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Education

Union calls on WG to tackle stress

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Teachers’ stress absences rise: NUT

Teachers’ stress absences rise: NUT

NUT CYMRU says the new Education Minister will need to put teacher’s workload at the very top of her to do list after figures obtained via freedom of information requests show stress related illne sses continue to blight the profession. 

The union claims that research it carried out has discovered 51,795 days were lost to stress related illnesses last year, an increase of 2,568 on 2014.

NUT Cymru Secretary, David Evans, said:

“Workload induced stress amongst teachers is seemingly getting worse in Wales. The new Minister will of course want to get to grips with some of the big policy issues such as the curriculum and professional development but the stark reality is that unless we deal with this concern the success of all other initiatives is put at risk. We can’t continually expect the teaching profession to deliver record breaking results when we are seeing record breaking levels of mental ill-health problems due to the pressures they are being placed under.

“It is important to recognise that the last Welsh Government acknowledged this problem and indeed tasked pioneer schools with the responsibility of factoring it into their work on the curriculum. The new Minister will need to examine what solution may potentially come out of that work. Having written to the Minister with this data, we know of her commitment to this issue. We are also grateful that she is exploring how reducing class sizes can play a role in reducing the workload burden on the profession. We are looking forward to discussing further with the Minister how we can work with her in supporting any and all initiatives designed to reduce stress on staff.”

David Evans added: “When you consider the financial implications of not getting to grips with this problem, it is staggering. In the four years since 2012, 202,314 days that have been lost to schools due to stress related illnesses over the past four years works out at around the equivalent of £34.4m for supply cover. This is all at a time where school budgets are at breaking point. As things stand, we are bordering on a crisis in the profession.”

The Union’s data came from a Freedom of Information request send to each off Wales’s local authorities.

While the largest number of sick days was reported in Cardiff, the largest increase in days lost to sickness was in the ERW region, which covers the whole of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire, as well as Neath Port Talbot.

Welsh Government guidance on workforce attendance published in 2015, sets out the responsibilities of school leaders and governors in encouraging staff to maximise their attendance at work, as well as ensuring that all teachers have access to the appropriate levels of support. That guidance is due to be refreshed in September 2016 and will reemphasise the responsibilities on schools, local authorities and consortia on collecting, reporting and analysing detailed absence data.

A Welsh Government spokesperson told The Herald: “We agree it is important our teachers are not overburdened. There are a range of statutory provisions in force which aim to ensure teachers have a suitable work/ life balance and maintain their health and safety. These include supporting teachers who are absent through extended illness to get back to work.

“All teachers, through their local authorities, have access to employee assistance programmes and we will continue to work with local authorities, regional consortia and Governors Wales to raise awareness of these support programmes to encourage their use by teachers across Wales.”

The Welsh Government is also developing an all-Wales management of attendance policy based on the good practice that currently exists Welsh schools.

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Education

Poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live

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Dr Siu-Ting: Specialises in amphibians

​ABERYSTYWTH UNIVERISTY​ scientist Dr Karen Siu-Ting discuss​ed poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live ​last Thursday ​(Sept ​28​).

Dr Siu-Ting is an IRC ELEVATE-MSCA Co-fund Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University.

Her research into poison arrow frogs feature​d​ as part of ‘Ask a Biologist’​,​ hosted by The Royal Society of Biology.

An evolutionary biologist from Peru,​​ Dr Siu-Ting specialises in amphibians and combines field work in the Amazon rainforest with laboratory and computational analyses to address biological questions.

She is currently working on a project on poison arrow frogs between Aberystwyth University and Dublin City University.

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Education

Apply for six-month traineeship scheme

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Applications open: Join the National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme

​IF YOU’D like to earn as you learn hands-on skills to prepare you for a career in practical conservation or estate management, apply now for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme.

The project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future scheme, will provide two six-month salaried apprenticeships with the National Park Authority’s Ranger and Warden Teams.

Skills in Action Project Coordinator for Pembrokeshire Coast Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Tom Iggleden said: “The successful candidates will be learning the skills and experience that are essential to be successful in obtaining employment within a highly competitive sector.

“The main duties of the placement will include practical hands-on work-based experience in conservation and estate management.”

The six month traineeship will see the successful applicants learn a wide variety of skills including traditional hedgelaying and modern conservation methods that are essential to the work of the National Park Authority.

This is an extension to the original three-year project which has helped many of the 15 previous trainees gain employment​.​

The closing date for applications is October 2​4 with interviews to be held on November​ 6​.

Application packs are available from the National Park Authority’s website ​at​www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/jobs or by contacting contact Joanne Morgan by calling 01646 624856 or by emailing joannem@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk.

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Education

Committee concerned at £12.7m error

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ALN Bill: Savings turn into costs

​A £12.7M alteration to the cost of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill has been described as concerning by a National Assembly for Wales committee.

In the original figures submitted alongside the Bill the Welsh Government identified savings of £4.8m over a period of four years if the Bill was passed.

But the estimates were challenged by children’s charity SNAP Cymru which claimed the Welsh Government had misinterpreted figures it had provided concerning disputes and resolution services. The Welsh Government admitted the error and revised the figures from the original saving to a cost of £7.9m – a difference of £12.7m.

The Finance Committee asked the Welsh Government to delay the financial resolution on the Bill, the mechanism by which government gains support to spend the money enacting the law and the government agreed.

“A £12.7m swing from a saving to a cost is very concerning, as it shows a government which doesn’t fully understand the figures it quotes,” said Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.

“It also throws into doubt any future costs connected to Bills which come before this committee as we are left wondering whether the government has done its sums right.

“We are grateful to SNAP Cymru for highlighting the inaccuracies and acknowledge the steps taken by the Minister subsequently, but we will need further reassurance that such errors will not happen again.”

The Bill’s aim is to improve the quality of support available to children with additional learning needs through a person-centred approach which would identify needs early on and make sure the right support, monitoring and evaluation was put in place to help them.

The Finance Committee welcomed the actions taken by the Welsh Government to address the situation. But Members were concerned and surprised that inaccuracies as significant as this were raised and that SNAP Cymru was not consulted on the final figures before they were published.

The Committee acknowledges that revisions have since been made and the Minister’s assurances that the revised figures are robust, however, it is concerned at the need to have made this level of changes to the original costings.

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