Ready to collapse with the changes

24th June 2005 at 01:00
Are we cursed to live in interesting times? It seems the number of challenges has increased to such an extent that we must now take stock and consider if we have arrived at the point of overload.

In Wales, some of the changes have been beneficial: the demise of national tests for 11-year-olds was warmly received. But we now face the seemingly more difficult task of monitoring and further developing teacher assessment. Due to lack of trust, a complicated system of supervision, using Year 7 teachers, is envisaged as well as further diagnostic tests for Y5.

Schools piloting the new play-based foundation stage for three to seven-year-olds are already experiencing exciting but also problematic changes. For teachers trained since the introduction of the national curriculum, it almost amounts to total re-training.

Along with the demands of managing a greater number of adults in the classroom, and the difficulties some schools face through lack of physical space to provide for the activities, this is a major change.

The workforce agreement is the most unsettling challenge at present, with some schools still trying to manage the 24 tasks and restrictions on hours allowed to cover. Allocation of time for headship is still a matter for debate, and governors are struggling to set aside an equitable amount without guidance.

Changing the roles of non-teaching staff and allocating staff and salaries is another big change. Again, we await suitable guidance, and are expected to deliver by a non-negotiable time.

To add to our woes, we are now required to abolish management allowances in favour of teaching and learning responsibility points. In the middle of a financial year, we are demotivating staff by telling them they do not qualify for a new point - but still paying them for the next 30 months. To compound matters further, we will not have the finances to pay other members of staff who are qualified to deliver, and thereby demotivate them as well.

All this at a time when some education authorities are considering amalgamations and school closures. We are being told that initiative overload is now recognised and efforts have been made to slow it down, but it is hard to see how this is being addressed.

Please stop, before the initiatives load collapses.

Gwilym Jones is head of Ysgol Y Wern in Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot

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