The University’s Newport City Campus is the base for a number of groups of students and staff who have a direct interest in the Education Workforce Council but I wonder to what extent and at what points in the course of study the EWC becomes ‘real’ to them?
The groups of interest are primary and secondary initial teacher training, post-compulsory teacher training and youth work student cohorts and their teaching staff. The latter two subjects have been latecomers to the party with Youth Workers being registered from April 2017 for the first time. In order to see what similarities and differences of view are held across the groups I spoke to the course leaders for each area at the City Campus.
I wanted to know when the EWC became ‘visible’ to students, what the positives and negatives of registration were perceived to be and what we could do to raise the profile of the EWC amongst our student cohorts. I started with the Youth Work subject area.
They presented me with a range of positive and negative feelings. On the positive front they perceived that registration of Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers (JNC)-recognised Youth Workers would raise their status and provide some equality with other professional groups. They foresaw registration as a means to raise the profile and identity of youth work as a profession. The application of the EWC fitness to practise requirements to Youth Workers was also viewed positively, providing some safeguarding of the profession. A further benefit was the opportunity to be recognised formally as having a direct link to education professionals, given that youth workers often work alongside teachers within school settings. Currently there are pockets of good practice with youth workers supporting schools with bullying and school phobia but this is very variable and often as a bolted-on youth club attached to a school. The work of youth workers is generally determined by a principal youth worker and can vary depending on their personal priorities; a strong central direction from a professional body and the potential for multi-professional working was viewed positively. On reflection I noted that at the university we provide opportunities for Youth Work and Social Work students to work together but haven’t widened the scope to include students from teacher training or other education courses.
Concerns were also expressed by the youth work team, including the need for youth work representation on governing bodies such as within EWC so that the the ‘voice’ of youth work is heard and is visible. There was some worry that registration of youth support workers who are not degree qualified could create a ‘race to the bottom’ where the least qualified workers are seen to be sufficient to be professionally recognised. There was some confusion as to the cross-border implication of registration as the JNC recognition of a youth worker is UK-wide whilst EWC is only for Wales. If someone is removed from the EWC Register in Wales, they ask, what are the implications for them working in England? A Code of Professional Ethics for the Youth Work Service exists within the JNC endorsing body in Wales, Education Training Standards Wales (ETS). Will this conflict with the EWC code of professional conduct and practice?
Colleagues from Welsh Government and the EWC have offered to come and speak to our youth work students on campus about the EWC, we have included sections on the EWC in placement practice manuals for students and we will further embed sections on the EWC code of practice in our modules where we can explain and differentiate between the different codes mentioned earlier.
Moving to the initial teacher training courses, the secondary course leader explained that students are not very aware of the full remit of the EWC until well into their final year. Prior to this they are aware of the EWC from the media as a disciplinary or regulatory body. The engagement with the EWC would probably benefit from a more on-going contact during their studies. Staff put a link to the EWC in student handbooks but would like to see more on the importance for students in training to have an awareness of its work. Some students secure jobs in England in their final year these see little relevance for the EWC.
For the primary team, the EWC is introduced to the students as part of the professional development module in December of their final year alongside information on NQT and induction awareness. Staff awareness of the EWC could also be improved and there is a willingness from the EWC and university staff to improve this picture.
For the post-compulsory teacher training staff this was a relatively new experience with their students who were working or seeking to work in further education colleges being registered for the first time in April 2015. They welcomed the opportunity for policy makers to have a good understanding of the numbers employed in FE and their qualifications. They highlighted some concerns. Firstly that registration is not related to a qualification with anyone teaching in FE requiring registration with or without a teaching qualification. They hoped to see a legal requirement for all FE teachers in Wales to have a recognised teaching qualification in the near future. A linked issue was that many of those teaching in post-compulsory age settings were not covered by the registration as it only applies to further education colleges. This presents a challenge for the team in explaining the work of the EWC to a group of students who may or may not be required to register; some again may go to work in England. It was clear to me that for this group and for many of the other groups of staff and students affected by the EWC registration we have to do more to promote and clarify the work of the EWC to our students and staff.