Worries have been raised that the lack of government support to fund teacher pay rises could place standards of education in Flintshire in jeopardy.
Lower-paid teachers are set to receive an uplift of up to 3.5 per cent in their wages under plans announced by the UK government last year.
However, while some money has been given to Welsh local authorities to bridge the gap, education officials in Flintshire said it was not enough.
Figures released in September show that six of the county’s eleven secondary schools hold a combined deficit of £1.6 million.
The added impact of increases to teacher pay and pensions was discussed by politicians at a meeting yesterday, which was attended by pupils from Argoed High School in Mold.
Addressing education scrutiny committee members, Connah’s Quay Wepre councillor Martin White raised concerns about how worsening finances would affect their education.
He said: “Speaking not only as a councillor, but a parent of two children still within education in Flintshire and on behalf of the pupils at the back of the room today, reading these figures in front of us is as bleak as the weather outside.
How Flintshire schools are expected to continue improving their performance when resources are being stripped by the government is unbelievable.
They’ve got to start practicing what they preach, it’s as simple as that. We can’t carry the can any longer.”
Flintshire Council has agreed in principle to meet one per cent of the pay rise next year, but schools will be expected to take on the remaining amount.
Councillors questioned why pay rises for NHS staff had been fully funded by government, but not for teachers.
It came as education officers highlighted the difficult situation schools are facing.
Lucy Morris, finance manager for education in the county, said: “I think our schools are really struggling, our secondary schools particularly.
I have to say increasingly that it’s difficult and our schools are very lean and operating on the bare minimum.
This isn’t just a problem for us, it’s a problem across Wales and I don’t know where local authorities and government go with it quite frankly.”
Overall the amount of money available to schools in Flintshire is set to go up by more than £2.5 million in the upcoming financial year – a rise of almost three per cent.
However, the council has highlighted the growing demand in support for pupils with additional learning needs and the pay increases as two major issues.
Council leader Aaron Shotton added: “I think this perfectly illustrates the point in the pressure and the unfunded nature of pay increases and how they impact on services.
While it’s much welcomed in terms of the pay award, there’s been no recognition from UK government or Welsh Government in terms of our revenue support grant.”
Committee members voted to support the principle of funding one per cent of the increase, but to express their disappointment about the lack of money from central government.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).