Teachers must sign up for drama and sport, say MPs


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The Independent Online

Teachers should be obliged to take part in extracurricular activities such as sport and drama, according to an influential MPs’ report out today.

Participation should be included as a formal aspect of a teacher’s contract of employment, says a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on social mobility.

It embraces the idea that schools should be more than just “exam factories” and place greater emphasis on building their pupils’ character and resilience - as pledged by Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt in an interview with The Independent yesterday.

It was won widespread backing from across the party political spectrum as well as from the Confederation for British Industry and the Government’s social mobility tsar, former Labour Cabinet Minister Alan Milburn who said: “Schools must do more to promote character skills as well as academic attainment. It is not a question of either/or. The core business of a school must be to do both.

The report talks of the importance of participation in extra curricula activities and calls for every pupil to be presented with a school leaver certificate listing all their achievements - not just exam success.

It argues: “We believe Britain needs a ‘national conversation’ about the role that developing character and resilience can play in narrowing the unacceptably wide gap in life chances between children from different backgrounds.”

One of the best ways of ensuring more children take advantage of extra-curricular activities, it says, would be “by making a requirement to participate in extra-curricular activities a formal aspect of teacher’s contract of employment”.

However, it adds: “This cannot simply be a mechanism for asking teachers to work longer hours without reward. This additional responsibility would either need to be met by a corresponding reward/incentive or by schools allowing more time for these activities with the regular school day.

The recommendation comes as Education Secretary Michael Gove is asking all schools to consider staying open for up to 10 hours a day to enable pupils to do their homework at school, take part in debating societies or inter-school games.

In a speech last week, Mr Gove said: “As top heads and teachers already know, sports clubs, orchestras and choirs, school plays, cadets, debating competitions all help to build character and instil grit, to give children’s talents an opportunity to grow and to allow them to discover new talents they never know they had.”

Union leaders warned that teachers’ workloads were “already immense”.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Extra-curricular activities are certainly a way of ensuring all pupils have the same access to a range of activities and interests.

“This is something which, as the report recommends, cannot be achieved by asking teachers to work longer. Time is finite, as are school budgets. Teachers cannot be expected to do more.”