Defend the strengths of Welsh Education: including the Foundation Phase (good active Early Years education from Nursery to Year 2); support for Comprehensive Secondary Education; retention of Local Authorities; the Donaldson approach to Curriculum and Assessment; the Additional Learning Needs Act (Wales) 2018; and the Welsh Baccalaureate.
Equality in education and education for equality: Education in Wales must bebased on equality of treatment for all pupils, staff and parents. It must be inclusive,actively anti-racist and value all classes – with particular emphasis on the achievement of the deprived and the vulnerable. It must increase understanding and pride in local heritage and local struggles, such as the Chartists and the Miners’strikes.
Defend Local Authorities: Extend democratic control of Local Authorities. Abolish the Consortia. All Local Education Authorities should be large enough to support teachers in curriculum, planning, assessment and support for Diversity and Equality– across all subject areas. All staff should be educated in how to support pupils with English as an Additional Language and with Additional Learning Needs.
Increase educational funding in Wales: We need an adequate level to address the loss of funding over 10 years of Tory austerity. Fund the schools generously, but also the central services that support them. Remove charitable status from private schools.
Abolish unnecessary testing. Abolish School colour coding: End the Reading and Numeracy Tests in Years 2-9. Support teacher assessment backed up by insightful and supportive moderation by Local Authorities. The colour coding system provides no new data, is inadequate in distributing the rather low level of support funding, while over-promoting competition between schools.
Tell the truth about standards: There are good points, especially at A level. But GCSE results are still below those in 2015. Pay attention to Estyn’s report that ‘literacy, numeracy and second- language Welsh require improvement’ in half the primary schools and all the secondary schools inspected since 2017
Prepare properly for a Curriculum for Wales: The Donaldson Report, published in 2015 gave a good basis for a Welsh Curriculum for Life. There is great potential for improvement – but so far preparation has been inadequate. Too much responsibility has been put on to teachers’ shoulders, without the necessary support and funding. There has been too little dissemination of good practice from the pilot schools and under-emphasis on teaching and learning.
Increase support for teachers and headteachers: Support must be given to educational advance not to grant writing. Teachers must be given back the authority to know their classes, to plan work that meets their needs, to differentiate the work to meet the needs of all pupils and not to be constrained by artificial constructs such as the old national curriculum and whole school plans that do not fit their pupils’ needs.
Support all staff to improve recruitment and retention: Give more support for Teaching Assistants. End the use of unqualified staff in teaching and end the role of Private Agencies. Reduce bureaucratic accountability. Address the increasing number of young teachers who are talking of leaving the profession. Maintain the wages and conditions of staff at UK levels and extend them to supply teachers.
Increase support for deprived pupils: Retain and increase Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) and reform the system of Deprivation Grants to ensure that they are sufficient to support pupils who need them. Help families with the cost of school uniforms, PE equipment and extend free meals to breakfasts and lunches for all pupils (including holiday meals for pupils on free school meals). Provide decent and consistent standards for looked-after pupils. Provide adequate computer support to pupils who face current disadvantage when educated out of school.
Additional Learning Needs: These must be adequately funded and supported: schools are given responsibility for Additional Learning Provision (ALP) but this is non-statutory, unfunded and may result in staff burn out. Restore the training and diagnostic role of Educational Psychologists. Reduce the time that pupils have to wait for additional learning needs support. Close the gap between the roles of Education and Health in supporting special needs.
Improve College and University Education: Support a publicly-funded and controlled system of education throughout life. Develop education from 16-19 and thereafter: Further and Higher Education should be brought into the family of a national system, based on public service – not on privatisation and profit. End the use of the gig economy in post-compulsory education – give fair payment and security for all staff. The right to education should be open throughout life, for academic, vocational and for general cultural reasons. End the unnecessary division between academic and vocational education.
End tuition fees: All people should be able to study at University or College free of tuition fees, supported by a system of grants to fund their living costs while studying. Apprenticeships must be supported by education and by business to increase the range and quality of learning, while providing adequate training and support for living.
Teach the Welsh Language in all schools: Increase access to education through the medium of Welsh in all schools, rather than maintaining divisive Welsh Medium Schools. If bilingualism is beneficial for some pupils – it must be extended, on a planned basis, to all. Improve the teaching and take-up of Modern Foreign Languages.
Good education in every neighbourhood in Wales: Strengthen the fight for good Nursery Education, good Primary Schools, a good Comprehensive School and good access to Further and Higher Education in every neighbourhood in Wales – to promote and support lifelong-learning for all. Should anyone protest at the additional spending involved, let them explain how encouraging failure and despair will promote prosperity.
Brief History: Before the growth of supply teaching agencies, supply teachers were paid via the County Council pay roll. Later, councils turned to agencies to provide needed staff. Agency pay was extremely poor – as little as £80-90 day. The Wales Audit Office suggested that the system was reducing the quality of education.
There is now an agreement: The Minimum of the Teachers’ Pay Scale should be paid for each booking – now £138.55. Continuing Professional Development should be provided. Finders fees should be on a sliding scale. The Swedish Derogation which enabled agencies to avoid the Agency Workers Regulations, has been abolished. Agencies are asked to sign up to the Code of Practice. However at present there is no legislation that can enforce the agreement. Supply teachers continue to be offered roles at £90 a day. No agency has shown transparency of fees on invoices. Provision of CPD varies widely.
Other nations have a fairer system: Northern Ireland have an app based centralised system and Scotland has a system where an amount is retained by Local Authorities and used for supply teachers’ pay and the rest goes directly for school. Both countries pay their supply teachers to scale and the supply teachers can pay into Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
Use of unqualified staff: We are concerned about the use of unqualified staff taking classes in our schools. Freedom of Information requests showed that 10% of lessons were taken by unqualified staff. There have been many adverts for cover supervisors from £60- £90 a day. With cuts to budgets we know that this use of unqualified staff taking classes is on the increase. We want a qualified teacher in every class so that learners get the best out of their education. We want our local authorities to have oversight of what is going on regarding training, the rates of pay and use of unqualified staff.
Use devolved powers to ensure a fairer system: A Wales solution that would give parity of pay and conditions with Northern Ireland and Scotland is necessary.
Our supply education workforce has suffered during the pandemic, waiting for furlough money to come through, having work cancelled and with some staff having to rely on benefits. They have been working on the frontline providing education in often unfamiliar surroundings. Covid 19 has brought into stark relief the value of having regular supply staff who would stay within a distinct contact group rather than travelling to many different schools with the associated risks involved. For the sake of our learners and our supply workforce please can Welsh Government commit to using all levers in their power to expedite change and to show our supply workforce they really are valued.
Wales is known internationally as ‘The Land Of Song’. Music brings people together in choirs, bands, orchestras, musical theatre and festivals. According to UK Music’s inaugural Music By Numbers report, the music industry generated £124m in spending in Wales in 2018. Musicians of all traditions and styles enrich people’s lives through performance and also through teaching the next generation of musicians.
However, the last decade has seen a decline in funding for LEA-run Music Services. These organisations have traditionally organised peripatetic vocal and instrumental teaching, complementing and augmenting the work done by school-based music teachers. The terms and conditions for peripatetic music teachers have been cut. There is now a complex mixed economy of struggling Music Services, private companies, co-operatives and freelance individuals. There is a lack of coherence and the cost of tuition is passed on to parents, with large disparities between regions and even individual schools.
Access to serious, long-term music education in Wales is fast becoming determined by where people happen to live and their financial means. This situation cannot be allowed to continue if we are serious about preserving our culture and the contribution which music education makes to the health and wellbeing of our young people (and ultimately, all of us).
There have been efforts to address this issue in recent years: a weighty feasibility study by the Welsh Governmentmade clear that the delivery of music education in Wales is patchy, incoherent and on the decline.
At Welsh Labour Conference in 2018, a motion from Islwyn CLP: (Motion 17: Wales As The Land Of Song) was passed, of which the substantive call-to-action was:
… the creation of a National Music Education Performance Strategy for Wales for the local delivery of subsidised music support services, teaching provisions to schools with equal access for all pupils. Conference calls upon the Welsh Government to work in partnership with local authorities and service providers to ensure that instrument tuition and music services remain accessible to pupils of all backgrounds.
This is an issue which requires action: any socialist programme must address inequities: there is clear evidence of creeping elitism in music education in Wales. The new curriculum being launched in 2022 for Primary and Year 7 (and by 2026 for Year 11) gives Wales an opportunity to re-invigorate how music education is delivered in Wales, and to make clear that it is a subject that is respected, valued and cherished. We call for:
Music is a common good: the evidence of the societal and educational benefits of it is beyond doubt. We must ensure that access to it is not dependent on geography or financial means.