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Education

Call for Fair Deal for Supply Teachers?

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​​Schools can choose to ignore national framework: Carwyn Jones

A PROTEST is to take place outside the Senedd building in Cardiff on October 25 to draw attention to the treatment of supply teachers in Wales.

Fair Deal for Supply Teachers is organising the demonstration to protest the situation which sees experienced teachers placed into schools – often on a long-term basis – while earning significantly less than a newly qualified teacher.

​SUPPLY TEACHERS PAY FALLING

Typically, supply teachers take on the full role of an absent teacher at lower pay and without job security, holiday pay, or pension.

However, supply teachers often – if not usually – cost schools more to employ because of the charges levied by employment agencies for their services. An employment agency typically charges a premium to the school on the daily rate for a teacher.

The position of supply teachers deteriorated significantly under the last Labour government, which allows schools to employ non-qualified ‘cover supervisors’ to run classes during short-term teacher absences. That system has grown to be a source of significant abuse as cash-strapped schools are faced with choosing between paying high agency fees for temporary staff or relying on cheaper and unqualified alternatives.

The increasing dominance of agencies, the cost of agency teachers and the current education funding crisis all mean that the use of the supply teacher is under threat.

The plight of supply teachers has been the subject of a number of campaigns over recent years, none of them meeting with a significant measure of success or substantial and lasting change. It appears as though, while many fine words are spoken about the issue, there is a lack of political will to ensure that children are taught by qualified teachers during staff absences and to break the hold of teachers’ employment agencies in the education market.

To compound matters, some Welsh local authorities which had their own supply teaching pools, scrapped them and outsourced the provision of supply teachers to large agencies on the basis that it would save money. It has not and – as is often the case – a clever book-keeping exercise has ended up increasing costs. Rates charged for agency staff are higher than ever and the effective monopoly exercised in Wales has seen the costs of supply teachers soar with no benefit for the staff supplied, while the effective hourly rate for supply teachers has fallen to – in some cases – little better than £8 or £9 per hour.

According to the NUT, the average daily charge to schools by a supply agency for a teacher can be as much as £100 more than the amount paid to that teacher. Every time a supply teacher is engaged in this way, taxpayers’ money is funnelled into the pockets of private agencies.

SUPPLY TEACHERS ‘DEMORALISED’

In Wales, supply teachers’ concerns were raised last week by Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow spokesperson on education.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Llyr Gruffydd said he had been approached “by a number of very demoralised supply teachers”.

He told the BBC that one teacher who had approached him said she could only find supply work in Denbighshire through an agency and this left her £115 a day pay reduced to £85.

“Another is considering giving up a job he’s done for 18 years because of the drastic cut in pay and lack of any personal development or pension payments,” he said.

“What was wrong with the previous system whereby schools worked with supply staff directly and paid teachers properly without exploiting them? It was very simple and worked for decades.”

​HAMILTON PRESSES JONES

The cause of supply teachers was raised by UKIP during questions to the First Minister on Tuesday ​(​Oct 17​)​.

Highlighting the Welsh Government’s criticism of the so-called ‘gig economy’ and zero hour contracts, Mr Hamilton asked whether supply teachers in Wales were in no better a position that the Uber drivers Labour-supporting unions are keen to see turfed out a job.

Mr Hamilton continued: “Some supply teachers are turning to pizza delivery to make ends meet, and supply teachers are voting with their feet and leaving and looking for alternative employment. Does the First Minister think that this is an acceptable situation?”

Carwyn Jones said the situation was not acceptable but that the question of teachers’ pay would not be devolved to Wales until next year.
He went on to say: “We have a supply teaching working group, which is looking at ways to boost the employment prospects and, indeed, income of supply teachers, and that is exactly what we plan to take forward.”

Not satisfied with the First Minister’s response, Mr Hamilton pressed on: “As the First Minister will probably know, supply teachers in England on average are paid about £130 a day, but in Cardiff that’s on average £90 to £95 a day, and in west Wales it’s as low as £80 a day.

“Agencies are charging schools above the rate for teachers on main scale 1- 4, and teachers with 20 years’ experience, therefore, can be paid less than a newly qualified teacher who’s permanently employed.”

He pointed out that scarcely seemed a fair wage.

The First Minister continued to avoid the issue by shifting the blame on to the schools for supply teachers’ poor pay and conditions and then suggesting that complete consistency would involve the removal of local management from them.

“The changing of the system away from LMS would require primary legislation, inevitably, and these are issues that Members will have to consider over the next few months. But, in the meantime, what we intend to do is use the working group that we’ve put together to improve the conditions of supply teachers, while at the same time considering the best outcome in the longer term.”

WELSH GOVERNMENT SHOULD USE PERSUASION

Spotting the flaw in the First Minister’s response, Neil Hamilton pointed out: “Schools come under the regulation of local authorities—the responsibility of local authorities at any rate—and, of course, the Welsh Government is responsible for funding those schools and has great persuasive authority, even if it doesn’t have the legal authority.

“The effect has been that, for public sector workers in general, who have had a pay cap for the last 10 years, supply teachers have done a good deal worse and many of them have had a pay cut in effect of up to 40​% in the last 15 years. Also, many of these supply contracts have a clause in them, which you have to accept or else you don’t get the job, saying, ‘I accept that I will not be paid according to agency worker regulations.’ Is the Welsh Government going to do something specific about these abuses?”

JONES BLAMES SCHOOLS

Ignoring the invitation for the Welsh Government to bring pressure to bear on local authorities, Carwyn Jones responded: “These are issues that are being considered in advance of the devolution of pay and conditions. He said that local authorities are responsible. Schools are responsible for employing their supply teachers and, of course, if schools wish to employ supply teachers in a different way, rather than going through agencies, then that will be open to them. But with this being devolved in the very near future, this now gives us the opportunity to deal with these issues, which I recognise because I’ve had constituents come in to explain this to me as well, in a way that wasn’t possible before in the absence of devolution.”

ONE AGENCY FOR 22 COUNCILS

It appeared as though Mr Jones was either not prepared to acknowledge or was unaware that 22 of Wales local authorities out of 22 have entered a ‘Managed Service Provider’ agreement for the supply of staff with only one teacher supply agency, making the ability of schools to directly employ supply staff behind those agreements more than a little doubtful.

That framework was set out by the Welsh Government’s own National Procurement System and states: ‘All 22 Local Authorities have signed up to use the Framework Agreements that the NPS put in place, and as such they will EXPECT (emphasis added) their schools to use New Directions, through the framework to meet their supply teacher requirement, though there is no compulsion to do so. Where schools opt to utilise other supply agencies it would be good practice for agencies to engage with the schools they provide services to, providing assurances to head teachers that the responsibilities listed in this section are being maintained by the agency’.

While that suggests that there is no compulsion to use New Directions’ services, the fact that they are Preferred Supplier backed by the Welsh Government and the subject of contractual arrangements with the local authorities that hold the schools’ purse strings indicates that the schools have little more than Hobson’s Choice.

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Education

Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students

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THE Welsh Government has announced today (Mon, Aug 17) that AS, A level, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales will now be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades.

This occurred after the outrage of students, causing protests outside the Senedd after hearing that a total of 42% of A-level grades predicted by their teachers had been lowered when the Welsh results were published last week. This was due to the decision to process these grades through an algorithm.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she took the decision to maintain confidence in the system.

Speaking on the decision, Kirsty Williams said: “Working with Qualifications Wales and WJEC we have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools.

“Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding Centre Assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.

“I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place.

“For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales, will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.

“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.

“Maintaining standards is not new for 2020, it is a feature of awarding qualifications every year in Wales, and across the UK.

“However, it is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.

“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events following the cancellation of this year’s exams.

“Other Awarding Bodies across the UK are involved in determining the approach to vocational qualifications. This continues to be the case but it is important that I give assurance to GCSE, AS and A level student at the earliest opportunity.”

This was a decision welcomed by Suzy Davies, Shadow Education Minister.

Commenting on the Decision, Suzy Davies said: “This has been an exceptional time, and this news will come as a very welcome relief for the thousands of A-Level students who last week were looking at grades lower than they were predicted to receive. It will also be a relief to pupils expecting results this week as well as an acknowledgement of quite how much effort teachers put into this.

“It is reassuring that the Minister has listened to the Welsh Conservatives and other parties in the Welsh Parliament, but especially pleasing that she heard the voices of young people up and down the country.

“These students – at A, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate, and Welsh Baccalaureate level – will now have the confidence to plan their future education or career aspirations, and reach their potential.”

The Education Minister also promised an independent review of the events “following the cancellation of this year’s exams”.

Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.

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Education

Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair

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Swansea University is pleased to announce that Bleddyn Phillips has been appointed as its new Chair of Council.
Mr Phillips, who joined the University’s governing body in May 2017, has been appointed Chair for a four-year term replacing Sir Roger Jones, whose term of office came to an end in September 2019.

Mr Phillips said: “It is a great honour to be appointed Swansea University’s Chair of Council. As a Welsh-speaker, with strong roots in Llanelli and Gower, and with both parents having studied at Swansea, I have long felt an affinity with the University and have been delighted to serve on the Council.

“I want to acknowledge the contribution made to the University by Sir Roger Jones over almost 14 years and I very much look forward to working with, and serving, the University as it celebrates its centenary in 2020 and beyond.”

Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said “It will be a privilege to work with Bleddyn as we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to beginning our second century in 2020.”

Mr Phillips is a lawyer by profession, a former commercial director at oil companies BP and Total, and later Global Head of the Oil and Gas practice at the international law firm, Clifford Chance LLP. He is Director of Llanelli Scarlets RFC and was a trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre from 2012-2018.

The Council is the University’s governing body, which approves the mission and strategic vision of the University, long-term academic and business plans, key performance indicators and overall standards. The Council assures that the University discharges its duties in accordance with the Welsh Quality Assessment Framework.

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Education

Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan

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PROMINENT academics have criticised the Welsh Government’s bill to criminalise parental smacking during a public debate at Swansea University.

Tonight, experts from the fields of sociology and criminology and parenting studies poured scorn on the plan during an Academy of Ideas debate on state intervention in the family.

A panel of three academics discussed the merits or otherwise of the smacking legislation, which is due to be debated by AMs for a third time in January next year.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University and outspoken critic of the Scottish smacking Bill, said: “No longer treated like citizens, as adults who have an opinion and a basic level of autonomy to raise our children, we have culture change imposed from on high – we are made ‘aware’ by the new authoritarians holding the stick above us.

“The smacking act is a disgrace. It is a form of brutality that undermines parents, weakens the meaning of freedom, and will go on to destroy many loving families who dare to think and act differently to the modern elitists.”

Dr Waiton added: “The brutality of the smacking act will mean that a light smack on the hand or bottom of a child will be a criminal offence. Hard smacking is already illegal, but to the middle-class anti-smacking zealots that was not enough. Children, they argue, need equal protection from assault. The very language they use is alien to the millions of parents who occasionally smack rather than assault their children.

“Parents know that smacking a child is a form of discipline often done out of love and concern rather than something that is abusive and criminal.”

Criticising the way politicians at the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have engaged with parents on the smacking legislation, he said: “The new elite think a lot about consultation and inclusion. The reality is a process run by a small section of society, politicians and professionals, who exist in their own bubble and are distant and disconnected from ordinary people.”

Ellie Lee, Professor of Parenting Research at the University of Kent also spoke out on the Welsh Government’s plans.

“Within the context of an authoritative child rearing relationship, aversive discipline including smacking is well accepted by the young child, effective in managing short-term misbehaviour and has no documented harmful long-term effects.”

She added: “It should be the concern of professionals who work with parents to respectfully offer them alternative disciplinary strategies rather than to condemn parents for using methods consonant with their own, but not the counsellors beliefs and values.”

The Professor accused the Welsh Government of using the “full force of the criminal law to attack people who disagree on the comparative merits of using smacking rather than something like timeout”, saying it is a “bureaucratic imposition on parents”.

Only one academic – Dr Gideon Calder, Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University – spoke in favour of Government interventions like the smacking ban.

Dr Calder argued that intervention is justifiable in some instances and said something like the smacking ban is not necessarily authoritarian. He said: “the point of the legislation is to safeguard children from potentially harmful interactions.”

Commenting on the debate, Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said:

“The criticism levelled at the Government’s smacking plans tonight by experts in the fields of sociology, criminology and parenting studies should be a wakeup call to Ministers.

“Experts are not convinced that the plan to outlaw parental smacking is viable, needful or helpful in terms of improving child protection.

“I hope AMs hear the concerns of these academics as well as their constituents and scrap the smacking ban bill when it’s voted on in January.”

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