NAHT Cymru - Analysis - Promise of no more red tape keeps minister in headteachers' good books

10th October 2008 at 01:00

The mood of headteachers at the conference was captured perfectly. It wasn't an emotional statement from the floor, or even a soundbite, but a spontaneous round of applause and almost universal sighs of relief as Jane Hutt, Wales's education minister, promised there would be no new initiatives in the foreseeable future.

Ordinarily, such a remark might raise inevitable accusations of inaction. But Ms Hutt said she was aware heads were now very weary of the raft of unrelenting education initiatives with which they had been bombarded since devolution. Those in the audience were obviously battle weary.

Repeating the message she first gave to the teaching profession through TES Cymru this summer, Ms Hutt said the coming year would be one of implementation and consolidation. "I appreciate how demanding innovation and change can be, especially for a busy headteacher," she said.

She praised heads for their commitment and leadership over the past year, and also NAHT Cymru for its "invaluable contribution" to the foundation phase debate. The union was the first to voice concern over inadequate funding levels of the play-led scheme in autumn last year. Earlier this year, the government admitted it had got its sums wrong. Hopes are pinned on the promise of more money.

But much of her speech covered the school effectiveness framework (SEF), now being piloted in 96 schools and seen as the answer to underperformance in some schools and authorities.

She said the framework was recognition that system changes at all levels are needed to improve education. The programme will only work if there is true commitment to tri-level reform - schools, local authorities and the government working together.

"No longer can we see islands of good practice in our schools - we want to see the good work you deliver in schools shared," she said. It is a line she uses often to good effect. In answer to a question over extra workload and red tape, Ms Hutt said the framework was not about creating another layer of bureaucracy.

"It has got to deliver you the outcomes - it's for you and the children you are teaching, not for the government," she said.

She told heads what they wanted to hear. Despite growing discontent with working conditions, she is proving to be a popular minister.

"The key to us realising our vision for SEF is supporting headteachers in your day-to-day role," she said. "We are trying to improve education based on evidence and best practice."

She ended with delegates generally on side as she admitted it had been a "difficult" year. This was appeasement at its best, with turbulent times ahead.

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