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Welsh Government blasted in school funding row

10 May 2024 3 minute read

Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter

Funding education properly should be the Welsh Government priority rather than paying for 36 more Senedd Members, a senior councillor has said.

The comments were made after a letter was sent by Blaenau Gwent headteachers to all parents and carers outlining the “serious concerns” they have with the lack of funding being given to schools in the county borough.

In this year’s Blaenau Gwent council budget, councillors voted to give an extra £864,000 to schools but it is expected that this funding will be used to deal with the cost of living crisis that has seen school utility bills rise.

After reading the letter from headteachers former council chairwoman and Independent county borough councillor for Abertillery and Six Bells Julie Holt is urging residents to lobby politicians to in the hope of getting more money for schools.


Cllr Holt said: “This is a shameful situation and has a direct effect on future generations in our valleys.”

This week the Senedd voted to expand its numbers from the current 60 members to 96 when the next elections take place in 2026.

This move is supposed to strengthen scrutiny of decision making in Cardiff Bay – but is estimated to cost an extra £17.8 million a year.

Cllr Holt said: “We now have to fund another 36 members at the Senedd.

“How this is going to help the people of Wales is beyond me.

“Education it seems is not worthy of proper funding.

“Education should be a priority in Wales, but it seems that our Labour Government in Cardiff are more concerned with creating jobs in the Senedd than investing in very people that they should represent.”

“Please lobby your Senedd members and MPs, register to vote if you haven’t already done so and get involved.”

Budget cuts

The letter from headteachers has highlighted the funding problem for schools in the county borough.

The headteachers said: “School budgets have been cut year on year for the past decade as a result of the political philosophy now commonly referred to as austerity.

“Up to this point schools have cut staff and made other efficiency savings to make ends meet.

“We are now at a point where there is nothing else left to cut.”

Council leader Labour’s Cllr Steve Thomas said: “We fully acknowledge the significant financial pressures schools are facing due to high energy costs, inflation and pay increases.

“We have also been impacted heavily by the same pressures, together with a below average funding settlement from Welsh Government due to the poor settlement received from the UK Government.

He also explained over the next four years Blaenau Gwent need to find £26.5 million in cuts and savings from their budget – having already made £40 million in cuts in the past.

Cllr Thomas said: “Schools and their Governing Bodies, like council services, will need to consider how they manage their financial pressures within the resources available to them via the agreed school funding formula.

“This will mean that they face difficult decisions as to how they realign and set their budgets within the funding available to them.

“Education remains a top priority for us, and we are extremely proud of the improvement journey our schools and education services have been on over the past few years.”

In 2023/2024 – In the delegated schools budget Blaenau Gwent pupils were worth on average £5,967 each which was the highest in Wales and well above the national average per pupil of £5,386.

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