Posted: Wed 28th Feb 2024

Flintshire schools face financial crisis amid budget cuts, warns Headteachers’ Federation

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Flintshire Headteachers’ Federation, which represents leaders from secondary, primary, and special schools across the county, has issued a stark warning about the significant challenges ahead due to budget cuts.

In January, Flintshire Council revealed it was facing a budget gap of £12.9m for 2024/25, with a range of cuts proposed to address the financial pressures.

However, officials said this month that figure had increased to £14.5m due to an increased demand for temporary accommodation for homeless people and out of county placements for looked after children.

As well as a 9% council tax increase effective from April, the measures agreed to plug the gap include a budget reduction of nearly £3.3m to school budgets.

School budgets in Flintshire will still increase by 3.5%, however, in a letter to parents, Flintshire Headteachers’ Federation has cautioned that this will not be enough to cover rising costs.

Inflation, soaring energy bills, and increased staffing expenses are squeezing educational finances more than ever before, threatening the quality of education and support services for students.

The federation points out that a declining birth rate in Flintshire has led to fewer learners, further exacerbating the funding crisis.

This reduction in student numbers translates to decreased government funding, putting additional pressure on local schools.

Headteachers and governing bodies say are are deeply concerned about the potential fallout from these budgetary constraints.

They forecast a range of adverse effects, including staff layoffs, larger class sizes, and a reduction in extracurricular activities.

Support for pupils with additional needs, as well as those requiring literacy, maths, and wellbeing interventions, is also at risk.

The federation fears that these cutbacks will lead to more classroom disruptions, exclusions, and an overall decline in the quality of education.

Moreover, the financial squeeze threatens to affect the physical state of school buildings, compromise health and safety standards, and possibly result in negative evaluations from Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales.

The federation’s letter to parents and carers seeks to prepare the school community for the inevitable choices between maintaining current service levels and balancing the budget.

With a significant funding shortfall, many schools may no longer be able to sustain the same level of support and services.

The letter states: “As headteachers, we want to assure our families that we will always do our utmost to maintain the core provision in our schools, protecting teaching and learning by placing our learners and staff at the heart of everything we do.”

“However, we believe headteachers and governors will have to make a choice between providing the current level of service or balancing the books.”

“Therefore, it is inevitable that in many cases, schools will not be able to provide and sustain the same level of support and services due to the significant shortfall in our funding.”

“If this happens in your school over the next year, we would ask you please to remember that your headteacher and governors are working within a very difficult financial climate locally, but this is also part of a much wider financial issue across Wales and the UK.”

“As headteachers we are grateful for the ongoing support from Flintshire County Council in helping us to navigate our way through this situation and for making representations on our behalf at a national level.”

“We will continue to work in partnership with the Council to minimise the impact at a school level.”

“However, your support and understanding during these challenging times will be invaluable.”

“We have made representations locally and nationally to councillors and members of the Senedd and we will continue to do this. ”

“This letter has been written in consultation with all headteachers in Flintshire. Thank you for your understanding.”

During a full council meeting held at County Hall in Mold last week councillors voted through the budget.

Independent group leader Cllr Richard Jones hit out at Labour Welsh Government ministers over the funding cuts faced by Flintshire.

He said: “I’m happy that across the chamber we seem to have some understanding of what’s necessary over the next 12 months but it’s not the budget we would want and that Flintshire residents deserve.

“Welsh Government has to shoulder some of the blame as our provisional settlement is a 2.2 per cent change from 2023/24, although it had been indicated at 3.1 per cent.

“That settlement is ranked 20 out of 22 local authorities, with half of the North Wales authorities in the bottom of the ranking, with the two at the top being Newport and Cardiff respectively.

“We don’t need any further proof of the north-south divide.”

The budget proposals, including the council tax increase, were approved by the majority of councillors at the end of the debate with 54 votes in favour, four against and two abstentions.

 

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