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Standards spark strike threat

Union vows to take action if new professional benchmarks are used `punitively' to limit teachers' pay rises

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Union vows to take action if new professional benchmarks are used `punitively' to limit teachers' pay rises

Revamped professional standards for teachers risk triggering strike action amid fears they will be used to punish classroom staff and limit pay rises, a union leader has warned.

The standards, published by the Welsh Government last week, are designed to clarify the expectations of teachers, school leaders and higher-level teaching assistants at each stage of their careers and to identify how they need to develop.

The Government said the previous arrangements did not support current educational priorities, such as improving literacy and numeracy, and were not widely used as part of daily practice in schools.

But during the consultation, the NASUWT warned of widespread strike action if their introduction led to "punitive monitoring regimes".

Rex Phillips, the union's Wales organiser, said that although the standards had been "softened" since the consultation, fundamental concerns remained. "The standards, as they are constructed, could become punitive and judgmental rather than aspirational and developmental," he said.

"They should only be used as a backdrop for performance management. We don't want to see a clipboard culture developing in classrooms.

"If we find that the standards are being used punitively to hold people back in terms of pay progression and so on, then we will ballot our members for strike action."

Other unions expressed concern that there were too many requirements. Teachers working in Wales must meet 55 practising teacher standards, compared to just 41 for those working in England.

Rebecca Williams, policy officer for Welsh-medium union UCAC, said the standards would be "unwieldy" as a basis for performance management.

ATL Cymru director Dr Philip Dixon said: "There are too many standards for teachers to be able to recall them all. They are mixing up what's aspirational and what's measurable. They need to be clear on what is expected of teachers, how it is measured and how they will be held to account. All too often this can become a tick-box exercise."

Gary Brace, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), said there were still some "significant shortcomings", such as the lack of separate standards for highly skilled classroom practitioners and middle-level leaders.

However, there was a warmer welcome for the revised leadership standards, which were cut from the proposed 176 requirements to just 66.

UCAC said they were now more "concise and focused" and the GTCW, which had labelled them "unfit for purpose", said it was encouraged that the Government had listened to its concerns.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "All comments received during our recent consultation on standards were considered carefully. Where appropriate these were incorporated in the final version of the standards.

"A consultation on revised performance-management procedures is still ongoing."

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