09 March 2018
The Children, Young People and Education Committee undertook an inquiry into Teachers’ Professional Learning and Education in 2017. As a result of its consideration of the written and oral evidence, the Committee made 25 recommendations to the Welsh Government and reached four conclusions.
The report is set against a context of significant reform taking place within the education system in Wales. In 2015, Huw Lewis, then Minister for Education and Skills, referred to the implementation of Professor Furlong’s “Teaching tomorrow’s teachers” report, the “New Deal for the Education Workforce” and Professor Donaldson’s Successful Futures report on the school curriculum, as a programme of “tripartite reform” .
This “tripartite reform” is itself a part of the Welsh Government’s wider educational improvement policies, such as Qualified for Life 2014-2020. Published in October 2014, Qualified for Life was designed to raise standards in Welsh schools. The current Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, relaunched the plan in September 2017, calling it Education in Wales: Our national mission 2017-21. “Developing a high-quality education profession” is one of the “four enabling objectives” of the new national mission.
The Committee is engaged in monitoring the implementation of the Donaldson review as part of its ongoing work programme, publishing its initial observations in January 2017. However, it also wanted to review the other aspects of the tripartite reform programme, given the central role of the teaching profession. Consequently, the inquiry focused on the:
- arrangements for continuing professional development for the current workforce;
- role of initial teacher education;
- sufficiency of the future workforce; and the
- new professional standards for teachers.
The Welsh Government response
The Welsh Government’s response was published on 7 February 2018. It accepted nine of the recommendations, accepted 14 others in principle and rejected two.
The Welsh Government accepted nine recommendations, primarily which related to providing the Committee with updates on various strands of work, including:
- its school business manager pilots;
- the regional education consortia’s evaluations of the available professional development opportunities;
- the impact of Estyn’s guidance for teachers on reducing workload; and
- Estyn’s reviews related to the quality of professional learning provision, of which there are several in the next few years.
The Committee also recommended that the Welsh Government should undertake evaluative studies to establish:
- the effectiveness of the recent Discover Teaching recruitment campaign. The Welsh Government highlights that it will undertake ‘a rapid review’ of the campaign and would ‘report by Easter’;
- the extent to which the perception of high teacher workload is becoming a barrier to recruitment;
- why some teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying. The Welsh Government notes that it has commissioned research on ‘Teacher Retention and Attractiveness in Wales’; and
- the current barriers to the wider and more effective use of the Professional Learning Passport.
The Welsh Government also accepted supply teachers should have full access to professional development opportunities, outlining the steps it is taking towards this.
Accepted in principle recommendations
The recommendations accepted in principle related to:
- ensuring teachers were fully prepared for the new curriculum;
- making better using of teacher inset days;
- reviewing and improving its teacher recruitment efforts, particularly those aimed at harder to reach groups;
- reviewing the support available to new teachers; and
- considering the extension of the Education Workforce Council’s remit, in order to provide it with the power to suspend teachers as appropriate.
In accepting the recommendations in principle, the Welsh Government indicates that they can be achieved through its own ongoing programmes.
In recommendation 19, the Committee had called on the Welsh Government to ensure the new professional standards for teaching and leadership provided an adequate baseline for teacher performance. This stemmed from its concerns over the ‘complexity and accessibility of the new standards’ and the extent teachers can engage with them. The Welsh Government argued that the five standards (pedagogy, collaboration, leadership, innovation and professional learning), underpinned by ‘descriptors’ served as a suitable baseline for performance.
The Welsh Government also rejected recommendation 20, which suggested the remit of the ‘Education Workforce Council [EWC] should be extended to include responsibility for professional standards’. The Welsh Government argued that
the EWC is a relatively young organisation and since its inception in 2015 has seen the number of registrants increase by more than 50%. As such, it is important that EWC is given the time to focus on their existing core functions.
It also states that the ‘associated costs’ of expanding the EWC’s remit in this way ‘would have been met by practitioners’ registration fee’.
The Assembly will debate the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report in Plenary on 14th March 2018. You watch the debate online at www.senedd.tv.
Following that debate, the Committee will continue to examine the Welsh Government’s work on supporting and developing the teaching workforce.
Article by Joseph Champion, National Assembly for Wales Research Service