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Unions’ welcome for supply teaching task-force

Current supply system is failing: Lewis establishes task force
Current supply system is failing: Lewis establishes task force

UCAC teachers’ union has called for urgent action following the Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis’s announcement today that he will establish a taskforce to look at new options for providing supply teachers to Wales’s schools.

The announcement came at the end of a Plenary Debate in the National Assembly on a report by the Children, Young People and Education Committee into ‘Supply Teaching in Wales.’

In addition to the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report, the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, Estyn and the Wales Audit Office have all published reports which are critical of the current system that is over-dependent on the use of private agencies. There are concerns about the effect of the current system on educational standards.

Elaine Edwards, UCAC’s General Secretary said “The savings made through using agencies are a false economy. They undermine teachers’ statutory pay and conditions and create a ‘second class’ group of teachers.

“Apart for substantially lower pay, teachers who work through agencies, on the whole, do not receive holiday or sick pay, pension contributions, and many receive little or no training.

“UCAC is eager to contribute to the work of the taskforce announced by the Minister today. We will be arguing for a system that ensures that supply teachers are treated equitably – on a par with other teachers – and that they are able to access statutory teachers’ pay and conditions and the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

“High quality education systems are dependent on high quality teachers. Investing in the workforce by means of securing fair terms and conditions would be the best possible investment in public services and in maintaining and raising standards.

“We now need to act with urgency. The current system has been letting pupils, teachers and the education system down for too long – it’s high time we made significant changes.”

NUT Wales Policy Officer, Owen Hathway, said: “The case has been overwhelmingly made that the current system is failing supply teachers, schools, parents and pupils. Quite clearly something desperately needs to be done and it is very good to hear that the Minister has recognised this.

“There is some good practice out there, most notably models similar to that in operation in Northern Ireland. What we would really like to see is a thorough examination of the sorts of models that can help support supply teachers in accessing continued professional development and receive fair remuneration for their work.

“Valuing supply teachers in that way would be a real step forward in ensuring the best possible results for pupils.”