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Sharron Lusher - Setting pay and conditions for school teachers in Wales: how does it all work?

September 2021 Sharron LusherThe Independent Welsh Pay Review Body (IWPRB) was established in March 2019 as an independent body with the responsibility for making recommendations to the Welsh Government on the pay and conditions of school teachers and leaders in Wales. The IWPRB reports to the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language in Wales.

The setting of pay and conditions of service for school teachers and leaders in both England and Wales was the responsibility of the Westminster Government’s Secretary of State for Education until 30 September 2018. This responsibility for teachers and leaders in Wales was transferred to the Welsh Ministers from 30 September 2018.

The IWPRB presented its third report to the Minister in May 2021. In presenting this report, we wanted to express our thanks to teaching staff, leaders and others for their huge contribution in supporting children both in schools and remotely during the pandemic, rising to the challenges of this unprecedented time.

So, what does the IWPRB do, and how does the process work?

The IWPRB consists of myself, as Chair, and seven members, all recruited through the public appointments process. Every year, the Minister for Education issues us with a Remit Letter. This prescribes the matters that we should consider, and tells us when our recommendations need to be submitted to the Minister. This year, the Minister asked us to consider pay range levels for 2021, and other matters, including, for example, the consideration as to whether the current TLR arrangements are working effectively, the role and remuneration of unqualified teachers, and the impact of time management matters.

The IWPRB is an independent body – independent from government and independent from any other representative organisation. The process for developing recommendations is evidence based. We consult with various bodies on the matters in the Remit Letter that we have been asked to consider. Consultees include trade unions, professional associations, the Welsh Local Government Association, associations representing school governors, the Welsh Government.

We also seek out a wide variety of evidence from statistical information sources. This may include issues relating to the economy, such as inflation rates, annual earnings for varying professions, national and international earning comparators, teacher and leader recruitment and retention to name but a few. We are supported in our work by an independent secretariat, provided by the EWC, who manage the process itself, arranging meetings, sending out information and supporting the provision of statistical information.

Consultees provide us with written evidence on matters contained in the Remit Letter – the 'written evidence' stage. Following receipt of written evidence, all submissions received are circulated amongst consultees, who have the opportunity to comment upon each other’s evidence – the 'supplementary evidence' stage.

The evidence is analysed by the IWPRB, who then meet with representatives of each consultee body – the “oral evidence” stage. At these meetings, the evidence is discussed and following this, the IWPRB may request additional evidence which it feels may be pertinent to its analysis. In addition, we visit a selection of schools every year, in order to meet with teachers and leaders to listen to their views, and provide a context for the evidence received from consultees.

Finally, we develop conclusions and recommendations, and write our report for the Minister. The Minister considers the recommendations we have made, and then determines whether he will accept the recommendations. He publishes his proposed decisions in the form of a consultation, and following the completion of the consultation period, makes his final determinations.

The devolution of responsibility for teachers’ and leaders’ pay and conditions of service comes at a time when the face of education in Wales is changing. A nation’s economic prosperity, social cohesion and well-being are built on the foundations of a strong and successful education system. Education – our national mission pays testament to this. But such a system “can only be achieved with a high-quality education workforce that is vibrant, engaged and committed to continuous learning for all, and it is Wales’ teaching profession, with an emphasis on strong leadership and professional learning, will help deliver on the high expectations we all share for our learners, schools and education system”. Members of the IWPRB are proud to be part of the journey of educational change in Wales, and alert to the opportunities of developing an education system that works for Wales.

About Sharron Lusher DL

Sharron is currently Chair of the Independent Welsh Pay Review Body, Chair of the Welsh Tourism and Hospitality Skills Partnership, a Board member of Qualifications Wales, and a Council member of Aberystwyth University. Sharron was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Dyfed in 2010, and awarded the MBE for in 2021.