Warning: jobs will go, despite cash U-turn

24th April 2009 at 01:00
Government climbdown over post-16 funding labelled `too little, too late'

Teachers' jobs will still be lost despite the Assembly government's dramatic U-turn on post-16 funding, it was warned this week.

John Griffiths, deputy minister for skills, last week announced a pound;8.93 million cash injection to help sixth forms and colleges out of the funding hole he helped to create.

Teachers and lecturers were left fearing for their jobs in January after the government unexpectedly slashed post-16 funding by a blanket 7.43 per cent.

The government was forced into an embarrassing climbdown last week following united public condemnation of the cuts.

But TES Cymru has since learnt that the lion's share of the cash injection announced last week, which is said to be coming from government reserves, will go to colleges - not schools.

Local authorities in Wales will receive just pound;2.1m extra for sixth forms from September - Pounds 6m less than expected.

Only the 11 authorities hardest hit by the cuts will get more cash, with the rest gaining nothing.

However, 14 FE colleges that lost pound;7m under the cuts will get almost all their money back.

The latest 2009-10 settlement will fuel heads' fears that the government intends to squeeze small sixth forms out of existence.

But the government said almost all colleges and sixth forms would be funded at the same level as last year or above.

Opposition Assembly members said teachers would still lose their jobs, despite the volte-face.

Jenny Randerson, the Liberal Democrats' education spokeswoman, said the government would not be able to hide the "mess" it had made of post-16 funding.

"This money is too little, too late to prevent large numbers of job cuts and the slashing of courses for students," she said.

Paul Davies, Conservative education spokesman, said: "Quite clearly, school sixth forms are still facing a substantial cut and there is still the prospect of job losses."

Peter Fox, the Welsh Local Government Association's lifelong learning spokesperson, said: "The problem remains that some local authorities will see a cut in the amount of money for sixth forms. This additional funding will not be enough to fill the gap."

But teachers' unions were unsure what the cash U-turn would mean. Gareth Jones, of heads' union ASCL Cymru, said: "This new money may not save jobs everywhere; it depends on the individual school's circumstances."

Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT teachers' union, said: "I want to see how the money translates into people's jobs. I'm not convinced it will significantly affect the redundancy situation.

"The government must make sure the money is there to deliver what it wants and not expect schools and teachers to fund it."

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the ATL Cymru teachers' union, said: "We need to see local authorities that have benefited from the new funding acting quickly and saying how they are going to pass this on."

The about-turn follows months of pressure from teachers. Mr Griffiths repeatedly told critics that there would be no change to the funding allocations, saying that tough choices had to be made within a difficult overall budget settlement.

But last week he said the new money, which will fund 2,500 sixth form places, was actually a direct result of the economic downturn.

"We have listened to the concerns of the sector and the issues they face in light of the recession. The government has responded swiftly and positively and remains committed to supporting FE so that they can deliver the necessary training in readiness for the upturn when it comes," he said.

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