Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
The last two years have seen unpresented challenges for our school leadership community. There has never been a time when dedicated and inspired school leadership has been more vital, and leaders have provided that for schools, the profession and our learners across Wales.
One of the clearest challenges during this period has been access to professional learning and support for leaders, especially in the context of meeting the needs of learners during the pandemic while also preparing for the Curriculum for Wales. A number of reports during this period have highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the quality, visibility and coherence of the support available to leaders. As we emerge from this period and look ahead to the next stage of our education reform journey which will enhance the lives not just of our learners but also our teaching profession, we need to take a series of actions to ensure our leaders are properly supported and have a package of professional learning support that they can benefit from.
The OECD have said that Wales’ commitment and focus on professional learning is “exceptional in comparison to many other OECD jurisdictions”. Others have highlighted positives including the emphasis placed on leadership development, support and training as an important and widely valued aspect of the Welsh policy context. This is welcome and we will continue to invest record levels of funding in professional learning. In 2022-23 that will amount to £28 million.
However, I said in my speech to head teachers in February 2022 that I am not yet convinced our professional learning offer is as accessible, coherent and consistent as it could be and I signalled my commitment to change that.
The work on developing a truly national entitlement that brings together a package of professional learning support that everyone will be entitled to and benefit from is already underway. The National Professional Learning Entitlement will be available from this September and co-construction with practitioners is progressing.
Our work on the evidence base (National approach to professional learning) to underpin the National Professional Learning Entitlement for all practitioners in our education system has shown us a range of areas in which improvements can be made. The independent reports we are publishing today (Education and skills planning and strategy), alongside previously published reviews in this area, are consistent in their findings that we must improve consistency of support across the country, visibility of support to practitioners, and our understanding of the impact of provision and support on practice at school level.
In response to this evidence base, we are taking a number of actions in the short term including:
- The National Resource: Evaluation and Improvement which we are publishing this week will provide support for school leaders and other partners;
- We are working with our middle tier partners on a clearer understanding of the impact of Professional Learning support and provision;
- We will undertake an independent review of the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).
- We are strengthening and extending the National Academy’s endorsement process for Leadership Professional Learning;
- We are strengthening quality assurance processes for wider Professional Learning;
- We will increase the number of Associates working with the National Academy;
- We are strengthening and clarifying the nationally available resource-base for Professional Learning, especially in relation to the opportunities represented by the new curriculum;
- We are working with unions, regional consortia and local authorities to ensure that Teaching Assistants get access to Professional Learning as part of the National Professional Learning Entitlement to ensure that the whole workforce can develop their skills and support the new curriculum.
As well as these immediate actions, we need to ensure that the system which supports our educational leaders is properly aligned and working to a common understanding of how we want the future to look for our schools across Wales. We will work with our middle tier partners to ensure that their respective roles are clearer, whether it’s in relation to the new curriculum, Professional Learning or school improvement.
Our school improvement guidance will be published at the end of June and will align understanding across the system of what good looks like – from the realisation of the new curriculum, to our focus on equity, to our future investment in schools. We will work with our middle tier partners including Local Authorities, Regional Consortia, Estyn and others to ensure all are clear on their respective contributions to the system, and that agencies who support leadership work in partnership to support leaders.
There is little doubt that the pandemic has had an impact on the experience of leadership and Professional Learning across our schools. For that reason, we will continue to work with our partners to enhance the support available to school leaders, teachers and the wider professional community realising the new curriculum in our schools.