Spotlight will bring own pressures says ASCL boss

18th December 2009 at 00:00
Political and media scrutiny will be the price of First Minister's focus on education

Original paper headline: Spotlight will bring its own pressures, says ASCL boss

Schools and teachers will face greater political pressure and media scrutiny as a result of the new First Minister's focus on education, a union leader has warned.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that Carwyn Jones's pledge to prioritise education, including his ambitious promise to boost school spending, will put the sector in the spotlight to an unprecedented extent.

Mr Jones, who took over from Rhodri Morgan last week, promised to deliver an education funding increase of at least 1 per cent above the block grant Wales receives from Westminster.

But speaking at ASCL Cymru's annual conference in Llandrindod Wells, Powys, Mr Dunford warned that the move could make life more difficult for them.

He said: "When Tony Blair promised education, education, education, there were more resources, but there was more accountability, more front pages, more political pressure, and life became more difficult.

"That's exactly what's going to happen to you if the new first minister goes ahead with this."

Mr Dunford, who is set to leave his post after 12 years next August, urged ASCL Cymru members to work hard to change public policy by influencing decision makers in Cardiff Bay, particularly new education minister Leighton Andrews.

"You are very important people in this agenda," he said. "The new minister can't make successful secondary school policy unless he has us on side. You have within yourselves the capacity to take education forward in Wales."

He suggested that Welsh members focus their efforts on funding, 14-to-19 education, continuing professional development and the role of local authorities.

Earlier in the conference, Gareth Jones, ASCL Cymru secretary, said heads were still facing a "great deal of uncertainty" on many issues.

In what he termed a "doom and gloom" presentation, Mr Jones highlighted concerns among heads about outdated funding formulas, loss of funding for continuing professional development, and poor support from local authorities.

Minister Jane Hutt was due to speak at the event but pulled out at the last minute following the Cabinet reshuffle in which she lost the education portfolio.

Estyn chief inspector Dr Bill Maxwell apologised to delegates for leaving Wales for his native Scotland after just two years in the job.

He said: "I do feel guilty; it is rather early, but a job came up Up North and I wanted to go for it. I've had a great two years and I'm absolutely confident that the changes we have started to implement will continue to move forward after I leave."

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