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Councillors raise concerns over school budgets

23 Aug 2023 2 minute read
Caerphilly Council Office

Concerns over school budgets have been raised by Plaid Cymru councillors in Caerphilly following an overspend of close to £6 million.

A report to the local authority’s last Cabinet meeting revealed a deteriorating position with school balances having fallen from £17.2m in 2021-22 to £11.3m in 2022-23.

At the end of the 2021-financial year there were no schools with a deficit balance but by the end of March this year there were five primary schools (£151,000 in total) and three secondary schools (£949,000 collectively) carrying forward deficit balances.

Falling birth rates

Councillor Colin Mann, Plaid Cymru’s finance spokesperson and councillor for Llanbradach said: “Most schools are facing a difficult time financially with the probability of a deficit budget in the next two to three years. In the past it has mainly been secondary schools but now includes the majority of primary schools as well.

“Many schools face the issue of falling rolls. The falling birth-rate means that less and less children need places.

“This has gone to the extreme in my own ward where pupil numbers in Cwm Glas School have fallen to such an extent that the school faces closure in one year’s time.

“This is very sad for those of us who campaigned for the school to be established when many new houses were being built in the 1970s.

“Schools are also still dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic with attendance figures struggling to reach the levels they were prior to the shutdown,” added Councillor Colin Mann.

Councillor John Roberts, who represents the Aber Valley, added: “There have always been concerns among schools about insufficient funding but the ending of Covid grant support from the Welsh Government will make the situation worse. Many schools are in a precarious position financially.

“These days there seems to be an expectation for schools to do more but, for instance, the new curriculum brings increasing challenges and pressure along with the new Additional Learning Needs (ALN) system.

“Something to be mindful of also, is that demographic change could add an extra pressure to a school’s balance sheet,” added Councillor John Roberts.

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