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Council to review school leadership funding after new school’s ‘bonus’ backlash

A COUNCIL is to look again at how it provides funding for school leadership after a backlash at a £20,000 “bonus” for a new school. 

King Henry VIII in Abergavenny opened as an all-through 3-19 school in September, though it currently operates from the site of the former 11-18 comprehensive and the former Deri View primary school. 

Pupils of all ages will move into a purpose built new school at the comprehensive site – which will have a capacity for 1,820 students plus 30 nursery places – during the autumn term next year. It will also have two special needs units, one for primary and the other for secondary age pupils. 

As Monmouthshire’s first 3-19 school the county council has had to draw up a bespoke funding formula for it.  

The council has agreed it will stick with the formula used to award funding to schools based on the age of pupils they teach and its formula for heads and their deputies and assistants. 

It uses the same formula for all four secondaries in the county, based on one headteacher, two deputy heads and three assistant headteachers while the relevant primary funding is based on a headteacher and a deputy head. 

For King Henry the council will fund one headteacher, two deputy headteachers and seven assistant headteachers which will cost an additional £20,432 a year. 

That prompted Monmouth Comprehensive School head Hugo Hutchison to raise concerns, as part of the council’s consultation, while the school’s finance committee and individual governors had objected. 

Mr Hutchinson said the proposal was funding the new King Henry School as if it remained separate primary and secondary schools. 

While other governors had complained Monmouth, which has a similar number of pupils to King Henry, is funded the same for its leadership costs as Chepstow Comprehensive, despite having around three times as many students, Mr Hutchinson said he could see the reasons for that, adding: “Although I could make a strong case for this disadvantaging us”. 

But he said he is being asked to accept parity with a school with “vastly different” number of pupils on its roll “on one hand, but also to accept lack of parity on the other hand” with a school with a similar number. 

In his response Mr Hutchinson singled out council chief executive, Paul Matthews, and wrote: “There is an additional £20k in the proposal, for which there seems to be no explanation. At a point where we are being sent messages by Paul Matthews about having to tighten our belts and make cuts, this does not seem equitable at all.“

Monmouth governors had said in their responses treating the secondary and primary levels as “different entities” defeated the financial savings of a 3-19 school. 

The council said it hasn’t split the two phases of the school and the formula recognises its leadership structure, which including a headteacher, has a total of seven leadership posts. 

But it has said it will review leadership funding for all schools for the 2025/26 financial year and it recognised it “has not been reviewed for several years”. 

The council’s overview and scrutiny committee was told the only changes to the proposed premises funding is a reduction in maintenance funding due to the warranties in place for the building and equipment. 

Rogiet Labour councillor Peter Strong said following the opening of the new school in Caldicot there were disputes over what was covered by warranties.

Nikki Wellington, the schools support manager, said the policy has been in place since around the time of the opening of the new schools and it also recognised there are some maintenance issues such as electrical PAT testing that still need to be carried out in new buildings. 

Total funding for schools isn’t affected by the new 3-19 formula but there is additional funding as the new school will have to pay more in business rates as a result of the increase in the value of the building. 

Monmouth Labour councillor Catherine Fookes thanked officers for “listening” to the concerns raised by Monmouth Comp where she is also a governor.

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