Morale among teachers in Wales has "nosedived" after the budget announcement that funding for continuing professional development (CPD) would be slashed, a headteacher said this week.
Mal Davies, head of Willows High School in Cardiff and chairman of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), called the news a "blow" to the teaching profession and said he was "gravely concerned" for the future of teachers' professional development.
The pioneering CPD programme in Wales was funded by the Assembly government to the tune of pound;3 million a year and administered by the GTCW.
In the nine years the scheme has been running, it has funded more than 30,000 CPD opportunities for staff in Wales, costing pound;26 million.
Teachers were given access to a range of bursaries, sabbaticals, action research and collaborative networks, allowing them to improve their skills and broaden their experiences.
Applications for grants increased every year, and the pot of cash has run out for the past three years.
But in last week's draft budget, the Assembly government said it would no longer be funding the scheme from 2010, citing concerns over bureaucracy and the fact that spending was not always in line with its own education priorities.
Instead, it said funding would be available to develop the GTCW's Chartered Teacher Programme.
Mr Davies said: "I recognise the Assembly government faces difficult decisions regarding budgets and had to make some tough choices, but I strongly believe that individual CPD should be one of the last areas to go.
"I am gravely concerned that we will return to the bad old days of pre- 2001 when funding was only available on a broad-brush level for national, local and school priorities. This is a discernible loss to the teaching profession in Wales."
Mr Davies said the initiative was something Wales could be proud of, which "shone as a beacon of best practice".
"As well as being essential for pupil development and, consequently, the very future of our country, the programme was also an important tool to assist teachers and headteachers when dealing with career planning and performance-management issues," he said.
"The GTCW always argued that the pot of pound;3 million a year dedicated to individual CPD should be significantly enhanced so there was more to go around, as opposed to cut off at the life source.
"To say morale in the teaching profession has nosedived as a result of the news is an understatement."
Teaching unions have also reacted angrily to the announcement, with Dr Philip Dixon, the director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, warning that it could lead to a "second-hand education system".
Jane Hutt, education minister, defended her department's budget decisions to two cross-party panels of Assembly Members this week.
In her evidence, she said the budget was "robust", allowing progressive education reforms to continue while still achieving good value for money.