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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

Major prize for UWTSD lecturer

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A UWTSD academic has been awarded the prestigious Henry Stopes Memorial Medal.
Based at the University’s Lampeter campus, Dr Martin Bates accepted the outstanding contribution award from the Geologists’ Association during an online ceremony on Friday 7 May. This prize is awarded just once every three years for exceptional work in the archaeological field and specifically ‘on the Prehistory of Man and his geological environment.’
During his career, Dr. Bates has been involved in several major discoveries within the UK archaeological field including the Dover Bronze Age Boat, the Clactonian Elephant butchery site in Ebbsfleet, the Harnham terminal Lower Palaeolithic site near Salisbury.
He discovered the Happisburgh human footprints in Norfolk (the oldest presently know in the world outside Africa).
It was noted during the presentation that the Henry Stopes Medal had been awarded to Dr Bates for his “significant contributions to understanding the geological environment of prehistoric human occupation of Britain and elsewhere over the last 40 years.”
It was also noted that in the spirit of the Geologists’ Association he was “generous with his time and expertise to colleagues, students and members of the public alike.”
Following the awards ceremony, Dr Martin Bates commented: “It is incredible to be recognised in this way and I’d like to thank the Geologists’ Association for this honour.  
“However, this award really reflects the support I have received through my career from a whole range of specialists who have provided me with the data I have used in my research. Without them I would not have been able to do what I have done”
“I think this all goes back to my very early days spent on the beaches of West Wales being dragged along on Saturday fieldtrips led by my father for students studying geology at Aberystwyth.  He has a lot to answer for!”

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Education

Students relying on free school meals fell further behind

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THE ATTAINMENT gap between disadvantaged primary school pupils and their classmates has grown in mathematics by one month since the onset of the pandemic, according to interim findings published this week by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

The findings are drawn from an ongoing EEF-funded study that aims to understand changes to the gap which might have occurred due to the periods of partial school closure resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

While disadvantaged pupils’ outcomes in mathematics seem to have been hit hardest by the first national lockdown, the attainment gap did not widen (or shrink) during the Autumn 2020 term.

Thar suggests that gaps caused by Covid are unlikely to close without intervention.

The research is based on assessment data collected by FFT Education from 132 primary schools prior to and after the first national lockdown.

The report did not measure the impact of school closures on overall learning progress (sometimes referred to as learning loss) but, instead, looked at the differences in progress between pupils eligible for free school meals and those that are not.

Data from reading and maths assessments (PIRA and PUMA tests) taken in Autumn 2019 was used as a baseline to track the trajectory of the attainment gap.

Pupils whose data was included in the sample were all in Years 1 to 5 (5-to-10-year-olds) during the academic year 2019-2020.

Reading and maths tests were administered to these same pupils on their return to the classroom in September 2020, and then again towards the end of the Autumn term 2020.

Disadvantaged pupils’ performance in the tests was compared to that of their classmates to examine changes to the attainment gap which might have resulted from the first period of partial school closures.

The analysis of these results indicates that pupils from socio-economically deprived backgrounds have fallen further behind in maths since the onset of the pandemic.

Contrary to previous estimates, this study found no discernible change to the disadvantage gap in reading.

The findings also highlight the difficulty of combatting educational inequality in classrooms.

Data collected from PIRA and PUMA assessments taken at the end of the Autumn term 2020 indicate the return of all pupils to school in September has not been sufficient in narrowing the gap.

Further analysis is currently underway.

A final data set will be collected in June 2021 to examine whether the disadvantage gap narrows, widens, or remains stable.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Today’s research gives us more evidence of the enormous impact school closures have had on young people, especially those from low-income homes.

“The research indicates the need for long-term, sustained support for schools as they work to accelerate the progress of their disadvantaged pupils.

“To mitigate against the long-term impact of lost learning, large government funding is required. The cost of failing to act now will be a catastrophe for young people from low-income homes.”

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “The pandemic has brought the significance of social and educational inequality into sharp focus.

“Research studies like this one are providing clear evidence that substantial existing gaps have grown further due to the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.

“In strategizing an approach to recovery, we are presented with the opportunity to go beyond restoring the learning lost during partial school closures, and work towards rebalancing the scales for disadvantaged pupils.”

Researchers from FFT Education said: “Our study makes a fresh contribution to the research on the effects of COVID.

“We find that attainment gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers have widened slightly in maths, but not reading.

“We also find that there were surprisingly weak associations between school responses to COVID – for example, phoning students during the lockdown – and attainment.”

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Education

Skills competition beats Covid restrictions

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THE ADVANCED Manufacturing Skills Academy at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) recently hosted the finals of Skills Competition Wales.

Entrants visited the Academy on April 21 and 22 to complete challenges as part of the CNC section of the competition, which focuses on cutting metal using a computer-controlled machine.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the entrants completed their challenges two at a time in a controlled environment using machines that are well spaced apart.

Some of the entrants are apprentices at the Academy, which opened its doors last year with the aim of building the skills needed to deliver technologies that keep Wales’ manufacturing industry globally competitive.

It provides students with technical training to degree level, all within one facility in the IQ building in SA1, Swansea.

Working in partnership with three leading manufacturers – Mazak (machine tool supplier) Renishaw (measuring/inspection equipment) and Sandvik Coromant (material cutting tools supplier) the Academy is fully equipped to cater for the needs of a multitude of industry sectors.

The apprentices at the Academy are all currently employed trainee mechanical engineers who have been given the opportunity to study at the Academy as part of their apprenticeship programme to further enhance their technical skills using modern, high-end industry-standard equipment.

“We are able to provide them with full exposure to the technology and allow them to have valuable machine time without the added pressure often found within a manufacturing environment,” says Lee Pratt, manager of the Academy at UWTSD.

“To say I’m proud of these young engineers is an understatement!

“Given the limited amount of time to prepare for the skills competition due to COVID restrictions, they have gone above and beyond and are a credit to their employers.

“A big thanks to Adam Youens and the team for organising such a great competition, Mark Aspinall from competition sponsors Quickgrind and our 3 judges Steve Franklin, Steve Cope and Andrew John. I’m sure next year will be even bigger and better. On to the next competition now!”

Lee said hosting Skills Competition Wales was an important step in highlighting the work of the Academy as well as creating opportunities for its apprentices.

“This competition was an exciting opportunity to raise the profile of the Academy within the industry sector and hopefully attract further business,” said Lee. “We entered the apprentices into the competition to not only give them a platform to display their talents nationwide but also enhance their training with us.

“We believe that by taking them out of their comfort zone and placing them in a competition environment will expose them to some of the demands and pressures found daily in a modern manufacturing environment.”

The competition was held over a two-day period, during which competitors had seven hours to produce a component from a 2D drawing and 3D CAD (computer-aided design) model with the use of CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software and a CNC (computer numerical control) machining centre.

If the Academy’s apprentices are successful in the competition, they will be invited to attend the awards ceremony, which is usually held in Cardiff but is likely to be online this year due to Covid-19.

“We will then be putting them forward to compete in the World Skills Competition and hopefully gain squad selection,” said Lee. “They will then undertake a two-year training programme building up to the global competition due to take place in France 2023.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Skills Academy at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) hosted the finals of Skills Competition Wales

The competition comes at the end of a very positive first year for the Academy. It has run a highly successful pilot course with its first cohort of apprentices and has received some excellent feedback from industry, with employers reporting a significant rise in both ability and confidence amongst their apprentices.

“We are looking to further expand this training to upskill the existing workforce through a suite of bite size training modules in various disciplines,” said Lee.

This comes at a time when the impact of Covid-19 has heightened the need for these skills within the various industries served by the Academy.

Graduates equipped with high-level skills have a vital role to play in helping to stimulate economic growth during these uncertain times and beyond, and UWTSD has been working closely with Welsh Government, local authorities, and industry partners to deliver the skills and opportunities that will help rebuild the fabric of communities in Wales.

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