Council’s school cuts slammed by every headteacher in county
Richard Evans Local Democracy Reporter
Every headteacher in one Welsh county has signed a letter condemning the council for proposing to cut school budgets by 6-10%.
The letter is going out to parents of children attending Conwy primary, secondary, and special schools, following the council cutting education budgets by 5% last year – with even greater cuts proposed this year.
Whilst the exact level of cuts is to be determined at a council meeting setting the budget on February 29, senior councillors have already indicated they will make cuts of 6% minimum – – with 10% also suggested.
The cuts are proposed despite the damage to children’s education caused by the COVID pandemic, and the headteachers have warned the most vulnerable children needing extra support will suffer most.
But Conwy faces a financial black hole of £25m and will likely slash services across the board whilst raising council tax by as much as 11%, having modelled for 8%, 9%, 10%, and 11% rises, this following the 9.9% rise last year.
The council blames the Welsh Government after receiving the joint lowest annual local government settlement in Wales – at just 2%.
The headteachers’ letter addressed to parents and carers slammed the council’s proposals.
“We as Conwy headteachers and Governing Bodies are particularly worried this year as we are being asked to accept savings of between 6% and 10% by Conwy Local Authority for this next financial year,” the letter reads.
“This is a significant cut, and we are still waiting on a final decision regarding this. It is fair to say that any cut being proposed on schools is going to make setting a balanced budget an extremely challenging situation for headteachers and governing bodies.”
The letter then explains headteachers have already written to the Welsh Government’s education minister as well as the director of education for Wales to express ‘serious concerns’ regarding the impact of the cuts will have on children and their families.
The letter to parents and carers reads, “As a joint response from all the headteachers and Governors in Conwy, which includes primary, secondary, and special schools, we want parents and carers to be fully informed about the serious challenges that we continue to face. The financial situation in schools is now critical and there can be no doubt that further cuts to school budgets will have a significant impact on what we can provide for our pupils.”
“Any cut to school budgets, as is being proposed, will now impact on the levels of support that we can offer to our most vulnerable young people and their families. Our pupils have faced and have overcome many challenges over the past few years; however, we are still dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic and the effect that it has had and continues to have on the education of our pupils.”
The letter goes on to say job losses will follow the proposed cuts and that children will be the ones who suffer most.
The letter concludes, “This year we foresee that a significant majority of Conwy schools will struggle to set a balanced budget. If they are unable to do so, then they will need to cut costs which will inevitably lead to staff reductions and redundancies. Schools have an ever-increasing part to play in supporting children and their wider families, but this is being expected whilst our resources are being significantly reduced. In the end, it will be the children within our communities who will suffer – they deserve better.”
Cllr Charlie McCoubrey, leader of Conwy County Borough Council, said: “All councillors at Conwy County Borough Council are fully aware of the funding shortfall that the council faces as a result of national pay awards, inflation, energy and fuel prices, and the increased demand for services.
“Just like other authorities across the UK, the council will have no choice but to reduce its expenditure in a number of areas and raise additional income, which is likely to have an impact on the level of services provided.
“It is inevitable that when councillors meet to finalise the budget on 29 February, they will have some difficult decisions to make.”
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