Training cuts deplored
SCHOOL GOVERNORS are not performing to the best of their ability because of cuts in training budgets, delegates at Governors' Wales summer conference heard.
Speakers called for cash withdrawn from the Better Schools Fund to be reinstated for governors to be more efficient in their roles.
"Local authorities taking money away will do governors a disservice," said Irene Cameron of the Governors' Wales Newport association. Peter Griffin, a Cardiff governor, called on the government to find out how many governors attended training courses.
"When we asked our local authority, we found attendance seldom reached double figures and courses were cancelled through lack of support," he said.
"We believe a lot of training isn't taken seriously enough, such as for whole governing bodies. Small numbers of people are being trained but they have little effect on the whole body's performance."
Anxieties over funding surfaced throughout the conference, held at the Powys county hall in Llandrindod Wells. Governors unanimously backed a call for the newly formed government in Wales to ensure that education grants last at least three years, allowing schools to plan ahead.
They said schools should be told in advance what money they could expect and that it should be made available to them early in the financial year.
Governors also called for a more consistent and fairer system of school funding. The play-led foundation phase, it was claimed, should receive ring-fenced financial support in line with recommended staff-child ratios.
"It's critical this is maintained," said Allan Tait, a governor from Torfaen association. "At the moment it's 1:8 for children in nursery and reception classes, and 1:15 for children in Year 1 and 2. We need to make the government aware of this and ensure there's no back-tracking."
One of the recommendations of a cross-party committee of assembly members, which looked into school funding last year, was for three-year budgets for schools.
Jane Davidson, the former minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, has since backed the move.
Small-business leaders could become role-models for children in rural areas, conference delegates were told. A pilot community-focused schools project, based around Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, involves a cluster of seven primaries and a secondary.
Consultant head Carol Dyer said it had drawn in groups as diverse as hoteliers and church representatives. "We're thrilled - schools are working together across the community," she said.
Bryngwyn, a 1,200-pupil comprehensive, is at the heart of Llanelli's CFS project. Paul Jones, deputy head, said the premises are used from 9am to 9pm. One social benefit is that a credit union is now based in school.
Local police officers also visit for lunch.
Pupils choose their activities when the school day ends at 2.50pm. Amid widespread concerns about cost, Gwyn Thomas, Carmarthenshire's CFS co-ordinator, urged governors to be more creative.
He said funding streams within the 14-19 learning pathways and RAISE, aimed at helping underachievers, could also be explored.