Speaking on the first day of NAHT Cymru’s Annual Conference in Cardiff, new president Ruth Davies set out the priorities for school leaders in Wales, and made the focus of her speech the values that need to be present in all schools for pupils and staff to thrive.
Ms Davies said:
“At a time when schools are increasingly presenting as the last bastions of rights-respecting behaviours, if we don’t model them who will?”
“I woke one morning to the news of yet another fatal knife crime. The perpetrator was a 15-year-old. I mused over the fact that 10 years ago he would likely have been in the reception class of a school, again likely to have been under the leadership of one of our members.
“I found myself wondering what on earth the path was from a rights respecting, compassionate reception classroom to this. What’s happening to society, to our communities? Our schools lie at the heart of these communities, and arguably at the heart of any possible solution, because solutions to human frailties lie in human strengths.”
Ms Davies, who is also the headteacher of Waunarlwydd Primary School in Swansea was recently named NAHT Cymru president and in May 2020 will become NAHT National President.
In her speech, she spoke of the ‘panic, despair and overload’ felt by many school leaders in Wales, saying school leaders have had to endure the pressure put on them as “successive administrations have consistently placed the solution to the most recent tabloid headline crisis at our doors, whatever the issue, the answer apparently being a new policy, framework, structure.”
Ms Davies suggests that the best way to meet the many challenges of school leadership in Wales is to lean on the support provided by membership of unions and professional associations like NAHT, saying:
“As a direct result of NAHT’s work with Welsh Government we stand on the threshold of the roll out of a curriculum that’s ours, that belongs to the professional practitioner, one that we’ve had the chance to help craft and mould, one which draws on the skill and experience of those who know best: teachers and learners.”
Ms Davies also urged NAHT Cymru members to take part in the government’s consultation on the rights of parents to withdraw their children from sex and relationships education, saying:
Tolerance and respect are rights, not choices.
“We believe that inclusion is what successful, safe communities are about, that every learner needs to know what it feels like to be valued and of equal worth whatever their personal circumstances might be. We need to be whole heartedly supported in pursing these critical messages, not just because it’s the law but because it’s the right thing to do.”