The body that advises the government on teachers pay and conditions has recommended the removal of a list of 21 administrative and clerical tasks that teachers should not be required to do, such as photocopying, from their national agreement.
In its latest report, the independent School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), says it still supports the underlying principle that teachers should be able to focus on teaching and learning, but think that the detailed list of tasks contained in section 2 of The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document is "unnecessary".
The report says that teachers and school leaders should be able to "use their professional judgement to decide what specific tasks should be undertaken, and by whom, according to the particular circumstances of the school."
However, Jon Richards, head of education at public sector union Unison, warned that the move will lead to job cuts amongst support staff, and see teachers washed away in a flood of administration and bureaucracy, taking them away from their primary job of teaching.
The organisation, which reports to the secretary of state and the prime minister on employment conditions of teachers in England and Wales, also proposed that governors should be able to set salaries that are up to 25% higher than current rules dictate.
The report endorses guaranteed planning and preparation time (PPA) and acknowledges the extra hours teachers work: "We endorse the current provisions of 195 working days and 1265 hours. We note that teachers currently work additional hours beyond directed classroom sessions and there is already flexibility for heads to deploy teachers according to the needs of their pupils."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said teachers' time was best spent on professional duties, such as preparing lessons and assessing pupils' work, rather than routine jobs that could be carried out by support staff.
"We do not expect the change in wording to make any difference to the working lives of teachers or the day-to-day role of support staff," he said.
The report also proposes a "broad national framework" to guide governing bodies when setting headteachers' pay. It recommends removing the inflexible system of differentials and pay spines to help governing bodies use their discretion when setting a headteacher's salary. This would give them more scope to assess the individual needs and circumstances of the school – and attract the best talent.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "The STRB has made a persuasive case for change to leadership pay. These reforms are designed to ensure the most talented leaders are attracted to the teaching profession and are properly rewarded for taking on challenging schools."
However, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, warned that greater flexibility in pay for school leaders would bring challenges. "We do not believe that all governing bodies possess the expertise and data to make the best choices. This could exacerbate growing recruitment difficulties for headteachers," he said.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers' union, said: "Workload remains much too burdensome and two out of five teachers leave in the first five years; many others are considering giving up; and who knows how many are choosing not to join the profession, given the intolerable pressures on teachers."
This article was amended on 17 February 2014. An earlier version suggested that the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) "agreed with Michael Gove, the education secretary, that teachers should still have to undertake 21 tasks including filing, taking formal minutes at meetings, and investigating student absence". This has been corrected.
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