Row erupts over secondary school funding

First published in Penarth news

A ROW over secondary school funding across the Vale has erupted between a Dinas Powys councillor and the leader of the Vale Council.

Plaid Cymru councillor Chris Franks, who represents the Murch ward, had called on the Vale Council to fully explain the financial situation facing many schools in the county and said that there had been a “reduction in funding” despite a rise in council tax.

But Labour councillors have rebutted the claims and accused him of “misleading the public” and “playing politics” over school funding.

Plaid Cymru councillor Chris Franks, leader of the Plaid group on the council, said: “It is alarming that five of our secondary schools have been allocated reductions in funding. This was not disclosed at the budget debate in the Vale when Labour forced through a 4.5 per cent council tax hike.

“In fact, we were told that there would be additional resources due to the Pupil Deprivation Grant allocated by the Welsh Government. This increased the amount of funding per relevant pupil from £450 to £918 which for some schools meant an extra £200,000. Much of this extra cash was due to Plaid Cymru in the Assembly insisting that extra funds went to schools.”

He added: “I understand that despite this grant increase that one comprehensive school has lost around £200,000 even after Welsh Government additional grants. It is facing compulsory redundancies or at least voluntary job losses. Another option is not to replace staff but all this can have a devastating impact on the curriculum of the school. Clearly none of this will assist in providing a decent education.”

In rebuttal Labour Cllr Chris Elmore, cabinet member for children’s services in the Vale of Glamorgan Council, said regarding school funding:

“As Cllr Franks knows, the Labour-Llantwit First administration has increased funding for schools for the second year running and it has also honoured the Welsh Government's funding commitment to schools.

“Furthermore the administration, again for the second year running, is funding education and schools higher than the Indicator Based Assessment (IBA).

“We have, therefore, prioritised funding for Education and Schools but, as is often the case, Councillor Franks is misleading the public on the funding being provided by the Council to Schools across the Vale of Glamorgan.”

He added: "The Council has no control over pupil numbers and cannot control where children go to school. The funding, as Councillor Franks knows full well, is allocated to schools on a per pupil basis. It is also a fact that pupil numbers in the comprehensive sector are down. It is somewhat disappointing, although not surprising, that Councillor Franks is playing politics with school funding, but the reality is that as a Council we are funding schools higher than the previous administration.

Cllr Neil Moore, Leader of the Vale Council, added:

“I believe that Cllr Franks is confused. He refers to the ‘Pupil Deprivation Grant’ as if this grant is available to all schools. The grant is allocated to schools based on the actual take up of free school meals in each school. If there are low numbers of free school meals in a school they would not be allocated any Pupil Depravation Grant and he should be aware of that.

"I also believe that this was not a Plaid Cymru initiative but one agreed with the Welsh Labour Government and the Liberal Democrats in the Assembly.

He added: “It is my understanding that Plaid Cymru did agree a budget with Welsh Government this year along with the Lib Dems (who again supported the Pupil deprivation grant). What Plaid brought to the table was the Intermediate Care Funding arrangements and therefore Councillor Franks is again misleading people.

“In relation to a school having reduced funding, I assume he is referring to St Cyres School, where he is a governor. He should be aware that the new school has a lower number of pupils on role and therefore the funding formula would be reduced accordingly.”

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