Schools lose pounds 50m worth of grants: Teacher-training schemes biggest losers

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MINISTERS have cut pounds 25m from training schemes for teachers on the national curriculum and assessment, just two weeks before the syllabus gets its biggest shake-up yet. In total, pounds 50m has been cut from grants to schools, it was announced last night.

While funds for the rapidly changing national curriculum have been cut, extra money is being put into 'truancy watch' schemes devised by John Patten, Secretary of State for Education. He hopes bus drivers and park-keepers will alert the authorities if they see a truant.

In early January, Sir Ron Dearing will announce the results of a six-month review of the national curriculum and assessment which is bound to mean major changes. Leaks of his report suggest that the content of each of the nine subjects in the curriculum is to be revised, the system of testing is to be changed and there is to be a new emphasis on vocational education for 15- and 16-year-olds.

Teachers' unions protested last night that in-service training to implement the new curriculum and its assessment was already inadequate, and that further cuts could push it to breaking point.

Under the Grants for Education Support and Training scheme, local authorities bid for money for schools' projects. They pay 40 per cent of the cost, and the Government pays the rest. Funding for next year's programme, to begin in April 1994, has been cut from pounds 320m to pounds 270m. National curriculum and assessment programmes have been cut from pounds 180m to pounds 155m.

Schemes to help combat truancy will receive at least pounds 12m next year, compared with pounds 10m this year. This figure may still go up, as local authorities have been given until 14 January to make bids for money for 'truancy watch' programmes.

The scheme also supports children with special educational needs and teacher appraisal programmes, as well as a variety of smaller projects. The money spent on supporting special-needs children in mainstream schools has been cut by pounds 300,000 to pounds 9.7m, but an extra pounds 7m will enable local education authorities to set up advice services for parents of such children and will help schools to develop special- needs policies.

Support for school management and appraisal schemes has been cut from pounds 71m to pounds 56m. An articled teachers scheme aiming to train teachers in the classroom has had its support cut from pounds 10m to pounds 5m.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the Government was spending money on publicity exercises, including pushing 20 million copies of the revised Parents' Charter through families' doors, when it should be spending it on training teachers.

'There was never enough for the introduction of the national curriculum and its testing and assessment. Now the whole thing is being shaken up again and they are just not providing enough training,' he said.

But Mr Patten said: 'This programme targets money to where it is most needed and will support expenditure on a range of key educational priorities.'