Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Around the UK: Wales

The last few months have been unusually quiet for colleagues in Wales, but with the election over that may have been the calm before the storm, says Gareth Jones.

The start of this year saw the appointment of a new education minister in Wales who has a simple mantra on the office wall:

  • fewer initiatives

  • better implementation

  • keep it simple

Allied with yet another reorganisation of the Education Department, occasioned by staff retirements and turnover, the consequence of the minister's philosophy has been a lessening of the flow of paper to schools and a slackening in the roll out of regulations and legislation during the spring.

However, this may well be just the calm before the storm.

The Transformation Agenda, aimed at promoting collaboration between learning providers and the removal of surplus places, is still progressing as some local authorities seek large capital allocations from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to fund proposals which include tertiary colleges and 3-19 schools. Consultation with staff, governors and parents has been of variable quality and the protests are beginning to surface.

In addition, the conclusions of two significant reviews, into CPD and into the funding of education in Wales, are due for publication once the dust has settled after the general election.

CPD funding has been significantly reduced. As Brian Lightman has tweeted: "Just found my 1995 school budget. CPD funding in 2010 25k less than 1995 figure for same size school. How far can Wales fall behind?"

Thus CPD has become a contentious issue and will be more so when the work on the revision of professional standards, performance management and induction gets underway.

Holy Grail of funding

WAG has publicly promised to increase, over time, the funding per student reaching schools to close the gap between England and Wales.

The ambition is to find savings in the administration and governance of education but without, in the short term at least, the formal reorganisation of local government. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has been engaged to find the route to this particular holy grail. In tune with current political events in London, negotiations are also under way in Wales. The expected result will be a move towards four or so local authority consortia, acting on behalf of the 22 local authorities for the administration of education.

Thus, the roll out of the School Effectiveness Framework, involving the concepts of system leadership teams and professional learning communities, have been placed in the care of the consortia.

Meanwhile, school leaders have been grappling with the tight budgets and the prediction that from 2011, WAG faces a significant reduction in its budget allocation. Redundancy procedures are being followed in a number of schools and graduate teachers seeking their first post are finding life very difficult. Heads are reporting that even one year posts are attracting 50 or so applications.

Thus the spring has been quieter than usual apart from the disruption caused by the volcanic ash and the advice by some local authorities that staff should have a salary deduction as a consequence of their unauthorised absence! We wait to see whether the summer brings sunshine or storms.

Gareth Jones is secretary of ASCL Cymru

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