During the early part of 2020, the future of education in Powys has been the subject of a public consultation by Powys County Council. The results of this consultation will feed into Powys' long term plans and strategy for how education will be delivered and structured in Powys. This follows a fairly critical Estyn Inspection report, which in 2019 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 these Estyn recommendations.
Over a number of years, school governors in particular, have contacted me regarding the financial challenges which face our schools. I have met with a number of governors and teachers to listen to their views on the challenges which schools face. During these discussions, I heard the clear concerns regarding the challenges which the education system in Powys is facing.
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 that the proposals which will be 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 their reason for change, and genuinely listen to communities.
In 2019, it was reported that pupils in Wales receive £645 less per head than those in England (According to the NASUWT Teachers’ Union). 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 in my view, 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.
We do need better funding for Powys' schools from the Welsh Government, and in turn, Powys County Council has to use the funding it receives fairly and wisely.