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Concerns that education cuts could impact support for pupil wellbeing

01 Jul 2024 3 minute read
School children

Liam Randall, local democracy reporter

Concerns have been raised that cuts to a council’s school budgets could have a negative impact on work to support pupil wellbeing.

Wrexham Council’s education budget for the current financial year was reduced by £5.4m (five per cent) in real terms in February.

Senior councillors blamed a drop in central government funding and high inflation levels for the decision.

It was previously warned the move would lead to redundancies and some schools facing a six-figure financial deficit.

Fears have now also been highlighted about how it will impact on measures to support the health and wellbeing of pupils.

Positive work

Brendan McDonald, a member of the local authority’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee, said a lot of positive work had been done to help children in the county borough.

However, speaking at a meeting at Wrexham’s Guildhall on Wednesday (June 26, 2024), he said financial constraints meant it was at risk of being undone.

Mr McDonald, who sits on the committee as a church representative, said: “We’re all very aware of the difficulties at the moment within the authority.

“Heads I’ve spoken to very recently are anticipating a lot of the work that they’ve done with employing staff to assist with giving benefits and help to certain pupils will be impacted.

“I know schools are very intuitive and innovative, but there has to be some sort of impact.

“That may have an impact on what is available to pupils, or perhaps the quality and the amount of what we can give.

“The knock-on effect is that the tentacles won’t be able to go as far into schools, and to touch the lives of the children we all care so much about. That’s what terrifies me a little bit.”

Mental health initiatives

Examples of the work carried out to support pupils which were raised at the meeting included initiatives to aid their mental health and address period poverty by providing free sanitary products in schools.

A report on the impact of cuts on local schools was originally due to be presented to the committee this week.

However, the discussion was postponed until next month due to rules surrounding what can be discussed during the period before the upcoming general election.

Cllr Phil Wynn (Ind), Wrexham’s lead member for education, said that many of the consequences of the budget reductions were yet to be realised.

He said: “At this moment in time, as a department, we don’t fully understand the complexity of the impact of the cuts on budgets that schools have had to face this year.

“We are bringing a report to this committee next month to start that conversation.

“Schools have identified a number of staff that have faced voluntary or compulsory redundancy, and that’s information we’ll share with you.

“We are trying to find out what the impact will be for the individual schools that have faced that.

“It’s not going to be easy, because it was a significant saving, efficiency, or whatever you want to call it, that we’ve asked schools to deliver this year.”

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