Schools Challenge Cymru: Education standards funding fears

Those involved with Schools Challenge Cymru expect to see significant improvements in exam results within the first year

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There are fears £5m could be diverted from Wales' current schools' improvement programmes to pay for a new scheme also aimed at raising standards.

Earlier this year it was announced £20m would be given to 40 underperforming schools from the new Schools Challenge Cymru fund to help them improve.

Around £12m has come from the UK government leaving £8m to be found.

Ministers say they are looking at which departmental budgets could support the policy at a "very challenging" time.

Willows High School Willows High School in Cardiff is one of the schools set to benefit from the £20m fund

Schools Challenge Cymru was launched by the Welsh government in May to improve the quality of teaching and learning by sharing expertise and teachers with high-performing schools. Similar schemes have been run in London and Manchester.

First Minister Carwyn Jones called it "a real game changer".

'Rumours'

But at least £5m of the funding needed for it will come from three existing schemes, according to Plaid Cymru:

  • The School Effectiveness Grant - aimed at improving literacy, numeracy and reducing the impact of poverty.
  • The Minority Ethnic Achievement Grant - aimed at raising achievement of ethnic minority children and children of migrant workers.
  • The 14-19 Network Grant - which supports organisations, learning providers and teenage learners.

The party's education spokesman Simon Thomas said: "It is disappointing that leaks and rumours are the only way our Welsh parliament can discover what the government is planning and that cuts are being proposed in the summer recess when Welsh ministers can't be forced to account for their actions in the assembly."

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Class Exam results are expected to improve

Analysis by Arwyn Jones, BBC Wales education correspondent

The Welsh government has come under a lot of flack for our education standards. This is their answer.

Those involved with Schools Challenge Cymru expect to see significant improvements in exam results within the first year.

Of the £20m cost, £12m came from extra money from the UK government but the remaining £8m has to come from within the Welsh education department.

And that's where there are some problems.

According to opposition parties and teaching unions, at least £5m will be clawed back from money already allocated to three projects.

These already aim to raise standards in our schools, so it might be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

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Teaching unions have expressed concerns about what the cuts will mean for schools.

Robin Hughes, secretary of teaching union the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru (ASCL), said: "When the first minister and the education minister announced that £20m will be spent on Schools Challenge Cymru, we all welcomed it.

"What nobody would have expected is that a significant part of this money would be taken away from other parts of school funding that have already been discussed, agreed and allocated."

A Welsh government spokesperson said it had been completely transparent about a very challenging budget position.

The spokesman said: "We are currently looking at which of our departmental budgets could be used to support delivery of the Schools Challenge Cymru programme."

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