Campaigner for Cymru

21st July 2000 at 01:00
John Andrews brings to the Welsh

teaching council a determination to boost the image of both Wales and teachers, writes Biddy Passmore

AT first glance the CV of Professor John Andrews, newly-appointed chairman of the General Teaching Council for Wales, suggests someone who has had little to do with either schools or schoolteachers.

It's true, he has been a school governor and chairman of a parent-teacher association - at Penglais comprehensive in Aberystwyth, the school attended by his two daughters. One of those two daughters has become a primary teacher. But otherwise his activities seem to have centred on post-school education.

Educated at Newport high school and Oxford University, Professor Andrews is an academic lawyer who became vice-principal of Aberystwyth University. His most recent post, from which he retired in mid-May, was chief executive of the Further and Higher Education Funding Councils for Wales. But that job is really three rolled into one and includes the functions carried out in England by the Teacher Training Agency. For the past eight years, John Andrews has in fact had the central responsibility for teacher recruitment and the funding and accreditation of initial teacher training in Wales.

He knows at first-hand the need to boost the image of teaching. "It's much the greatest educational challenge we face at the moment," he says, "to restore the self-esteem of teachers and develop public respect for teaching as a career."

Quite apart from his role in teacher training, he used his time at the top of further and higher education to keep in close contact with schools. Since the mid-90s, the Welsh funding councils have encouraged universities to develop links with schools that send very few pupils on to university. The result, he says, is that

unversities in Wales now have

a better record of attracting recruits from schools in poor areas than other UK institutions.

He is also proud of the part he played in recent moves to adapt adult programmes in basic skills for use in schools, as part of a vocational alternative for 14 to 16-year-olds who are unsuited to the national curriculum. One of the best features of such programmes, he says, is that they "give more scope to teachers to exercise their own initiative".

That kind of remark will be music to the ears of the 25,000 teachers in Wales who will come under the new council. Many feel ground down by poor funding and crumbling buildings in Wales - even if public esteem for teachers remains several notches higher.

According to Steve Martin, his successor at the Welsh funding councils, one of John Andrews' great achievements there was to demonstrate that Wales could run its own show - that the cynicism, especially in higher education - about Wales taking on the responsibility was misplaced.

Now Andrews and chief executive Gary Brace have to prove that Wales can run its own teaching council effectively. (The Welsh Assembly's management of the initial election and appointments process to the council has been criticised for confusion and delay.)

Professor Andrews is excited by his new job, which will occupy him for one or two days a week from September.

But it would be wrong to suggest that this 65-year-old is re-emerging from peaceful retirement. Since he left the Welsh funding councils in May, he has fitted in a week's holiday in Bologna but also spent "quite a bit of time" on another new role - as chairman of the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales.

There will always, you suspect, be a public body looking for John Andrews' services.

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