GTC launches consultation after review omission. Felicity Waters reports
The General Teaching Council for Wales has launched a major consultation exercise to ensure teachers' views are included in the debate about the future shape of their profession. Over the next three months every teacher in Wales will be asked about the role they see themselves playing in schools that could be open to more people, for longer than ever before.
The consultation was launched after the role of teachers was not included in a policy review of the "School of the Future", undertaken by the Assembly's education and lifelong learning committee.
Disappointed by the omission, the GTCW has now sparked its own debate to enable teachers to contribute to future policy. "It is teachers who will lead, as well as manage learning in the schools of the future," said Mal Davies, the GTCW's chair.
"The future look of schools is high on the political agenda at the moment and we want teachers to take ownership of the issue."
The consultation paper aims to identify key trends in education and their potential impact on teaching. Teachers are being told that with education "the key driver of economic competitiveness", and schools increasingly responsible for producing a more innovative and creative workforce, their contributions to the debate are crucial. All registered teachers in Wales, as well as all teacher trainers, student teachers and members of teachers'
unions, will be asked for their views which will then be presented to the Welsh Assembly.
Karen Evans, policy and planning manager at the GTCW, said: "As we have seen, schools are already, and will increasingly, be called upon to adopt a wider role, not only for children and young people but for the wider community. It is our responsibility as the voice of the profession in Wales to ensure that teachers' views are heard, and that teachers themselves engage in the debate about their own future."
Education and lifelong learning minister Jane Davidson said she welcomed the GTCW's consultation and would be interested to see the results.
Current UK policy initiatives are focusing on the importance of schools as "social glue" and "power houses of community regeneration". Wales is following suit with the development of more out-of-hours learning programmes for both pupils and the wider community. Willows high school in Cardiff, where Mal Davies is the headteacher, is at the forefront of the Assembly government's commitment to community-focused activity and out-of-hours learning.
He said that with good organisation teachers need not be overworked. "We have different teams of teachers working at different times, with some working before school hours and others after school," he said.
"In the most challenging areas, we must find a way of breaking the cycle of deprivation by convincing families and the community to play a more positive role in the school and in children's education generally."
But the idea of making schools into open-all-hours "community learning resources" has been criticised by some, who fear that what is already done voluntarily by teachers will soon become accepted practice, with no extra pay or resources.
Extra-curricular activities are not new and many schools already provide out-of-hours learning for children in the form of sports and drama activities, and holiday clubs.
Janet Hayward, head at Barry Island primary school in the Vale of Glamorgan, already runs a breakfast club and after-school club for children, which makes the school day almost 10 hours long.
She says she is happy to take overall responsibility for the activities because they are run by her own support staff and are a seamless part of the school day.
But she added: "The school day is already very full and heads can only take on so much."
"The whole notion of wrap-around provision is to be applauded and the possibilities for using the school for the community are endless, but it can only be done if it is properly funded and resourced, and if areas most in need are targeted with that funding."