pupil attainment still further by releasing teachers to concentrate on teaching," she said. She added that the moves were designed to help to recruit and retain teaching staff to overcome any staffing shortages.

The moves were welcomed yesterday by teachers' leaders. Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said they were "very constructive".

They had threatened industrial action imposing their own 35-hour week in schools if the Government failed to reduce their workload.

* The Government announced an £829m package of investment for school buildings yesterday. The money is part of £8.5bn to be spread over three years. The money has funded 20 projects already in operation and 30 schools have been rebuilt from scratch or substantially refurbished. Another Private Finance Initiative (PFI) school was officially opened in Torquay yesterday, the Government said.

A further £2bn has been allocated for PFI projects that have yet to be finalised. Details of 142 new capital projects in voluntary-aided schools worth £154m over three years were also announced.