Education minister Jane Hutt has told Wales's headteachers that they must fight together to safeguard the future of the nation's education system.
Addressing the conference of teaching union NAHT Cymru last week, Ms Hutt said school leaders and the Assembly government must collaborate to secure initiatives such as the play-led foundation phase and the attainment- raising school effectiveness framework.
With one eye on this week's draft Budget, she told heads that "every penny we spend must count".
"We must recognise together that we are operating in a more challenging environment," she said.
"It's probably going to move from working together to fighting together. The challenge is how we maintain the priority of education in these challenging times."
While delegates were impressed by the minister's commitment to fight for funding, a pledge she first outlined in an interview with TES Cymru in the summer, Dr Chris Howard, NAHT national president, urged caution.
"Jane Hutt made the right noises, but she might not be there next year," he said, referring to a possible cabinet reshuffle under Rhodri Morgan's replacement as first minister.
Dr Howard, the head of Lewis School in Pengam, Caerphilly, said public- sector spending cuts by the Westminster government - promised by both Labour and the Conservatives if they win next year's general election - would have a significant impact on Wales.
"We may well say we have got devolution so we can make our own policies, but we will have to make difficult choices," he said.
"If these things happen, there will be a significant reduction in the things we are used to. There's some serious thinking to do here."
Dr Howard told delegates that they would have to fight to prove the importance of school leadership and question every proposed cut.
Despite grim warnings of tough financial times ahead, a number of positive messages came out of the conference, held at the Vale Hotel in the Vale of Glamorgan. The theme, chosen by David Griffiths, new NAHT Cymru president, was "achievement through enjoyment".
Mr Griffiths, head of Peterston Super Ely Primary in the Vale of Glamorgan, said that although pupils and teachers were having a more enjoyable time thanks to initiatives such as the foundation phase, heads were not.
"There are blockers like finance and resources, and these are tricky times, but we are the enablers - the ones who can enable achievement through enjoyment," he said.