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Talks call in lecturers’ strike

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Pensions dispute: Lecturers plan four weeks of action

UNIVERSITIES UK has called University and College Union (UCU) to meet to engage in ‘serious, meaningful’ talks on the future of the USS pension scheme.

A strike by UCU members in the week ​of February 19-23 was only the first of a planned four weeks of industrial action as employers and lecturers battle out a dispute over the future shape of the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Universities UK claims that the current scheme – the largest funded scheme in the UK – is unaffordable and that a projected £6.1bn deficit means that retirement benefits have to be cut. The union claims that the deficit is overstated and that, having already eroded some pension rights, further cuts to it are unfair.

In a press statement which accompanied an open letter to UCU members, Universities UK said: ​”​It is of paramount importance that both side make every effort to meet – despite the ongoing industrial action – to stop any impact and disrupton to students.

​”​Universities UK has never refused to continue to try to find an affordable, mutually acceptable solution. We would be willing to discuss a credible proposal that addresses the significant financial issues the scheme is facing.

​”​The problem that we share as interested parties in USS is that, to continue to offer current benefits, contributions would have to rise by approximately £1 billion per annum. The scheme has a £6.1 billion deficit and there has been an increase of more than a third in the cost of future pensions.​”​

Responding to that statement, UCU said it would certainly be attending as it had been calling for talks for weeks, but refused to call of scheduled industrial action.

However, it said that unless the employers were prepared to talk about the January decision to slash pensions then it did not see how the dispute could be resolved. In its statement UUK said ​’​talks would not re-open the Joint Negotiating Committee decision made on 23 January​’​.

That decision is the very reason staff are on strike.

UCU said it was disappointed UUK had ignored the wishes of universities minister Sam Gyimah who stated explicitly that the talks should be without preconditions.

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: ​”​Because this is so serious for students and for staff we will of course attend. I am however very concerned that UUK has explicitly ruled out discussing the imposed changes that have caused the strikes.

​”​The universities minister was very clear that he wanted talks without preconditions and we hope UUK will reconsider his words before we meet. We remain committed to serious negotiations aimed at resolving this dispute.​”​

Universities UK’s position is not assisted by the long-running dissatisfaction with some of the extraordinary pay packages its members dole out to some university vice chancellors.

University vice-chancellors have enjoyed huge pay rises in recent years. The average pay (excluding pensions) for vice-chancellors in 2005/06 was £165,105. Over the next decade it increased by 56.2% to £257,904 in 2015/16.

Professor Peter Mathieson, recently appointed as vice Chancellor of Edinburgh University, will be paid a basic salary of £342,000 – £85,000 more than predecessor Sir Timothy O’Shea. Professor Mathieson will also receive £42,000 in lieu of pension contributions and relocation costs of £26,000, taking his package up to £410,000. He will live in a five-bedroom grace-and-favour home in central Edinburgh.

Professor Mathieson quit his contentious and controversial tenure as vice-chancellor of Hong Kong University to take the Edinburgh post.

Stuck in the middle of the dispute between lecturers and universities are students.

The programme of strikes is taking place at one of the most sensitive times of the year for higher education students, with many final year students rapidly approaching the end of their courses. A suggestion has been made that some universities will take account of disruption to studies when making degree awards, In addition, while many students sympathise with their lecturers’ predicament there is growing frustration among those who are likely to be most severely affected by strikes that will last 14 days initially, with the possibility of further action during summer final exams.

Some students are contemplating demanding compensation, with The Guardian quoting one saying: “I am a third-year student in his last term of university and the fact that my vice-chancellor has told me that I could be without any assistance for a whole 14 days over four weeks in my most important term of education is a joke.”

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Education

Improving the behaviour of Carmarthenshire Secondary School pupils

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“IT’S almost uncool to want to learn as vaping and bad language is like the new thing”

“It’s very, very, heart-breaking to see a child vaping at age 11”

“I’m genuinely really scared for the generation coming through”

These are some of the comments Carmarthenshire pupils and teachers voice in a campaign which aims to improve behaviour in the authority’s Secondary Schools.

The campaign is a joint effort between the County Council and C.A.S.H – Carmarthenshire Association of Secondary Headteachers.

Across Wales, many teachers have shared experiences of witnessing a deterioration in some pupils’ behaviour since returning to formal education after covid lockdowns. Examples of such behaviour include using offensive language with classmates and teachers, being rude in lessons and vaping in toilets during lessons.

For the benefit of pupils and teachers, Carmarthenshire Council supports their Headteachers in their attempt to act to remedy the situation.

Pupils and teachers from ALL the County’s schools attended an experience-sharing session at the County Hall in July. A cross-section of comments was recorded and used to create a video that is part of the campaign. The video will be shown in all Carmarthenshire Secondary Schools in September and will be shared through social media. Information on the campaign posters and banners will direct pupils to sources where they can get further advice about the importance of improving behaviour.

On behalf of C.A.S.H, James Durbridge said: “As teachers, we understand that there are sometimes complex reasons behind pupils’ misbehaviour and, without a doubt, we want to support those pupils.

“But as the title of the campaign video explains – Our behaviour affects everyone and everything. A teacher cannot teach and a pupil cannot learn in a class when a minority behaves offensively and without respect.

“The behaviour of our pupils today influences their tomorrow.”

Noting that the campaign is an opportunity to press the reset button on behaviour and establish better habits, Councillor Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language, said: “Our aim in Carmarthenshire is to create young people who, after being educated here, create a life here and contribute to our community.

“Offering them the best possible guidance on how to behave in a way that gives them the best chance to succeed in life is our duty as an authority.”

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Education

Teacher drink-driving on way back from camping trip smelled ‘strongly of intoxicants’

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A TEACHER “stupidly stopped for a drink” on his way home from a family camping holiday before getting behind the wheel, a professional panel has heard. Huw Davies, a former English teacher at Ysgol Bro Teifi in Llandysul, Ceredigion, was more than three times above the legal alcohol limit for driving when he was stopped by police, a professional conduct committee has been told.

The Herald understands that the incident took place on the A40 St Clears to Carmarthen Road on July 30, 2021.

Witnesses were apparently called police after he pulled into a garage and appeared drunk with red eyes and dilated pupils, the Education Workforce Council (EWC) committee was told. Then the teacher came out of the garage. and went “all over the road”, EWC implementation officer Clare Hastie told the Fitness to Practice Committee.

He said police were alerted to a vehicle possibly being driven by a drunk driver on the A40 from St Clears to Carmarthen just before 3pm. Brother Teifi’s police eventually caught up with Davies at the Tesco car park in Carmarthen, where he was seen sitting in the vehicle with the keys in the ignition. When they opened the door, it smelled “strongly of intoxicants”.
breath tests showed he was more than three times the legal alcohol limit for driving and he was charged the next day.

Davies, who appeared at the September 2 virtual hearing, said he was ashamed of his actions and relieved that no one was hurt. But his actions have the “potential to put others at risk,” Hastie said. he told the panel.

The English teacher admitted he “stupidly” stopped for a drink on his way home from a camping holiday while the rest of his family returned separately. Davies told the committee that he has received help from Anonymous and the DDAS Adult Substance Abuse Service.

“I am very ashamed of what I did on July 30 and I am very happy that no one was harmed as a result of my actions,” he told the panel.

Davies described camping with his family in St Davids, Pembrokeshire before the incident.

The weather was rainy so he broke down the tent while the rest of the family left, he told the panel.

Ms Hastie said Davies began teaching English at Ysgol Bro Teifi in 2016 but has had spells of absence and left by mutual agreement with the official departure date at the end of the summer break of 31 August 2021.

Most recently he has been working as a substitute English teacher through an agency at Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen. Davies told the hearing that he felt supported in his part-time job and fortunate to be receiving help from Alcoholics Anonymous and that he has yet to return to driving due to health issues.

Colin Adkins, a NASUWT teachers’ union official representing Davies, described him as a recovering alcoholic and said he was getting the help he needed. The committee had received good character references from Queen Elizabeth High School and Davies had no previous failures in his teaching career.

“We accept that driving a motor vehicle exceeding the limit three times is potentially dangerous for Mr Davies and other road users. Nevertheless, there were no accidents,” Mr Adkins told the panel. “While I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the crime, I do want to put it in the context of it taking place entirely in his personal life.” and no other person was harmed by his conduct.”

Mr Adkins added: “Here you have someone who is a recovering alcoholic who is receiving medical support. Davies was faced with two allegations, both of which he admitted and which the EWC Committee found to be substantiated.”

The allegations were that he was found guilty of driving under the influence on August 19 last year after a breathalyzer measured 120mg in 100ml of breath, resulting in a council order and a nine-month driving ban held a license and that the conviction constituted an “offence” relevant to his eligibility as a registered teacher.

In issuing a reprimand, the committee considered his open admission and remorse at both the trial and the professional hearing. Committee chair Michelle McBreeze said Davies took steps to address the personal and health issues that led to her. She said the teacher provided positive testimonials and character references, including from her last manager at Queen High School, Elizabeth, and although there was a risk of recurrence, it was small.

McBreeze called it “a serious incident.” conduct,” but Davies “took full responsibility for his actions and has shown clear remorse and remorse.” An asset to the profession, he added.

“The purpose of a warning is not a punishment. Mr. Davies’ behavior was unacceptable and must not happen again. The warning lasts two years and will be disclosed to employers,” said Ms McBreeze.

Mr Davies has the right to appeal to the High Court within 28 days

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Education

Carmarthenshire GCSE students celebrate results

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is congratulating all of the county’s students that are receiving their GCSE results today, Thursday 25th August 2022.

This year’s assessment and qualification process have returned to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic format of examinations which included adaptations to accommodate the ongoing effects of the pandemic that leaners and teachers have had to contend with. After two years without exams, students have had the opportunity to show what they’ve learned and what they can do through exams and assessments.

Whilst this year’s results are not directly comparable with any other year, overall in Wales, outcomes are higher than when exams were last sat in 2019 , but lower than 2021 when there was a different method of assessment.

In Carmarthenshire 72.1% of all entries have been awarded an A*-C grade representing an increase of 1.2% since examinations were last sat in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 68.6%.

27.2% of entries achieved an A*-A grade representing a significant increase of 5.9% in comparison to 2019 and again higher than the national average of 25.1%.  91.6 % of entries achieved an A* – E grade.

Speaking on behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr. Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language said:

“We are so happy for those young people who are receiving their well-earned GCSE grades, congratulations to you all.”

“Carmarthenshire County Council is very proud of our young people’s achievements, as are we of the support and commitment given by their teachers, support staff, families and friends. Thank you all for your hard work in what has been a challenging couple of years, due to the COVDI-19 pandemic. We wish you all well in your future endeavours.”

In a joint statement, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters and Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans added:

“We are extremely proud what of has been achieved by our learners and they fully deserve these results. This year, for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19, our GCSE learners have sat examinations. The pandemic, however, has loomed large over their preparations and they, along with their teachers, support staff, families and friends, have had to display resilience and dedication to achieve these fantastic results. We are grateful to you all.”

“We would also like to thank our schools and their staff for their continued hard work and commitment to providing our learners with the very best opportunities to succeed.”

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