The Committee considered a report outlining the financial challenges facing primary schools. The report detailed the current Fair Funding budget allocation to schools and efforts to distribute equitably to the range of primary schools to meet the educational needs of all learners in Carmarthenshire. The report also outlined some key contextual influences that currently impact on the funding model in schools.
Access to high quality education is a fundamental right for all children and young people and it should not depend on where you live, your social background or the language in which you learn. A good education is one of the most important building blocks a child can receive. It is essential that there is sufficient, equitable funding available to ensure that the education that our children and young people deserve can be delivered effectively and consistently.
The following questions/observations were raised on the report:-
· Asked if there were any figures available in relation to the total expenditure on education by Local Authorities, the Group Accountant explained that this data is compiled by the Welsh Government on an annual basis and an analysis report is available. She added that it was difficult to compare data because all Education Directorates are slightly different in each Authority with some including libraries and in some ALN is delegated whereas in others in it held centrally;
· Asked for a breakdown of the three elements – learners, deprivation and sparsity, the Group Accountant informed the Committee that she would circulate this information by e-mail following the meeting;
· Reference was made to the fact that the report highlighted the significant challenges in our schools and indicated that we cannot continue as we are and it was felt that it was now time to hold meaningful and measured discussions about this. The Executive Board Member for Education and Children agreed that it was a concern that some of our schools are old, in poor condition and not fit for purpose which was why the Modernising Education Programme was so important;
· Concern was expressed at some of the levels of deficit and also in the way that some schools have coped well over the past year but some have got significantly worse. The Executive Board Member for Education and Children explained that capacity is an issue and when a project is included in the MEP, it is because of capacity issues. The Head of Access to Education added that there is a duty on Local Authorities to plan school places and it was therefore essential to match supply with demand. The Welsh Government requires Local Authorities to review all schools with over 10% spare places;
· Reference was made to the fact that the Committee has been concerned about the level of school deficits and the report was useful in showing the reasons and detail behind this. Officers were asked if it would be possible to receive a similar report for secondary schools and the Head of Education and Inclusion Services agreed to bring a report on this to a future meeting;
· Reference was made to the fact that a significant proportion of all schools have pupils from outside their catchment area. The Head of Access to Education informed the Committee that it had been intended to undertake a review of all catchment areas, however, this had not been possible due to the fact that most of his team have been redeployed to work in other areas due to the pandemic. He added that the catchment area review will be finalised as soon as practicable.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the report be received.
[NOTE: At 12.55 p.m., during consideration of the above item, the Committee’s attention was drawn to Council Procedure Rule 9 – Duration of Meeting and, as the meeting had been underway for nearly three hours, it was UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED to suspend standing orders to enable the Committee to conclude the remaining business on the agenda.]