A chair of governors at a Monmouth school is urging parents to support them following draft budget proposals that could see a significant cut to their school budget.
Vicki Smith warns that if the proposals Monmouthshire County Council is currently consulting on for the next financial year are passed it will have a direct effect on the funding of Monmouth Comprehensive school “and on every school in the county”.
The school could see a cut of nearly £134,000 as part of savings proposed of £835,000 throughout the county.
Her letter to parents says: “As the largest school in the county, Monmouth Comprehensive School will be significantly affected. Very difficult decisions will have to be made if cuts at this level are implemented and, unfortunately, a reduction in provision will be inevitable.
“This may well mean less capacity in areas that do invaluable work to support our most vulnerable young people, such as wellbeing support, additional learning needs support, counselling and other pastoral care.”
The council’s Conservative Group, who oppose the school cuts, have calculated how the cuts will impact each school in the county using the council’s own school funding formula.
This includes cuts to all local primary schools including nearly £30,000 for Overmonnow Primary, over £13,000 for Kymin View and £12,500 for Osbaston CIW School. Cross Ash, Raglan and Trellech primaries will each see cuts of around £12,000 while Usk Primary will see its budget reduced by around £16,500.
Senior Labour councillors have conceded that the funding cuts will inevitably result in staff redundancies and will impact the most vulnerable pupils the most. It is expected that one to one provision for pupils with learning difficulties will be a key area for cuts.
Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Richard John said, “It is obvious that Monmouthshire schools will not be able to provide the same quality of education and support if Labour councillors press ahead and take nearly a million pounds out of school budgets.
“They have admitted that cuts in school funding would impact the most vulnerable pupils most as schools would end up making teaching assistants, who provide one to one support, redundant.”
He goes on to say: “It is sobering seeing the impact these cuts will have on each individual school in the county and knowing there is very little they can cut other than their headcount.
“These cuts will put even more pressure on teachers and school staff at a time when teacher recruitment and retention are so challenging.
“Poor financial oversight at the council over the past two years has made the need for cuts worse, further evidenced by the resignation of one of the two part-time cabinet members for finance in the middle of the budget consultation.
“The council has run a massive in-year overspend for two years running in contrast to neighbouring councils like Torfaen who have managed their finances better and are on course to deliver a surplus at the end of the financial year.
“The UK Government has announced additional funding for councils in England, which triggered a £25 million consequential for Wales, but we haven’t seen any lobbying from the council that this money should be passed on to local authorities and used to plug the gap in school budgets.
Mrs Smith urges parents to act swiftly as the consultation closes on 15 February 2024, “so please do add your views before then if you can”.
The council’s consultation on the 24-25 budget and can be accessed at: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2024-2025/