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Teacher’s union accuses council of ‘years of underfunding’ for schools

06 Feb 2024 3 minute read
Classroom. Photo by Taken from Pixabay

Nicholas Thomas, local democracy reporter

A teachers’ union has accused a city council of “years of underfunding” for schools, leading to oversubscribed class sizes and staff picking up other subjects to “absorb cutbacks”.

NASUWT said school buildings in Newport are “falling into disrepair” and the budgeted spending per pupil was lower in than anywhere else in Wales last year.

The union has urged the council to “do what is right” and “put children first”.

A spokesperson for the council said it had made “considerable” investment in schools and had increased its budget despite national austerity measures.

But NASUWT said the spending on schools suggested children in Newport are “valued less than they are elsewhere in Wales”.

Per-pupil spending

Welsh Government figures also showed per-pupil spending in the city was the second-lowest of any Welsh council two years ago.

“When challenged about its lack of funding of schools, Newport points to complexities with the budget,” the union said. “Unfortunately, this is just hiding behind the fact that education is not a priority for Newport City Council.”

NASUWT made its comments as part of its consultation response to the proposed budget position statement on Newport’s schools.

It said “the impact of years of underfunding… is being felt by teachers and learners across the city”.

This includes class sizes being “too high” and “pupil-teacher ratios that are detrimental to progress”.

The union also alleged “unqualified teachers” were having to cover in some subjects “to save money and absorb staffing cutbacks”.

High priority

In response to the NASUWT allegations, a spokeswoman for Newport City Council said the authority “puts a high priority on ensuring pupils receive a high-quality education”.

“Indicators have shown there is not always a direct correlation between funding and academic achievement,” she added.

“Against a backdrop of unprecedented financial challenge, following years of austerity, there are no cuts proposed to school budgets next year.”

Funding for schools increased last year but met challenges such as pupil number rises, “pay-related pressures” and increasing costs – but despite these factors there was still investment in school infrastructure, the council spokeswoman said.

This “long-term” investment includes £52m already spent on the first stage of the city’s 21st Century Schools programme, and the second stage – which includes the new key stage two building for St Andrew’s Primary School – currently stands at £84.2m.

“This is in recognition that a modern, safe and attractive learning environment plays a major role in a positive school experience,” the council spokeswoman said.

“Although schools are responsible for managing their own budgets, Newport City Council fully appreciates the challenges and has put in a robust and extensive support system to help all schools.

“Support for schools remains responsive to the issues that our valued headteachers are raising.”

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