School reforms: Unions to stage protest rally in Cardiff

Rally for Education
Image caption Teachers, parents and school governors spoke at a similar Rally for Education in Manchester last month

Hundreds of people have attended a Cardiff rally held ahead of planned strike action over school changes.

Teachers' unions NASUWT and NUT are planning strike action in Wales over plans to end a national pay structure.

They also oppose Welsh government plans to observe teachers at work.

The UK government, which has responsibility for teachers' pay, said a new system will be fairer, while the Welsh government said its observation plan aims to raise standards.

The rally at Cardiff's Motorpoint arena on Saturday was one in a series jointly organised by the two teaching unions ahead of a one-day strike planned for north west England on 27 June.

A similar rally is taking place in Newcastle and the unions say more than 2,500 people have already attended events in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham.

The strikes are part of a rolling programme which will hit Wales in the autumn, the unions say.

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Media captionBernadette Hunter, NAHT president: "We do not have a failing system"

NASUWT Wales organiser Rex Phillips said: "Both governments were given a way of avoiding the action.

"In the case of Wales, the education minister was asked to adopt the Joint NASUWT/NUT performance management policy and to support publicly and make representation to the Westminster education minister for the suspension of the implementation of changes proposed to teachers' national terms and conditions.

"The Wales education minister has broadly ticked the box in the latter by calling for the maintenance of a single national pay structure for teachers across England and Wales and opposing the changes.

"However, on performance management the sticking point is around placing a limit on lesson observations. The unions remain hopeful of a resolution, as many school in Wales have already adopted the joint policy.

"If resolution is reached with the Welsh government, the rolling programme of strikes would roll past."

Owen Hathway, Wales policy officer at the NUT, who among an estimated 400 people at the rally, said the turnout at the Cardiff rally was "fantastic".

"I think it shows exactly how important this is, not just to teachers but to parents, pupils, governors and everyone who's interested in education," he added.

Neil Butler, head of humanities at Welshpool High School and a national executive member of the NASUWT, said he was concerned that Mr Gove "has an agenda to privatise education".

"Being in Wales and I teaching in Wales, to a certain extent offers me I hope and trust a little bit of protection because I think there's a different ethos in terms of Welsh education system - we're still more wedded to the idea of a state education system and I feel more protected by that," he said.

"Having said that, Leighton Andrews has been a severe disappointment to me as a teacher in Wales in terms of things he's doing.

"But the big issue is what Gove is doing so hopefully we can pull together in Wales and deal with that."

Pay structure

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Schools should have the freedom to reward teachers' good performance, so we are introducing a new pay system which will be much fairer than the current arrangements which see the vast majority of teachers automatically getting a pay rise each year.

"We have met frequently with the NUT and NASUWT to discuss their concerns and will continue to do so."

But a Welsh government spokesperson confirmed that Education Minister Leighton Andrews rejected the idea of performance related pay.

"The minister for education and skills has made it clear in his evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) that he does not believe a link between pay progression and performance is necessary where an effective system of managing performance is already in place.

"He has also consistently stated that we should retain a national pay structure for teachers in Wales and England."

However, the spokesperson added that the Welsh government was determined to improve standards by other means.

"There can be little argument that standards and performance in schools in Wales need to improve. The PISA results in 2010 along with evidence from Estyn and exam results confirm the urgency.

"The minister has put in place a number of measures to raise standards and performance in education across the board. We will continue to implement these measures to raise literacy and numeracy levels and cut the link between poverty and low attainment."

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