Now they all want to join

4th July 2008 at 01:00
More than 90 schools have signed up to put a strategy tackling underperformance in Wales's schools to the test - double the amount originally envisaged
More than 90 schools have signed up to put a strategy tackling underperformance in Wales's schools to the test - double the amount originally envisaged.

Officials this week said demand to become a pilot school for the attainment-raising School Effectiveness Framework (SEF) this September has been so high they have had to draw up a reserve list.

SEF, which will be rolled out over four years, will trial two methods which allow schools and teachers to decide what outside help they want for improvements.

A crack team of heads will spread good practice and help schools within North Wales and the South East. A consortium approach will help develop training in the South West and Mid Wales.

The Assembly government said it had increased the number of pilot schools to ensure all sectors - including Welsh medium, faith and those of different socio-economic backgrounds - were well-represented. Twice as many "associate" heads and managers will start training this month than was previously envisaged.

TES Cymru first revealed the cross-local authority plans for SEF in January, a month before it was officially launched

It was first thought that the strategy could be a witch hunt of "coasting schools and teachers".

But according to teacher-representatives, schools have since warmed to the plans, blaming below-par performances on limited training opportunities.

At present there are huge variations in the performance of classroom, schools and LAs.

South Wales-based education expert David Reynolds, professor of education at Plymouth University, said the strategy would finally give teachers in Wales access to the good practice their England-based peers benefited from a decade ago.

Speaking in the Senedd last week, education minister Jane Hutt said it would tackle Wales's "long tail of underachievement" and help to realise the government's target of eradicating poverty by 2020.

With pound;5 million funding already pledged over four years, AMs were told it would end the "islands of effective good practice in schools".

Many in the profession see SEF as a chance to unlock talent. But fears still remain that funding might dry up after the pilots. There are also workload concerns.

Dr Phil Dixon, secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "The foundation phase pilots were well funded until it came to roll-out. Let's hope SEF will be better provided for."

AMs voted in the Senedd last week for an amendment to ensure teachers would not be undermined. Members carried a Tory motion, ensuring teachers the freedom to make their own professional judgements as the strategy is rolled-out.

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