Education Quandary: Do parents realise that from next term teachers will "rarely cover" for absent colleagues, and what that means?

Hilary's advice

No, and I doubt many do, as parents don't usually follow the twists and turns of education policy. But I agree with you that this is something they should know about, as it will affect their children in all kinds of ways.

Under new rules being brought in this September, teachers in England and Wales will rarely cover for colleagues who are absent from the classroom, whether these colleagues are away for meetings, training, sickness or any other reason. The idea is to reduce teachers' workload and give them more time to do their jobs. Teachers, so the thinking goes, should be using their free time in school to prepare lessons and mark pupils' work, not standing in for missing colleagues. So schools will be putting in place new cover arrangements, using supply teachers or, most probably, cheaper teaching assistants trained to act as "cover supervisors".

This has advantages for teachers – but what about the children? The new rule will touch all aspects of school life. School trips and visits will be pared back, along with other out-of-the-classroom activities such as daytime teacher-parent conferences, as schools will want to keep down the cost of teacher cover. And what about the pupils whose teacher is away on long-term sick leave? Will they get only cover supervisors for their lessons?

Schools are organic places where everything depends on relationships, team-work and flexibility, and many good things come out of the supportive, human atmosphere this generates. An unbending rule like this could easily take away more than it gives.

Readers' advice

This reader sounds very worried about supply teachers teaching their children. May I offer some reassurance? Many schools maintain a register of their "own" supply teachers, often, like me, ex-members of staff. They become known to the pupils, as well as to the permanent staff, so will be familiar faces. Also, they know the routines and discipline system of the school. As long as having a supply teacher is an occasional arrangement, it can help the pupils become adaptable as they have to listen to and understand another person's style. Do not despair. Most supply teachers I've met are conscientious, and I have come across some very lazy permanent staff.

Name withheld, Oxfordshire

My sister's children are at a school where classes are already taken by teaching assistants called cover supervisors. Some parents have written in protest to the local authority, but have been told this is now government policy. We are very anxious not to see this situation spread to our schools.

Moyra Keening, Suffolk

Teachers are going to have to have Masters degrees and be re-licenced every few years, but apparently it is all right for pupils to be taught by supervisors who might not even have GCSE English or maths. This is teaching on the cheap. Of course parents don't know. They would be furious if they did.

Andy Speckleman, London SW9

Next week's quandary

Research shows that out-of-school activities help to develop confidence and motivation in young people, andare a huge advantage on a CV or university application. Local authorities now have to offer them by law, but I can see that children in the more deprived areas near me aren’t getting any. What can be done?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com. They can be searched by topic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Ashdown Group: Payroll Administrator - Buckinghamshire - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Finance Admin...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?