Schools with healthy reserves face budget pressure as they contend with higher electricity bills and the need to pay staff. Ysgol Friars, in Bangor, Gwynedd, carried over £974,000 from last year as figures show the pandemic left school reserves across Wales. One union called the figures a “smoke screen” because most funds are ring-fenced for specific projects. The Welsh government said it recognised the pressure on public services. A recent survey of head teachers has suggested that pressures on school budgets will continue into the next academic year.
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According to the head teacher of Ysgol Friars, the school’s healthy reserve is not enough to offset all the budget pressures they face. The school’s electricity bills have gone up, and they need to find money to pay their staff. Most reserves are ring-fenced for specific projects, so they may only be able to access some of the money they need. The Welsh government has said that it recognises the pressure on public services, but it is unclear what, if any, additional support will be provided to schools. Headteachers are concerned that budget pressures will continue into the next academic year and beyond.
In addition to increased costs, schools are also facing decreased income due to the pandemic. Many parents are opting to keep their children home from school, which has reduced school funding. Some head teachers have suggested that cutting staff and resources is the only way to offset these budget pressures. However, this would undoubtedly hurt the quality of education that students receive. It is clear that something needs to be done to ease the financial pressure on schools, or else the quality of education in Wales will suffer.
The Welsh government needs to provide additional support to schools to help them offset the increased costs and decreased income they face. Without this support, many schools will be forced to make cuts that will impact students’ quality of education. The Welsh government should also considering-fencing funds specifically for schools so that they can access the money they need without having to redirect funds from other projects. By taking these steps, the Welsh government can help ensure that schools have the resources to provide a high-quality education for all students.
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