No cash for FE in draft budget

Extra funding for play-led strategy welcomed, but colleges complain of being shortchanged

Darren Evans

An additional pound;60 million has been announced for the play-led foundation phase (FP) in the Assembly government's draft budget for 2009- 10 this week.

But while the windfall has been universally welcomed, the further education sector says it has been left out, with no extra cash announced for plans to implement the vocationally led 14-19 learning pathways.

An extra pound;20 million promised for 2009-10 and a further pound;40m for 2010-11 mean the total pumped into the FP for this year and the following two years is now more than pound;174m for early years.

Education minister Jane Hutt had made it a priority this year to secure more cash for the FP.

Union leaders, who had been critical of funding shortfalls for the FP for under-sevens, leading to a one-year delay in national roll-out, praised the minister. "This extra money clearly demonstrates what can be achieved when the government works with trade unions to achieve a common goal," David Evans, secretary of the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said.

Opposition parties were more cautious, vowing to scrutinise the draft budget to see where the cash had came from.

The budget for the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills went up by 5.5 per cent - only slightly up on inflation at 4.7 per cent, or 0.8 per cent in real terms.

Those working in the further education sector were left wondering where the funding will be found to implement the proposed 14-19 learning pathways measure following concerns about new Wales-only legislation making the curriculum compulsory from next September.

Fforwm, the association of colleges in Wales, called the draft budget "woefully inadequate" and said FE colleges needed more funding. Chief executive John Graystone said some colleges had already cut courses, investment and staff numbers to balance the books.

Dr Philip Dixon, Wales director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said extra resources were "desperately needed" in FE.

The government will now seek the Senedd's approval for the plans.

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Darren Evans

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