But projects are benefiting pupils and schools, according to consultants. Karen Thornton reports
Nearly pound;300,000 of professional development cash was returned to the Welsh Assembly last year because teachers claimed less than they had originally requested for training courses and school visits.
The General Teaching Council for Wales, which administered the pound;4.6 million pilot fund on behalf of the Assembly, said it now had a better picture of underspending patterns and hoped to avoid this in the future.
This year, the Assembly has slashed the GTCW's continuing professional development (CPD) fund to pound;1.9m to help pay for workload reforms. But it is now a recurring feature of the GTCW's budget, rather than a pilot project, and is expected to rise steadily to around pound;3m by 2007-8.
There is no comparable fund in England.
Despite the underspend in 2003-4, more than a quarter of all registered teachers in Wales - around 9,500 - took advantage of the CPD funding. An evaluation of the projects they undertook suggests they are benefiting schools and pupils, as well as enhancing individual teachers' "personal and professional effectiveness".
Consultants from Bristol-based Tribal Education found evidence of "improved curriculum planning; more varied and stimulating teaching and learning approaches; more effective use of information and communications technology; and, in some cases, improved pupil behaviour". The most effective projects related training to existing school improvement initiatives, such as the post-inspection action plan or departmental projects.
But Tribal warns that some types of CPD gave better value for money than others. For example, international visits widened participants' horizons but, in a few cases, seemed of little benefit to schools, especially when large numbers of teachers visited the same place for the same reason. The GTCW no longer has a separate budget for overseas visits.
According to the GTCW's accounts, the beneficiaries of the CPD fund have included some of its own council members. Eighteen schools with staff on the council received pound;127,763 from the fund last year. One council member, Angela Jardine, a teacher at Gabalfa primary school, Cardiff, received Pounds 1,476 for an international visit. Members were not involved in any funding decisions affecting them or their schools.