Editorial - Loss of cash for training was carelessness

16th July 2010 at 01:00
With reforms and cuts ahead, now is not the time to squander #163;600k of CPD funds

If you had #163;600,000 in your pocket for teacher training, now would be a stupid time to lose it. True, continuing professional development (CPD) may not be the sexiest of subjects. Indeed, as our columnist Mike Kent noted recently, it seems a pretty pompous title for what class teachers used to call "going on a course".

But while CPD may not set hearts a flutter, it is crucial for school staff - and never more so than in Wales right now. Teachers here face dramatic changes in the coming months, above all the introduction of the School Effectiveness Framework in September.

For these ambitious plans to be realised, staff need proper, high-quality training.

Unfortunately, as we enter a period when such training is urgently needed, the funds for it are being cut, yet again. The General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) CPD scheme for individual teachers was praised by Estyn last month, but that support came too late as it had come to an end in April. Worse still, the Better Schools Fund - a key source of training cash - is to be slashed by a third next year.

Schools can expect further pressures on training budgets as ministers try to cut spending. Writing in today's TES, Professor Ken Reid warns that the combination of the financial pressures Wales faces and the reforms it hopes to introduce means "Welsh education faces challenges on a scale it has not previously envisaged" (p29).

Under these circumstances, losing any more money for teacher training would be a misfortune. But to lose #163;600,000 that had already been handed over is carelessness. How, then, did the GTCW end up giving all that cash back to the Welsh Assembly government? (p1)

Some members of the council may be tempted to blame the schools or local authorities. After all, the GTCW wrote to local authorities at the end of last year to warn that it was "use it or lose it" time and teachers had better apply for grants fast.

But the council failed to act on their response. The headteachers and teaching unions warned, very clearly, that the money would be wasted unless the rule was dropped that rejected schools which had received funding in the previous two years. One Abergavenny head said, in December, that it was "crazy to think this money could be sent back when there are teachers like me who could make good use of it". Yet it was, because the GTCW failed to convince the Government to change that rule.

The money lost may be dwarfed by the cut to the Better Schools Fund, which will drop by #163;12 million next year, and other cuts that are still to come. But that should not mean the GTCW is let off the hook.

If there is one thing more stupid than allowing #163;600,000 to be wasted it is to make that error when ministers are looking for quangos to cut - especially when the country next door has just axed its GTC, to the delight of most of its teaching profession.

Michael Shaw, TES Opinion Editor; E: michael.shaw@tes.co.uk.

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