The independence of the Education Workforce Council

30 May

The Welsh Government has recently opened a consultation on the appointment process for the Education Workforce Council.

The establishment of the Education Workforce Council is something that I supported. I think such a body, recognising the role of the whole workforce, is needed in reflecting the roles of the teaching profession as well as wider school support staff.  I’ve blogged on the rise in numbers of teaching assistants in the past.  With those individuals having a great role in school performance it is right they are regulated through a professional body. However, it has increasingly become clear that there will be a lack of support for this body from the profession if it fails to offer genuine democratic accountability. That is the current fear with the ministerial veto that is being built into the legislation allowing any Welsh Education Minister to be able to handpick who he or she wants to sit on the council.

Given the vitally important role the Education Workforce Council will play, it seems totally inadequate to have a situation whereby those education staff required to register with it do not feel that they have ownership of it. It simply cannot succeed if it is a body that is imposed on the profession rather than one working with and for it. The notion that the membership of the Education Workforce Council should be by ministerial appointment alone is totally unacceptable. The very perception this creates is in itself a threat to the future of the body. You can very well accept, or not, the good will of the current Welsh Government and Education Minister that the system will not be abused. However, there are no guarantees, and what is more there cannot be any guarantees given, that future governments and future ministers will not abuse this privilege.

How can the education workforce have any confidence in a body that is so clearly open to political manipulation and influence? How can teachers or support staff have faith in the decision-making of this body when they know that individuals can be appointed or removed at the whim of a minister?

We must also be wary of the dangerous precedent this sets, not just for education services, but for the wider appointments process within the public sector. Do we really want our national institutions to be so easily subjected to bias? A place where if your face doesn’t fit your credentials do not matter?

For a truly effective workforce group we must demand that it is open, transparent and vitally, accountable to those it is there to oversee. It is crucial that this is an independent council. I firmly believe the membership of the council should be determined via a process of election to ensure democratic accountability that secures the trust and support of the profession. Establishing a board via ministerial appointment will be met with scepticism and open to accusations that it is politically biased and lacks impartiality. There appears very little clear rationale for this structure other than to instil a political bias which will neither serve to enhance the reputation of the body or the incumbent Minister.

There is an opportunity to create a positive body here that will both ensure high standards and promote the professionalism of the education workforce. If we allow that to be corrupted from the very outset we do not only do an injustice to our school staff but also to the children and parents of Wales.

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8 Responses to “The independence of the Education Workforce Council”

  1. Nia Julou June 2, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    You dont know what you are talking about. I strongly advise you do more research into this matter before write misleading rubbish in your blog. The Council that already is in place for teachers (GTCW) gets the majority of its members in the same way as what the Welsh Government proposes – there is no difference and this has worked well.

    • hath53 June 4, 2014 at 7:42 am #

      Hi Nia,

      Thanks for the comment. As far as I am aware there is not a single appointment to the GTCW that is made by the Minister as is being proposed with the EWC?

      • Nia Julou June 12, 2014 at 9:31 am #

        Actually there is, looking at the regulations that govern the General Teaching Council for Wales the Council is made up of 25 members. The 25 members are broken down as 12 elected; 9 nominated by organisation entitle to under schedule 1 of the regulations and 4 are directly appointed. Welsh Ministers makes the appointments for both nominated and directly appointed members.

        13 members of the current GTCW are appointed in the same way as what the Welsh Government are proposing for the new Council. The only difference is that members are no longer elected.

        Again you don’t know what you are talking about.

      • hath53 June 12, 2014 at 10:16 am #

        Hi Nia,

        Thanks for your almost polite reply.

        There is currently a consultation open on this issue. http://wales.gov.uk/docs/dcells/consultation/140509-proposed-arrangments-for-the-appointment-of-members-of-the-education-workforce-council-consultation-document-en.pdf

        As you will see it states that “the Act gives the Welsh Ministers the function of appointing Council members. The Act also gives the Welsh Ministers the power to make regulations relating to the eligibility of persons who can be appointed and the procedure for such
        appointments.”

        To me that is a significant change and one that indeed does create a political bias that will not further the reputation of any Minister or council. I fear we will lose the independence of this body and it will not be one that holds the confidence of the profession. I know these concerns are widley shared within the education sector.

  2. Nia Julou June 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    I can see you concerns here, but the consultation also states that a public appointment process would be followed in the same way as the Welsh Government follows for all its other appointments to public bodies. Usually, the appointment panel (including an independent person) will sift and then interview candidates based on information provided in their applications. Then and only then would members be selected and recommended to Welsh Ministers for appointment.

    The process is open and fair and that why its the chosen route for making public appointments. There will be no bias in the select process and Welsh Minister have no control on the shortlist of candidates. Candidates are selected on they own merit.

    Welsh Ministers made the last public appointment to the GTCW in 2010, there should be a press release on the Welsh Government website for to see.

    • hath53 June 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      Perhaps. As I say in the post I am not accusing the current education Minister of seeking to abuse a position. However, I think there is a genuine concern that in creating a system run by Ministerial appointment there is the potential for it to be politically motivated. Even if that doesn’t happen I think the fact that it will be perceived to be politically motivated creates a lot of problems for the body in securing the confidence of the sector, which with the inclusion of support staff, is a wider group than before.

      • Nia Julou June 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

        I think we need to come away from thinking that they Welsh Ministers appoint anyone who they think would do the job for them. As I stated earlier, the public appointment process is open and fair and all candidates wishing to be considered for appointment must complete an application then sit a formal interview.

        The choice of words used in your blog is misleading and is seen as scare mongering especially to though who are not clued up on how such processes like public appointments work.

      • hath53 June 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

        I’m not sure that is a fair criticism Nia. I have made it very clear in the blog that I am not accusing the Minister of such a thing as appointing anyone he wants to do a job for him. The reality is that this is the perception people have of what COULD happen to the system. We have in the past seen appointments through the public appointments procedure that have been questioned. There has to be confidence in the system and I’m not sure how the EWC is being set up fully establishes that.

        I also think “scaremongering” is an odd accusation when I am really just articulating what numerous trade unions/GTCW representative and other individuals have been openly saying.

        Thanks as always for engaging in the blog mind. Comments agreeing or disagreeing always welcome.

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