Behaviour topped the agenda at Easter teachers' conferences, but is largely ignored in the Assembly government's latest strategy, reports Karen Thornton
Pupil behaviour was uppermost in delegates' minds at this week's teaching union conferences.
But the subject is barely mentioned in the Assembly government's revised education programme to 2010, despite the first rise in permanent expulsions in Wales in three years and massive increases in short-term exclusions for threats and violence.
Geraint Davies, secretary of the NASUWT Cymru, said he was disappointed that The Learning Country 2 (TLC2) had not given behaviour the attention it deserved.
He said: "Teachers are very concerned about the poor and unacceptable behaviour of pupils. It is a more important concern to teachers than the workload agreement and even their pay.
"If we can't tackle violent and abusive behaviour in schools, we are not going to tackle the issue of under-achievement in a certain cohort of pupils."
Three of the top six balloted motions at the NASUWT's conference this week were on behaviour.
Brian Rowlands, secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, said: "We would wish to see an increased emphasis on the behaviour and respect agenda alongside imp-roved home-school support to enable improving achievement to be secured."
But overall, he said the ASCL, formerly the Secondary Heads Association, strongly supported the "ambitious" agenda of TLC2.
An Assembly government spokesperson said behaviour disorders were covered in sections of TLC2 dealing with additional and special educational needs.
Other developments, to do with the Assembly government's own review of behaviour and attendance and behaviour issues covered by the Education and Inspections Bill currently before Parliament, had not been agreed when TLC2 went to print.
"We will be looking to include more on this in the final version of the document," she added.
The 59-page bilingual TLC2 builds on the strategy of the Assembly government's original 2001 Learning Country document, and sets out revised targets for improvement by 2010. It is out for consultation until June 30.
Jane Davidson, education, lifelong learning and skills minister, renewed her government's commitment to a comprehensive school system in Wales.
Speaking at the launch last week of TLC2 at Hawthorn high school, Pontypridd, she said: "This is an anti-competitive agenda. This is about a collaborative approach to delivery, to ensure that the learner is the person who benefits."
However, sharp-eyed teachers have already noted changes of emphasis in some sections, compared to the old document.
While both still talk of "supporting" education practitioners, the references in 2001 to "the sustained promotion of practitioners'
professional standing" have gone.
Instead, TLC2 says that teachers, college lecturers, classroom assistants and others "need to be both challenged and supported". Teachers of the future need to be more flexible and able to work across a range of subjects, age-groups, and settings - from schools and colleges to workplaces, it says.
This would fit in with the philosophy of the Assembly government's 14-19 learning pathways reforms, which envisage a more flexible and broader curriculum for teenagers, offering more vocational and work-based course choices.
Ms Davidson said Wales's teachers were of the highest quality so far, and that standards were up across the board.
She said the launch of TLC2 marked an "historic day for Wales", with realistic targets more clearly linked to the strategies and funding needed to deliver them.
"TLC2 is about the aspirations we have for our children and young people as they face the challenges ahead in the 21st century, and how we can help them make a success of their lives," she said.
Future of 14-19 sector 4 DIARY 15