A scathing opening speech from Welsh Shadow Minister for Education, Suzy Davies AM, launched a debate in the Senedd today in the latest move by Welsh Conservatives to back schools and campaign for the Welsh Government to improve funding for the country’s struggling education system.
The debate strove to challenge the current flawed funding formula used in Wales, by which money is allocated by the Welsh Government local councils, and then by councils on to schools.
The passionate debate from several members of the opposition Cabinet came in the wake of an open letter published last week by the Association of School and College Leaders, in which they described a ‘severe funding crisis’ in Welsh schools.
The Welsh Government formula has led to a postcode lottery of school funding, with £450 million never reaching the classroom thanks to a totally non-transparent system which, according to the NASUWT teachers’ union and despite the Barnett Formula, sees pupils in Wales receiving £645 less per head than those in England.
Teachers are reporting an ever-increasingly desperate situation, with too few staff leading to the potential need to increase class sizes, the cutting of non-compulsory activities, a strain on Additional Learning Needs support at a time when the Welsh Government’s own ALN code is being considered, and some schools even complaining of damaged buildings with no money for renovations.
Welsh Conservatives sought to ‘flush out’ evidence from the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, about school funding ahead of an upcoming Children, Young People and Education Committee inquiry into the matter.
Mrs Davies asked the Minister to reveal exactly how the effectiveness of the funding formula is evaluated, and to consider its clear flaws, but the Minister and the Welsh Labour-led Government again brushed off the concerns of a system in ‘crisis’ voiced by teachers and governors from across the country.
Speaking outside the chamber, Suzy Davies AM added:
“There’s no point pretending everything is OK in the system, because our constituents are telling us something different.
“This is not about austerity, it’s about what happens to the money once it leaves Welsh Government hands.
“That’s what schools are complaining about, and their cries are so loud. Being dismissed by the Minister in this way will make their cries all the louder.”