Educational standards in Wales are likely to suffer and fall behind those in England as a result of the Westminster Government's comprehensive spending review (CSR), educationalists have warned.
The CSR cut Wales's revenue spending by 7.5 per cent and capital spending by 41 per cent - the toughest settlement in any of the devolved countries, according to the Assembly government.
Flagship policies may have to be scaled back and crumbling school buildings are unlikely to be repaired, academics and unions have cautioned.
They also predicted that schools will have to raid their reserves - totalling over pound;71 million in March this year, according to figures released last week. This amounts to 3.8 per cent of schools' delegated expenditure and the equivalent of pound;157 per pupil.
Almost 330 schools are holding back more than 10 per cent of their total delegated expenditure, a situation condemned by the NASUWT as "immoral".
David Reynolds, professor of education at Plymouth University, said: "Schools have been saving for a rainy day because of the warnings of tough times ahead, and they will now have to start using that cash. Although that may help them for a year or two, it won't last long."
Budget minister Jane Hutt has promised to protect investment in schools in the November 17 budget, but there are stark warnings about the effect of the cuts.
Professor David Egan of the Cardiff School of Education said: "From the foundation phase through to higher education, the Assembly has developed a range of innovative policies which offer Wales its best hope for a future strong economy and society.
"If the cuts forced on it by the Westminster Government endanger these policies it will be a dark day for Wales."
It is also feared that the protection of school funding in England and the pound;2.5 billion pupil premium could further widen the pound;527 per-pupil funding gap between the two countries. Funding devolved to Wales is not ring- fenced for specific areas, meaning relative spending on education could fall.
- Original headline: English spending review is `dark day' for Welsh schools