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Education

Row brews on teachers’ pay

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Greater say: Unions want more input on teachers' pay

A WELSH G​OVERNMENT’S ​consultation on teachers’ pay and conditions has been criticised by Wales’ largest teaching unions.

While the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, has hailed the devolution of teachers’ pay and conditions as an opportunity to elevate the status of the teaching profession in Wales, both NEU Cymru and NASUWT have criticised the consultation mechanism adopted.

Powers over teachers’ pay and conditions are in the process of being devolved to the Welsh Government from Westminster under the Wales Act.

The Welsh Government will take responsibility for this area at the end of this September, with teachers’ pay and conditions being set by the Welsh Government from September 2019.

A consultation opened on Friday, March 9, on the mechanism for deciding teachers’ pay and conditions in Wales.

It proposes a model that would see unions, employers and the Welsh Government working together as part of a partnership forum.

This new Partnership Forum would be able to propose changes to a draft remit for pay and conditions and set the agenda for any other issues that needed to be considered.

Following consideration of the Forum’s views, Welsh Ministers would submit a ‘final’ remit for scrutiny and analysis by an independent expert body prior to taking any final decisions.

Running parallel to the consultation is a group set up to review teachers’ pay and conditions, chaired by Professor Mick Waters. The group will consider where and how the current system could be improved and will report to the Cabinet Secretary later this year.

Elaine Edwards, UCAC General Secretary said: “UCAC is pleased to see Welsh Government’s proposals for how it intends to determine teachers’ pay and conditions once the powers have been devolved.

“After decades of campaigning and persuasion by UCAC – which until recently was an extremely lonely voice in the desert on this matter – the opportunity to set pay and conditions that go hand-in-hand with our ambitions and our cultural approach to the Welsh education system is within reach.

“We welcome the proposal that pay and conditions should be statutory and consistent across Wales. This is crucial to in order to secure equity. The commitment to ensuring that there will be parity of pay with teachers in equivalent schools over the border is also to be welcomed.

“We look forward to moving swiftly now to a system that meets Wales’ needs, and which is in tune with our values and our vision.”

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, was notably less enthusiastic.

“It is deeply disappointing that a process which is so fundamentally important to teachers and which should be the subject of discussion and agreement between the Welsh Government, the NASUWT and other recognised unions has been put out to public consultation”, he said.

“Such a move in our experience is without precedent and rather than elevate the status of the teaching profession in Wales, has the potential to undermine teachers and their conditions of service.”

Rex Philips, NASUWT National Official Wales, said: “Although the commitment from the Cabinet Secretary that there is no question of teachers in Wales being paid less than teachers in England is welcomed, it ignores the fact that many teachers in Wales are already being paid less than their counterparts in England because of the failure of the Welsh Government to ensure the appropriate implementation of the recommendations of the teachers’ pay review body this year.

“Furthermore, the Cabinet Secretary appears to be unaware of the commitment that was given by the First Minister that teachers in Wales would not be worse off in terms of their conditions of service. The NASUWT expects that commitment to be honoured fully in terms of the non-pay conditions that are currently enshrined in the school teachers pay and conditions document. There could be improvement in these conditions, but there must not be any detriment.”

Kirsty Williams said: “I want to work closely with the profession to help teachers be the best they can be and that means looking at everything we can do to support them – whether it be a fair and sensible structure for deciding pay and conditions, new ways to cut classroom bureaucracy or better professional development.

“As a government, we have been absolutely clear that there’s no question of teachers being paid less than teachers in England. The model we’re consulting on will ensure that unions, employers and Welsh Government can come together and agree a fair, sensible and sustainable way forward.

“We also have to look at this in the round; there has never been a better opportunity to develop a truly national model that enshrines a national approach to supporting and elevating the profession.

“I would urge everyone who shares our ambitions to take part in this consultation.”

David Evans, Wales Secretary of the NEU, expressed strong reservations on, however.

Speaking to The Herald, he said that there was a number of issues the consultation raised which caused him some concern, primarily on the implementation of the proposed independent review body on teachers’ pay.

“Collective bargaining, as in Scotland, should be considered as an approach to settling teachers’ pay. We have had prior discussions with the Welsh Government ahead of the survey, but there’s been no explanation as to why ruled out.

“Quite clearly, the Cabinet Secretary has had an input and opted for an independent body, but if you look at the consultation document the process will be long drawn out.

“The process starts in September, but it will May 2019 before there is a final decision. If any matters arose in the interim period, as they sometimes do, there is no mechanism for an interim pay rise.”

David Evans continued: “The Cabinet Secretary is trying to appease everyone and the consultation represents a mish-mash of ideas.

“You could say that the consultation process itself includes the bargaining element, but it is not true bargaining as we would see it.”

Turning to the review body itself, Mr Evans’ told us that its creation raised issues of funding and governance.

“There is a cost to setting up a new pay review body here in Wales. At the moment, pay is negotiated across England and Wales and there are significant economies of scale in that approach. Those economies of scale will be lost in a separate body, which will still have to commission research. I question how the pay body will be paid for. Will the funding for its secretariat come out of the education budget, for example? That question has not been addressed either before the consultation or in it.

“A final concern is that every year, teachers’ pay will be going out to a public consultation. The only people who should be consulted on teachers’ pay are teachers.

“The Welsh Government claims it is legally obliged to carry out that consultation, but when I have asked to be pointed to the statute that says that I have received no answer. No other public employees’ pay is decided by public consultation, and teachers’ should not be decided like that.”

The Herald put Mr Evans’s concerns to the Welsh Government.

Education

Globalisation with a difference at Lampeter

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Tabula Peutingeriana: A copy of a Roman original world map

AN INTERNATIONAL multidisciplinary conference that aims to explore approaches to the theme of ‘globalisation’ across the ancient world will be held at UWTSD’s Lampeter conference next month.

Entitled “Re-Thinking Globalisation in the Ancient World” up to 30 academic experts from Asia, Europe, South and North America will visit Ceredigion to present papers and take part in discussions at the three-day event. Keynote speakers at the conference include Professor Mark Horton from the University of Bristol and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany and Professor Michael Sommer from Universität Oldenburg.

Conference organiser and Senior Lecturer in Roman History and Archaeology at UWTSD Associate Professor Ralph Häussler said: “We’re very much looking forward to hosting this conference and welcoming so many distinguished experts in the field to Lampeter – it truly is a ‘global’ conference. The purpose of the conference is to provide new insights into cross-cultural interactions and responses in inter-connected and entangled regions of the ancient world.

Methodological issues relating to the theme of ‘globalisation’ will be analysed in different contexts, notably the application of this concept in different regions and different periods of the ancient world. In the 21st century ‘Globalisation’ is a buzzword for our interconnected and fast-moving modern times. But globalisation is not new. Already 2,000 – 3,000 years ago, we can identify comparable developments, like an ever increasing inter-dependency between distant regions of the ancient world. Nowadays, the concept of ‘globalisation’ and of a cosmopolitan society has come under increasing scrutiny for contemporary society. Therefore the study of globalisation with regards to the ancient world will enable us to place this modern debate within a wider historical framework. Everybody is welcome to come along and take part in what promises to be a fascinating discussion.”

The Conference will start at 8:30am on the 8th May and come to a close at midday on the 10th May 2018. More information can be found here: https://bit.ly/2qF2NTB.

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Education

Creative coding challenge for schools

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Animating challenge: Schools invited to combine poetry and computing

ABERYSTWYTH U​NIVERSITY’S Computer Science Department is calling on primary school pupils across Wales to take part in a unique coding competition combining poetry, Welsh mythology and creative computing.

The challenge to children aged 7-11 years old includes animating a poem by Eurig Salisbury, a lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh & Celtic Studes as well as an award-winning writer and former Children’s Welsh Poet Laureate.

Alternatively, contestants can also choose to animate a Welsh myth or legend – from the Mabinogion, for example.

There will be prizes for the winning teams as well as a visit to the winning entry’s school by a team of computer scientists from Aberystwyth University who will hold a day of educational coding activities.

The aim of the competition is to encourage children to give coding a go and to learn new skills for the workplace of the future.

Organiser Dr Hannah Dee, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Computer Science Department, said: “Coding is a digital skill which will only increase in importance. People often think that coding is just spreadsheets or numbers. This contest aims to show that it’s much than that – you can code pictures, animations, and even poetry. Creative coding is something everyone can have a go at, particularly using Scratch, a kids’ programming language.

“We have four top prizes this year with winners awarded either a Pi-top Laptop or Kano Computer Kit or and we are grateful to both companies for their sponsorship and support.”

Fellow organiser and lecturer Martin Nelmes said: “As a Department, we visit schools the length and breadth of Wales with our coding activities and find that creative coding like this really fires students’ imagination. We held our first coding competition last year and the entries were inspirational. I can’t wait to see what pupils come up with this year.”

First prize in last year’s competition went to Johnstown School in Carmarthenshire, with second place going to Ysgol Gynradd Pentrefoelas in Betws y Coed in Gwynedd, and third to Brynnau School, Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taff.

Eurig Salisbury, a lecturer in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies, said: “It was a privilege to be part of this coding competition last year and to see young children take up the challenge of creative computing to illustrate one of my poems. It’s a fun activity but it’s also educational with coding becoming an increasingly fundamental skill to those growing up in the early part of the 21st century.”

Further details about the competition and how to enter can be found on the website of the Department of Computer Science

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Education

Pupil Deprivation Grant boosted

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Allocation levels guaranteed for two more years: Kirsty Williams

SCHOOLS across Wales are to share in over £90m in 2018-19 to help their most disadvantaged learners, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced.

The Cabinet Secretary has written to schools across Wales to confirm how much they will directly receive in 2018-19.

In addition to over £90m committed this year, £187m has been guaranteed for the remainder of the Assembly term, so that schools have the stability to plan ahead.

The Pupil Development Grant (PDG) helps schools tackle the effects of poverty and disadvantage on attainment and is targeted at learners who are eligible for Free School Meals or are Looked After Children.

Schools use the PDG in a number of different ways, including nurture groups for children who may be socially and emotionally vulnerable, out-of-hours school learning, on-site multi-agency support and better tracking of pupils as they progress through school.

This year, the PDG for the youngest learners (pupils aged 3-4 years old) has increased from £600 to £700 per pupil. This builds on last year’s doubling of financial support from £300 to £600 per learner in the early years.

Primary and secondary schools will continue to receive a rate of £1,150 per learner, and this rate also continues to apply to learners in education other than at school (EOTAS).

From this year, schools will also have greater flexibility to support learners who have been eligible for Free School Meals in the previous two years.

Advisers and coordinators from education consortia are also on-hand to provide extra support and guidance for schools on using the funding.

Kirsty Williams said: “Reducing the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers is at the heart of our national mission to raise standards. This is one of the most effective ways in which we can break the cycle of deprivation and poverty.

“Time and again, teachers have told me how much of a difference PDG funding has made in raising aspirations, building confidence, improving behaviour and attendance and in involving families with their children’s education.

“Teachers have also called for greater certainty around future PDG funding and that’s why I’m pleased to be able to guarantee allocation levels for the next two financial years and reaffirm our commitment to the grant for the lifetime of this Assembly.

“We have always said that the PDG is there to support all pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals, not just those that are struggling academically. That’s why I want schools to ensure they are supporting more able pupils as well.

“I would also encourage all schools to make full use of the PDG advisers and coordinators from the education consortia – they’re there to help when it comes to making the best use of the funding and ensuring that we raise attainment across the board.”

An independent evaluation of the PDG last year found that many schools consider the funding to be ‘invaluable’, with further evidence from Estyn and the Welsh Government’s raising attainment advocate, Sir Alasdair MacDonald, showing the majority of schools are making well thought out decisions on how to spend the funding.

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