Investment in continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers must be prioritised if standards are to be maintained in the face of shrinking school funding, educationalists have warned.
Budget minister Jane Hutt has promised to protect investment in schools when the Assembly government's draft budget is published on November 17.
But academics and teaching union leaders have predicted tough times ahead, with the possibility of school building projects and refurbishments being shelved for the next five years.
The Assembly government scrapped the individual CPD scheme for teachers last year over concerns about bureaucracy, and recently completed a review into the subject. A new scheme is currently being developed.
Gary Brace, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), which administered the original scheme, said the choice for the government was clear.
"Without doubt, Wales must sustain and increase its investment in teachers' CPD," he said. "As Lord Puttnam made clear in the recent Wales Education Lecture, CPD requires meaningful ring-fenced commitment by government.
"As key professionals, teachers need to keep updating their skills and they need support to do that. The quality of our children's education will determine the strength and prosperity of our economy and our future quality of life but all of that depends on teachers performing at the top of their game and optimising their use of rapidly evolving classroom technologies."
Dr Philip Dixon, director of teaching union ATL Cymru, said that money spent on CPD was a good investment.
"When it comes down to hard choices, which no one wants to make, money spent on teachers' CPD gives the best return," he said. "If you want to raise standards, that is where you have to spend your money as an absolute priority."
The Assembly government had provided an annual pound;3 million in funding for the individual CPD programme, which was used by more than 30,000 teachers, following its launch in 2001.
Earlier this year, Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate, said the scheme had had a positive impact on the classroom, with some teachers' projects helping to raise pupil achievement and contribute to the wider development of their schools.
An Assembly spokesman told TES Cymru that the review of professional standards, performance management and CPD is complete. It includes a new structure of the national professional qualification for headship (NPQH), he said, and will be rolled out for all teachers in 2011.
- Original headline: Budget cuts put teachers' training schemes at risk