Union turns to Hutt for morale boost
Uncertainty over falling budgets and school reorganisation is sapping morale and breeding conflict among the teaching profession in Wales, a union leader warned this week.
Gareth Jones, secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said many schools are facing an uncertain future while being expected to embed important curriculum developments.
As the association held its annual conference in mid-Wales, Mr Jones said a number of questions must be urgently answered by education minister Jane Hutt if the situation is to improve.
Chief among the union's concerns is the effect of school reorganisation and the government's ambitious post-16 transformation agenda.
Former first minister Rhodri Morgan recently suggested that up to 20 of the 220 secondary schools in Wales could close as a result of the plans local authorities have been asked to draw up to reorganise their post-16 school and college provision.
Mr Jones said: "The question is, therefore, which schools and what effect will this have on the quality and sustainability of our education service?"
Cash is also a growing concern for school leaders, with forecasts that from 2011 to 2014 education funding will fall by 15 to 25 per cent.
With schools in Wales already underfunded compared with their English counterparts, many heads are concerned, the Goverment will be unable to keep its promise to protect frontline services.
Mr Jones said the Government must work towards school budgets based on need, and set up clear and protected funding for the professional development of school-based staff.
School business managers should also be introduced to relieve the bureaucratic burden on overworked heads, following a recent recommendation from a cross-party committee, he said.
ASCL Cymru also has serious concerns about the rising cost of administration and governance in education as a result of Wales having 22 local authorities.
In his speech to the conference, ASCL Cymru's new president Ellis Griffiths, headteacher at Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool, said the current system is failing schools.
"The current local authorities are too small to be economic and lack the capacity to support school improvement," he said.
"Reductions in public finances will make the situation worse as local authorities will have to reduce capacity in order to live within their means or implement cuts in funding to frontline services already short of money."
But with the Welsh Assembly Government lacking appetite for local government reorganisation, many educationists expect councils to share educational services on a regional basis.
ASCL Cymru members vowed to press Ms Hutt for answers to some of their concerns after she addressed the conference.
Mr Jones said: "We must have clarity soon in order to keep morale high for all staff in our schools, which in turn allows our young people to have the best possible chance of success."