The many ways Welsh schools maintain teacher standards
OCCASIONALLY I’ll have a conversation with a parent who has raised a concern about the actions of a member of staff and wants to know what I’m doing about it.
Most often my reply is, something along the lines of: “You have to trust that we’ll look into it and if we think it’s necessary we will take action.”
99% of the time the parent is satisfied with this and trusts the school to follow up the concern.
It’s hard for parents – they leave their children with us every day and trust that we are educating them appropriately, looking after their welfare and ensuring they are safe.
They do this because they trust us as professionals, therefore if we are to call ourselves professional, then it’s vital we are consistent in what we do to ensure a strong trusting relationships between teacher and parent.
So how do we ensure we are professional in all we do and earn the trust that parents expect?
There are many different checks and measures to ensure the profession maintains its standards, meets expectations and continually evaluates and tries to improve, the quality of provision. These can be divided into external checks and internal checks.
The Welsh Government recently released new standards for teachers in Wales (you can find them here: www. learning.gov.wales – look for workforce development and then professional standards).
These are new standards which lay out expectations for teachers and leaders in schools across Wales.
As a head teacher, I welcome them as very clear and easy to follow guidance which if adhered to will ensure consistency and quality across the profession.
Although written for the teaching profession, the document is fairly jargon-free and worth looking at if you are a parent interested in how teachers are developed and held accountable. The document looks at five areas: Paedagogy – This is the biggest section, essentially covering the methods teachers and schools use when enabling young people to learn effectively, for example, the practices teachers use in the classroom to ensure all learners can access the curriculum.
Collaboration – How teachers and schools work with others to enhance learning, for example, other schools, business or parents.
Professional Learning – Ensuring teachers and schools continually develop their own practice and reflect on the quality of their practice.
Innovation – Which provides teachers and schools with opportunities to develop and share new practice which could improve the learning experiences for all young people.
Leadership – Providing guidance for those in leadership positions within schools and encouraging a climate of self and corporate responsibility.
All newly-qualified teachers must meet these standards before they can progress on to a second year of teaching.
All other teachers are expected to meet these standards which are explored within schools through an annual performance review.
The Education Workforce Council (EWC) is the professional body for Welsh schools, which all teachers and trainers in educational settings must register with.
The council “seeks to raise the status of workers in education and training by maintaining and promoting the highest standards of professional practice and conduct” (See: www.ewc. wales ).
The council also publishes a code of conduct and practice that it expects all registrants to adhere to. In its own words: “The council has legal powers to investigate and hear cases of alleged unacceptable professional conduct, serious professional incompetence and criminal offences involving registrants.”
The code is designed for parents to easily access and is jargon free. You’ll find it on the website.
Estyn is responsible for monitoring the quality of practice in schools. It not only inspects the quality of teaching, learning and standards, but also how well the school is being led and managed, the well-being and safety of children and how well we care for and guide young people (like careers advice).
Schools are inspected regularly, and if not meeting expectations, the school may be put in special measures which results in very close supervision to ensure the school meets its expectations.
Within schools, all teachers have formal performance review interviews every year, with interim reviews during the year.
As part of this teachers are observed teaching formally and given feedback which may include areas for improvement.
At their interview, they are normally also given the opportunity to discuss an area of professional development they would like to pursue that year.
The performance management process can affect pay progression for teachers, if they are not fulfilling the teacher standards mentioned above, or the targets/standards specified at the school and agreed at the meeting.
All schools are expected to continually look for ways to develop their staff. At Eastern High, for example, we provide weekly training and coaching opportunities for staff.
This also includes all our heads of department following a course which will lead to accreditation towards a masters degree.
Cardiff council, along with several other councils in South Central Wales, formed the South Central Consortium (SCC) which provides all the training and development opportunities for all schools in the region.
Much of this is provided to schools free of charge and schools can choose to opt into the various programmes that exist. They also provide opportunities for schools to work together.
This is just a quick snapshot of the checks, measures and development opportunities schools have to ensure we maintain high standards and decrease the likelihood of us not meeting parental expectations.
Occasionally something will go wrong and very occasionally this can be very serious, but when you consider there are approximately 80,000 registrants with the EWC, the processes we have in place ensure your child is in safe hands.
I finish many of my articles telling parents to talk to their schools if they have any concerns regarding their child’s education and well-being. This article is certainly no exception.