Leaked email raises fears over significant cuts to Welsh schools

According to a leaked email to first minister Carwyn Jones, teaching jobs are at risk and children’s education will suffer as schools across Wales face a massive funding gap of at least £57m, WalesOnline reports

In an email sent to the first minister from Huw David, leader of Bridgend Council, which has been seen by WalesOnline, a funding gap of aty least £57m threatens teaching jobs and the delivery of children’s education in Wales.
WalesOnline reports that the email, which was also seen by the Minister for Children Huw Irranca-Davies and Debbie Wilcox, leader of Newport City Council and leader of Welsh Local government Association, follows the publication of the nation’s draft budget spending plans for 2019/20 and says that all Labour council leaders have told Wales finance minister and Welsh Labour leader hopeful Mark Drakeford in a letter that “unfunded pressures” will mean job cuts in schools.
Separately, Steve Thomas, chief executive of the WLGA, which represents all 22 councils in Wales, warned of an angry mood among directors of education across Wales about lack of money in what he described as “an intensely difficult situation” after eight years of austerity cuts.
Mr Thomas said the cuts could even threaten the capacity to deliver Wales’ much trailed new curriculum if teaching jobs are lost.
Cllr David’s email sent to the First Minister on October 8, warns:
‘The point all Labour Council leaders made in a letter to Mark Drakeford last week is that in very stark terms that the scale of these unfunded pressures means jobs losses (SIC).
‘The £57m gap equates to a loss of 1,300 teachers or 2,400 teaching assistants and realistically will be a combination of both.
‘At a meeting of education directors on Friday, it seems many authorities will set flat cash budgets for schools (reflecting councils’ flat cash budgets) and will expect schools to absorb the pressures.
‘Some have already stated publicly that they are considering cash cuts to school budgets because of the imperative to set balanced budgets and the acute pressure most authorities are also facing in social care which needs a major increase in funding because of growth in demand for service and unavoidable workforce inflationary pressures there too.
‘Either way, the impact on schools, and children’s education is damaging, and i am deeply concerned that risks halting the progress that has been made in education in recent years.
‘This of course, is not the only pressure that councils and schools face, but I focus on it because we talked about it on Friday morning and because schools are every council’s biggest budget.
‘I also know how passionate and committed you are to improving educational outcomes for all children, but the reality of last week’s budget is that schools budgets will be cut unless major changes are made to the Welsh budget.
‘As it stands one of the certain outcomes of the budget will be the impact on educational outcomes for children in Wales. There is opportunity to change that.”
Cllr David refused to comment on his email but Steve Thomas, WLGA chief executive, said the contents reflected a letter sent from Debbie Wilcox to education secretary Kirsty Williams on October 9.
A Welsh Government spokesman said:
“We have worked hard, across the Welsh government, to offer local government the best settlement possible in the current financial climate and have made further allocations to mitigate most of the reduction councils had been expecting following the final budget last year.
“The importance of education is reflected in an additional £15m allocated for schools and we are also directing all of the £23.5m announced by the UK Government to local authorities to fund the school teachers’ pay award. We will continue to prioritise school funding– helping to raise school standards and removing barriers to learning to support young people to reach their potential.
“The formal six-week consultation for the provisional local government settlement has opened and we will continue discussions with local authorities over the coming weeks.”
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