Capital funding takes pound;40m hit

19th November 2010 at 00:00
Unions warn of consequences of `severe' cut coupled with pound;6.5m reduction for FE

Educationalists have warned that a cut to school capital funding of nearly pound;40 million over the next three years will have severe consequences for schools in Wales.

Although education escaped the worst of the cuts in the Assembly government's draft budget on Wednesday, capital funding - money spent on building and repairing schools - is to be slashed by pound;39.7 million between 201112 and 201314.

Teaching unions reacted with anger and concern.

NUT Cymru called it "very bad news for schools", while ATL Cymru said pupils and teachers will have to "endure buildings which are way past their sell-by date".

Heads union ASCL Cymru warned the "severe" capital cut, coupled with a pound;6.5 million reduction for the FE sector next year, could "seriously disrupt" the post-16 transformation agenda.

The Assembly government claimed its draft budget would fulfil its pledge to increase funding for schools and skills by 1 per cent above the block grant from Westminster. But educationalists questioned what the increase would mean in real terms and whether it would be enough to bridge the pound;527-per-pupil funding gap with England.

The overall budget for the Department for Children, Education Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) will see a cash-terms increase of 0.6 per cent over the next three years, but in real terms that equates to a 5.9 per cent cut.

While school revenue funding will be cut by pound;21.1 million next year, it will increase by pound;8.6 million and pound;23.3 million in the following two years.

It is hoped that the front-line resources review currently being conducted by education minister Leighton Andrews and the pledge by local authorities to delegate more of their cash to schools will offset any real-terms reduction.

However, the biggest loser will be the higher education sector, which will see its budget cut by pound;51 million over the next three years so more money can be redirected to schools and skills.

In other areas, educationalists were grateful that many of their requests had been met by the government.

Funding for the play-led foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds has been protected, with an additional investment of pound;21.6 million over three years from 201112.

Continuing professional development for teachers has also been prioritised, with an additional pound;1 million targeted to improve basic literacy skills through effective teaching next year, increasing to pound;3 million and then pound;5 million over the next three years.

There will also be an extra pound;2.7 million and then pound;4.2 million funding for school leadership and effectiveness in the next two years.

Free primary school breakfasts are to be protected and there will be increases to funding for school-based counselling services.

The government said its budget was "resolved, resilient and responsible" in the face of a "challenging" settlement from Westminster, which it claims will leave it pound;1.8 billion worse off by 2014-15.

Education minister Leighton Andrews said: "I have ensured that our young people will not be disadvantaged and will be given the best possible start in life. We have sought to protect schools and skills, and also initiatives to address child poverty."

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