Lack of cover could leave teachers facing classrooms of up to 40, says union

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A LACK of available cover in the event of widespread staff sickness could leave teachers facing classrooms of up to 40 students, an education union official has said.

Marina Mauger, of the NASUWT, said that she was ‘not sure how schools will cope’ if there is an extended period of staff illness this winter.

The average classroom size in Jersey is 28 students in both primary and secondary schools, according to NASWUT.

And the union said that extended staff sickness could lead to the amalgamation of classes, which may be divided into two or three and merge with already large classes.

Ms Mauger said: ‘The main barrier we’ve got is the cost of living. They [prospective teachers] like the school, they like the jobs, but they look at the salary and they can’t afford to live here. We have been really reliant and really short on supply teachers for the last couple of years. Class sizes have generally increased.’

Despite the new school year having begun, several teacher and teaching-assistant positions are still being advertised.

Children’s and Education Minister Inna Gardiner said: ‘The number of teacher vacancies in schools is currently 37, not including parental leave.’

Data collected from schools and colleges on 8 September confirmed there were also 57 teaching-assistant vacancies, according to Ms Gardiner.

NEU secretary Adrian Morris said: ‘There are still some vacancies which reflects that schools are still very stretched and to cope they’ve had to increase class sizes, they’re using supply teachers or using other means.’

According to Mr Morris, there is no recognition of overtime pay for teachers. To put into perspective the impact of larger class sizes he added: ‘For an A-level class of 14 students, it could take seven hours to mark their mock exam papers. If you’ve got a class of 26 it could take you 13 hours to mark the same mock papers.’

The average primary school class size in OECD countries, which includes countries with high-income economies, is 21 pupils. No similar data is available for secondary school class sizes. By comparison, the average classroom size in UK primary schools is 27, the third largest in the OECD.

Mr Morris added: ‘Working conditions are driving people out of the profession. People are leaving because of long working hours.’

Deputy Gardiner said that class sizes had not increased, adding: ‘With just under 950 teaching roles in my department, a vacancy level of 37 is circa 4% and we will always have a level of vacancy.’

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