The politician responsible for Wales' schools has said she accepts all the recommendations of a body calling for changes to teachers' pay and conditions - but won't do anything about it if it will cost money.

Wales' new education minister Lynne Neagle was responding to an independent review commissioned by the Welsh Government which makes a raft of recommendations on teachers’ working hours, conditions and pay. She said she would only implement the recommendations if they were "cost neutral".

Unions and headteachers’ representatives reacted angrily saying no improvements would be cost free and the Welsh Government needed to "get a grip" if it was serious about improving education. Teacher pay and conditions have been devolved since 2018.

The lengthy report from the Independent Welsh Pay Review Body doesn’t suggest a figure for pay apart from recommending a minimum £61,000 for headteachers. But the 26 recommendations do include cost implications such as the proposal to implement a specified maximum number of teaching hours per week and developing a workload reduction plan . You can read about the benefits of a four day week identified by the Welsh Government here

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The IWPRB report looked at teachers’ and leaders’ pay and conditions in Wales and proposed improvements. It was commissioned by former Education Minister Kirsty Williams in 2021. Since then unions say matters have got more pressing with schools under ever more pressure with declining pupil behaviour and absence as well as extra work created by reforms, the effects of the pandemic and the funding crisis.

The report suggests reducing the working time of teachers, to ensure that by September 2027 there is full adherence to limits set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998 and says there should be no detriment when compared with working hours in England. Time for teacher planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) should also be reviewed and the Welsh Government should consider flexible working and unpaid sabbaticals and career breaks for teachers and school leaders.

The report also recommends a single pay scale for teachers and additional payments for excellence and the leading practitioner roles. Education Minister Lynne Neagle welcomed the report saying she accepted all its recommendations in principle, subject to consultation, but warned none could be acted on in the medium term unless there was no extra cost.

“Many of the recommendations have financial implications, therefore an important aspect of considering their impact and delivery will be affordability in the difficult financial situation faced by Welsh Government, local authorities and schools.," the minister said.

“Given these financial pressures, the implementation of any of the recommendations in the short to medium term will only occur where they can be shown to be either cost neutral or are able to be met from existing budgets.”

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Headteachers said this was not good enough.. Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru said: “For the Cabinet Secretary to say that recommendations made by IWPRB will only be implemented where they can be shown to be either cost neutral or are able to be met from existing budgets, completely undermines the lengthy, independent review that is taking place.

“School budgets are already stretched to breaking point. It is completely unrealistic to suggest that this is a crisis that can be fixed on the cheap, and these comments will be of no comfort to school leaders battling financial pressures and staff shortages. The Welsh Government needs to get a grip on the situation and demonstrate that they value the education workforce.”

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the Nasuwt, echoed her comments saying: “The majority of teachers are reporting high levels of work-related stress and demoralisation, with the consequence that many will simply leave the profession if the Government does not get a grip of the situation. Ensuring high educational standards depends on a workforce that is supported and has the time and capacity to do the job.

“If the Government wants to prove they are serious, we need to see meaningful proposals that will be implemented urgently in response to the challenges faced by teachers today.”

Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official for Wales, said that after months of delay, the Strategic Review is not what teachers had been hoping for: “We have been seeking to engage with the Welsh Government for five years to achieve progress on workload reduction. The previous Education Minister promised to get a grip on the problem, but the Government failed to deliver any meaningful changes for classroom teachers.

“We have long argued for the creation of a single pay scale for teachers. The Review Body’s proposals for additional payments for excellence and the leading practitioner role offers no compensation for experienced classroom teachers who have seen their real terms pay in freefall over the last decade.”

The IWPRB report is going out for consultation.. Responsibility for teachers’ pay and conditions was devolved to the Welsh Government in 2018. Talks for next year’s pay deal are about to begin.

Teachers secured a bigger deal after a successful teachers’ strike and headteachers’ work to rule last year.#