We must watch over our rights

11th April 2008 at 01:00
Are teaching staff in Wales suffering from "excessive and stressful monitoring" (see page 1), as the teaching union the NASUWT Cymru claims? And, if so, is this a necessary evil in the quest to improve the quality of teaching?

In England, teachers cannot be observed for more than three hours every year. But heads can still drop in on teachers without notice - a practice condemned by unions, and not usually the norm in Wales.

The teaching profession in Wales needs to be consulted over lesson observation, and clear regulations drafted by the Assembly government. That way, everyone knows where they stand.

Increased teacher observation appears inevitable as the school effectiveness framework beds down in Wales. Under the strategy's bid to close the attainment gap between classrooms - said to be five times greater than between schools - the need for consistency in teaching quality and the spreading of good practice will make this a given.

Frank Ciccotti, head of Pembroke School, is in no doubt that teachers have to come under the microscope more in Wales. He believes lessons should be observed regularly - and unannounced. With many pupils now being asked to give lesson feedback, it seems only right that senior colleagues be afforded the same opportunity.

However, the amount of monitoring needs to be fair and teachers should not feel as if they are in a fishbowl. The big obstacle appears to be the thorny issue of pay and its links to teaching performance.

In England, the two are clearly linked, but this is still a grey area in Wales, where performance management is devolved to the Assembly government. Achievement of chartered teacher status, for example, will not lead directly to higher pay. But the rewards could be reaped indirectly. At the very least, it seems that more clarity is needed.

Teachers may not like being placed under increased scrutiny, but it is something they will probably have to stomach in the noble cause of raising standards. It is to be hoped that procedures will be backed up with some protective regulations. It is time the Assembly government sat down around the table with the profession to that end.

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