More money planned for education in Wales

There will be a full-scale review of how education funding in Wales is allocated to schools, colleges & universities, the Welsh Education Minister has announced

The Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews has announced a full scale review of how education funding in Wales is allocated to schools, colleges and universities.

The move will seek to implement a manifesto pledge (page 12) made by First Minister, Carwyn Jones, during his campaign to become Welsh Leader, which made clear his desire to see:

“A re-focusing of educational investment to ensure a greater proportion reaches the frontline – schools, colleges and universities.”

The review, described by the Minister as an opportunity to cut bureaucracy, will be undertaken by external consultants in two stages: the first, in February will focus on assessing the costs of administering education; the second stage, due to be held in March, will make recommendations for savings, and where and how money can be freed up to ensure it reaches the frontline.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Andrews said:

“I want to see more funding going to schools, colleges and universities. To achieve this we must review the real cost of administering education across Wales. It is imperative that we reduce the bureaucracy and streamline the education system to make it lean and effective to benefit our learners.

“I believe we can do things more smartly and simply in Wales. We need to make sure we make the best use of the resources available to us. Major performance improvement and better efficiency from our education providers is the key to us getting more funding to the front line.”

The announcement was welcomed by the National Association of Headteachers for Wales, who hoped it would identify the costs of school administration. The Association’s Director in Wales, Anna Brychan, commented:

“There is a variety of practice in local authorities. We don’t really know quite why or for what reason or whether that’s justified or whether we can re-focus it on the front line and use it more effectively there. Our feeling is that we could.”

During First Ministers Questions last week, under questioning from Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams, Mr Jones confirmed that the Assembly government would seek to raise education spending by 1 per cent above the block grant from 2011 onwards.

The announcement has come following news on the BBC’s Politics Show in Wales which found that more than a quarter of the 172 schools that responded to a survey timetabled lessons for teaching assistants to either supervise or teach directly. One school in Swansea was reported to have used assistants for 150 hours of classes a week.

Unison have raised concerns that some teaching assistants are being use inappropriately. Speaking for the Union, Jessica Cromie said:

“We’re concerned that teaching assistants might be put under pressure to take classes that they’re not qualified to do so.

“Teaching assistants should only do this if they’re employed at a certain level but we are aware that teaching assistants at a lower level are being asked to do this and they’re not being paid accordingly.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Assembly Government said:

“Raising Standards and Tackling Workload: a National Agreement clearly states that support staff at any level and teachers are not interchangeable and, ultimately, it is the duty of individual head teachers, working with their governing bodies and wider school teams, to determine the best way to deploy staff in their schools.

“Each school will adopt strategies that suit its individual character and circumstances. The agreement encourages schools to deploy support staff more flexibly, but accountability for the overall learning outcome of pupils will always rest with qualified teachers.”

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