From education to employment

Not enough money going into the education system in Wales

The National Assembly for Wales’ Children, Young People and Education Committee is today calling on the Welsh Government to carry out an urgent review of school funding.

The Committee has heard concerns from headteachers, local government, teaching unions, parents and young people across Wales about the challenges they face as a result of the allocation of education resources.

Following its inquiry into School Funding, the committee has today (10 Jul) published a report “School Funding in Wales“, recommending the Welsh Government urgently review the minimum cost of running a school and educating a child. The Committee has called for this review to  be undertaken with a similar objective to the Nuffield review on the Welsh NHS.

To understand the extent of the problems being faced, the committee is calling on the Welsh Government to provide an estimate of the funding gap between the amount currently spent on schools and the amount needed to deliver all that is required of them.

The Committee also looked at the way the money makes its way to the front line and how it is used. It recognises that this depends on a number of factors, including how resources for local government are shared out, whether local authorities prioritise schools within their own budget setting process, the extent to which they delegate funding to schools themselves and how they distribute that funding between their schools.

As well as looking at how the Welsh Government and local authorities are tackling school budget deficits, the inquiry also heard how over 500 schools currently hold significant reserves, above the legal threshold at which local authorities can intervene. The Committee has called on the Welsh Government to provide an update on how it and local authorities are investigating this and taking action.

Lynne Neagle AM, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee said:

“The evidence we heard during our inquiry was overwhelming – there is not enough money going into the education system in Wales and not enough finding its way to schools.

“The system for funding schools is hugely complex, multi-layered and dependent on many factors. While it would have been easy for us as a Committee to simply recommend additional funding for education and for schools, we absolutely believe that increasing the level of funding alone is not the solution. The funding must also be used effectively.

“On top of our concerns about the level of funding and the complexity of the system, schools are also expected to implement an increasing number of reforms, such as the new curriculum, the new Additional Learning Needs (special educational needs) system and the whole school approach on emotional and mental health. Our worry is that with increasing pressures, the challenges for schools could get worse.

“Access to high quality education is a fundamental right for all our children and young people. It should not depend on where you live, on 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.”

John Kendall, Head Teacher of Risca Community Comprehensive School added:

“School funding has clearly been a matter of considerable concern for some time. I welcomed the enquiry as I welcome this report; we were happy for the committee to visit our school earlier in the year to engage in some very useful and frank discussions. The number of recommendations reflects the need for action, and significantly the first of these calls for an urgent review into how much funding is required to fund our schools, especially  given the level of educational reform currently being undertaken here in Wales.

“I would urge all school leaders and governors to ensure their voice is properly heard as part of this process.”

Figures in the report were the latest available at the time of the inquiry. New school funding figures were released on 4 July. While these show an increase in school funding since 2018-19, this still represents a real terms decrease since 2010-11.  

The inquiry looked at:

  • the sufficiency of school funding in Wales; and
  • the way school budgets are determined and allocated.

The inquiry focused specifically on:

  • the sufficiency of provision for school budgets, in the context of other public service budgets and available resources;
  • the extent to which the level of provision for school budgets complements or inhibits delivery of the Welsh Government’s policy objectives;
  • the relationship, balance and transparency between various sources of schools’ funding, including core budgets and hypothecated funding;
  • the local government funding formula and the weighting given to education and school budgets specifically within the Local Government Settlement;
  • Welsh Government oversight of how Local Authorities set individual schools’ budgets including, for example, the weighting given to factors such as age profile of pupils, deprivation, language of provision, number of pupils with Additional Learning Needs and pre-compulsory age provision;
  • progress and developments since previous Assembly Committees’ reviews (for example those of the Enterprise and Learning Committee in the Third Assembly); and
  • the availability and use of comparisons between education funding and school budgets in Wales and other UK nations.

The Nuffield Trust Report ‘A decade of austerity in Wales? The funding pressures facing the NHS in Wales to 2025/26’ published in 2014, explored rising cost pressures on the NHS in Wales, and options for reducing the funding gap.

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