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High Schools blast council funding

 
Created on 05/07/2018 @ 09:53
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Secondary schools across Powys today hit back at Powys County Council claims that they have been irresponsible with their budgets.

The chairs of 11 secondary schools signed a letter sent to MyWelshpool today blaming the council for underfunding education in Powys.

Councillors condemned schools and criticised running deficit budgets at a Cabinet meeting on June 19 when figures revealed that collectively schools would be £6.5million in the red.

The letter reads:

Powys Schools Funding Crisis – A Rounded View

We write as a collective, Chairs of Governing Bodies of Secondary Schools across Powys in response to an article in local newspapers reporting on a Cabinet Meeting on 19 June that included an agenda item on School Budgets.

Several of the comments from Councillors, reported on in the article are factually incorrect and collectively paint a picture suggesting that Secondary Schools in Powys are being irresponsible with their budgets. We refute this in the strongest terms and have clear evidence to the contrary. It may be apt to suggest that the problem of deficit school budgets is attributable more to poor or no decision making and leadership at the County Council level and not wholly in our schools that the remarks appear to present.

We wish to make the following points:

1. Cllr David Jones said, “We are one of the highest funders of individual pupils in Wales and we still have schools racking up big deficits.”

His statement is incorrect. When it comes to the funding of secondary schools, Powys funds the lowest average amount per individual pupil out of all of the local authorities in Wales, ranking at 22 out of 22.

This is taken from the Welsh Government’s My Local School website, which is in the public domain:

Funding per pupil in Secondary education across Wales, from My Local School Wales

Local Authority Average funding per pupil Rank:

DENBIGHSHIRE £5,073 1

CONWY £4,994 2

GWYNEDD £4,991 3

CARDIFF £4,952 4

WREXHAM £4,883 5

CEREDIGION £4,875 6

ANGLESEY £4,858 7

BLAENAU GWENT £4,723 8

MERTHYR TYDFIL £4,720 9

PEMBROKESHIRE £4,661 10

SWANSEA £4,601 11

BRIDGEND £4,493 12

RHONDDA CYNON TAF £4,477 13

TORFAEN £4,460 14

NEWPORT £4,456 15

FLINTSHIRE £4,369 16

CAERPHILLY £4,354 17

MONMOUTHSHIRE £4,343 18

NEATH PORT TALBOT £4,335 19

CARMARTHENSHIRE £4,285 20

VALE OF GLAMORGAN £4,276 21

POWYS £4,179 22

This information shows quite clearly that Powys funds significantly below the Wales average.

2. Acting Chief Executive, Mohammad Mehmet said, “In the secondary phase so many of them are in deficit and no early signs of that being managed into line. We need to dampen the expectation that the funding review will deal with the problem of overspending.”

This statement infers that the current funding formula review is to make further efficiencies. The funding formula outlines the minimum resource needed to run a secondary school in terms of teachers required, additional learning needs provision, building related costs and other educational costs (based on pupil numbers) and whether the curriculum is delivered through the medium of English, Welsh or bilingually.

It does not take into account issues such as class sizes or breadth of curriculum. If it were to do so, and assuming that the Council is aiming for high standards in Secondary education in Powys, it could certainly reveal the problem to be underfunding rather than overspending.

In addition the current formula does not track inflation and has not done so for several years. This means that the national pay agreement for teachers is not covered in the formula, and school budgets have had to absorb this pay increase. This is a County Council decision.

While schools and local authorities have no say in what the pay award is (this is decided currently by the UK Government), logic would dictate that inflation of pay must be covered in school budgets, otherwise there is a real risk that all schools’ income will be less than costs, therefore creating widespread deficit, as is the case now.

3. Cllr Stephen Hayes: “We need to take on board this is not just education but a corporate problem, this is a service that threatens the authority’s finances.”

Cllr Hayes may wish to consider that it is the County Council’s decision as to how secondary education is arranged across Powys. He may also wish to consider that sustained low funding of secondary schools across Powys in comparison to other local authorities in Wales threatens the future life chances of young people across the county.

In other words, county councillors must at least consider this question: Is it possible that secondary schools are underfunded, and therefore deficit budgets are a consequence of this underfunding?

4. Cllr Myfanwy Alexander: “There is a culture of excuses of obfuscation, we should be putting financial probity at the top of the list. We should be making the passing of unbalanced budgets unacceptable.”

We reject the blind mantra that a growing deficit is the fault of schools and find the statement wilfully misleading to the public. As schools we have gone through years of cuts and implemented many efficiencies.

We have already reached a threshold where further efficiencies are not manageable without harming significantly the viable education and well-being of our learners, our future.

We do encourage parents/guardians to speak further to their local school governors or county councillors; this is a crisis that the County Council has failed to address for a number of years; we need strategic decision making, pragmatic policy and collaborative activity.

Chair of Governing Body

Brecon High School, Buith Wells High School, Ysgol Maesydderwen, Crickhowell High School, Ysgol Uwchradd Caereinon, Llanfyllin High School, Llanidloes High School, Ysgol Bro Hyddgen, Welshpool High School, Llandrindod High School, Ysgol Calon Cymru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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