Row brews on teachers' pay
A WELSH GOVERNMENT’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.
Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students
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.
Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair
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.
Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan
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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