The future of education and how our schools will be structured in Powys is likely to be heavily debated and decided on during 2020. Over a number of years, school governors in particular have contacted me regarding the financial challenges which face our schools. During 2019, I was pleased to meet with a number of governors and teachers. During discussions, I hear the clear message of the challenges which the education system in Powys is facing.
According to the NASUWT Teachers’ Union, pupils in Wales receive £645 less per head than those in England. Schools are being assigned a ‘totally inadequate level of funding’ and concerns have also been raised over a non-transparent system that sees £450 million of education funding never reach the classroom. We also see some schools, especially in rural areas, miss out on vital funding purely because of their location. This has been described as "a severe funding crisis" and any move to directly fund schools; remove significant layers of bureaucracy; and alleviate the pressure on schools and teachers should be welcomed so that more money gets into the classroom and to learners in my view.
We need better funding for Powys schools from the Welsh Government, and in turn, Powys County Council has to use the funding its does have wisely.
Powys County Council received a fairly critical report from an Estyn inspection in 2019, and the report made a number of recommendations that the local authority has to address.
The council has been working on its Post Inspection Action Plan to address Estyn recommendations following their inspection of the Education Authority back in July.
The council has said that work on a document that will inform improvements to education has started. At this stage, this is an internal process, and this work has been discussed with teachers and school governors. When it is completed, I am told that it will be the action plan that will detail how education in the county will be strengthened over the coming years.
In my view, the local authority needs to address issues raised in the inspection, take into account the views being expressed by local teachers and governors, and strengthen our education service. Any proposed plan for the County needs proper consultation with communities, teachers and parents.
I suspect proposals brought forward will be radical, and they need to be. But Powys County Council also needs to take communities with them, they will need to set out clearly there reason for change, and genuinely listen to communities.