A committee of Assembly Members has called on the Welsh Government to carry out an urgent review of school funding.
The cross-party Children, Young People and Education Committee has heard concerns from headteachers, local government, teaching unions, parents and young people across Wales about the challenges they face as a result of the allocation of education resources.
Following its inquiry into School Funding, the committee has published a report recommending the Welsh Government urgently review the minimum cost of running a school and educating a child.
The Committee has called for this review to be undertaken with a similar objective to the Nuffield review on the Welsh NHS.
To understand the extent of the problems being faced, the committee is calling on the Welsh Government to provide an estimate of the funding gap between the amount currently spent on schools and the amount needed to deliver all that is required of them.
The Committee also looked at the way the money makes its way to the front line and how it is used.
It recognises that this depends on a number of factors, including how resources for local government are shared out, whether local authorities prioritise schools within their own budget setting process, the extent to which they delegate funding to schools themselves and how they distribute that funding between their schools.
As well as looking at how the Welsh Government and local authorities are tackling school budget deficits, the inquiry also heard how over 500 schools currently hold significant reserves, above the legal threshold at which local authorities can intervene.
The Committee has called on the Welsh Government to provide an update on how it and local authorities are investigating this and taking action.
Lynne Neagle AM, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee said:
“The evidence we heard during our inquiry was overwhelming – there is not enough money going into the education system in Wales and not enough finding its way to schools.
The system for funding schools is hugely complex, multi-layered and dependent on many factors.
While it would have been easy for us as a Committee to simply recommend additional funding for education and for schools, we absolutely believe that increasing the level of funding alone is not the solution. The funding must also be used effectively.
On top of our concerns about the level of funding and the complexity of the system, schools are also expected to implement an increasing number of reforms, such as the new curriculum, the new Additional Learning Needs (special educational needs) system and the whole school approach on emotional and mental health.
Our worry is that with increasing pressures, the challenges for schools could get worse.
Access to high quality education is a fundamental right for all our children and young people.
It should not depend on where you live, on your social background or the language in which you learn. A good education is one of the most important building blocks a child can.”
John Kendall, Head Teacher of Risca Community Comprehensive School added:
“School funding has clearly been a matter of considerable concern for some time.
I welcomed the enquiry as I welcome this report; we were happy for the committee to visit our school earlier in the year to engage in some very useful and frank discussions.
The number of recommendations reflects the need for action, and significantly the first of these calls for an urgent review into how much funding is required to fund our schools, especially given the level of educational reform currently being undertaken here in Wales.
I would urge all school leaders and governors to ensure their voice is properly heard as part of this process.”
Suzy Davies AM, Shadow Minister for Education said schools are desperate for better funding, she commented:
“Teachers and schools are desperately crying out for better funding from the Welsh Labour Government, but their pleas are repeatedly falling on deaf ears.
This is the next generation of Wales we’re raising and the Welsh Government must do more to give them the best possible start and access to opportunities.
The complex and obscure routes through which schools are funded do not make that job any easier and are raised as a real cause for concern by the Children, Young People and Education Committee in their hard-hitting report this week.
That’s why Welsh Conservatives have a long-standing policy to fund schools more directly, bringing transparency and clarity to how funding is decided and, ultimately, to get money straight into the classroom.”
Dilwyn Roberts-Young, General Secretary of Wales education union UCAC’s said:
“The Committee has conducted its research, has received a deluge of evidence, and has come to the conclusion that ‘there is not enough money going into the education system in Wales and not enough finding its way to schools’. UCAC agrees whole-heartedly with that conclusion.
Schools are unable to afford the numbers of staff that they require to provide a high-quality education. In turn, that means increasing class sizes, fewer teaching support staff and less support for vulnerable learners.
We welcome the Committee’s recognition that the entire education funding system is over-complex – and that it is impossible to come to a judgement about value for money due to that complexity and the inconsistency of funding formulas across Wales.
We urge Welsh Government to take note of these very clear messages, to take them seriously, and to act without delay on the Committee’s recommendations.
Our schools are buckling under the strain, and with the financial forecasts over the next few years, there’s a danger that they will not be able to cope with the enormous and ambitious reforms that are on the way.”