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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

Free School Meals for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL will be offering Free School Meals from the Autumn term onwards to all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children.

This comes following Welsh Government’s announcement to offer Free School Meals for primary school pupils across Wales, starting with Reception classes from September 2022.

In response to the current rising cost-of-living, this is a positive step forward in ensuring that no child goes hungry while in school and tackling poverty in our County.

From Monday 5 September 2022 onwards, all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 Children in Ceredigion schools will be offered Free School Meals, extending the offer beyond what needs to be done by September.

Ceredigion County Council and Welsh Government are committed to implementing this scheme quickly and would ask for your patience as we build catering capacity to ensure a successful phased implementation and work towards a whole school roll-out over the next three years.

The Council are working with Welsh Government to develop a process for you to be able to request a free meal for your child/children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022, trying to avoid any unnecessary burden for you.

If your child is currently in receipt of free school meals and/or any other associated benefits, these will not be affected.

Wyn Thomas, Cabinet Member responsible for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “The Government’s aim is for Welsh Local Authorities to provide a free school meal for Reception pupils in September 2022. The Council has taken advantage of the flexibility of the scheme and so more pupils in Ceredigion will benefit from the offer of a free meal for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils in September 2022 in the County’s schools.”

Further information will follow by the end of term.

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Education

Tropical disease research boosted with ”future leader” joining Aberystwyth University

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A WORLD-LEADING study of tropical diseases at Aberystwyth University has received a major boost with an internationally-recognised scientist joining from The Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge.
Dr Gabriel Rinaldi, from Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), has been awarded the prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship by the UK Research and Innovation body (UKRI). He will join the university in August to take up the fellowship.
The award celebrates leading early career academics in the UK and provides them with support to continue their research into society’s biggest problems.
Dr Rinaldi’s ambitious research project, which will take place over the next four years, will be focused on better understanding the biology of blood fluke schistosomes, parasitic flatworms that are responsible for a major neglected tropical disease affecting low and middle-income countries.
Schistosomiasis affects more than 250 million people per year worldwide, in particular developing countries in the tropics. The number of deaths is hard to estimate but it can cause liver, intestine and urogenital damage, as well as having a detrimental impact on child development, including their ability to learn.
Treatment relies on a single drug but signs of resistance to it are emerging. This means that new strategies for controlling the disease are urgently required.
Dr Rinaldi’s research will focus on the early intra-mammalian development of the parasite and its unique sexual biology. By using cutting-edge molecular biology approaches, he aims to reveal key factors involved in the early development of male and female parasites and their interaction with the host. This will ultimately reveal vulnerabilities that will be exploited with novel control strategies, including drugs and vaccines.
He will enrich the existing parasitology strengths within Aberystwyth University and contribute to the Barrett Centre for Helminth Control’s efforts in controlling parasites responsible for agricultural, veterinary and biomedical diseases.
Dr Rinaldi said: “This distinguished fellowship will enable my transition from a staff scientist working within a team to an innovative leader of my own helminth developmental biology programme at Aberystwyth University. The scale and duration of the fellowship allow for a very ambitious research project, facilitating the generation of novel lines of research.
This opportunity will also broaden my professional foundations for a long-term research program focused on schistosome development, its unusual sexual differentiation among other parasitic flatworms and interaction with the hosts.”
UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with the freedom and generous long-term support to progress adventurous new ideas, and to move across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry.
“The fellows announced today provide shining examples of the talented researchers and innovators across every discipline attracted to pursue their ideas in universities and businesses throughout the UK, with the potential to deliver transformative research that can be felt across society and the economy.”
Karl Hoffmann, Director of Barrett Centre for Helminth Control at Aberystwyth University, said: ”We are incredibly pleased that Gabriel has been successful in securing this prestigious UKRI Fellowship and are thrilled to welcome he and his research team to Aberystwyth. Gabriel’s team will join an established infectious disease research community at the University and lead to expanding our international reach and reputation in this area.
“Importantly, outcomes of Gabriel’s research will lead to urgently-needed new strategies for controlling schistosomiasis in people living in some of the most resource-poor communities on the planet. This research is essential to meet the World Health Organisation’s goal of schistosomiasis elimination in the next decade.
“Gabriel is well positioned to meet this challenge head-on and we can’t wait to begin working with him on this international agenda.”
Dr Iain Donnison, Head of Department – Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences, added: “Dr Rinaldi’s award is well-deserved recognition of his enormous talent as well as the importance of the research project. Aberystwyth University undertakes world-leading research in parasitology, and this project underlines the importance of such work to addressing the impacts of schistosomiasis. The development of new disease management policies and therefore reduction in transmission of such a neglected tropical disease, has the potential to deliver significant societal benefits.”
Dr Rinaldi received his MD degree in General Medicine and PhD degree in Molecular Parasitology from University of the Republic, Uruguay. Thereafter, he worked as postdoctoral Research Fellow at George Washington University and most recently as Senior Staff Scientist in the Parasite Genomics team at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

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Education

Professor of Medieval History takes on Society Presidency role

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PHILIPP SCHOFIELD, Professor of Medieval History and Head of the Department of History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University, has been elected as the President of the Economic History Society.
Established in 1926, the Economic History Society is the leading learned society for economic and social history.

Its primary purpose is to support research and teaching in economic and social history.

The Society publishes The Economic History Review: a Journal of Economic and Social History, one of the world’s highest-rated social science and history journals.

The organisation also runs a major annual international conference, sponsors a variety of scholarly publications, promotes economic and social history in schools, provides postdoctoral fellowships and promotes the role of women in the field.

Working alongside other societies and professional bodies, the Society also acts as a pressure group to influence government policy in the interests of history.

Professor Phillipp Schofield will serve as the President of the Economic History Society for a period of three years, having been elected in April 2022.

Professor Schofield commented: “It’s an honour to have been chosen by my peers to lead this important organisation and help implement its strategy and policies. I also look forward to using the role to promote the study of economic history and to support this important subject area.”
Professor Phillip Schofield.

Phillipp Schofield is Professor of Medieval History and Head of the Department of History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University. He received his D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in 1992, having previously completed his degree in Ancient and Medieval History at UCL. His research focusses on the medieval agrarian economy, with particular reference to the medieval English peasantry.

His current projects include investigation of the response to dearth and famine in medieval England and litigation over debt in interpersonal pleadings in manorial courts. He was an editor of the Economic History Review from 2011 to 2017.

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