The National Assembly for Wales is due to vote on the draft Education Workforce Council (Registration Fees) Regulations 2017 during the plenary session on 31 January 2017. This blog covers the background to the Education Workforce Council and what the regulations contain.
Background to the Education Workforce Council (EWC)
The Education Workforce Council (EWC) is the independent regulatory body for school teachers, further education (FE) teachers and learning support workers (LSW) in both school and FE settings. All of these have to register with the EWC if they wish to work in maintained schools or FE institutions in Wales. This includes peripatetic teachers and those in agency, substitute or temporary positions. From 1 April 2017 youth workers, youth support workers and work based learning practitioners will also be required to register.
The Welsh Government estimates there will be approximately 73,100 eligible registrants (35,000 school teachers, 5,000 FE teachers, 30,000 LSW [both school and FE], 1,100 youth workers [including youth support workers] and 2,000 work based learning practitioners) with the EWC on 1 April 2017.
The EWC was created through the Education (Wales) Act 2014, following two consultations. The first of these concluded in March 2012, whilst the second closed in October 2012. The EWC’s core registration functions are self-financing, funded by practitioner registration fees (totalling £1.76 million in 2015-16).
It also receives grant funding from the Welsh Government (totalling £6.59 million in 2015-16), on whose behalf it carries out functions such as administering the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and arrangements for teacher induction. Page 5 of the EWC’s 2016 Annual Report and Accounts contains more information on its use of the Welsh Government grant.
The principal aims of the EWC are to:
- contribute to improving the standards of teaching and the quality of learning in Wales;
- maintain and improve standards of professional conduct amongst teachers and persons who support teaching and learning in Wales; and
- safeguard the interests of learners, parents and the public and maintain public trust and confidence in the education workforce.
Its main functions include:
- establishing and maintaining a Register of Education Practitioners;
- maintaining a Code of Professional Conduct and Practice for the education workforce;
- investigating and hearing allegations of unacceptable professional conduct, serious professional incompetence or relevant criminal offences that might call into question a registered practitioner’s fitness to practise.
The Draft Regulations
The draft Education Workforce Council (Registration Fees) Regulations 2017 (the Regulations) set the fee payable for registering with the EWC. The new fees will take effect from 1 April 2017. They also revoke the Education Workforce Council (Registration Fees) (Wales) Regulations 2016. This revocation would take effect on 1 April 2017.
The Regulations also establishes the method by which the fee will be paid. As the Regulations’ Explanatory Memorandum (EM) explains
For school teachers, FE teachers and both school and FE LSW the existing process for collecting the registration fee will continue. For the vast majority of these this will mean that the fee will continue to be paid through the ‘Deducted at Source’ (DAS) process – meaning that the fee is deducted by the employer directly from their salary. For most youth workers, youth support workers and work based learning practitioners the (DAS) process will also be implemented by the [Education Workforce] Council, with procedures employed to collect the annual registration fee starting in April 2017; and in March for each subsequent year.
Regulation 4 sets out the annual fee payable, for all categories of registrants, for registration with the EWC. The registration fee proposed for all practitioner groups for 2017-18 is £46. The Regulations allows for the registration fee to be subject to a subsidy, the level of which is set by the Welsh Government.
Teachers have long received a subsidy towards their registration fees which is reimbursed to them from local authorities through their pay. This has been provided for by the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), which is issued by the UK Government as it currently a non-devolved function.
When the Welsh Government consulted last year on the Registration fees for the education workforce in Wales, it explained that it had asked the UK Government to change the STPCD in time for the 2017-18 fee arrangements. Instead of directing the funding for the subsidy to local authorities to pass on to teachers, the Welsh Government wanted to give that money to the EWC to enable the fees of all registrants to be reduced, rather than just providing a subsidy for teachers.
The Welsh Government succeeded in having the STPCD amended in August 2016. Consequently teachers will no longer receive a subsidy directly as part of their pay. However, there will be no change from 2016-17 in the net annual cost to teachers registering with the EWC; the cost to teachers will remain at £45. (Their contribution rose from £12 per year in 2015-16.)
From 2017-18 onwards, the Welsh Government will transfer £1 million from the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) to its allocation to the EWC to implement the new way of providing the registration subsidy for all practitioners. If the £1 million proves to be insufficient, due to significantly higher than expected registration numbers for example, the Welsh Government says it will top up any shortfall in funding to meet the actual subsidy cost.
The EM highlights the proposed fee and subsidy levels for 2017-18 in a table which is reproduced below.
Proposed Council’s registration fee payments 2017-18
The EM goes on to state that
The Welsh Government has considered what impact the overall operating cost will have on the education workforce and is satisfied that the benefits of registration to learner outcomes, outweighs the cost to practitioners. At the individual level (£46), the annual registration fee is not considered likely to affect recruitment or retention in the education workforce in Wales.
Subsection 12(2) of the Education (Wales) Act 2014 allows the Welsh Ministers to grant the EWC the power to set the registration fees in future. However, in the draft Regulations’ EM, the Welsh Government notes that
it is anticipated that this will not take place until such time as the Welsh Government believes it is right and appropriate to do so. Any future transfer of the power to set registration fees to the Council will be subject to a full consultation at that time.
Article by Joseph Champion, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.