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Flash the cash, save the budget

Opposition parties in Wales fought to the bitter end this week to claw an extra few million pounds out of the Assembly government for education.

The minority Labour administration's pound;14 billion budget was on the verge of being thrown out, over opposition demands for pound;17.9 million more for schools and universities.

Chancellor Gordon Brown helped out with a pound;9m windfall for Wales in his pre-budget statement last week which, for the first time, will result in direct payments to Welsh headteachers (page 8). And, as TES Cymru went to press, a deal was struck with Plaid Cymru to ensure the budget went through - and that local authorities and schools are funded from next March.

However, as first minister Rhodri Morgan said earlier this week, it would have been absurd if Assembly members had not been able to resolve their differences when all were agreed that any extra cash should go on education.

It seems even more absurd that government in Wales was almost brought to its knees over a few million pounds when schools are sitting on pound;72m of budget reserves (page 3).

No one can blame prudent heads for holding back some cash for a rainy day or that new IT suite, especially at a time of political uncertainty and curriculum change in the classroom. Heads also argue that the way the latest statistics have been arrived at is fundamentally flawed, and only accounts for money spent by March 31 this year.

But such large balances can be used against them. The Welsh Local Government Association pointed the finger when giving evidence to the National Assembly's school funding committee earlier this year.

Heads also owe their hardworking staff and supportive parents the best they can give now, not later. Those who practise a doom-and-gloom approach to banking do their pupils a disservice. The only just way is to spend a lot and save a little. That absolves schools and overworked heads from any blame when money promised by politicians fails to materialise.

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