Wales Conference Extra

United we stand
New Education Minister Huw Lewis has
inherited a legacy of turbulence and
instability in the education system that
he must address to pull the teaching
profession in Wales back from the abyss,
General Secretary Chris Keates urged in
her opening address to NASUWT Cymru
Annual Conference 2013.
The NASUWT, she said, welcomed the
Chris Keates,
NASUWT General Secretary
change in ‘mood music’ heralded by the
arrival of the Minister and the significant progress on issues such as
performance management. But, she warned, the serious concerns
discussed at the Conference were testament to the scale of the task still
confronting the Minister.
Ms Keates said: “The Education Minister in Wales has committed to
supporting rather than denigrating the profession.”
Ms Keates sent a clear message to the Minister that he must resist the
urge to be distracted by ‘PISA panic’. Instead, she said, he needs to
commit to addressing the key concerns of teachers in Wales of workload,
pensions, pupil behaviour, pay and job security which came out of this
year’s NASUWT Big Question survey.
“He has inherited a legacy where teachers have reeled from one initiative
to another, a raft of changes which have caused destabilisation and
The Minister, she argued, has to address the urgent need to use the
strengths of the system in Wales – the infrastructure of local authorities.
Ms Keates thanked members for the support and commitment which has
made the NASUWT the ‘biggest and most effective’ union in Wales.
She said that this strength and solidarity would be needed more than
ever as the dismantling of important legal protections and the savage
cuts to pay, pensions and working conditions begin to take their toll on
“In no other public service has reform been
introduced so markedly on the basis of
denigrating the workforce”
Ms Keates said: “In no other public service has reform been introduced
so markedly on the basis of denigrating the workforce.”
On pensions, Ms Keates said there was still ‘much to play for’.
The battle on pay, she said, has reached a ‘critical point’.
Ms Keates took the opportunity to welcome the ‘very strong
condemnation’ of the Welsh Government to all the changes relating to
pay and non-pay conditions, reminding representatives that the blame
lay firmly with the Coalition Government in Westminster.
She recalled that the defiance and determination of teachers in Wales
had secured NASUWT some of its most notable successes in the
campaign of industrial action.
Teachers, she urged, must continue to defend themselves against these
attacks: “You know that attacks on teachers are attacks on children and
young people. This is a fight for the teaching profession; it’s a fight for
our public education service.”
Origins of problems lie in funding
A message from Sion Amlyn, NASUWT Cymru President
I was honoured to lead Conference as this year’s Wales President.
The motions put forward from the Associations were, I believe, a true
reflection of the state of our education landscape in Wales and the
problems therein.
We debated on the politicisation of Estyn, the flawed Banding system,
workload issues within the LNF, amongst many.
The issues session, which provided a forum for delegates to air concerns
relevant to teaching, gave us much food for thought. I was really pleased
to see how much delegates embraced it.
As a seasoned conference attendee, it was great to hear enthusiastic,
knowledgeable debates and see a host of new faces at the podium.
The Conference is continuing to thrive and grow; testament to the
dedication and perseverance of union representatives.
One could summarise the thrust of our conference as being down to
the Three Fs: Funding, Funding and Funding. Nearly all motions and issues
Undeb yr Athrawon
The Teachers’ Union
have their origins rooted in this. The
last time it was measured, each pupil
in Wales was worth around £604 less
than a pupil in England. In these days
of numeracy, I will let you do the maths.
I believe the union is in a better
position than last year. The positive
Sion Amlyn,
relationship with the Education
NASUWT Cymru President
Minister has enabled us to move
forward in many areas. We can look towards Westminster and the
continuing campaign to safeguard our rights, careers and the future of
our profession.
There is no doubt that the Welsh education system is firmly on its own
track and timetable. This is something that the NASUWT will have to
continue to monitor and go with the flow as the train rolls further along.
The largest teachers’ union in Wales
Representatives getting involved in the debate
Resist ideological destruction of state education,
Conference urges Education Minister
turbulence and upheaval which has taken
its toll on teachers in Wales, Conference
consultation, had meant the relationship
with the Welsh Government and the
education community had soured.
Delegates passed a motion calling upon
the Welsh Government to continue to resist
the ‘ideological destruction of state
education’ by the Coalition Government in
Suzanne Nantcurvis, proposing the motion,
said: “The best education systems operate
on fundamental principles of a shared
belief in high standards for teaching
training, well-resourced schools and trust
and confidence in the teaching profession.
All of which are, quite frankly, refreshing to
hear but alien to us in Wales.
NASUWT Ex-President
Suzanne Nantcurvis
They agreed that the Welsh Government
should create a buffer zone to resist
academies and free schools, strengthen the
role of local authorities and protect
teachers’ conditions of service.
Education Minister Huw Lewis has been
urged to restore calm and stability to the
education system after a period of
They heard that the raft of rushed-through
reforms introduced by the Minister’s
predecessor, often without meaningful
Undeb yr Athrawon
The Teachers’ Union
“We need a period of calm, we need to be
given the resources and support we require
and to be allowed to get on with the job of
providing the high quality of teaching and
learning that we know we can deliver.”
The largest teachers’ union in Wales
Consortia another layer of
judgemental inspection
Consortia arrangements created to deliver
school improvements are being used as a
stick rather than a support to teachers.
Conference heard that teachers have
been subjected to visits that have felt like
judgemental inspections, with excessive
emphasis on data analysis and formal
lesson observations.
Instead, delegates agreed, the
Liz Brown
consortia’s role should be to foster a
constructive dialogue aimed at supporting improvement in schools.
Speaking to the motion, Liz Brown said: “We made it clear that
the approach should be one of support and not inspection. Wales
already has that, so why would we need another layer of inspection?
“We are starved of support systems in Wales; teachers are
constantly denigrated for not achieving high standards and yet there
are no genuine support systems in place to help.”
Teachers, she said, are sinking under pressure from the ‘mock
inspection’ culture that has arisen from the consortia. She reminded
Conference that teachers should use their right to refuse to engage
in such inspections under the joint national action instructions.
She said: “If the Welsh Government wants school improvement,
they have to recognise that the word support needs to come first in
the remit of the consortia in Wales.”
Protect supply teachers from
abuse and exploitation
Supply teachers are increasingly prey to the unscrupulous
practices of supply agencies, including having to endure poor pay
and working conditions, with no access to professional
development, the Conference heard.
Delegates agreed that the Welsh Government needs to urgently
regulate the system, including establishing a national register in
order to protect the interests of those they employ.
Calvin Williams, proposing the motion,
said: “Many of our colleagues who do
not have permanent employment are
working for supply agencies. At the
hands of these private, profit-making
companies they are often left with little
choice than to accept and comply with
the myriad of conditions of employment
and complicated pay structures.
“The introduction of a governmentCalvin Williams
organised national register of these
agencies would lead to guidelines for inclusion on the register,
which will, in turn, lead to some protection for our members who
are employed by them.
“This would afford our members some peace of mind that they
are employed in equality with other members across their
authorities and Wales.”
Undeb yr Athrawon The Teachers’ Union
Dave Gravell, Pembrokeshire
Did the Conference meet your
“I come to Conference to hear the
issues that are relevant to teachers in
Wales, and we’ve exceeded that. We’ve
had lively debates for and against
motions and that was magnificent.” What are the issues of particular relevance to you?
“Although the Literacy and Numeracy Framework is
important to me, I can’t single any one out as all the
motions were spot on. That in itself is a reflection of the
scale of the challenge ahead, and of our concerns.”
Steve Hale, Pembrokeshire
What did you enjoy most about the
“I find the Welsh Conference gives us
the opportunity to really look at all the
issues that affect us in Wales, and the
challenges we have had to deal with as
devolution is increasingly being rolled
out in education. “Yes, there are issues that are UK­wide, but also issues like
Estyn and the LNF which are very important issues for us.”
Dave Dimmick, Vale of Glamorgan
Were your concerns reflected in the
“A few things came through in terms of
theme, people having to go through
more and more surveillance in their
working lives and this is making people
ill. I see it all the time in my role as
Negotiating Secretary across my area.
“This is not going to improve standards; sitting with a
clipboard and watching people under this surveillance. It
is just going to drive good and competent and caring
people away from our profession. It is wrecking it.
“There is a lovely Spanish saying: ‘Take what you want from
life, but pay the price.’ We need to defend what we have.
It’s precious.”
Estyn has lost the respect of the teaching profession
Delegates at the Conference heard that
Estyn is no longer perceived to be an
independent body but is so aligned with
the political system that it is failing in its
core principles of providing an
independent, high-quality inspection and
advice service.
Catherine Harmsworth, speaking to the
motion, condemned Estyn as a ‘ministerial
warm-up act’. She said that Estyn visits
have created a ‘climate of fear’ in schools
and that teachers have been subjected to
a ‘cascading of pressure’ from over-zealous
headteachers fearful of the high-stakes
culture Estyn has generated.
Conference heard how teachers are no
longer able to engage constructively in
dialogue with inspectors and are subjected
to observation by ‘those who have long
since departed from a classroom
Ms Harmsworth said: “No-one wants
pupils’ education to suffer as a
consequence of poor practice at school
level, but having a punitive inspectorial
regime is not the answer.
“What does a school gain from an Estyn
visit? Fear, stress, pressure and little else to
help it improve it further. We need more
constructive experiences if we are to get
the best of the system so that Estyn visits
are productive and not punitive.”
LNF implementation
Concerns were voiced at the Conference over the emerging
tensions in relation to the training of teachers for the Literacy and
Numeracy Framework (LNF).
Fears were raised that the
implementation is being rushed
through by the regional
consortia, local authorities,
headteachers and school leaders
before teachers have received
Delegates welcomed the £7
million ring-fenced to assist the
implementation of the LNF, but
expressed shock that the money
was given to the Centre for
Angela Butler
British Teachers instead of being
directly given to all schools. This they condemned as a ‘scandalous
waste of money’.
Angela Butler, proposing the motion, said: “So far, all that the entire
framework has done is increase my stress, workload and monitoring,
and it appears to be little more than a bureaucratic exercise.
“The stress has not just been on us as teachers, but on pupils who
are being continually tested against the demands of the
framework. The problem is that schools’ eagerness to be ahead of
the game means that they are implementing the framework before
the necessary training has been put in place.”
Delegates agreed that sufficient support and training was essential
if the LNF was going to work effectively for pupils.
Undeb yr Athrawon
The Teachers’ Union
Catherine Harmsworth
School banding is
flawed and unfair
The system of banding schools
has fuelled competition rather
than collaboration and is
fundamentally flawed and
Rather than being used as a
helpful tool for raising
standards, school banding has
resulted in unfairly stigmatising
schools and has demoralised
staff and pupils, the Conference
Lesley Done
Speaking to the motion, Lesley Done said: “It is demoralising for
teachers to be working so hard and end up in a lower banded
“Parents are put off from sending their children to these schools,
which become unfairly stigmatised. Even though all the data is
there for parents online, most people can be fooled by the banding
and clever marketing by schools.
“Value added is what it is all about and is the fairest way of
comparing schools.”
Rex Phillips, Wales Organiser, said: “The former Minister clearly
stated that the banding system was not aimed at ‘naming and
shaming’ schools, but our experience on the ground is that
unfortunately this is exactly what has happened.
“The system is so fundamentally flawed that it needs to be
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