Education under the spotlight
A working group has been set up to review the way schools are financed in mid Wales after it was revealed that 34 have deficit budgets.
Powys County Council says the group will look at the present funding arrangement in the light of an increasing number of schools in or predicting deficit budgets in the future. It says the situation is putting schools and the council at risk.
Currently the majority of money in the schools budget goes directly to schools and heads and school governors have authority to manage and balance their budgets.
However at the end of March there were 34 schools with a cumulative deficit balance totalling £2.48m, compared to 18 with deficits of £940,000 12 months earlier.
A report by the Wales Audit Office into education finance in Powys highlighted that the Council faces significant challenges to deliver an affordable and sustainable education service and halt the projected substantial decline in schools’ financial health.
Chairman of the Powys Audit Committee, Councillor John Morris, said “We are in a situation where the way schools are funded presently shows an unsustainable financial cost to the Council’s budget.
"A joint working group will look at the present financial viability within schools and projections for the next three years. This is a very serious financial issue for the Authority which if not addressed has the potential to put both schools and the Authority at severe financial risk. We are awaiting a policy direction from the new portfolio holder and cabinet on the future shape of our schools and education provision across Powys.”
The working group will firstly focus on secondary school budgets as many are showing large and increasing deficits. The group will interview officers, councillors, school heads and governors to get a full picture of the reasons behind the present position.
Councillor Pete Roberts, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee covering education, said: “We need to understand how the curriculum is being delivered across our schools and see if it our students are getting the breath of subjects in the most financially efficient way. We will also need to explore how the staffing structures are set up in schools and how efficiently staff are being used in the classroom."