'Reliance on supply teachers' hitting pupil progress in Wales
3:50pm Tuesday 17th September 2013 in News
PUPIL progress in Wales is being hindered by teacher absence and a reliance on supply teachers, according to two reports published today by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) and Estyn.
The bodies found that arrangements for covering teachers’ absence in Welsh schools do not support pupils’ progress sufficiently, nor provide the best use of resources.
The WAO suggested that by reducing levels of teacher sickness absence in Welsh schools to the levels in England, 60,000 fewer days' cover would be required, potentially saving £9 million a year, and called for the Welsh Government, councils and schools to do more to monitor the impact of supply work on pupils.
The reports suggest an increased involvement of supply teachers and cover staff in the delivery of pupils’ education, with just under 10 per cent of lessons covered by staff who are not the usual class teacher.
The Estyn report, published in response to a request for advice from the minister for education, found that pupils make less progress when their usual class teacher is absent and their behaviour is often worse.
In most primary schools, short-term cover is usually provided by staff who are employed at the school, but in secondary schools, in a teacher's absence the work set is often too undemanding and does not engage pupils, Estyn found, with 11 to 14 year-olds more likely to have their learning disrupted.
The WAO report, produced as part of the Auditor General’s programme of "value for money studies" for the National Assembly for Wales, found that maintained schools in Wales spent an estimated £54 million on classroom supply cover in 2011/12, an increase of seven per cent since 2008/9.
Both reports contain recommendations, including improving the management of cover arrangements in schools, and improving the quality of teaching in covered lessons.
NUT Wales Policy Officer, Owen Hathway, said: "This is a crisis in education standards. It is really time for local authorities and the Welsh Government to look closely at the practices of supply agencies and the impact they are having on the teaching workforce in Wales and, by default, the education of pupils."
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