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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

Inspirational Rose praises adult learning

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Rose Probert: Campaign ambassador for Adult Learners' Week

A SINGLE mum of gypsy traveller descent from Pembroke is supporting Adult Learners’ Week after adult education helped her achieve her dream of working with special needs children.

Rose Probert, 41, helped care for her disabled brother from a young age. She dreamed of becoming a special needs teacher, but learning wasn’t a priority in her community and she left school without any grade C or above GCSEs.

For years, Rose worked as a cleaner while also caring for her brother and bringing up her daughter, but when she was employed as a Gypsy Support Officer at Pembroke School she had the opportunity to restart her education and completed a Level 3 Award for Teaching Assistants.

From there, Rose completed GCSEs in English and Maths, achieving B and C grades, and a Foundation Degree in Education and Social Inclusion, studying for an extra year to graduate with a BA First Class honours degree. In September 2017, Rose completed a postgraduate course in special needs, gaining a distinction, and this year she plans to begin a Masters in mental health and wellbeing.

Rose is supporting Adult Learners’ Week 2018, which takes place from 18-24 June to highlight opportunities to continue developing and learning new skills as an adult and celebrate the positive impact of adult education on skills and employability.

Rose said: “Growing up with caring responsibilities in a traveller community made it difficult for me to achieve at school; my caring responsibilities took up a lot of my time and learning was always put on the backburner. When I was younger I didn’t have the maturity or self-belief I have now, for me that’s something that came with age, but as my daughter grew older I wanted her to see how important education is. Initially, I said yes to the opportunity to learn again to set an example to her.

“That first teaching assistant course opened my eyes. I didn’t know anything about adult education, I thought I’d missed my chance to learn and I’d given up on my dream of ever becoming a special needs teacher. Suddenly I realised there were opportunities open to me and my dream was still possible. It took several courses, and a lot of hard work, but completing my postgraduate certificate granted me permission to finally work in special needs. Words can’t express how proud I am of what I’ve achieved or how far I’ve come in just a few years.”

In 2016, Rose received an Inspire! Award for progression. She’s now employed full time as an Access to Learning Manager for Additional Learning Needs children.

Rose continued: “I work at Pembroke Comprehensive School – the same secondary school I attended. It’s in quite a socially deprived area with a large proportion of pupils on free school meals and a high number of children with special educational needs. I’m in charge of a class of 70 pupils, teaching between six and 12 at any one time. The work is everything I hoped it would be, I know I’m doing something which makes a difference to the lives of other people.

“I’ve had some fantastic support along the way. The partnership between Monkton school Pembroke and Trinity St David’s University got me on my first course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. My current employer Pembroke Comprehensive School is also extremely supportive and helped with gathering information for my postgraduate work.

“I can’t wait to start my Masters in Mental Health and Wellbeing in September, it’s a subject I’m really interested in and passionate about. A lot of my pupils display signs of mental health issues, so the course will help in my day-to-day work, but I’m also just looking forward to learning again. Education gave me the drive to carry on, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”

Adult Learners’ Week 2018 is running from 18-24 June and celebrates lifelong learning, whether work-based, as part of a community education course, at college, university or online. Now in its 27th year, it aims to promote the range of courses available to adult learners, from languages to computing or childcare to finance.

Eluned Morgan, Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, said: “We often think of education as something we do when we’re young, but learning is a lifelong activity.

“Rose is a perfect example of someone who has benefited from the opportunity to go back into education as an adult. Adult learning has been linked to improvements in health, overall wellbeing and social engagement. We want to ensure every person in Wales has access to the skills they need to help our communities thrive.

“Skills are vital to our economy and we want to support adults to gain the ones they need to find, or progress in, their chosen career. We hope Adult Learners’ Week will inspire people of all ages across Wales to find out more about how they can develop their skills. Skills Gateway for Adults also offers a range of careers advice and guidance for anyone looking to improve their skills and employability or get back into work.”

David Hagendyk, Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute, said: “Going back into education has enormous benefits for adults. The evidence shows that it can improve your health, family life, the chance of a job, or a promotion at work. Taking that first step back into adult education might seem a little daunting at first but there is always someone to lend a helping hand and to support you along the way.

“Adult Learners’ Week has been running in Wales for 27 years and has helped hundreds of thousands of adults right across the country. It’s a great time to take the plunge to learn a new skill, meet new people and learn about something you have always been passionate about. With the world changing so quickly around us it is more important than ever that all of us are learning throughout our lives. Now is the perfect time to start.”

Adult Learners’ Week is funded by The Welsh Government and the European Social Fund and organised by the Learning & Work Institute Wales.

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Education

Welsh Youth Parliament launches

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Llywydd Elin Jones: Youth Parliament 'a significant development'

THE COUNTDOWN is underway to the establishment of a new Welsh Youth Parliament to reflect and represent the voices and opinions of young people in Wales.

During Plenary at the Senedd on Wednesday, May 23, the Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, Elin Jones AM, announced the voter registration drive for the inaugural election would start yesterday, Thursday, May 31.

There will be 60 Welsh Youth Parliament Members. 40 of which will be elected via First Past the Post through an electronic voting system in each of the 40 electoral constituencies in Wales. 20 will be returned by partner organisations to ensure the representation of diverse groups of young people.

All young people in Wales, between the ages of 11 and up to 18, can take part by registering to vote in the online election which will be over three weeks in November 2018.

The very first meeting of the Welsh Youth Parliament will be held in February 2019.

Elin Jones AM said: “As a nation committed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, implementing such an ambitious project is a significant development for Wales and it is our privilege as a National Parliament to deliver this commitment.

“Article 12 of that Convention of the Rights of the Child sets out the right of children and young people to express an opinion and to have that opinion taken into account when decisions are being made on any matter that affects them.

“In the context of our work as a legislature, establishing the Youth Parliament ensures that we are discharging out duties to the voters of today and tomorrow – to each and every citizen in Wales – all of whom have a stake in our democracy.”

The National Assembly Commission agreed to establish a youth parliament in September 2017 following an extensive consultation with more than 5,000 young people around Wales.

The National Assembly has also worked closely with a steering group of youth organisations providing expert guidance and, critically, views from the point of view of young people which contributed to the shaping of the new Welsh Youth Parliament.

The formal launch of the voter registration drive will take place at the Urdd Eisteddfod at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd where more details of how to register as a candidate or as a partner organisation will be released.

The Assembly’s youth outreach and education team will hold a series of workshops, school and colleges visits, train the trainer sessions and provide resources for organisations to hold their own events. More information will be available on the Welsh Youth Parliament website.

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Education

Children to learn food’s origins

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Hybu Cig Cymru: Family Fun on June 10

CHILDREN’S lack of knowledge about where their food comes from is an in increasingly hot topic. A recent British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) survey found that a quarter of primary school children thought that cheese came from plants, while 13% thought that pasta came from an animal.

Welsh red meat body Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is doing its bit during the spring to address this lack of knowledge.

Earlier this month, HCC cook Elwen Roberts joined the innovative ‘Cows on Tour’ team at Marshfield Primary School near Newport. Cows on Tour is a programme in which children get the chance to meet farmers, interact with animals, and learn interactively where meat and dairy products come from.

Also, on June 10, HCC will also be involved with a major ‘Open Farm Sunday’ event in Pembrokeshire. In partnership with Blas y Tir, the National Trust, the Scarlets rugby region and the Farms for City Children charity, HCC will be serving samples of nutritious meals with PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef and organising children’s activities, as part of a day of family fun at Lower Treginnis Farm near St. David’s.

Prior to the event, children in Pembrokeshire are being encouraged to design a healthy school dinner menu, with prizes being announced at Open Farm Sunday.

“HCC is proud to join with our partners to help children gain a better understanding of where their food comes from, and how to eat a healthy and balanced diet,” said HCC’s Elwen Roberts.

“At Newport, we helped the Cows on Tour team by preparing samples of Welsh Beef pasta with fresh vegetables for the children,” she said, “as well as a barbecue for the parents in the evening.”

Elwen added, “We’re looking forward greatly to taking part in activities around Open Farm Sunday on June 10 in Pembrokeshire with Blas y Tir and Farms for City Children. It’ll be exciting to be part of the ‘Healthy Living Zone’ at Lower Treginnis with Scarlets rugby players. There’ll be plenty to do for children and adults alike.”

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