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NHS workers agree first Wales-only pay deal

Union leaders representing NHS workers in Wales have settled their pay dispute with the Welsh Government, by accepting a new two-year deal.

It is the first Wales-only pay deal for NHS staff, on negotiations that have been traditionally UK-wide, but some have questioned whether this will open the floodgates to other regional pay settlements.

Pay deals for NHS workers have previously been set at a UK level. Credit: PA

Included in the deal is a 1 per cent pay rise from next April, a cash payment of £187, and the living wage implemented for all directly-employed staff from 1 January 2015.

The pay settlement does not include doctors and dentists.

Members of the Unison union called off a planned strike earlier this month, after the Welsh Government improved its offer.

Council chief slams Welsh Government funding cut

A council leader has criticised the Welsh Government's decision to cut £1.6m of funding to the organisation which represents local authorities. You can catch up on the story by clicking here.

The Deputy leader of Flintshire council, Labour's Bernie Attridge, has taken to twitter to voice his concern about the reduction.

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Minister vows to cut the cost of local politics in Wales

Public Services minister Leighton Andrews has defended his decision to withdraw £1.6m of funding to the Welsh Local Government Association. Here he tells Political Editor Adrian Masters that the Welsh Government is committed to fewer councils and councillors and that it will 'reduce the cost of politics in local government.'

Cut in grant "an unexpected blow" says WLGA

The Welsh Local Government Association has said it "deeply regrets" the loss of a £1.65 million grant from the Welsh Government, about 20% of its total funding. It's also been warned that ministers will be looking at whether other grants should be cut as well.

The decision to cut the grant was only received by the WLGA on 10th November without any prior consultation, detailed explanation or justification. The grant has underpinned a range of local services and been used to assist councils in difficulty. As a result of this decision, the WLGA has had to inform the 16 staff directly affected by the minister's decision that we will be issuing compulsory redundancy notices. This is a huge and unexpected blow to hard working and dedicated public servants who in the run up to Christmas now have to plan for unemployment in the new year. They will be consulting their trade unions.

– WLGA spokesperson

The spokesperson added that the other grants now under review include an award winning GP exercise referral scheme, as well as schemes to improve food in schools, raise waste awareness, improve social services, increase equality, support the Welsh language and deal with the impact of welfare reform.

Education Minister: Schools need to act on numeracy

Education Minister Huw Lewis has demanded that schools here show greater urgency to improve standards of numeracy, in line with Welsh Government agenda.

The Welsh Government introduced the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework in 2012, which is designed to get both key areas being taught in other subjects, across the curriculum.

Annual numeracy tests for pupils aged 7 to 14 began in May 2013.

Estyn praised the initiatives, for raising expectations, and says time spent training has increased.

However, the education watchdog says numeracy is still not seen as a priority in a minority of schools - and only half have developed appropriate plans for improving pupils’ numeracy skills across the curriculum.

Huw Lewis said: "we do need to make sure every school pays much more than lip service to these initiatives."

The Education Minister has announced a new national conference for heads of maths at Welsh schools, on 28 January next year, to share best practice and hear from international experts.

Key findings from Estyn report on numeracy standards

Pupils' skills:

  • The majority of pupils in the survey have an appropriate understanding of times-tables, the four rules of number, place value and fractions
  • However, pupils’ numerical reasoning skills are not strong enough
  • Too many pupils lack confidence with division and percentages, impeding their ability to interpret results and solve problems

Schools' provision:

  • Only around half of schools have developed suitable provision for numeracy, although this is an increase on previously
  • Numeracy is still not a high priority in a minority of the schools inspected
  • Teachers often lack sufficient mathematical subject knowledge to plan and deliver effective lessons
  • In a majority of schools visited, teachers are uncertain of what the term ‘numerical reasoning’ means and how it translates into classroom activities
  • In around half of schools planning is still too superficial and does not raise standards
  • The quality of marking numeracy work is not good enough - and the monitoring of numeracy skills remains underdeveloped

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Numeracy skills 'weak' in over half of Welsh schools

Pupils' numeracy skills are still weak in more than half of primary and secondary schools in Wales inspected by Estyn in the last year.

The education watchdog has released the second in a series of three reports on key mathematics skills among 7 to 14-year-old children, and the quality of their teaching.

The education watchdog has criticised the standards of numeracy teaching in Wales. Credit: PA

Estyn has found some pupils struggling with skills like division and percentages - as only around half of schools have suitable provision for numeracy.

The Welsh Government has made it a priority in recent years - with annual testing and the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework designed to get key maths skills into other lessons across the curriculum.

It is pleasing to note the progress made by around half of the schools we inspected. However, it is important to emphasise that there is still a long way to go before schools make a full and consistent impact on improving the standards of pupils' numeracy skills.

There are still too many pupils who lack confidence in key aspects of mathematics, such as division and working with percentages.

Staff need more support to widen their knowledge and understanding of strategies to help pupils to use numeracy across the curriculum.

– Ann Keane, Chief Inspector, Estyn
  1. Nick Powell

Welsh Govt reduces funds to council association

The Welsh Local Government Association, which represents the 22 county and county borough councils in Wales, is losing £1.62 million of its funding from the Welsh Government. It will still get some £5 million but the minister responsible, Leighton Andrews, is also inviting other cabinet ministers to review whether the grants they give to the WLGA are still appropriate.

My decision [is] to discontinue the grant the Welsh Government pays to the Association to provide improvement support to Local Authorities in Wales from April 2015. This year, the grant is a maximum of £1.62 million. It is right that we regularly review grant arrangements to all organisations particularly in a time when we have to prioritise our resources very carefully.

I have not taken this decision lightly. I considered a number of options and concluded this funding would be better directed towards activities which are more clearly aligned to our ambitions for the reform of public services in Wales. It might be that the WLGA itself, and its member organisations, should reflect on whether it is right for a membership organisation to receive more than 75% of its income from the Welsh Government.

– Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews AM

Mr Andrews is in charge of encouraging councils to merge voluntarily, with the likelihood of compulsory mergers for local authorities that to fail to co-operate. It's a proposal bitterly opposed by many of the WLGA's members.

  1. Nick Powell

Details of NHS pay offer revealed

Welsh NHS staff are being given details of an improved pay offer that's led Unison to call off a half-day strike planned for Monday. It includes a £187 lump sum and a commitment by the Welsh Government to a 1% pay increase next April, in addition to any increments. The full offer is as follows:

  • £187 (An increase on the £160 previously offered)
  • A 1% rise from next April, on top of any annual increment
  • All workers to receive at least the living wage of £7.85 an hour from January. The recent increase in the living wage means that this will now benefit 4,500 people, who will get a rise of between 2.5% and 5%

For the lowest paid of our members, it is in fact a very good deal

– Dawn Bowden, UNISON Cymru/Wales Head of Health

Unison is not actually recommending the deal to its members but is telling them that it's the best that can be achieved through negotiation. It's a two year deal, with pay strategy from 2016 onwards looked at by an NHS Wales Workforce Commission.

The union says it makes its pay claims for the UK as a whole but as health is devolved, different outcomes are always possible. This year a pay review recommended a 1% rise. This was accepted by the Scottish Government but the UK government said that it would not pay it in England to workers getting an annual increment.

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