News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Flintshire schools face ‘significant’ challenges despite proposed budget increase

Schools in Flintshire are facing ‘significant’ challenges despite a proposed increase to their budget.

The amount of money available to schools in the county is set to go up by more than £2.5 million in the upcoming financial year – a rise of almost three per cent.

However, Flintshire Council has highlighted the growing demand in support for pupils with additional learning needs and recent teacher pay increases as two major issues.

Council officials have criticised the Welsh Government for agreeing to the pay award without providing enough funding to cover it.

They said they would be prepared to meet one per cent of the pay rise in principle, but schools would be expected to absorb the remaining costs.

In a report Claire Homard, the authority’s chief officer for education and youth, said: “The central educational budget has been reduced by 30 per cent over the last four years and this has impacted on service delivery, particularly to our most vulnerable learners with additional learning needs.

“These reductions have occurred at time when demand for services is increasing.

“Further budget reductions would have a negative impact on Flintshire’s levels of attainment, pupil exclusion numbers and referrals to costly out of county placements.

“It would place pressure on our schools who are struggling to cope with the reduced level of service and rising demand of those pupils with additional learning needs.”

The council will receive additional funding in grants from Cardiff to meet some of the costs of the increase before the end of the financial year, which it said would be given to schools in full.

However, an increase of just over one per cent will have to be met by schools via their delegated budgets.

Ms Homard said that along with rising pension costs, the lack of support provided at a national level made it difficult for schools to balance their budget and provide a good standard of education. She said: “The low resilience of central services is highlighted as a significant risk.

“There are huge pressures on the Inclusion service with rising demand and more complex referrals.

“This has the risk of increasing the number of children and young people requiring expensive out of county placements.

“The September 2019 Teachers pay award and increase in teachers’ pension costs is a significant risk and Welsh Government will need to be pressed by the council and teachers professional organisations to offer a funding solution.”

The report will be discussed by councillors at a meeting on Thursday.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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