Wales

NUT strike threat over Wales teaching standards plans

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Media captionEducation Minister Leighton Andrews unveiled plans to introduce national standards on Monday

One of Wales' biggest teaching unions has threatened to strike over the Welsh government's plans to improve literacy and numeracy standards.

NUT Cymru says there has not been enough discussion between government and teachers over the so-called Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF).

Education Minister Leighton Andrews unveiled plans to introduce national standards on Monday.

The Welsh government disputes claims the plans will increase workloads.

Literacy and numeracy levels in Wales have been a concern for the Welsh government for a number of years.

Last year, Wales lagged behind England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Mr Andrews outlined plans to set national standards, including annual reading tests for children from seven to 14 years old and £7m for a schools support programme.

Most schools in Wales currently use reading tests and many use some form of maths or numeracy testing.

However, the Welsh government wants a consistent approach.

'Achievement'

It disputes the NUT's claim that the new plans will increase workloads. It said officials regularly met unions, including the NUT, and said a full public consultation ran from June to October last year.

National reading and numeracy tests will be introduced in May, and from September improving literacy and numeracy will have to be part of all subjects - not just English, Welsh and Maths - from ages five to 14.

Data from the tests will be collected and analysed nationally with the intention that teachers get a clear indication of how children are progressing.

The Welsh government says it is setting down expectations which "seek to raise the bar in some instances". The LNF sets out levels of achievement that pupils are expected to reach in reading, writing and maths skills.

The funding of £7m will pay for a support programme that gives schools specialist help to make the changes. Online training material is available for teachers.

Mr Andrews said: "The National Literacy and Numeracy Framework sets clear, realistic and achievable expectations for the teaching of literacy and numeracy and will be a critical tool in driving up standards across the board.

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Media captionKathy Griffiths from Swansea, a mother of 10-year-old twins, on the prospect of tests

"The LNF will help school leaders and managers to embed literacy and numeracy across all subjects in the curriculum and will support all teachers to become teachers of literacy and numeracy.

"They will be assisted in implementing the LNF by a comprehensive national support programme that is tailored to address the needs of individual schools, learners and teachers."

A spokesman for Mr Andrews said it was wrong for the union to claim it had not had an opportunity to raise its concerns.

"The bottom line is this. Parents and good teachers are impatient for change," he added.

NUT Cymru secretary David Evans said the union supports the improvement in education, but it wants to discuss the implications for teachers.

As a last resort, the union has told BBC Wales its 13,000 members in Wales would be willing to strike unless their concerns are addressed.

Mr Evans said: "We are not opposed to ensuring that our children get the best education as they deserve and require.

"What we want is an opportunity to sit down with the Welsh government... to have a proper discussion with regards to the implications members are going to face as a result of it."

David Reynolds, professor of educational effectiveness at the University of Southampton and a Welsh government adviser, said: "Frankly what I think is the pity here is that David Evans is neglecting the money, the support, the clear statements about what Welsh children are able to achieve in English and mathematics."

'Aggressive'

David Pedwell, executive headteacher of Bryn Celyn and Oakfield Primary Schools in Cardiff, told BBC Radio Wales that "no-one disputes the fact that we need to improve standards".

"There is a danger here a lot of children will feel that they have under achieved from these tests and that is not going to motivate pupils or teachers for that matter," he said.

For the Conservatives, education spokesperson Angela Burns said: "Unfortunately, the education minister's belligerent and unnecessarily aggressive attitude towards the education sector risks the very reforms he wants to implement."

Plaid Cymru education spokesman Simon Thomas said the government should work with teaching unions.

"It must not bully them into doing this - serious improvements can only happen by consensus," he said.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Aled Roberts said the minister needed the support of teachers to deliver changes, adding: "We can't allow this spat to get in the way of children's education."

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