Posted: Sat 13th Jan 2018

Flintshire schools set for same level of funding as last year despite rising costs

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Jan 13th, 2018

Flintshire schools are set to receive the same level of funding as last year which means there will be no uplift in budgets to help with increasing costs of energy, goods, services and staff pay awards.

Council officials fear the quality of education services in the county are at risk as enforced austerity measures continue to bite. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Flintshire’s central educational budget has been reduced by 30% over the last three years in response to the ongoing austerity measures but school budgets have to date been largely protected. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Seven of the 11 secondary schools in the county are already in budget deficit and that is expected to increase, the council says Headteachers are reporting high levels of stress as they try to balance the books. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

In previous years, the local authority has been able to provide a ‘small uplift’ to schools’ budgets to help with rising inflation and to protect frontline education services. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

£13m budget gap

But, with an estimated budget gap of £13m to be found this financial year the council says “there is no scope in the budget considerations to offer schools any uplift in their budgets.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

With the vast majority of school budgets dedicated to staffing costs, the council also says there has been an increase in redundancies within Flintshire schools say council bosses. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Whilst this saves money, it also creates potential risks, for example, a reduction in the range, quality and breadth of the curriculum on offer, a reduction in the levels of academic support and pastoral intervention for vulnerable pupils and possibly an increase in class sizes.” A spokesperson said. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Flintshire County Council has appealed to Welsh and UK Government Ministers to consider the impact of ongoing austerity on the local education services and acknowledge the significant workforce costs that changes to pensions and National Insurance have created. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The local authority has also demanded that any future pay awards for education staff should be funded in full over and above a ‘cash flat’ settlement and that assurances are received that any new legislative and policy commitments originated by Welsh Government or Central Government will also be funded in full. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor Ian Roberts said:

“The Council is faced with major financial challenges and is having to make some very difficult choices about how to allocate its limited funding and how to find more savings to achieve a legally balanced budget. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Setting a ‘cash flat’ budget for schools makes a significant contribution to closing the budget gap but is not without major risks to the sustainability of quality education services in Flintshire. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Such a decision will impact all schools but will be particularly challenging to those whose current budgetary situation is less resilient than others. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Schools have been proactive in adjusting to reducing funding levels whilst focusing on maintaining the delivery of a quality curriculum and improving learner outcomes. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Performance at Foundation Phase, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 is currently at or better than expected levels and Key Stage 4, while still below expected levels, has seen improvement in 2017 in spite of the financial challenges. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

There are few mitigations to protect schools from the impact of a ‘cash flat’ settlement following on from a number of lean years in educational funding. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

There either has to be a reversal of the national policy on austerity or schools will need to go even further in making local efficiencies.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Flintshire County Council’s Education and Youth Overview and Scrutiny Committee will consider the feasibility of a ‘cash flat’ settlement to schools when it meets on Thursday January 18. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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