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Education

Report criticises teacher training

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A MAJOR investigation into the standard of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in Wales has uncovered huge insufficiencies in its provision.

Professor John Furlong carried out the report having been commissioned in 2014. The report starts by stating that: ‘Initial teacher training in Wales needs to change and for two quite different reasons. Firstly, it needs to change because despite some strengths in current provision there is a widespread consensus that overall, it is not of sufficient high quality to serve the needs of Wales either now or in the future. But there is a second and perhaps even more important reason that reform is needed and that is to do with the changing nature of schooling in the 21st century’.

The report goes on to point out that ITT is not as strong as it should be, and that current requirements in key aspects fall well short of what the international evidence suggests is best practice. Professor Furlong added: “As a consequence, newly qualified teachers are not conceptualised nor is there a requirement that they are prepared to be active professionals, with their own judgements to make and with their own responsibilities as leaders of children’s learning.”

He goes on to criticise the link between the university teaching and what is required in the classroom, saying: “Given that there is no reference whatsoever in the Standards to research or the need to develop student teachers as critical consumers of or participants in research, there is little requirement on the part of universities to help their staff develop as research active university lecturers. Again, in other jurisdictions, standards set out a very different vision for the contribution of universities.”

He continued by saying: “At present it seems that most schools have only a small role in professional education, often with very small numbers of students. Teacher education is undertaken primarily on a voluntary basis – an ‘add on’ to schools’ normal work. Internationally however, there is strong evidence that in the most effective systems, universities work with much smaller numbers of schools which take larger numbers of students. Moreover, schools themselves are encouraged to take leading responsibility in key aspects of the training programme. One particular difficulty in encouraging schools to work in closer partnership with universities on a regular basis is that it is indeed voluntary. As a result, it is widely reported that few schools are willing to make long term commitments, often withdrawing, sometimes at the last minute, particularly if they are facing an Estyn inspection.”

Criticising university provision he also stated: “The fact that teacher education remains very much a university led process in Wales does not necessarily mean that the sector has been well served by contemporary universities. On a number of key indices, teacher educators themselves seem less well supported than their colleagues in other disciplines and in other parts of the UK.”

The report made 7 key recommendations:

That the Welsh Government, as a matter of priority, revises the standards for Newly Qualified Teachers

  • That the Welsh Government establishes a revised accreditation process for providers of initial teacher education.
  • That the Welsh Government establishes a teacher education accreditation board
  • That the role of Estyn within initial teacher education be reviewed once a revised accreditation process is fully in place.
  • That Estyn’s ‘Guidance for Inspection’ for schools be revised to include specific recognition of the contribution of a school to initial teacher education.
  • That the Primary BA (Hons) QTS, in its current form, be phased out and replaced by a four year degree with 50% of students’ time spent in main subject departments.
  • That the Welsh Government monitors closely the impact of financial incentives on recruitment, particularly taking into account different funding levels in comparison with those available in England.

Responding to the report and its contents, Education Minister, Huw Lewis said: “I very much welcome this report and its recommendations and would like to thank Professor Furlong for his commitment, impartiality and professionalism. The case for change is compelling. It is clear that if we want to raise standards, we must produce newly qualified, reflective practitioners with the appropriate qualifications, skills and resilience to support the sort of curriculum change recommended by Professor Donaldson in his recent report. In principle, I would disagree with nothing contained in Professor Furlong’s report. We must now move to consider the reform options and implementation methods in greater detail and this is something that will require full engagement with the teacher training sector. We will also work to ensure the sector remains viable while we make what needs to be a smooth transition to a new model of teacher training.”

Angela Burns, AM and Shadow Minister for Education, said: “There is a consensus that teacher training in Wales is not sufficiently robust to drive up standards and enable young people to compete in the global race. How can we possibly expect teachers to nurture the potential of their class and stretch every child to realise their talents if we don’t do the same for teachers? Learning is a rewarding lifelong activity, which everyone, regardless of their profession, can find enriching, but it is especially important that teachers who instil a thirst for learning, should be able to take advantage of it themselves. Labour Ministers must consider these recommendations and act to improve initial teacher training, invest in continuous professional development and cut out bureaucracy to free up teachers to spend more time learning.”

From a leading teaching union, Owen Hathway, NUT Wales Policy Officer, said: “We will obviously have to examine the full recommendations in detail, however, we do welcome the general thrust of some of the content. It is important that any changes to teachers training programmes fit with the vision for the future of the profession articulated in the Donaldson Review of the Curriculum – teachers will need to be confident, creative designers of learning and curriculum that is built on developing the whole child to be a flexible, confident learner, rather than being merely deliverers of subject knowledge or curricula devised elsewhere. It is important that current inconsistencies in initial teacher training provisions, reported by ESTYN and highlighted by Tabberer in his review, are addressed so that regardless of where in Wales teachers train they can benefit from high quality academic and pedagogical experiences. Moving forward we will be discussing the implications of the review with the Welsh Government and working closely with them to ensure the best system possible for our teaching profession and the pupils they support.”

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) sent The Herald a detailed response to the report, stating: ‘We welcome Professor John Furlong’s recommendations on the future of initial teacher education in Wales in his Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers report. The partnership between the university and schools, as part of the South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education, means that we are in a strong position to work collaboratively to implement the changes required to the current system, to attract the best candidates to the profession and to ensure the continued professional learning and development of teachers throughout their careers. UWTSD is committed to and highly values its role in the initial education of those entering the teaching profession as well as its role in supporting members of the education workforce in their career-long professional learning. The South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education, located within UWTSD, has been working hard to build on the strengths noted in the most recent monitoring report from Estyn (July 2014) and is well placed to work collaboratively within the education sector to support the processes of change and improvement on the horizon. UWTSD is working pro-actively to build and develop the research capacity of staff involved in both initial and continuing professional teacher education, many of whom have a strong track record of leadership within the school education sector. The value of applied and policy-focused research is one of the University’s underpinning values and is well evidenced through the work of the Wales Centre of Equity in Education, established as a partnership between University of Wales and UWTSD in 2013, under the directorship of Professor David Egan, who is himself an adviser to the Welsh Government on education policy. The opportunity to further develop pedagogically-focused research with our partners is welcomed’.

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Education

Carmarthenshire Council offers career opportunities through new Care Academi 

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Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Social Care

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has launched a new Care Academi which offers exciting opportunities to those looking for a career in social work or social care.

Open to all ages, the Academi will provide training, support and guidance to successful applicants, enabling them to earn while they learn and choose a career path that suits them best.

With a blend of on-the-job training and education, there are various opportunities to explore the variety of social care and social work roles on offer.

All applicants must have a minimum of two GCSEs (grade A* – D) or equivalent in English, Welsh or Maths.

Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Social Care said: “Our new Care Academi offers fantastic opportunities to those looking for a career in social work or care.

“Successful applicants could achieve a degree in social work or a level five management qualification, but there are also opportunities throughout the programme to find an alternative role that suits you best if completing a degree isn’t for you.

“If you are motivated, have a positive attitude and are looking for the first exciting step in a new career then we want to hear from you and welcome your application.”

For more information or to apply please visit www.Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/careacademi 

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Education

Funding for music education trebled to the tune of £13.5m

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EVERY child will have the opportunity to benefit from music education as part of the Welsh Government’s plans for a national music service, which will help ensure no child misses out due to a lack of means.

As the National Plan for Music Education is published, the Minister for Education has confirmed funding will be trebled, with £13.5m being invested over the next three years.

The plan will make access to music education fairer and more consistent across Wales, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with Additional Learning Needs. Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music tuition, with learners from disadvantaged and under-represented groups supported to join music ensembles.

The plan includes a number of key work programmes such as:

A review on music tutors’ terms and conditions, to ensure they are treated equitably and are recognised properly.
A ‘First Experiences’ programme to offer children in primary schools a minimum of half a term of musical instrument taster sessions, delivered by trained and skilled music practitioners.
A ‘Making Music with Others’ initiative, including opportunities for children and young people in secondary schools to gain industry experience through working alongside musicians and creative industries
A new national instrument and equipment library to support access to a resource bank to be shared across Wales.
These programmes will be rolled out from September 2022, supporting schools and settings to give all children and young people from the ages of 3 to 16 the opportunity to learn to play an instrument as well as singing and making music in our schools and our communities.

The National Music Service will operate as a ‘hub’, with the Welsh Local Government Association co-ordinating the Music Service’s programmes with a wide range of organisations. It will help schools and settings in their delivery of the Curriculum for Wales and provide more diverse opportunities for children and young people to experience music outside schools and settings.

First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford and the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea to see a cluster of primary school children taking part in a ‘Play Along’ session led by Swansea Music Service.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“The establishment of a National Music Service for Wales is an important commitment in our Programme for Government and I’m delighted that we are delivering on this pledge.

“Learning an instrument was a formative part of my upbringing and a lack of money should not be a barrier to any young person who wants to learn to play music. We are fortunate in Wales to have a strong tradition of school, county and national ensembles, and we want to make sure that our children and young people are able to play a full part in these. This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help nurture our young musical talent.”

The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:

“Our vision is for all children and young people across Wales, regardless of background, to have the chance to learn to play an instrument. The plan we are publishing today, backed by funding, will help deliver that vision.

“For too long, the chance to learn an instrument and develop musical skills has been for those few whose families and carers who can afford tuition. I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access music tuition, and that’s why we’re making this significant investment to deliver a range of activities for our children and young people to learn and experience the joy of music.

“The development of the National Music Service will ensure that we nurture our next generation and continue to produce new talent and showcase Wales to the world.”

WLGA Chief Executive Chris Llewelyn said:

“We are proud to work with the Welsh Government on delivering this vital service to children across Wales. Many families in Wales can’t afford an instrument, and this funding will go a long way to opening doors to children across Wales to have the opportunity of learning an instrument.

“Playing an instrument and reading music is a very important skill for a child, and music brings enormous joy to children. Local authorities believe that children across Wales will have better access to instruments, and this plan will develop many future talented musicians, and support pupils to develop their musical skills.”

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Education

Carmarthen headteacher struck off for telling staff to falsify pupil attendance figures

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A HEADTEACHER who told staff to fiddle his school’s attendance figures to log pupils as present when they were not in classes and then tried to influence an official investigation, has been banned from the classroom.
Peter Andrew Spencer began the five year long deception at Queen Elizabeth High in Carmarthen, after an Estyn inspection recommended attendance was improved, a professional standards hearing was told.

Schools get more funding and rank better on national performance measures the higher attendance is.
More than 28,000 pupil absences at the bilingual school were changed to showing as present between 2014 and 2019 before a member of staff reported it, an Education Workforce Council Wales panel heard.

Mr Spencer, who left the 1,500-pupil school with a financial settlement from Camarthenshire Council in 2020 after nine years in post, told members of staff to falsify attendance data on the School Information Management System, witnesses told the hearing.
Luke Lambourne, presenting officer for the EWC said one member of staff identified only as “Person A” was drawn into the head’s “web of deceit” out of misguided loyalty while others felt “under pressure” to join in the deception.
One senior member of staff told the committee he was among those asked by the headteacher to alter codes “n” for not present and “i” for ill to a symbol showing those pupils as present.

The man, who gave evidence to the remote hearing held on May 11 and 12, but was identified only as “Person D” said he had felt anxious the whole time he was involved.
He admitted he had been “weak” in doing so, but denied, when questioned, that he had instigated the deception which he said was masterminded by the head.

“Person D” told the panel he was asked by Mr Spencer to make “illegitimate amendments” to attendance data” to “show the school in a good light” and that this “dishonest practice” continued with other staff. “It was difficult to say no to the headteacher’s decision,” he told the panel.

Mr Spencer, who now works as head of an international school abroad, was not at the hearing or represented. He did not formally respond to the four allegations against him in person but did so in a written statement of mitigation to the hearing.
In his the statement, Mr Spencer denied ever instructing any staff to alter the absence data. Blaming “Person D” for the changing the attendance figures he admitted that he, as head, then failed to report it.
The headteacher said he kept quiet about the deception because he understood the pressure staff were under from agencies outside the school including Estyn, the local education authority and school consortia.
“I have never instructed any employee to falsely inflate attendance data,” Mr Spencer’s written statement said, “I accept fully that being aware of malpractice and in not acting I condoned the malpractice.”
And he went on: “I did not instigate the programme of attendance inflation. The action was started by my colleague (Person D) unbeknown (sic) to me.” Mr Spencer added that schools were under so much pressure at the time that “anecdotally it was believed data manipulation was widespread”.
The deception was finally reported to school governors by another member of staff in autumn 2018. The committee was told that the “whistle blower” reported being told by someone involved that data was being “fiddled”.

The allegations against Mr Spencer included:

That he was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in that between, or around January 2014 and February 2019, he instructed employee(s) at Queen Elizabeth High School to amend pupil attendance data on the School’s School Management Information System (SIMS) in a way that falsely inflated the data.

That the conduct was dishonest and/or lacked integrity.

That he discussed details of the disciplinary investigation in respect of allegation 1 above with staff identified as Person A and/or Person D, when he knew that he should not discuss the investigation with school employees; and/or they were, or were likely to be witnesses to the investigation.

The conduct as outlined in allegation 3 was inappropriate in that it: a) breached confidentiality; and/or b) had the potential to influence the progress/outcome of the investigation; and/or c) was intended to influence the progress and/or outcome of the investigation.

In relation to allegation 1, Mr Spencer denied ever instructing any employee to falsify data, but admitted when he became aware did not report it, which he said was tantamount to condoning it. Mr Spencer accepted in writing allegations 2, 3a and 3b, 4a and 4b but not 4c.
Finding all allegations proved the committee found that taken together they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
“I fully accept my actions fall below the standards expected of a headteacher,” Mr Spencer admitted in his written statement.
Striking him off the teaching register in Wales, committee chair Peter Owen said: “In the committee’s view this was a protracted, serious instance of misconduct over many years.”
Mr Owen said Mr Spencer’s “extent of regret and remorse is limited and not where it should be.”

He added that when the deception came to light the headteacher had tried to influence, rather than accept the investigation. He said the committee took into account Mr Spencer’s former unblemished record and the good testimony from his current school employer overseas. But the matters were so serious, protracted and dishonest that there was no option but to strike him off.
Mr Spencer may not apply to re-join the register in less than five years. He has 28 days to appeal to the High Court.

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