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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

Pembrokeshire school smashes the national grade average

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PUPILS at Castle School were thrilled to collect their exam results this week and discover that between them they had amassed an impressive set of passes.  In contrast to the national average which showed a drop of 1%, students improved on their already impressive average of 90%, collectively gaining 94% passes at grades A* – C.  

Many of the students in year 10 were encouraged to sit some exams early in those subjects they had been prepared for and were similarly rewarded, with their results reflecting the school’s overall average.  

The school’s head, Su Cowell, told us ‘these results are even more remarkable when you compare us with the national average of 61% and take into consideration that we are a non-selective school.  The pupils are to be congratulated on their impressive results. They worked extremely hard and all their revision and efforts have been rewarded. Credit must also go to our staff, of course, who worked tirelessly to ensure that every pupil has the best chance of not only passing but also securing the best grade they are capable of. ‘

Whilst all the pupils are to be congratulated, particular mention should go to Lucy Mansfield who has now amassed an incredible total of 14 GCSEs, with 11 A*s, 2 As and an even more impressive 100% in her Additional Maths exam which included A level material.  Teachers were also delighted that two-thirds of their scientists gained either A or A* in all three subjects, as did the class taking Latin. The school’s director, Harriet Harrison, added, ‘I am delighted to see that despite being non-selective we strive to fulfil each child’s potential and about half of our students take nine or more subjects at GCSE with some of them studying 11, 12, even 14, and still manage to get such impressive results.  In addition several of our students enrolled on an accelerated programme in maths, having already earned the top grade last year. It was fantastic to see that they all gained Distinction in the tougher Additional Maths GCSE with one of them getting full marks, which is incredible.’

As the school reaches its 10th anniversary next year, it has many plans to celebrate and hopes that one of those reasons will include another record-breaking set of results.

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Education

WG invests £7.2m in STEM education

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Astronaut Tim Peake: Promoting STEM study

PRINCE’S TRUST Ambassador Tim Peake landed in Cardiff on Tuesday (Jul 17) to help the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan, announce £7.2m of funding to encourage young people, especially girls, to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects at school.

The astronaut, joined the Minister at an event organised by The Prince’s Trust Cymru at Tramshed Tech where they met young people involved in the youth charity’s STEM-related programmes, There, the Minister announced an investment of £7.2m, including £5.2m of European Union funding, for two similar projects. Gwynedd Council’s £1.9m STEM Gogledd and Swansea University’s £5.3m Technocamps 2 have been awarded £1.4m and £3.8m of EU funding, respectively.

Both projects will help to ensure young people, particularly girls and young women, continue STEM studies at GCSE and beyond with the aim of pursuing STEM-related careers.

Over the next four years, STEM Gogledd will work with 600 young people, 60% of whom will be female, to enrich and promote STEM subjects through a range of activities that complement the mainstream curriculum within schools across Gwynedd, Anglesey and Conwy.

Technocamps 2 will work with 3,600 young people across West Wales, North Wales and the South Wales Valleys, two-thirds of whom will be female. It will target secondary schools which do not currently offer computer science as an option at GCSE, or where the subject is only recently available. The project will enable pupils in these schools to take part in workshops to build on their existing knowledge and enthusiasm for IT and computing.

Announcing the funding, the Minister said: “It is a pleasure to be standing alongside Tim Peake today to announce such an important investment which will help to build the skills of our young people to help drive a the Welsh economy.

“Wales must become a STEM nation if we are to build a modern, dynamic, open economy that benefits everyone in Wales. Both the pace and nature of technological change is increasing dramatically and, to have the skilled workforce to capitalise on it, it is vital we have more young people who choose to study STEM subjects to a sufficiently high standard. While this is quite a challenge to address for both boys and girls, the challenge for girls is much greater.

“This is why I am grateful to organisations like The Prince’s Trust for their pioneering programmes and to role models, like Tim, who are influential in promoting the study of STEM subjects. Tim’s Principia mission inspired a generation and showed just how far, literally, science can take you.

“We cannot just rely on people like Tim, though. We must all play our part in stimulating interest in these crucial subjects as a way of securing the next generation of STEM professionals in Wales. This is why I am so pleased to announce this £7.2m investment, £5.2m of it from the EU, for STEM Gogledd and Technocamps. This is a great example of EU funds helping to enthuse and excite young people, particularly girls, about the opportunities available to them.”

Philip Jones, Director of The Prince’s Trust Cymru said: “We are delighted that Tim Peake was able to join us and Welsh Government in promoting the importance of STEM to Welsh Education today. At The Prince’s Trust Cymru, we believe every young person should have the chance to succeed, and we believe Welsh Government’s latest commitment to STEM activities will help transform more young lives in Wales.”

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Education

Williams marks end of school year

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Proud of reforms: Kirsty Williams

AT THE end of school year, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has set out what has been achieved through Wales’ national mission for education and what these changes mean for pupils, teachers and parents.

Last September, the Education Secretary announced a national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap, and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

At a conference held in Cardiff today, the Education Secretary explained how major changes to what pupils are taught, how they are taught and how their teachers are trained and developed are helping to transform schools as we know them.

One of the most significant and wide-reaching of these changes is the new curriculum to be rolled out from 2022. Over 200 pioneer schools across Wales are involved in developing six different Areas of Learning and Experience. This work includes embedding digital competence into all areas of teaching and learning and supporting teachers to develop the new curriculum.

A new independent report published today found that these schools strongly support the changes being made and are enthusiastic about their part in developing Wales’ new curriculum.

Teachers’ professional learning and development has been similarly instrumental to the national mission for education, with this school year seeing:

New professional standards for Teaching and Leadership developed with the profession, for the profession;

The establishment of a new National Academy for Educational Leadership to support all leaders in education at all stages of their careers;

New accredited Initial Teacher Education programmes to be delivered in the academic year 2019/20;

Plans for a new part-time PGCE and Employment Based Route into teaching from 2019/20.

Teachers and pupils will also soon begin to see the benefits of a £36 million fund to reduce infant class sizes, with the appointment of over 80 new teachers across Wales and a capital fund to build new classrooms.

Reducing unnecessary bureaucracy for teachers continues to remain a priority, with this year seeing a £1.2 million investment in the appointment of school business managers – helping headteachers to manage their workload and focus on raising standards and school improvement.

Kirsty Williams said: “When I announced our national mission for education last September I said that we would never be able to achieve our ambitions if we just stayed still.

“That’s why the past year has been all about momentum – a drive for self-improvement that reaches right across our education system.

“We still have much work to do but I’m proud of the reforms that we have introduced in a relatively short space of time. I am also genuinely impressed by how everyone in the education system has responded.

“When I visit schools and talk to teachers and pupils, I am always struck about what they’re achieving and how they are improving – whether that’s in developing the new curriculum or discovering new ways of teaching and learning.

“In return, we are introducing the most comprehensive changes to teacher training and development in years, ensuring that our teaching profession are fully prepared and equipped when they start to teach our new curriculum.

“Our schools are changing, education in Wales is changing and I’m confident that our national mission is well on course to deliver the wholesale reforms that we need.”

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