Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education
The Ministerial Supply Model Taskforce established in June 2016 to consider the delivery of supply teaching in schools has today published its report. I welcome this important report and thank all the members of the Taskforce, under the leadership of Sandra Jones, for their commitment and input into what has been a difficult report to produce.
It is clear that the current provision for deploying supply in our schools is highly complex, partly to do with geographical constraints and the requirement to meet specific local needs. At present, there is a myriad of arrangements in place for engaging supply teachers with little planning and co-ordination to maximise efficiencies and to support and develop our supply teachers. Provision is often variable and inconsistent. Some schools use commercial supply agencies, others employ supply staff direct, hold local authority lists, or in some areas, a combination of all three.
The report has outlined 10 key recommendations broadly covering the areas of, deployment, the cost of supply, safeguarding, accurate data collection, pay and conditions, continuous professional learning opportunities and to taking a more proactive and inclusive approach to working collaboratively to meet local supply needs, whilst ensuring minimum quality standards are met. Each of the recommendations is supportive of how we can make improvements which underpin both our wider educational aspirations, but also how we support supply teachers more generally. The Taskforce has stated that whilst the current system has its disadvantages, there is no simple ‘one size fits all’ solution that could be implemented across Wales with immediate effect.
While I agree with that statement, there is clear room for improvement in the way we currently employ, manage and support the delivery of supply teachers. Therefore, I am pleased to accept now most of the report’s recommendations at this point in time. However, further detailed work and analysis is required to establish whether all of those recommendations are legally deliverable. In particular recommendations 6 and 8 raise complex legal and policy issues which will require further exploration. However, I fully support the notion that the issues which gave rise to those recommendations need to be addressed. I will also take account of the views of our partners and stakeholders.
The changing landscape in Wales affords us a unique opportunity to consider in detail the issues affecting the provision and deployment of supply teachers and to affect change in a tangible and sustainable way. We will consider the benefits of collaborative working for the delivery of supply in light of the planned collaborative working arrangements in the public sector announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance.
Work has commenced in some key areas highlighted in the report and we have already taken steps to address important issues brought to light by the Taskforce in terms of employer responsibility for safeguarding. We have also undertaken some early work on enabling all supply teachers to be able to access professional learning opportunities, including early discussions with Consortia leads and exploring how Hwb, the Welsh government’s education learning platform, could better support supply teachers. Hwb is an integral part of teaching and learning which enables all teachers, including our supply teachers, to access and share resources to broaden their pedagogical development.
These arrangements will enable supply teachers, including newly qualified teachers undertaking supply, to have full and continuing access to Hwb regardless of length of temporary placement or school. On that note, I will also be looking closely at our policy on how we can ensure our newly qualified teachers who do not obtain permanent teaching posts when completing initial teacher education can access regular professional learning opportunities and are adequately supported during their induction year.
In light of a recent Estyn report and taking into account the Taskforce’s views we also propose to update and reissue guidance on ‘Managing attendance in schools’ to emphasise the good practice that schools can adopt in utilising and supporting supply teachers.
I fully recognise that supply teachers form a significant and important part of the teacher workforce in Wales. We must ensure our supply teachers are an informed sector of the wider school workforce ready and able to support the wider education reforms planned. It is clear that there is a lot to do and the message from this and previous reports is that we need to ensure we fully support the supply workforce and integrate them into our plans, if we are to realise our aims for education in Wales.
The further work required to consider and develop our proposals in relation to the recommendations will be taken forward as a key aspect of effective and sustainable workforce planning, a strand of the forthcoming national education improvement plan for schools.