Praise for the Welsh spirit

13th October 2006 at 01:00
A teachers' leader has praised Welsh politicians for daring to be different on education.

Philip Parkin, who took over as general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers in January, was making his first official visit to Wales last week. He met members at meetings in Swansea, Newtown, Wrexham and Colwyn Bay.

In an exclusive interview with TES Cymru, Mr Parkin said he was impressed with a lot of things happening with education in Wales.

He said: "Getting rid of key stage tests has been welcomed by teachers and I only wish they would follow suit in England. We applaud the Assembly government for its independence of thought.

"As an organisation that believes in putting children first, we welcome any diminution of the current severe testing regime."

Mr Parkin, a former primary school deputy head in Grimsby, also praised the decision to scrap performance tables for schools in Wales.

"That's another thing we have begged the Government to do in England, but it has refused. The tables are based on skewed evidence which produces winners and losers. These tables cause great anxiety and concern to teachers and heads."

Mr Parkin also praised the new foundation phase which is being introduced in Wales for pupils aged three to seven.

"This will concentrate on learning through experience and play," he said.

"These children will not start their formal education as early as before.

This is very much in line with our thinking as an association and tends to be what already happens in Europe."

But Mr Parkin warned there was a potential threat to teachers' pay and conditions from having education devolved to Wales.

He acknowledged that the current Assembly government was not minded to take responsibility for teachers' pay and conditions, which currently rests with Westminster. But next year's Assembly elections could lead to changes.

And he warned that divorcing England and Wales for pay and conditions may eventually lead to lower salary levels for Welsh staff, because of Wales being a lower wage economy than England.

He went on: "If it were to happen, this could be a problem along the length of the border between England and Wales, with school staff opting to work where salaries would be higher."

Mr Parkin also called for a national structure of pay and conditions for support staff in schools. And he repeated PAT's call for anonymity for teachers facing allegations of abuse until they are actually charged with a criminal offence. Currently, newspapers print allegations which may later prove to be spurious, he said.

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