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The Effect of the Flat Cash Budget

I recently received a letter from the Headteacher at my daughter’s Primary School, advising Parents and Guardians about the Local Authority’s imminent proposals to implement a ‘flat cash’ budget for schools in Flintshire.  According to friends in the profession, this has been an ongoing challenge but the recent proposals in relation to school budgets are the start of something major. We chose to send our 3 year old daughter to nursery school as we knew that she would benefit from this in addition to attending a private nursery. As fulfilling and nurturing as private nursery is, it is simply not the same academic, disciplined environment. Thus, I was horrified to discover that the proposals to implement a ‘flat cash’ budget are likely to result in nursery class being abolished. A letter has also been sent out this week by the Flintshire Headteacher’s Federation which sets out the significance of these changes. In fact, the effects are likely to result in redundancies, staff shortages, less support for children, larger class sizes and limited funding. Our children’s future education is going to be seriously compromised.

I am currently enjoying maternity leave with my second daughter (I am in the legal profession so my knowledge of education services was limited until now) but I quickly responded to the Head in relation to his letter, to ask whether there was anything I could do to assist. We met to discuss what exactly these proposals mean for our children’s future and it was clear to me that a Head Teacher’s role is no longer to teach, but to navigate limiting funding, which is a huge challenge, and it is only going to get worse. We can try to obtain grants from sources other than the Local Authority, but surely (morally) such funds should be used for luxuries such as Ipads and outdoor equipment, not paper and pencils? I could not help but conjure up images of the early 1900s where children were using slate and chalk as utensils. Is this really what the future holds? It certainly seems to be heading that way.

I understand the challenges that the Government faces and the pressures that Local Authorities are under  but what I can not understand is that neighbouring Authorities have actually received an uplift. Both Wrexham and Denbighshire’s budgets, by comparison, have actually increased. Flintshire is the 3rd worst funded Local Authority in Wales out of 22. Why, therefore, are children in Flintshire so unfairly disadvantaged? Apparently this is to do with a formula that the Government and Local Authority use to decide how the funding should be distributed. In terms of figures, my daughter’s school will receive circa £2500 less per pupil; if we multiply this by the number of pupils at school, this results in just under £600,000 less overall per year. This is an astounding difference and in my opinion, is totally unacceptable – why should children in one area be so significantly disadvantaged compared to a neighbouring Authority which is within walking distance? Something is not quite right.

The Headteacher’s Federation has urged Parents and Guardians to write to their MPs and Councillors’, setting out how their children will be impacted and objecting to the changes. A protest has also been organised for the next Councillor’s meeting, where the budget will be set. Of course, we are not going to be able to change the policy on National Austerity but there are clearly poor decisions being made somewhere along the line and someone must be answerable. Our children are the future, if we don’t invest in them now then the UK’s austerity position will never be reversed.

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The author

Nina Sperring is a private client Solicitor in Chester. Her daughter attends a primary school in Hope, Flintshire. Nina is currently on maternity leave with her second child and is keen to raise awareness of the detrimental impact of the budget cuts in relation to schools; she hopes to be able to devote as much time as possible to this cause while she is on leave.

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