Dream on without the money

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Charles Clarke, the former Education Secretary, once gruffly dismissed a complaint about underfunding of schools by saying that he had received requests for extra money every single day of his political life. Jane Davidson must feel the same way. If only there was more cash, how much easier her life could be. But Wales's schools and further education colleges are not thinking about how to make the education minister's life less difficult. Quite the reverse. They want her to know they do not have enough funding for the countless duties and reforms that the Westminster and Assembly governments expect them to undertake.

Primary heads say they cannot afford to give teachers the promised time off for planning, preparation and assessment. Secondary heads face cuts of up to Pounds 100,000 in sixth-form budgets, and at least nine Welsh FE colleges are having to cater for dozens of unfunded students. No wonder educationists still quote Exodus 5, even in these secular times: "And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, 'Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw.'"

Even so, the latest exchanges on funding have triggered some wry grins. It isn't every week that a teacher union leader (the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' increasingly outspoken Mary Bousted) tells heads to "stop whingeing and start planning". Could she be a future government minister?

No doubt some heads could come up with more creative solutions to their PPA dilemma. But even Ms Bousted might be stumped if she were one of the many small school heads in counties such as Ceredigion, with negligible room for manoeuvre. Underfunded secondary heads and college principals also have a near-impossible task. The Assembly government may have the best of intentions but unless more money can be diverted to education, its laudable aim of creating a "high-skill, high-employment economy with all individuals fulfilling their potential" may remain a pipedream.

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