Editorial - Invoke Gekko and squeeze out every penny for schools

18th December 2009 at 00:00
We must not let Carwyn Jones forget his promise to close the funding gap with England

The front cover of last week's TES Magazine featured Gordon Gekko, the iconic protagonist of Eighties classic Wall Street. "Greed is good" was his catchphrase and wringing the last drop of profit from every deal was his modus operandi.

Welsh heads should take the same approach on behalf of their schools when dealing with the new incumbent of the First Minister's office, Carwyn Jones, and his education minister, Leighton Andrews.

Mr Jones' victory last week represents a rare opportunity for Wales' education system and it must be grabbed with both hands. We must not allow him to forget his promise - as politicians of all colours are prone to - to close the funding gap with England.

We should remind him incessantly that the existing cash differential is a national disgrace, especially for a country in which belief in high-quality education for all echoes down though the centuries. He should be left with no option but to find the extra 1 per cent of school funding that has triggered excitement in so many.

Similarly, Mr Andrews seems to have a fair few good ideas. It may not be insight of Nobel prize-winning standards, but it is nonetheless pleasing to hear him admit to TES Cymru (page 1) that the Welsh education system is over-burdened with bureaucracy and officials have been too shy to embrace the opportunities that come with being a "small country".

Again, we must constantly repeat these arguments back to him. This fresh, perhaps even naive, enthusiasm must not get lost in the fog of ministerial government and civil service double-speak.

The flipside of the constant nagging should be a determination on the part of every last teacher, head, governor or educationist to issue endless reminders to the Cardiff Bay politicos that there is much to be proud of since devolution. ASCL Cymru secretary Gareth Jones is right to point out that there are many positives to be seen in the new Estyn inspection framework and the revised School Effectiveness Framework (page 26). When Rhodri Morgan settles down to write his memoirs in the next year or two, he should not be embarrassed about his legacy in this area.

Specifically the Welsh Bac. This, as The TES has often argued, should be a cause of huge pride - curriculum professionals from across Europe look on with a mixture of envy and fascination at this excellent qualification development.

But in the end, all this is worth nothing - nothing at all without the cold cash. In the current climate of public spending fear, with national debt spiralling out of all control and vast cuts being widely predicted in both Westminster and Cardiff, the argument for spending on schools becomes even more pressing.

Carwyn Jones' elevation to the top job comes as a handy reminder, just months away from a UK general election, of how important these discussions are. Welsh teachers and Welsh heads must be heard in the many corridors of power. Invest in schools now or suffer the consequences for generations to come.

Ed Dorrell, News Editor, E: ed.dorrell@tes.co.uk.

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