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Pay deal defies the sceptics

Teachers and schools in Wales are richer than expected this week following fresh pay and budget announcements.

But it remains to be seen whether teachers' pay rises and extra cash for school initiatives will meet rising living costs over the next three years.

An extra pound;33 million for the play-led foundation phase - pound;14.5million in 2009-10 and pound;18.4m in 2010-11 - was announced by the Assembly government's finance minister Andrew Davies on Tuesday.

This is on top of an extra pound;45m already approved for the scheme in November - pound;15m per year over the next three years.

And in London, England schools secretary Ed Balls announced a better-than-expected 2.45 per cent pay rise for teachers in England and Wales from September, with an agreed 2.3 per cent increase the following two years. The rise, however, is still an effective pay cut on previous years, despite being above inflation.

It still beats pay raises given to the police and nurses and could even beat pay awards to MPs.

It is also believed to lessen the likelihood of industrial action, threatened by some teaching unions, with Mr Balls bowing to their pressure to accept the three-year pay recommendations of the School Teachers' Review Body.

He has also promised to review the pay deal again at the end of this year. It means the average salary of teachers in England and Wales outside London is now pound;35,000.

Sue O'Halloran, president of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, welcomed more FP money in the budget proposals, claiming the scheme is cash-strapped. But she added: "It remains to be seen whether the additional funding, when spread across 22 local authorities in Wales, will be enough."

Phil Davis, sixth-form studies director at St Cyres Comprehensive in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, said there were some concerns about the three-year pay plan, especially with ever-rising living costs.

The Welsh Local Government Association said it was satisfied with the 2 per cent "floor" given in the budget for every local authority, which it had asked for. But it still branded the settlement "the worst since devolution".

The final budget motion, confirming the details of the Assembly government's spending plans for 2008-9 to 2010-11, was laid on Tuesday. It will be debated and voted on next week.

Pages 18-19 for more on teacher's pay.

Next week: Phil Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, comments on the deal.

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