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Culture shock brewing

Explosive government plans target 'coasting schools and teachers' for radical action.

Wales's worst-performing schools and classrooms are the major targets of a five-year shake-up of teaching standards at the chalk face.

TES Cymru has obtained a draft Assembly government document giving in-depth details of potentially explosive plans, with "coasting schools and teachers" on the hit list.

The document, due to be officially published later this month, says children in Wales do not have an equal chance to fulfil their potential at school. In the report, blame is placed on significant variations in the performance of schools - and especially between classrooms - across the nation.

The effectiveness plans aim to narrow the gap under the paper's tradition-breaking proposals, giving schools more ownership and control over their destiny, but also placing their performance under greater scrutiny, something which is likely to prove unpopular.

The plans, called the National Effectiveness Framework for Wales, will be unleashed this spring. A crack team of headteachers - two full and three part-time - has already been seconded to the Assembly government to pull together the reforms at school level.

An insider said: "This is huge. It will mean a complete culture change. School are going to be asked to work in ways they never thought possible, based on everyone co-operating together."

Wales is to be carved up into four regions for the pilot scheme, starting this May. Forty-eight schools will trial two different approaches.

In the first, a high-achieving head, called an associate, will spend 60 days a year working on school effectiveness, paid for by the Assembly government.

After an initial 10-day course, part of their new role will include working with four to 10 heads from "family schools" on plans for their own improvement. They will also have to report on the current performance of schools under them, some of whom might be located in another local authority.

Under the second arrangement, a "consortium" will have to produce approved attainment-raising plans for the area. Local authorities will also come under increased pressure to perform. It is hoped improvements will be seen in one year.

The document stresses the framework simply pulls together existing initiatives. It says heads should have more dedicated time to prepare plans and the work-life balance of staff should not be affected.

But there were already fears this week that a growing mistrust between schools and local authorities could jeopardise the proposals.

David Hytch, North Wales secretary for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said during a workshop at the North of England Education Conference in Barry last week that lack of trust between the different services was deep-seated. And a cultural shift in attitudes was needed to improve relations - especially on child-protection issues.

Andrew Henderson, head of Ysgol Hen Felin in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and Chris Britten, primary head of Ysgol Penybont in Bridgend, are working full-time on the project. Conferences are scheduled over the next few months - two in Cardiff, one in Llandudno and another in Builth Wells.

The plans hail from the reforming work of Steve Marshall, out-going director of the government's department for children, education lifelong learning and skills.

Mr Marshall recently announced his departure to become deputy education minister of the Ontario provincial government in Canada. He leaves at the end of March.

Leader, page 28.

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