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Headteachers’ union says industrial action by its Torfaen members means more ‘teaching and learning’ and less ‘box ticking’

A HEADTEACHERS’ union has said industrial action by its members is creating more time to focus on teaching rather than “box-ticking”.

Members of the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) Cymru union yesterday agreed to continue with their action short of a strike which the union has warned could lead to a full walkout in a dispute over pay and workload.

Members backed continuing their industrial action, with 95 per cent supporting continuing action short of strike, and 74 per cent prepared to strike if necessary.

The action has been on-going since February and has seen heads, deputy heads and other school leaders, refuse to take on additional work or respond to phone calls and emails outside of school hours.

Both Monmouthshire and Torfaen councils have warned the industrial action is limiting their ability to monitor the quality of education in their schools.

That is because, as part of the action, heads are refusing to facilitate unsolicited school visits, from officials and councillors, and keeping their engagement with inspectors Estyn to the legal minimum.

They are also refusing to participate in online meetings and projects or respond to any consultations, surveys and data requests from local education authorities, education consortiums which work across councils such as the Gwent achievement service, and the Welsh Government.

But NAHT Cymru director Laura Doel has dismissed the concerns from education chiefs on monitoring school standards and claimed much of the paperwork required from heads is simply to satisfy a “box-ticking exercise”.

She said: “It is very interesting to see reports in Monmouthshire and Torfaen to councillors on the perceived negative impact action short of strike is having on their authorities’ ability to evaluate the quality of learning.

“Schools in Wales have multiple layers of ‘quality assurance’ to ensure pupils get the best possible education, as well as their own governing bodies who play a key role in holding schools to account.

“School leaders have taken the decision to push back on the unnecessary bureaucracy, reporting and data gathering that has no impact on delivering a first-class education in schools.

“If anything, this action has resulted in schools having more time to focus on what is important – teaching and learning – rather than endless box-ticking exercises.”s

As part of the action heads will also refuse to provide information on staff taking part in strike action or arrange cover for such absences.

Members rejected the Welsh Government’s pay offer, which included a three per cent uplift for the current academic year, in March and renewed their mandate for action short of a strike, that was due to expire in July, in a re-ballot held in June.

The offer also included a further increase in pay, of five per cent, from September 2023 and an agreement on workload.

Despite the action the Welsh Government did award the additional three per cent but the union has said it is concerned it isn’t being “fully funded”, meaning some councils are expecting schools to fund additional pay awards from their own budgets, forcing cuts elsewhere – including redundancies.

Though negotiations, which are ongoing, are held nationally, Ms Doel said local authorities should contact the union if they believe the action is impacting their work with schools.

She said: “Our campaign is to protect education, ensure we can recruit the very best teachers and leaders through improved pay, terms and conditions, and make sure schools are properly funded to deliver for children and young people.

“If local authorities are that concerned about our action short of strike we urge them to negotiate with us. So far, we have not heard from Monmouthshire or Torfaen.”

Councillors in Monmouthshire were told the action has made monitoring school performance more difficult as staff cannot easily visit schools to talk with teachers and pupils while in Torfaen the council has been addressing criticism from Estyn that it hasn’t properly supported schools and made best use of data in ensuring the quality of teaching and keeping track on pupils’ performance.

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Headteachers’ union says industrial action by its Torfaen members means more ‘teaching and learning’ and less ‘box ticking’

Laura Does, NAHT Cymru director Laura Doel, at a rally
NAHT Cymru director Laura Doel NAHT Cymru)