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Headteachers accused of not taking part in school funding consultation

HEADTEACHERS who’ve penned an “extraordinary” letter urging parents to lobby on school funding have been accused of not taking part in a consultation themselves. 

Parents of pupils at schools across Monmouthshire were this week sent a letter from the Monmouthshire Association of Primary School Headteachers outlining “grave concerns” at the “continuing inadequate level of funding” schools receive and fears cuts will damage education. 

It said schools are impacted by decision made by “Monmouthshire County Council, the Welsh Government and beyond” and urged parents to “apply political pressure at a local level (Monmouthshire County Council) and national level (your Senedd representative) to support the education of Monmouthshire children.” 

The letter was sent on Wednesday, May 22 before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the general election for July 4. 

Cllr Martyn Groucutt is Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for education and Labour councillor for Lansdown, Abergavenny

However Cllr Martyn Groucutt, the cabinet member for education in Monmouthshire, accused the headteachers’ association of not having provided its views to the council’s budget consultation earlier this year.

The Abergavenny Labour councillor, and former headteacher, said: “It was regrettable that the primary headteachers organisation did not participate in this consultation to put their views but many parents did.” 

He said as a result the council agreed to “slightly raise” the council tax increase already proposed which allowed it to raise the school’s budget by more than £800,000 when the budget passed in February. 

Monmouthshire County Council has said it held “extensive consultation” with headteachers, chairs of governors and students. 

While education is a devolved matter, and the Labour Welsh Government allocates funding to local authorities for schools and other services, it has complained public spending has reduced under the Westminster Conservative government.  

Labour councillors in Monmouthshire have also claimed the Welsh Government, which determines most of the council’s funding, is under funded by Westminster. 

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But Cllr Grocutt said while he is supporting his party’s candidate, his county council colleague, Catherine Fookes, at the general election, he doesn’t expect any immediate uplift in funding should Labour form the next UK Government. 

As part of its six step plan Labour has promised “tough spending rules” but has also said it will recruit 6,500 new teachers, by ending tax breaks for private schools. Though new taxes would apply to private schools in Wales the promise on new teachers could only be delivered in England. Any extra money for education would deliver a funding boost for Wales but it would be for the Welsh Government to decide how it is spent. 

Cllr Groucutt said: “I hope that Labour’s priorities will see an increase in resources for education, but let’s get Catherine Fookes into Parliament first.” 

He said he believed a Labour government in London would “look far more favourably on devolved areas of government” and said: “There may not be more money in the total pot, but I hope that we have more opportunities to shape our future destiny.” 

Cllr Richard John, Conservative member for Mitchel Troy and Trellech United, on Monmouthshire County Council

Monmouthshire Conservative opposition leader Richard John said he hopes parents will raise funding for Monmouthshire schools with general election candidates, even though education in Wales is outside of Westminster’s control. 

The Mitchell Troy and Trellech councillor said: “I hope residents will raise these issues on the doorstep and ask Labour candidates to justify the actions of Vaughan Gething’s government and the Labour-run council, which proposed school cuts earlier this year of £835,000.” 

He said he was shocked by the letter from headteacher: “It’s an extraordinary step for headteachers all over Monmouthshire to put out an appeal to parents and residents to lobby the council and the Welsh Government for fairer funding for our schools.” 

Sitting Monmouth MP, David Davies who is also the UK Government’s Welsh Secretary, has highlighted spending decisions by the Welsh Government, such as Senedd expansion that could cost up to £120 million over eight years, said Cllr John.

“The Welsh Government seems to have money to burn when it comes to things like creating more MSs at a cost of £120million but should be prioritising children’s education. 

“I’m proud we have a Conservative Member of Parliament who stands up for the public’s priorities and has worked hard to expose wasteful spending by the Welsh Government.”