Teaching council fears funding changes will leave schools short of money for staff courses. Karen Thornton reports
School leaders fear cash for training courses for teachers could dry up as the Assembly government refocuses its funding on its own special initiatives.
Members of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) warned this week that some teachers were making applications to its continuing professional development (CPD) fund for courses that would previously have been funded by schools andor education authorities.
The GTCW manages the pound;1.6 million fund on behalf of the Welsh Assembly and only accepts applications from individual teachers, or groups of teachers, for training that meets their particular development needs.
But following a private briefing with education and lifelong learning minister Jane Davidson this week, some members raised concerns about where the cash will come from for the general training that schools need to meet their own objectives - for example, improving boys' performance.
Funding used to come from the grants for education, support and training fund (GEST). But it was replaced last year by the better schools fund (BSF) - which was then raided to provide cash for workload reforms.
Further reductions are expected in the BSF as the Assembly moves funding for statutory and mainstream activities, such as improving results at key stage 3 and support for ethnic-minority pupils, into other budgets.
The new streamlined BSF will instead support the Assembly government's own priorities and "innovative initiatives aimed at raising standards of attainment in schools and tackling disadvantage", said a spokeswoman.
But Elwyn Davies, head of Pencoed comprehensive, Bridgend, told fellow council members: "From what the minister has said, the better schools funding is going to become insignificant. So where do we meet the general training needs of staff? The implication is that BSF is going to go down and down. Does that mean access to CPD for schools is going to go down and down?"
He and other members also raised concerns about where the funding would come from for the training of rising numbers of non-teaching staff.
Suzanne Nantcurvis, president of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Cymru, claimed some teachers were applying for funding from the teaching council's CPD fund for courses that met school needs, not their own.
"Many teachers are applying to the GTCW for what should be their entitlement under the BSF for things like WJEC (the Welsh exams board) courses," she said.
But an Assembly spokeswoman said it had announced last year that funding for general "subject-based" in-service training would be removed from the BSF.
She added: "The BSF is complemented by support for teachers' personal professional development which is now available through the GTCW. This will increase to pound;3m in 2006-7.
"The BSF will continue to fund INSET to support raising standards in literacy and numeracy, transition across key stages, and priority curriculum areas including modern foreign languages, personal and social education, work-related education, PE and the Curriculum Cymreig.
"Local authorities are responsible for ongoing support to schools and teachers, including training and development. Where there are new initiatives and developments that require grant support, then the BSF can be used to provide pump priming."
Richard Parry Jones, Anglesey's director of education, said funding was insufficient to meet all the training needs of the teaching workforce.
Mal Davies, the GTCW's chairman, told the council meeting: "The most important resource in schools is the well-motivated teacher. If we want the best teachers with the highest standards, they need to have access to CPD."
Nearly 40 per cent of teachers who applied for professional development funding from the GTCW this year (2004-5) had made successful applications in previous years. Council members said more needed to be done to publicise the fund to schools.
Only 35 individual teachers in Conwy (3.3 per cent of those eligible to apply) and 29 in Blaenau Gwent (4.5 per cent) were successful this year, compared to 343 in Rhondda Cynon Taf (14.3 per cent) and 180 from the Vale of Glamorgan (13.7 per cent).
Overall, around 2,875 individual teachers in 962 schools benefited from Pounds 1.29m of professional development bursaries, research scholarships and sabbaticals, with a further pound;300,000 going to networks of teachers spread across schools and LEAs.
* Teachers in Wales will pay the same as last year to register with the GTCW in 2005-6 - pound;32.