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Less schools an answer to budget problem?

Created on 12/02/2019 @ 13:54
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Education chiefs were told that ordinary councillors may be more supportive of future schools closures.

Councillor Myfanwy Alexander appeared before members of the Learning Skills and Scrutiny Committee on Monday, February 11.
She was there to discuss the School Budgets which sees schools more than £3 million in the red.

This is nearly £600,000 better than where they were at the end of March 2018.
School governor Angela Davies, co-opted onto the scrutiny committee, brought back a spectre from Powys CC’s recent past to haunt Cllr Alexander.

Namely the report in 2014 by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) that suggested that secondary schools needed 750 pupils to be viable and that schools under this threshold should be closed.

A report Cllr Alexander said she “never accepted”.

Ms Davies said: “In 2014, we had a PWC report on secondary schools and they concluded that a school needed 750 pupils to be viable.

“When you go down that list about eight out of 12 sites have less than that.
“Are we setting up our governing bodies to fail?

“They have a responsibility for setting the budget but if we knew this five years ago so, why are we surprised now?”

Cllr Alexander replied:  “I never accepted the PWC report, it was an urban solution to a rural problem. The report did not include transport costs.

“They are a huge issue for us (£10 million a year) and it’s a top slice that makes our schools struggle very often.”

“The proposals that called a school viable or un-viable were based on the fact that you would be able to fly through the air to attend a different high school.

“If we have double or treble that distance we still have to pay for it. I would quite like the PWC report to drift off into history because £68,000 a day goes on buses.

“If that goes up to say £98,000 a day we’re not going to be able to provide any provision of standard.”

Councillor Graham Breeze said: “I’ve not heard anything at all that tells me that the situation in schools is improving. I see the pressures they are under as a governor and councillor.

“From my own experience schools can only balance the books by increasing class sizes to an unprecedented level.

“Schools will not be able to deal with the demands of the curriculum. Powys should have embarked on a school closure programme many years ago. The situation is getting desperate.”

Cllr Gwynfor Thomas said: “School deficits are growing and it’s a risk to the council, it’s one of the big spending areas. I think you have desire amongst the backbench councillors to see change.

“I don’t think that you’re changing schools faster than it’s even been changed before. And I think it needs to be faster.

“There’s a general acceptance with councillors that needs to happen.”

Cllr Alexander replied: “I think there has been a misapprehension on small school closures, it is very much a hot topic in my part of the world (Banwy) as one of the schools will be closed.

“What we haven't done is put out some enormous document that says any school with 46 pupil or less will be closed overnight.

“Because maybe it has 46 this year and 57 next year."

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter, Local Democracy Service

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