Is there cash to serve the grand plan?

10th August 2007 at 01:00
The comments made this week by former Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Wigley, generally a well-respected figure in Welsh politics, do not auger well for the delivery of the Assembly government's plans, outlined in the One Wales document (see page 3).

He claimed in a speech at the National Eisteddfod in Mold that the coalition programme, which includes a plethora of well-intentioned plans for education, are not affordable without extra cash from London. Is it time to get out the begging bowls? According to Jane Hutt, the new minister for education, children and young people, the answer in taking Wales's distinct educational vision forward is a straightforward "No".

In her first interview with TES Cymru, she confidently asserts that funding is not a problem in taking her new education programme forward even though she admits that the budget will be tight. As well as oozing confidence, Ms Hutt also said delivery would be based on a stable government. Who would have thought it possible?

It was clearly admirable of Ms Hutt to reassure the teaching profession in such a hopeful and confident manner. However, she could do nothing else. Educational change in Wales is at a crucial point in its journey and needs all the help it can get, whether it be financial or psychological.

There are many who see One Wales as rushed, cobbled together in a state of panic. The contents are pretty radical, with changes that no one could have forecast before the election. In education, there are promises of new money, free laptops for every secondary pupil, radical reductions in class size and a national Welsh-medium education strategy?

But this grandiose wish-list needs a great deal of financial clout. School funding and school reorganisation plans have to be the two big stories of the new academic year. Ms Hutt's vision of the "whole child" has an endearing selling point. Her vision is a good one and will attack disadvantage where it really matters outside the school gates as well as inside. But one thing remains to be seen as brave words are spoken and promises are made: will there be enough money in the bank? For the time being, we can only live in hope.

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