Heads warn primary schools cannot cope with budget cuts expected of them

Primary school headteachers have written to parents outlining their fears over school budget cuts. <i>(Image: Archive)</i>
Primary school headteachers have written to parents outlining their fears over school budget cuts. (Image: Archive)

PRIMARY school headteachers in Gwent have written to parents warning of a “critical” financial situation and cuts they “cannot make”.

The heads say they are being asked to find “efficiency savings’ which most schools are “now simply unable to make” and say this isn’t due to any reluctance to take “difficult decisions” but because any further cuts this financial year “will have a long-term, negative impact on the quality of education that we are able to provide.”

In response to the letter, from primary headteachers in Monmouthshire, the county council said it had increased funding to schools this year, despite a below inflation increase in its own funding, and further raised its proposed council tax increase to do so.

The letter from the Monmouthshire Association of Primary School Headteachers is, they say, the first time the organisation representing the county’s 30 primary schools has written to parents.

The letter states heads needed to share “our grave concerns about the continuing inadequate level of funding that we receive in order to provide a high-quality education”.

It says schools have faced real-terms cuts in their budgets for a number of years and “the situation is now critical in nearly all schools” with most in Monmouthshire having already reduced their staffing and budgets.

Latest information from schools show “nearly all” are having to set deficit budgets – that is where it is planned to spend more than they will receive in funding – for this year and the collective shortfall will be north of one million pounds.

According to the letter the impact will likely be larger class sizes, a reduction in or removal of specialist support around wellbeing, behaviour and family engagement and extra help to provide catch-up support for literacy and numeracy.

Heads say they are also concerned about their ability to “meet the ever-increasing demand for specialist Additional Learning Needs provision for individual children” and “to run schools safely and manage challenging behaviour”.

Others cuts are likely to be made to support staff and leaders, maintenance budgets, training and developing the new curriculum being introduced in Wales and teachers’ skills, as well as school trips and after school activities some of which have been subsidised or offered free to pupils.

Heads say they also expect “significant impact on the wellbeing of hardworking and committed staff and leaders” and the recruitment and retention of all staff to take a hit.

The letter urges parents to “apply political pressure” on the county council and Senedd members due the direct effect on schools of “decisions made by Monmouthshire County Council, the Welsh Government and beyond”.

It states: “our biggest concerns are for the health, safety and wellbeing of children and staff.”

A spokesperson for Monmouthshire council said inflationary pressures on all services it provides were “far higher” than funding received “through central government’s funding streams” but it “worked especially hard to support our schools” and has recognised the numerous pressures they face.

The spokesperson said: “Against a constrained budget we took the decision to increase the schools budget by 4.78 per cent, this was achieved after extensive consultation with our schools’ headteachers, chairs of governors and students.

“This additional increase was afforded by going further in the proposed council tax increase from 7.5 per cent to 7.8 per cent.  With regards to the specific needs of our most vulnerable learners we listened to our school leaders and increased the funding for Additional Learning Needs budgets by over £500,000 increasing both the funding available to support learners and the team of professional who do this.”

They added: “The authority will continue to work closely with our schools to review all opportunities to ensure that funding goes to support our learners.”