ONE in five Conwy schools will be forced to make redundancies because of the 5% budget cuts the council has demanded – and that figure is likely to rise.
And worryingly Conwy’s cabinet member for education has warned the cuts could affect pupils marginalised by socio-economic factors as well as children needing extra emotional support and those with disabilities.
Conwy County Council has asked all its services to make 10% cuts across the board – with only education and social services being asked to look at 5% savings.
But as Conwy – which faces a £19.8m budget shortfall – desperately tries to balance its books, the council’s finance scrutiny committee asked schools how the savings would look.
And the figures are in.
Speaking at this week’s special cabinet meeting, cabinet member for education Cllr Julie Fallon warned other councillors that 21% of schools have said they would make redundancies and 53% would look at reducing staff.
But of Conwy’s 64 schools, only 43 have so far responded, meaning the figures could change.
Conwy has 52 primary schools, seven secondary schools, one special school, and four pupil referral units.
Cabinet member for education Cllr Julie Fallon said schools were facing huge cuts.
“Schools were asked to give us an indication of where they may find the cuts,” she said.
“So I’ll give you the percentages in terms of what they’ve said. So 21% are looking at (staff) redundancies, and I will say that we’ve had 43 schools respond to this, so when we talk about percentages, it may be the numbers, in terms of specific schools, could increase.
“53% (are looking at) other staff reduction; 33% building maintenance, which obviously, moving forward, can have a knock-on effect on budgets in other ways as well; 44% in terms of supplies and services, and 14% of schools currently, which is six schools, two secondary and four primary, highlighted that there may need to come to the local authority for a loan. And 70% at least of schools say they will be using balances to manage their budget.”
Cllr Fallon went on to explain that many schools would see their balances ‘wiped out’ and some would risk failing in delivering statutory duties by not having adequate numbers of teachers and staff.
She added: “There will be an impact really across the board in terms of the socio-economic, Welsh language, disability (consequences); post-COVID has been raised in particular in terms of emotional support, there not being enough staff to offer that additional provision – I thought it was important as we had this feedback that I take the opportunity to raise this.”
Leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey commented: “Absolutely (I) don’t think it is a good idea to ask schools to make cuts at these levels, but that is the situation we are in.
“The last budget I’ve been involved in, I think the cabinet’s combined cuts to schools over two years was 1.5%.
“We are all governors at schools. I’ve got two children still at high school, and we know they are struggling, so it is not a question that we think that it is a good idea. This is the situation we are in.”