Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Around the UK: Wales

As Wales marks a decade of devolution, ASCL Cymru Vice President Ellis Griffiths ths looks ahead to a new and challenging period for education in the principality.

Devolution in Wales is ten years old and it has produced significant changes in the education system.

The Welsh Assembly Government has set a different agenda for education in Wales, which in turn, has changed the role of ASCL Cymru. It is pleasing that officials at the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) want to work in partnership with school leaders and the ASCL Cymru presidential team has numerous opportunities to meet the people that actually make the important decisions.

Such close contact between ASCL Cymru members and the senior officials will lead to greater consensus and improved decisions for the benefit of all learners.

The devolution process presents a challenge to ASCL in terms of the need to work together on core values and policies but also to reflect the diversification of education policies in different countries of the UK.

In Wales, the education system faces significant challenges in the next five years. Revenue funding for both schools and colleges has always been lower than the comparable funding in England, while the wide variation of revenue funding between the 22 unitary authorities continues to be problematic, despite a long campaign by ASCL Cymru and others to improve the situation.

There has also been a lack of investment in school buildings over many years and the amount of money needed to make all schools 'fit for purpose' continues to grow.

Significant cost issues remain within the Welsh education system. The population of west, north and mid-Wales is often sparsely distributed, which leads to a significant number of small schools, both primary and secondary.

There is also the need to provide both English medium education and Welsh medium education according to the demand from parents and pupils.

Many schools face declining numbers and the need to provide greater choice and diversity in post-16 education adds to the challenge.

There is no doubt that the overall amount of money allocated to the Welsh Assembly Government will decline in the next five years, due to the economic downturn. Difficult decisions will have to be made as to which sectors and which services will face the greatest reductions in funding.

I believe that there is a logical and strong argument in investing additional resources in education and training during a period of recession in order to prepare our students for an increasingly competitive and highly technical world.

The UK economy will need a workforce that has a high level of skills and training. I hope that both the UK government and the Welsh Assembly Government recognise and support this most important investment for our future economic development.

ASCL Cymru will have an important role to play in promoting and encouraging the appropriate politicians and senior officials to invest in the education system for the benefit of current and future generations.

We will need to continue to focus on the important issues, working in partnership with the other union representatives and other associations for the benefit of members and for the benefit of our children in our schools and colleges.

There are huge challenges ahead but they need to be faced with enthusiasm, determination and a good deal of common sense.

Pob hwyl o Gymru - best wishes from Wales!

Ellis Griffiths is vice-president of ASCL Cymru and head of Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw.

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