Teacher Talk

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The Independent Online

Mal Davies, 53, has been head teacher of Willows High School in Cardiff for 10 years. He is a member of the NUT and deputy chair of the General Teaching Council for Wales

Have Welsh schools been hit by any of the budget problems affecting English schools?

However bad you think it is in England, it's worse in Wales. Funds are not hypothecated for education so local authorities can spend them on what they like, and often decide there are priorities outside education. We have 22 authorities in Wales and between the authority paying the most per pupil per year and the authority paying the least, there is a difference of more than £1,000 per pupil. And all the amounts are less than England's getting. We fare very badly in Cardiff - just below the average for Wales. Yet we are a capital city and ought to be compared with moderately sized cities in England rather than rural Wales. The building stock of schools is in a dreadful state in Wales - millions of pounds of repairs are needed.

I hear that Wales is experiencing problems with recruiting and retaining staff.

That's right. I think the most alarming problem is the lack of Welsh second-language teachers. We've been forced to appoint primary-school teachers who happen to speak Welsh. I feel this is doing a disservice to the Welsh language but we are obliged by law to teach it right through the school. With the best will in the world these teachers are trying to deliver Welsh in an inspiring way but are only just getting to grips with the skills of language-teaching. The General Teaching Council for Wales has just identified shortfalls in specific subjects. These figures should be used to ensure we are recruiting enough trainees in all subjects. Science is a particular problem. Then there is the lack of applications for senior management positions - for many the responsibilities are deemed to be a step too far in the work/life balance.

How do you feel about school tests at 11 and 14?

We are very pleased that the Assembly listened to teachers' objections about the inappropriateness of testing for seven-year-olds, and hope they will continue to listen to our arguments for removing key stages 2 and 3. League tables and tests mean that schools have been teaching "to the test" which produces a narrow and uninspiring curriculum. With tests removed teachers can follow the natural flow of pupil interest. To be fair to Jane Davidson [the Welsh Education Minister], she consulted widely on this matter. Teachers are feeding back positively about the removal of tests at seven.

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