Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford AM has confirmed the headline details of Welsh Government’s £15 billion budget for 2017-18.
There are changes to the £1.6 billion Education and Skills budget which have implications for schools.
– £20m to raise school standards
– Over £90m for Pupil Deprivation Grant including £4.5m extra to double support for early years
– £30m for further and higher education
– £15m on student support
– £500m in capital funding to maintain 21st Century Schools programme
– £111m for 100,000 all-age apprenticeships and traineeships.
Budgets create winners and losers. FE, Higher Education and providers of early years services are among the ‘winners’ in the education and skills sector.
There will be concern among secondary schools that there is no explicit increase in money to support preparation for incoming curriculum and assessment reforms.
Welsh Labour struck a deal with Plaid Cymru to ensure a majority in the Senedd when the Budget goes to the vote. This should mean that the budget will be actioned as proposed and to an expected schedule.
This schedule allows Local Authorities and other agencies to proceed with their budget processes without delay.
Local Authorites are among the ‘winners’ in the budget. Overall, their budget will be stable, and not the significant 2-3% cuts expected some months ago.
This should relieve the pressure on education budgets at a local level, at least in the short term.
This will be welcomed by school leaders and Governors, and local Councillors who go into Local elections in May 2017.
Two specific education initiatives will lose their funding at the end of this current academic year.
Schools Challenge Cymru, currently costing £20m and actively supporting 40 secondary schools. It is expected that the £20million will be re-allocated to the regional consortia through the relevant local authorities. Over the course of this Government’s term, this £20m per year adds up to the £100m for raising school standards promised by Welsh Labour going into the Assembly election in May.
Each of the 40 secondary schools will currently be seeking clarification from their Local Authority and consortia about the support they will receive in 2017-18. These 40 are mostly in Central South and EAS consortia; these consortia will feel the pressure of new demands the most and there will be robust discussions between the consortia about allocating the £20million.
Teach First Cymru will lose its direct funding at the end of the academic year but graduates on programme will be supported until 2018. This is a blow to schools in particular challenge who will be looking for reassurance that an alternative arrangement is identified.
As yet, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams AM has not confirmed her intentions for reforming Initial Teacher Training and teacher professional development. Proposals for reform are well known. She has a number of speaking engagements in mid November 2016.
Author: Robin Hughes