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Russell Hobby

Russell Hobby

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT writes about education policy, with a focus on how the profession can take back ownership of its own destiny



Welsh Challenges need Welsh Solutions and NAHT members are leading the way

It is always interesting to contrast the English and Welsh education systems – quite different approaches within a broadly similar culture help avoid some of the more naïve ‘policy tourism’ that often characterises comparisons between systems.

 In many ways, the debate in Wales is distinctly less toxic than it is in England.

See, for example, the Welsh Government’s new deal principles which aim to “support teachers, leaders and support staff with their professional development throughout their careers while raising the esteem in which they’re held”. Or the conclusions of the Donaldson Review of curriculum and assessment, which noted “legislative control and associated accountability mechanisms, have inhibited professionalism, agility and responsiveness in dealing with emerging issues, and have forced too-frequent political intervention in non-strategic matters.”

At one level, this suggests a recognition in policy of the true drivers of educational performance. At the practical level, however, Welsh educationalists struggle with many of the same issues as those in England. They are grappling with budget cuts, exacerbated here by an historically poor national funding settlement and by large variations in per pupil allocations between local authorities. They are struggling to link inspection to school improvement and with the controversial use of assessment data in accountability: the categorization proposals rather shockingly neglect to use value added measures of progress.

School leaders in Wales face structural reorganization from local authorities to consortia, which sometimes seems to result in more rather than less bureaucracy and they are trying to balance necessary front line autonomy with some sort of overarching framework of support and oversight. On top of this are the challenges of dealing with pay reforms which seem more about cost saving than recruitment and retention.

These problems are sometimes exacerbated by mistakes in implementation and communication, which can mean that otherwise well-meaning policies achieve less than they might. Earlier and more constructive engagement with the profession could help prevent this.

Engagement is not a one way street, of course. It seems to me that school leaders in Wales can either seize and champion specifically Welsh solutions to the challenges, using the cues available in government policy, or face the eventual imposition of quintessentially English solutions – solutions which are as cheap as they are ineffective and as seductive to policy makers as they are demotivating for professionals.

The NAHT way is to take responsibility for each other and take ownership of standards. This can involve some difficult positions, as professional credibility depends on recognizing and addressing challenges as well as celebrating successes – of doing unpleasant jobs well before someone else steps in and does them badly.

School leaders in Wales do not reject accountability, they seek ways to make it intelligent and proportionate; they do not fear greater freedom but want to prevent it from turning into fragmentation and competition. All this is up for grabs and NAHT, with its new Welsh Manifesto, can lead the way.

 

BLOG NEWYDD – Russell Hobby: “Mae Heriau Cymru’n gofyn am Atebion Cymreig ac mae aelodau’r NAHT yn arwain y ffordd.”

Mae hi bob amser yn ddiddorol cyferbynnu systemau addysg Cymru a Lloegr – mae dulliau eithaf gwahanol o fewn diwylliant gweddol debyg yn helpu osgoi rhai o’r enghreifftiau mwy naïf o ‘dwristiaeth polisi’ sy’n aml yn nodweddu cymariaethau rhwng systemau.

Mewn llawer ffordd, mae’r ddadl yng Nghymru yn amlwg yn llai gwenwynig nag yw hi yn Lloegr. Gweler, er enghraifft, egwyddorion bargen newydd Llywodraeth Cymru sy’n anelu at “gefnogi athrawon, arweinwyr a staff cymorth gyda’u datblygiad proffesiynol drwy gydol eu gyrfaoedd gan ddyrchafu’r parch sydd tuag atynt”. Neu gasgiadau Adolygiad Donaldson o’r cwricwlwm ac asesu, a nododd fod “rheolaeth ddeddwriaethol a mecanweithiau atebolrwydd cysylltiedig wedi llesteirio proffesiynoldeb, hyblygrwydd ac ymatebolrwydd wrth ymdrin â materion sy’n codi, ac wedi gorfodi ymyrraeth wleidyddol yn rhy aml mewn materion nad ydynt yn rhai strategol.”

Ar un lefel, mae hyn yn awgrymu cydnabyddiaeth mewn polisi o’r hyn sy’n gwir yrru perfformiad addysgol. Ar y lefel ymarferol, fodd bynnag, mae addysgwyr Cymru’n wynebu llawer o’r un anawsterau â’r rheini yn Lloegr. Maent yn ymlafnio gyda thoriadau mewn cyllidebau, a’r rheini’n waeth yma yn sgil setliad ariannol cenedlaethol hanesyddol wael ac amrywiadau mawr mewn dyraniadau fesul disgybl rhwng awdurdodau lleol a’i gilydd. Maent yn ei chael yn anodd cysylltu arolygu â gwella ysgolion, a gyda’r defnydd dadleuol o ddata asesiadau mewn atebolrwydd: mae’n peri sioc braidd fod y cynigion categoreiddio’n esguluso defnyddio mesurau o gynnydd sy’n ychwanegu gwerth.

Mae arweinwyr ysgolion yng Nghymru’n wynebu ad-drefnu strwythurol o awdurdodau lleol i gonsortia, sy’n ymddangos weithiau fel petai’n arwain at fwy yn hytrach nag at lai o fiwrocratiaeth ac maent yn ceisio cydbwyso ymreolaeth angenrheidiol ar y rheng flaen â rhyw fath o fframwaith cynhwysfawr o gymorth a goruchwyliaeth. Ar ben hyn mae’r heriau o ymdrin â diwygiadau tâl sy’n ymddangos fel petaent  yn cael eu gyrru’n fwy gan arbed costau na chan recriwtio a chadw.

Mae’r problemau hyn weithiau’n cael eu gwaethygu gan gamgymeriadau wrth weithredu a chyfathrebu, a all olygu bod polisïau a fyddai â bwriadau da fel arall yn cyflawni llai na’r hyn y gallent. Gallai cyd-drafod cynt a mwy adeiladol gyda’r proffesiwn helpu rhwystro hyn.

Nid ffordd un-cyfeiriad yw cyd-drafod, wrth gwrs. Ymddengys i mi y gall arweinwyr ysgolion yng Nghymru naill ai ddewis ac arddel atebion penodol Gymreig i’r heriau, gan ddefnyddio’r cyfleoedd sydd ar gael ym mholisi’r llywodraeth, neu wynebu atebion cwbl Seisnig yn cael eu gorfodi arnynt – atebion sy’n rhad ond aneffeithiol, ac sy’n ddeniadol i wneuthurwyr polisi ond sy’n dadrithio gweithwyr proffesiynol

Ffordd yr NAHT yw cymryd cyfrifoldeb drosom ein gilydd a hawlio cyfrifoldeb am safonau. Gall hyn olygu rhai sefyllfaoedd anodd, gan fod hygrededd proffesiynol yn dibynnu ar gydnabod heriau a mynd i’r afael â hwy yn ogystal â dathlu llwyddiannau – ar wneud tasgau annymunol yn dda cyn i rywun arall gamu i mewn a’u gwneud yn wael.

Nid yw arweinwyr ysgolion yng Nghymru’n gwrthod atebolrwydd, yr hyn a wnânt yw ceisio ffyrdd o’i wneud yn ystyrlon a chymesur; nid oes arnynt ofn mwy o ryddid ond mae arnynt eisiau ei rwystro rhag troi’n ymrannu a chystadlu. Mae hyn i gyd yn ein dwylo ni a gall NAHT, gyda’i faniffesto newydd ar gyer Cymru, arwain y ffordd.




29 October 2015