Fight for promised funds

13th August 2010 at 01:00
Groundbreaking teacher training scheme asked to prove value if it wants final pound;250k

A pioneering programme to test new approaches to teacher education is facing a shortfall of a quarter of a million pounds because a principal backer - the Hunter Foundation - has not yet agreed to pay the final instalment of its promised funding.

The Scottish Teachers for a New Era (STNE) programme at Aberdeen University was meant to receive pound;1.8 million over four years, with the final instalment to be paid last April - half from the Scottish Government and half from the charity set up by Sir Tom Hunter, Scotland's leading philanthropist and first billionaire.

But The TESS has been told that the Hunter Foundation has not yet paid this year's instalment of pound;250,000. It now says payment will depend on STNE meeting a final review of "key performance targets".

Aberdeen University's commitment to "embed the programme" and "ensure the stable continuation of STNE" is to be the focus of a meeting with the Scottish Government, said Ewan Hunter, chief executive of the Hunter Foundation.

The foundation was "ever hopeful" that there would be "no issues", he added. A Government spokesman said no date had yet been fixed for the meeting.

Last year, the Hunter Foundation withheld the last third of the pound;300,000 it had promised to the Scottish Government's Schools of Ambition programme, citing concerns about sustainability. At the time, Mr Hunter said investment in education was not unconditional and programmes had to show they could survive once funding stopped.

Pete Stollery, acting head of Aberdeen University's School of Education, said the university had meetings lined up with the Scottish Government to discuss the shortfall over the coming weeks.

He stressed that STNE was not in jeopardy, as a substantial amount of research had already been completed. But he would not say what the impact of the missing thousands would be.

Professor Stollery added: "The university is grateful for the generous contribution to the funding of the STNE project from the Hunter Foundation and the Scottish Government. This has enabled the completion of a pilot project, the learning from which has now been embedded within the BEd programme and is influencing other teacher education programmes and the ethos of the School of Education."

A Government spokesman confirmed that pound;500,000 had been owed in April and it had since paid its share, but that the Hunter Foundation's contribution was still outstanding. STNE has so far received pound;648,654 of the pound;900,000 pledged by the Hunter Foundation, confirmed Mr Hunter.

The programme was designed to create teachers "fit for the 21st century". It aimed to raise pupils' achievements and to research teacher effectiveness.

In 2007, Sir Tom Hunter committed himself to giving away pound;1bn of the fortune he had made from his Sports Division retail chain and property development. The credit crunch, however, led to a warning from the foundation last year that it would have to rein in its philanthropic work.

The Hunter Foundation has to date invested more than pound;45 million for philanthropic purposes.

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