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Wales joins action call over 35-hour week

Labour's promise of a workload review is not enough for the Welsh teachers' union, reports Nic Barnard.

WELSH teachers have added their voice to the growing call for an urgent review of conditions in the profession. Members of UCAC, the Welsh teachers' union, voted unanimously at their annual conference to unite with the English classroom associations in threatening industrial action in pursuit of a 35-hour week.

The move comes even though the Government has already agreed to review workloads.

UCAC, which has 3,750 members, joins the National Union of Teachers, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which have all backed the same motion. The Department for Education and Employment today convenes the first meeting of a steering group of unions, employers and DFEE officials to oversee the workload review by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Edwyn Williams, UCAC general secretary, said it was vital to keep up the pressure. "Just starting something up isn't enough - we need results," he said The conference motion also cemented Wales into the process.

The conference in Aberystwyth last weekend also voiced concern about care and support for pupils with special needs in Welsh language schools.

Teachers say there are now too few Welsh-speaking educational psychologists to assess pupils whose first language is Welsh. Since reorganisation, some local authorities had become too small to support assessment teams and ensure a Welsh speaker, Mr Williams said. UCAC will call on them to pool resources in partnerships of three or four councils.

"Children can go a long time without support," Mr Williams said. "They should get the same support whichever language it is in."

On malicious allegations by pupils, UCAC members sought anonymity for accused teachers and demanded a three-week deadline for schools to deal with cases which had already been thrown out by the police or courts.

It follows the case of Welsh head Marjorie Evans - not a UCAC member - who was suspended for almost a year after the courts cleared her of slapping a pupil.

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