Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg - Y Bumed Senedd

Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd

21/02/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dawn Bowden AM
Hefin David AM
Janet Finch-Saunders AM
Lynne Neagle AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Michelle Brown AM
Sian Gwenllian AM
Suzy Davies AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

David Evans Ysgrifennydd Cymru, Undeb Addysg Cenedlaethol Cymru
Wales Secretary, National Education Union Cymru
Dean Taylor Pennaeth Ysgol Gynradd Pentrepoeth, Casnewydd, a Llywydd Cymdeithas Genedlaethol y Prifathrawon Cymru
Headteacher of Pentrepoeth Primary School, Newport, and National Association of Headteachers Cymru President
Dilwyn Roberts-Young Ysgrifennydd Cyffredinol, UCAC
General Secretary, UCAC
Lee Cummins Pennaeth Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan, Abergele, ac Is-lywydd, Cymdeithas Arweinwyr Ysgolion a Cholegau Cymru
Headteacher of Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan, Abergele, and Vice-president, Association of School and College Leaders Cymru
Rob Williams Cyfarwyddwr, Cymdeithas Genedlaethol y Prifathrawon Cymru
Director, National Association of Headteachers Cymru
Tim Cox Swyddog Gwaith Achos a Pholisi Cymru, NASUWT
Wales Policy and Casework Official, NASUWT
Tim Newbould Pennaeth Ysgol Gynradd Gymunedol Ysgol Penycae, Wrecsam, ac Aelod Gweithredol o Gymdeithas Genedlaethol y Prifathrawon Cymru
Headteacher of Ysgol Penycae Community Primary School, Wrexham, and National Association of Headteachers Cymru Executive Member
Tim Pratt Cyfarwyddwr, Cymdeithas Arweinwyr Ysgolion a Cholegau Cymru
Director, Association of School and College Leaders Cymru

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Gareth Rogers Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. We've received apologies for absence from Jack Sargeant. There is no substitute this morning. Can I ask Members if there any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay, thank you.

2. Ymchwiliad i Gyllido Ysgolion: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth
2. Inquiry into School Funding: Evidence Session

Item 2 this morning, then, is our first formal oral evidence session for our inquiry into school funding. I'm very pleased to welcome Tim Pratt, who is director of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru; Lee Cummins, who is headteacher of Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan at Abergele and also a vice-president of ASCL Cymru; Rob Williams, director of National Association of Headteachers Cymru; Dean Taylor, headteacher of Pentrepoeth Primary School in Newport and NAHT Cymru president; and Tim Newbould, who is headteacher of Ysgol Penycae Community Primary School in Wrexham and an executive member of NAHT Cymru. Thank you all for your attendance this morning.  

We're very much looking forward to what you've got to say on this very important inquiry, and if you're happy, we'll go straight into questions. I will start just to ask you a general question, really, about what you feel about the current scale of the pressure on schools' core budgets and how this position compares with previous years and what you feel the outlook is for the future.

I'll start, then. It's depressing, if we're utterly honest. We reckon that, currently, in excess of 50 per cent of secondary schools are in deficit. We expect that figure to rise probably to somewhere between 75 per cent and 80 per cent on 1 April. Frankly, when I talk to heads of secondaries about their budget, as one of them said to me, 'Every time I get more news about the budget, I look for the nearest ledge to jump off.' Although that was said with a wry smile, it does actually show the level of desperation that schools are feeling at the moment over the lack of money that they've got available.

Yes, to add to what Tim's said there, we know that, over a significant period of time, there's been a real-terms cut in the amount of money that's coming into schools. The Senedd's own Assembly paper on school funding makes that pretty clear, I think—7.9 per cent over that period from 2010-11 to 2018-19. And we also know that the pressures going on at local authority level are often passported on to schools. So, even when there is the notion around protection that was supposed to be taking place, the reality was that that money was coming in and out of schools through increased costs, service level agreements and so forth. So, the reality is that this has been happening for some time, and when you look ahead, it's difficult clearly to predict the economic outlook, but the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures suggest that inflation until 2020 will be about 2 per cent/2.1 per cent. On that basis, and looking at what's come into schools over the recent period, as Tim says, we're on a bit of a precipice here. There is real concern. I understand that it's obviously not in the gift of this committee, but, for example, things like the increased pensions contributions that are coming—many schools are looking at that and are thinking, actually, that that could be catastrophic. It's that bad at the moment. I know that we'll probably come on to this later, but in terms of policy that's changed and reform that's being undertaken, many schools are very fearful that they are simply going to be unable to fulfil that policy despite the fact that, in principle, they agree with it.

Can I just give you an example from my own authority, which is Wrexham? At the moment, all our secondary schools are in deficit, and we've had the figures through for the indicative budgets for 2019-20, and we are looking at something like 51 out of 59 primary schools that are going to be in deficit. We're anticipating carry-forwards in Wrexham in March 2018 of just under £500,000, and for primaries—I don't have the figure for secondaries, but primary deficits in March 2020 are predicted to be somewhere in the region of £3.2 million. That's despite the fact that elected members have managed to increase the education budget by 3 per cent for 2019-20.

Okay. Obviously, we've got a series of detailed questions, but could you just give us a little bit of a flavour of what you feel the practical consequences are of the financial pressures that you're facing, and particularly, really, the impact on our young people?

Yes. If I could perhaps give some perspective, in my primary school—I've recently moved local authorities. In what is probably one of the most exciting periods of change in terms of curriculum development in Wales, at the moment, we are being hindered, really, by—. We can't implement all of these changes unless we've actually got the bodies in front of us to teach and provide for our learners. So, we've moved from one authority to another. First and foremost, the difference between the funding of schools—. I moved from a school of the same size in Blaenau Gwent to Newport, where the core budget funding is so much less. So, therefore, there are huge discrepancies across Wales in terms of how local authorities fund their schools.

Alongside that, moving from an area that was highly challenged in terms of deprivation to a more affluent area, now, the challenges for me with my budget really are down to the practicalities. When a parent comes to me and says, 'My child needs some support', I'm thinking, 'Who have I got to be able to provide that and how can I fulfil that need for the child?' Going forward longer term for the budget, my budget currently is being upheld by grants that come in—not so much the pupil development grant, because I get low levels of that in the current school that I'm in at the moment, but I'm going out as a challenge adviser to generate income, the curriculum pioneer money that's coming in—these grants are keeping our budget afloat, but, at the same time, it's money that's meant for extra things. However, it's not—it's just supporting my core basic budget but also increasing the workload on leaders in the school personally and the tensions within the system.

So, it's quite a bleak—. For the first time—I've been a head for nearly 20 years now, and for the first time I'm looking at the budget and thinking, 'What am I going to do with this?', because the impacts are on teaching assistants, ratios for what is one of the flagship programmes—the foundation phase. I'm no longer meeting those because I just physically do not have the money to do so. So, going ahead, a period of change, it's extremely challenging on a very practical level. Even practical things like: who am I going to get—bodies—to take children to football matches? Because when you're releasing somebody, you've got to get supply cover and support. And we're that down to the grain that we're beginning to think about practical things. We do all that we can to get them the range of activities that they need, but it's very, very difficult. And I think that's replicated across Wales.

09:35

It is. We have asked, obviously, our members to feed back, and they're talking about reduction of interventions with pupils, because they're losing support staff. We know that, particularly in schools where there are no additional or lower additional grants—so they would not qualify for the PDG, for example, in a less disadvantaged area—they've lost lots of their support staff who would be undertaking interventions with those children who have additional learning needs. So, proportionately, it has a disproportionate impact in that respect, because those very children who are most vulnerable are the ones who are disproportionately affected by the cuts in that respect.

We know also of heads who are saying that the only way they can make their school work is by their stepping back into the classroom. So, they've got headteachers who are almost teaching for most of their time in order to save money. As a short-term solution, you could potentially argue that. As a long-term solution, it's not sustainable, neither for that individual nor for the school or the system. It's getting to the point where—we fed it into the inquiry you undertook around the targeted funding, and we were saying, 'Look, one of the issues around PDG and the other grants is their impact is diluted because they are offsetting the gaps in the core budget.' That is the reality at the school end.

It's the same from a secondary school point of view. Obviously, I'm a headteacher of a secondary school, and, listening to the members in terms of that, it's really, really practical in the sense of what's happening. You've got increasing class sizes, which is ultimately going to have an impact on standards. I think there's a very clear link there. And in terms of supporting some of our most vulnerable learners, that is becoming, as has already been said, increasingly challenging. And that is a significant problem. They are the learners who we need to be able to make the most difference to.

I've got a couple of supplementaries from Members. Dawn and then Siân.

I'm sorry if this is going to come up later, but I couldn't see it elsewhere. In ASCL's letter, you talk about £450 million that doesn't actually ever get to schools. Could you give us some idea how you've calculated that figure and how that works?

Yes, if I start with that—in the document that was published in terms of the research briefing on school funding, it's perfectly clear in that document that there's £406 million that goes into local authorities. As you will know from our letter, we're not saying that all of that is not used productively, but it's too much. We need more of that core funding to come to schools. So, that's the £406 million. There is then a further £40-plus million that goes into the consortia and does not come out to schools, either in terms of contributions from local authorities or grant funding to maintain that. And the source of that information was freedom of information requests.

09:40

I was just wondering how they'd calculated that. That will do. That's fine, thank you.

Oes gennych chi ffigurau penodol ynglŷn â faint o athrawon sydd wedi cael eu colli o'r system? Faint yn llai o athrawon sydd yn y system ar hyn o bryd? Hefyd, rydych chi'n sôn am golli'r staff ategol, y staff cynorthwyol. Oes yna ffigurau penodol allwch chi eu rhoi inni i ddangos graddfa'r broblem yna?

Do you have specific figures regarding how many teachers have been lost from the system? How many fewer teachers are there now in the system currently? Also, you were talking about losing the support staff. Do you have specific figures that you can provide so that we can see the extent of that problem?

Yn Wrecsam, rydym ni'n credu mai saith o athrawon a 70 teaching assistants ym mlwyddyn 2019-20.

In Wrexham, we believe that it'll be seven teachers and 70 teaching assistants lost between 2019 and 2020.

Ocê. So, os ydy hwnna ar draws Cymru, mae hwnna'n reit—

Okay. So, if that's right across Wales, then that's quite—

Yn Wrecsam yn unig.

That's in Wrexham only.

Ia, ond os ydym ni'n dweud times 22, mae'r darlun efallai'n glir.

Yr ail bwynt, yn sydyn: budgets mewn deficit. Pam fod hynny'n gymaint o  broblem? Os ydy o'n rhywbeth dros dro, mae o'n gallu golygu bod ysgol yn gallu pontio cyfnod anodd lle mae gostyngiad, efallai, mewn nifer y plant, ond wedyn yn gallu dod yn ôl i fod yn iawn ar ôl i'r sefyllfa unioni ei hun. Dŷch chi'n sôn am budgets mewn deficit, ond pam fod hynny'n broblem?

Yes, but if we then times that by 22, that gives us a national picture.

And then the second point, briefly: budgets in deficit. Why is that such a problem? If it's a temporary issue, it can mean that a school can transition through a difficult period where there is perhaps a reduction in the number of pupils, but then can recover after the situation rights itself. So, you talk about budgets in deficit, but why is that necessarily a problem?

The problem with deficits is the ability of a school to put a recovery plan in place. So, schools are sometimes able to take a deficit forward, but they have to have a recovery plan in place. The issue is that there is such uncertainty about what is coming in terms of future budgets, that's impossible. Schools do not know what their future budgets are going to be. It will partly explain, we think, why primaries, specifically small primaries, will try and sometimes retain some surplus going into a new year, because it's prudent financial management. If you do not know what's coming for your following year, it would be reckless of you just to spend everything you've got. So, that's one of the issues around it.

The other is that schools have to plan ahead and be strategic, and one of the problems with uncertainty around your total funding that's available is an inability to do anything in terms of strategic leadership and planning going forward, and particularly given the level of reform we've got at the moment, managing a surplus for schools, I would say, is probably impossible currently, because you cannot anticipate what's going to be coming. We're talking about schools that—. These are not schools that have had an issue with maybe pupil numbers. These are often schools that are full, that are oversubscribed, so they're not ones that are losing money because of those reasons. These are schools that have no other reason other than the fact that they're top-level funding is not coming into the school.

There are also situations in Wales—there is variation across the 22 authorities, and in some authorities you are not allowed to set a deficit budget. Now, clearly, in the current climate, that presents an impossible task. I also think, just to pick up on your point about the number of teachers, that actually what the committee needs to bear in mind is that, as headteachers, we are protecting adults in front of classes as much as we possibly can, and actually we've got to the point where we can do that no longer. If you looked at capitation, if you looked at the other elements of school budgets, you would see that they have already been cut back dramatically, and actually this final phase now is really impacting on front-line staff.

I have seen a figure of £1,400-and-something from one of the unions. I just wondered if you could give us some proper stats to work with.

I haven't got the stats with me here, but I know that StatsWales will have the statistics that show the numbers of pupils, numbers of schools and numbers of heads and others. We know that pupils have gone slightly up, but by a marginal amount, but at that same time, we have fewer heads in post, fewer teachers in post, and fewer support staff. So, the proportional impact might be greater.

09:45

Thank you. Just finally from me, then, can you just tell us what you think the main pressures are going to be on school budgets over the next few years, just for the record?

Because the main cost for any school is its staff, maintaining sufficient staff to be able to deliver the curriculum is going to be the biggest problem. We know that in schools, 10 years ago, departments would have budgets that were quite generous and allowed them to buy a lot of equipment that they needed. Those budgets have now been cut to the stage where there are people talking to us and saying, 'We actually can't afford enough stationery for all our classes; we're having to ask children to bring their own in.' Some of our teachers are buying their own in order to be able to deliver the curriculum. Now, when we get to that stage, that's why people are looking at it and saying, 'This cannot go on.'

The pressures are, as Tim said, the staffing costs, but also we have to recognise that schools exist within societies, where, actually, other services are being cut, and the pressures around managing the mental health of learners, the well-being of families, some basic needs, are challenging schools and families and young people immensely. 

And you bring in, as I said, the reform that's taking place, so the curriculum reform. Clearly, we have the national approach to professional learning money in terms of professional learning. We welcome anything like that, obviously, but the amount of money per member of staff will probably not suffice. I think there is not money left after the education improvement grant has been used for what it's being used for, which is to prop up staffing numbers. There's next to nothing left for that kind of professional learning, so there's a question about the capacity to deliver that curriculum, even though we're excited around the opportunities in that. You then bring into play things like the additional learning needs Bill, the expectations around the way in which an additional learning needs co-ordinator role will function, the early interventions, the increased responsibilities that will be pushed down to schools to deliver. You look at the implications around local authority cuts, where more is expected of a school now to take on in areas like building, in terms of health and safety, in terms of those sorts of roles, and also the qualifications reform. The changes to qualifications mean that schools have costs that they know they have to undertake in order to deliver, and many schools are saying they're not sure they can do those basics even. That's in a changing, reforming environment, with a falling resource, and schools being asked to do so much more with so much less. 

Okay. Thank you. We've got some questions now about reserves from Dawn Bowden. 

Thank you, Chair. I think you've covered some of these in your initial answers to Lynne Neagle, but I'm trying to get my head around all the things that you're saying, which I think we fully appreciate, and how that marries with the fact that we've seen an increase in the number of schools that have got excessive reserves. So, that's gone up from 394 in 2017 to 497 in 2018. Most of them are primary schools, I think. So, I'd like your views on why you think that's happened, and why the disparity between secondary and primary schools in terms of holding reserves. 

In terms of the general reserves picture—and, clearly, last year's, 2017, figures were the lowest since 2001—there was a 28 per cent drop from the previous year in reserves, so, clearly, that showed tension in the system. In terms of the excessive reserves, we would still say that certain schools who are carrying those sorts of excessive reserves for a significant amount of time—you'd need to look at why that's the case, and there may be an argument for that money to be clawed back if it's not being used properly. But for the vast, vast majority of schools, their reserves are often things that—(1) there are occasions when it's almost out of their control, so that's money that will come in very late in the financial year that they cannot anticipate. So, we've had cases of our heads saying, 'We are planning for a zero budget at the end of the financial year', and, literally, within a week or two of the end of the financial year, suddenly money will appear that they're being told to spend, and it's impossible to do that at that late stage. So, we would be looking at in-year deficits rather than the end of the year, because that can be an issue.

So, I think there needs to be something done about that. I still maintain that the point I made about the primaries is a key one. Primaries' economies of scale mean—. My school, when I was a head three or four years ago, my entire budget was about £500,000. Ninety per cent plus of that was in and out on staffing, so my margin for error was very, very small. We managed to manage things. If I had staff leaving or reducing hours, I simply didn't replace them in order to make things work, because I knew that if my budget was—even a £20,000 difference, I was looking at a staff member loss. And prudent financial management tells you to be cautious until you are certain about what you're getting in the following year. I take the point that was made earlier about planning for coming out of a deficit, but we are seeing that things are getting worse. So, primaries, to try and maintain the staffing, who are your most precious resource, are being cautious, where they can be. And I still think we need to put it into context, because it's still the second lowest in nearly 20 years in terms of resources.

09:50

I understand what you're saying; I'm just trying to get my head around the kind of dichotomy, really, between what you're saying and what we see as the facts, with so many schools—. Because the particular point that you've just made about grants coming in very late—. And I think we picked that up in a number of schools that we've spoken to—grants coming in very late and needing to be spent in-year and they can't be spent in-year and so on. But, if that was the main reason for excessive reserves, they would be hugely substantial grants, and they're not that big, the grants that are coming in at the end of the year. So, I'm just trying to get my head around where these excessive grants are coming from that are leading to these reserves. I think you were trying to—.

Specifically the year end March 2018, round about the end of February, beginning of March 2018, a maintenance grant came into all schools, which had to be spent in-year. Obviously, schools spent or costed that towards what they'd already spent in maintenance that year. For my school—so, I suspect it's fairly typical as an example—that was about 1 per cent of our formula budget. So, it was a significant amount of money, and that will have added significantly to the carry-forwards in March 2018.

Okay. So, that's about 1 per cent. That's useful to know. The other thing that the schools told us that we visited was that this happens every year. So, would it not be prudent, then, every year, for schools to have a plan B ready in place for when this money comes in at late notice?

I think schools do that, but you can't guarantee that. I mean the stakes are quite high, aren't they?

No, no, but, if the plan is there, you can go straight into it when the money arrives, can't you?

But the actual timing of some of these grants is literally a couple of weeks, and before the end of the financial year our budgets close down anyway—a significant number of weeks before—so, we practically can't spend it. So, it's reported in section 52 statements against that financial year. A number of things—the consortia then probably have to spend their money, so they offload a load of things to us just before the end of the financial year and we're like, 'Whoa.' Our budgets go from a projected surplus of about £3,000 or £4,000—they can increase by £20,000, £25,000 in that period from January through to March, and you don't expect it. Sometimes, the consortia as well and other people will have initiatives that will come last minute, and, of course, you want to buy into them because we are conscious of trying to provide the best for our children, and as soon you do that you haven't got time to spend it. So, it's a significant—.

But also the point I made earlier about heads and leaders in schools who are generating income—this income comes in at the end of the year and other opportunities and variables change the amount of income you're going to get. Also, there are very practical things. In my own school, for example, my parent-teacher association donates a whole sum to the school at the end, which then ups—. So, there are very practical things that need to be looked at in each school's story to explain that.

Just one other point on this. We had an issue around this when we were looking at it, because we had many members who were saying that school funding was an issue and yet we could see the figures around reserves. So, we spoke at branch level to many members, and what we were being told by members also was that many of them in local authorities were being told by the local authority to retain some money for the following year, because they could see that there were impacts coming the following year. The one authority that had a really large amount that I spoke to then were told by the same local authority, 'Spend it, because we're sticking out a little bit', shall we say? There are games being played in this too. I think, unfortunately, schools get caught in the middle of some of this.

I go back to my original point that, if there are schools who are maintaining, for example, a large-scale reserve for more than seven years—you could argue that, actually, there are children who've gone through that entire school who haven't had access to that money, and so therefore you could claw that back. I think that's personally reasonable. But I would still argue that those are rare, rare occasions. In terms of the numbers, there are fewer of those than there are of those in deficit overall.

So, I take your point, but I think—

09:55

Yes, and I was just trying to get to as well why it is—I assume it's because secondary schools are much bigger, so they've got a much greater spend and so on, but why it is that, generally, these excessive reserves are in primary schools rather than secondary schools.

So, I do think, within the secondary sector, there are some—not simplifying the running of a primary school by any stretch of the imagination, but the curriculum demands at secondary school are different, in the sense that we cannot put one teacher with 30 learners for all of the time; we want to be able to offer that broad curriculum that allows learners to make the next steps. Clearly, we need to do that within efficiencies, but there are smaller class sizes for some minority subjects, such as modern foreign languages, such as music, and they're subjects that we would all want to see within our schools. So, there are differences in terms of the running costs within both of those phases. 

Okay. I understand that, and I think you answered the question about deficits earlier, so thank you.

Brief questions on reserves, because we've got a lot to get through.

No, I appreciate that. First of all, this idea of grants coming in last minute, presumably, when you're getting last-minute money, that's impossible to spend wherever it is in the system, whether it's at consortia, local authority or school level, first of all. So, would it help if you had multi-year budgeting? That would clear that up. And the second thing is—very, very quickly—the regulations that deal with these reserves are still—. They're not that modern, are they, they're 2010. Do you think the figures of £50,000 and £100,000 are relevant these days?

There are different contexts for different schools, aren't there? So, in Wales, we've got some schools, such as mine, which are foundation schools, which have different responsibilities to schools within the local authority. There are schools that are planning for different projects, moving forward, so, yes, I do think that that needs to be reviewed in terms of those figures, and taken in the contexts of the work that schools are trying to undertake.

Just to go back to the point of schools that are carrying surpluses or deficits moving forward, I go back to the point that we need to be really clear: we are not complaining about the money that we are receiving in terms of those grants. What we are saying is in terms of 'when', and then making good financial decisions. If I receive an amount of money, what I want to be able to do is put more staff into an intervention or more resources into an area. It's not a case of spending that money within the next three weeks to make something useful for the learners in the school.

And, quickly, just the point that you made about the longer term, in terms of having more certainty for longer term—we've been calling for that in terms of school budgets for a long, long time. If you want to have proper strategic leadership to be able to really impact upon school improvement, you can't base that upon an unknown year-on-year budget approach—it needs to be far longer term.

But it would solve the problem of the last-minute grants as well.

It would be much easier, yes.

Okay, thank you. The next questions are from Siân Gwenllian.

Dwi'n cymryd eich bod chi i gyd yn mynd i gytuno bod y quantum cyffredinol o arian sydd ar gael ar gyfer addysg, bod hwnnw'n broblem yn y lle cyntaf. Dwi ddim yn credu—. Does dim angen inni fynd ar ôl yr agwedd yna, efallai—hynny yw, mae angen mwy yn y pot addysg yn y lle cyntaf. Ond wedyn, beth ydy eich barn chi ynglŷn â'r ffordd mae'r cyllid yna wedyn yn cael ei ddosbarthu gan Lywodraeth Cymru drwy'r awdurdodau lleol i ysgolion? Oes yna arian yn mynd ar goll yn ystod y broses yna? Beth ydy manteision i'r arian efallai fynd yn syth i'r ysgolion? Beth ydy anfanteision gwneud hynny?

I take it that you're all going to agree that the general quantum of money that's available for education, that that is a problem in the first instance. We don't have to go and follow that track, because we need more in the education pot to begin with. But then what's your opinion about the way in which that budget is then distributed by the Welsh Government through local authorities to schools? Is the money getting lost during that process? What are the advantages of the money going straight to the schools and what are the disadvantages of direct funding?

We've called for many years for a national formula for funding schools, because, when you look at the differences between the funding formulas currently used by the different education authorities, they are significant. You can have two schools separated by three miles in two different local authorities and one will get £500 per student more than the other. Now, that seems to us to be absolutely nutty. There needs to be much more consistency about the funding of schools so that we're able to ensure that the school leaders can have some ability to plan the way forward and know what they're going to do next year and the year after.

Yes, that's exactly what we would support in terms of a fair—and that 'fair' word is really important—funding formula, where money goes directly to schools, so, per pupil, you know how much you're expected to receive, how much it costs to educate a pupil within a particular phase, and you are certain of that amount of money coming into the school.

Then, clearly, you need to consider things like high-needs learners, so learners with complex ALN learning needs and pupils who have disadvantages in terms of their learning, as almost an addition on top of that, to make sure that we've got this core funding that is fair, and then the additionality that allows us to meet the needs of the more complex challenges.

10:00

Before we move on, can I just ask—? ASCL, you say that you want a national funding formula. Is that a universal view across the panel?

We talk about having a national funding formula. One of the issues at Welsh Government level at the moment is some of the data that's used to distribute across the local authorities, we would argue, is out of date. It's old data. So, you have census data, which is old, and the high-needs funding is based upon data that we think is old. So, there needs to be that basis.

One caution about a national funding formula, which we need to learn from other areas, is it won't work unless there's enough money in the system in the first place. One of the issues we've had and one of the things we've called for, before we go along that route, is some kind of national audit to work out how much it costs in order to run a school effectively—what do you need as your basic amount of money?—because we've never done that. It's hidden within the age-weighted pupil unit figures, because in certain local authorities there are elements added and in others there aren't. Hence why you get these huge differences for the same age pupils.

So, until we get down to that amount, we need to be clear about how much money is required in order to deliver it, because if you go along a national funding formula, as we've seen elsewhere, you end up with a race to the bottom, unfortunately, so all you do is spread pain a lot more widely. We think there's a strong moral argument for fairness, but it won't work unless we have sufficiency as well.

I think your question is quite controversial in terms of local democracy and the way in which councils assign their budgets. I think I'm going to dodge that question like a politician in terms of answering it. However, it comes to school, whether it's direct or through local democracy in the system that is there now, it needs to be the same across Wales and there needs to be a formula that meets that.

So, I don't care whether it comes via the council or whether it comes directly, as long as it's fair and equitable across Wales, so that at the chalk face I can make decisions the same as a colleague, or the same decisions for the number of children in my school as I could do in my previous authority, where I was funded greater amounts for exactly the same sized school. It can't be fair across Wales that there can be such differences in the core budget of a school, because 10 to 15 minutes up the road from me children are getting funded at such a high level in the core budget.

Because you've got a system where you've got sparsity being generated at a high level, but it also comes into some grants that are given at a local level too, so you have certain schools that get double funded for sparsity levels. Because of the complexities, you've got a formula at Welsh Government level, you've got 22 separate local authority formulas, you've got different arrangements feeding in and out of regional consortia, so if you followed a pound's journey from Westminster to Welsh Government and through the system before it came to schools, it's a wonder we don't owe them money, frankly.

I'd give it a cautious welcome. There is an issue of accountability and local democracy, as Dean said, but the elephant in the room is the number of local authorities in Wales. 

Rob Williams raised the point on the figures that are being used. They are ancient figures, really. Who's preventing us using the up-to-date figures?

'I don't know', is the answer. I do know that there have been concerns raised between local authorities and Welsh Government on this, and I think Welsh Government's response was that actually there was almost a lack of willingness from other local authorities to get around the table and thrash those things out. Because of course, in the current system, you have winners and losers at the moment. There are vested interests in this. For me as a headteacher with my headteacher hat on, I don't care whose fault it is. I really don't care. All I'm interested in is an honest, open debate around, 'Have we got enough money?', 'Is it equitably shared?' I use 'equity' rather than 'fairness' deliberately. And, 'Is it transparent?' The three answers to those questions currently on those things is probably 'no'.

So, what should happen? There are obviously different views, and the Welsh Local Government Association would say something different again to what you're saying here. So, do we need to be reviewing the way that the money comes from Welsh Government to local authorities? Or do we need to review how the money goes from the local authorities down to the schools? Or do we need to do both?

10:05

The whole system needs to—. You can't do the one without the other, I would argue.

Jest i droi, felly, at agwedd arall o hyn—dŷn ni wedi cyffwrdd arno fo'n barod—ydych chi'n meddwl bod yna gydbwysedd priodol rhwng yr arian sy'n cael ei gynnwys yn y setliad heb ei neilltuo ac wedyn y grantiau sydd wedi cael eu neilltuo yn benodol ar gyfer blaenoriaethau Llywodraeth Cymru? Ydy'r balans yna yn anghywir? Dwi'n meddwl eich bod chi'n meddwl bod y grantiau penodol yma'n gallu bod yn broblem ar adegau.

Just to turn, therefore, to another aspect of this—and we've touched upon it already—do you think there's an appropriate balance between the money that's being included in the local government settlement that's been unhypothecated and the hypothecated targeted grants aligned to specific Welsh Government priorities? Is that balance wrong? I think you think that those specific grants can be a problem at times.

Who's going to have the first shot at this?

I think, in a sense, from the perspective of a headteacher now, as opposed to the vice president of ASCL, there is clearly an issue that enough money is not making it to the school to be able to impact on the learners and make the progress that all of us want to see. And I guess there is some work to do about how much does it cost to educate a young person in each of the phases, and then to work out how that money gets through to schools. And I guess that the bit in the middle, as a headteacher, doesn't concern me immensely, but it does concern me that enough money gets to each school to be able to deliver what it is that we need to be able to do. 

Do we need to get rid of the specific grants? That's what I'm asking.

Yes in a sense of: we need to know with certainty the amount of money that is coming into the school. Whether that is ring-fenced in a grant for particular purposes, that's fine, but we need to know the quantum of finance that's going to be coming into the school to be able to impact on the learners in our school.

One of the issues that we have at the moment is that the grants are set at a certain level. They then tend to go to the consortia, who then push them out to schools, but they may hang on to some of it in order to check how the schools are spending their money. If that adds up to 20 per cent of the grant, that's an awful lot of money that was meant to be going into the schools for doing something that actually is never getting there because people are just using it to check up that the money is being spent. That seems to me to be an enormous waste.

We also know that there are bits of grants that the consortia will hang onto because they've got a project they want to do, which may be perfectly good, but actually, if that money went straight to the school, the school could be taking the decision. They might be advised by the consortia, 'We think it would be a good idea if you did x or y,' and we accept that, but it's this idea that the heads don't have any control over those. The money is pushed to the consortia who then take the decisions on our behalf. From a school's perspective, we don't feel, (a) they're necessarily taking the right decisions all the time, and (b) we feel that that money should come to us—in other words, to the school—so that the school can take those decisions. 

But how does the Government of the day know that the schools, then, are following their priorities, because the specific grants are aligned to their strategies, aren't they? They're around the curriculum and stuff.

That's the exact point I was going to make, then, in terms of whatever Government's in power, whatever the priorities are of the day or whatever the political agenda is, these grants come and we, as school leaders, because of the state of our core budgets, think 'Great, we have a bit more money now, through this grant; we can be creative with our staffing to keep them, but we have to change their priorities to meet this grant.' So, my plea would be: of course we welcome the money that comes from grants—some of them are really valid and targeted, like the pupil development grant—however, fund our schools at the core budget first, and let's have the amount of money that we need to deliver our core, basic direction, and all of this can come on top. I know that's perhaps an ideal world in terms of finance, but I want to be able to run my school first without the tension of thinking, 'I've got to do this with this grant money, but we haven't got the money for the core basics of what we do.'

So, does some of that grant money go into core funding anyway?

It has to, and that works to the disadvantage of different schools. I've worked in more challenging areas for most of my career as a headteacher, where I had a high level of pupil development grant—or pupil deprivation grant, as it was at the time—and naturally, my staffing costs, as budgets reduced, were put towards the pupil development grant to meet the needs of the grant. But, in the school I'm at now, with very low levels of pupil development grant, I haven't got that ability to do so. So, it affects my core budget. However, different needs, but the same needs. My learners' needs are still there, but I haven't got the staffing to provide for them.

10:10

The challenge is that too much of the unhypothecated funding doesn't make its way into schools, is the issue. So, because of that issue, there is the need for the hypothecated funding, which is—

In a way, it is, but also I agree with what colleagues have said: there are targeted areas where, actually, that kind of targeted funding is used. The issue with it is that it's diluted because of the issues in your core budget elsewhere. So, it's not that hypothecated is bad and we don't want it; it's the fact that in the general pot there simply isn't enough money. So, the impact of the grants is difficult. And at local authority level, they're facing such cuts, you understand they're cautioning that to some extent, but it's getting to the point where even money that we really—. We heard, for example, that some local authorities are considering not passporting the total amount for the pay award the next financial year—teachers' pay award—into schools' budgets for this coming year because they're facing that level of cut. That, clearly, is money that was specifically for a teachers' pay award. If they're having that level of conversation, it indicates to everybody the kind of areas they're having to look in because they consider they don't have enough money at that level. 

Just to answer your question on monitoring, I'm not saying there shouldn't be monitoring. What we're saying is the monitoring we've got at the moment is excessive, and if you saw some of the forms that our headteacher colleagues have to fill in to justify how they spend the money, you would understand why we're a little bit concerned about it. 

Thank you. The next questions are from Hefin David. 

Can I just pick up on what you said, Rob Williams? You said too much unhypothecated money doesn't find its way into the schools. Can you expand on that and give us a picture across Wales and how and why this happened?

In general terms, it comes back to the point I was making that local authorities themselves—. If you look at the amount of funding that sits in education as a whole and the amount of funding that's been allocated to education at a Welsh Government level, but also what comes into local government level, at best it has stayed static over a period of years, and so the tensions start to bite at local authority level. Their ability to maintain the services they've been maintaining for schools has been reduced, and, as a result of that, they cannot pass on as much money as they have been doing at school level. We're hearing from schools this year that they're being told that there'll be between a three and four per cent cut to the overall budget at a local authority level for education coming into their school. There's that level of tension in the system now, and local authorities, as you'll know, have been quite open about saying that their ability to protect school budgets now has all but disappeared. They are unable to do what they were doing in the past.

And can I understand—? Is that because the revenue support grant is reduced, and it's just a cut, or is that money being moved into other things that is supporting libraries or other things elsewhere? Is that what's happening, or is it just a direct cut?

The honest answer is 'I don't know', because I'm not party to those kinds of conversations. But my understanding, when you talk to colleagues who sit on budget forums, is that it is the fact that local authorities have to make those final calls as to what they prioritise at a local level, and, sometimes, it'll be a case of—. They would argue that the moral case for supporting a certain service is strong enough to pull some money out of the education set-up. 

Certainly, talking to some colleagues across Wales in terms of our members, it appears that we've arrived at a situation where local authorities have been able to protect—and I do use that word loosely—the education budget more because they've made more severe cuts in other areas of local authority spending, but they've got to the point where all of the savings have been made within those areas and now the pressure is moving to education and social services—social budgets.

And just out of interest, as trade unions, where's your point of lobbying? Do you go to chief executives, directors of education, or do you go to elected members to try and persuade them not to reduce the unhypothecated money?

There's a combination, isn't there? On the school budget forum, heads of schools are represented and will argue the case with finance and elected members. We do talk to elected members as well through our, sort of, union consultations as well. So, there are a number of strands where we're actually talking to elected members all the time.

10:15

So, it's more through the formal structures than lobbying of elected members, as we see as Assembly Members.

And there are occasions—we've had occasions this year—where local authority council members, often if they are ex-heads and others, will contact us to find out about—. Certainly, we've had contact around the pensions contributions issue; they've been checking what we know because of the uncertainty around that, so—.

And how much do you think local authorities retain too much for central administration rather than passing directly onto schools? I'm not thinking about the consortia, I'm thinking within the local authorities themselves.

It's a difficult one to call because so many different authorities have different ways of delegating and recouping straight in and out. So, it is a very, very difficult question to answer, because I think, across Wales, there are so many different ways—a local authority might say, 'We delegate this to you', and take it back off you. Different authorities do that for different services, so it's a difficult question.

And you can't separate out the regional consortia in this because the relationship between different local authorities and their consortia, the structure in which the consortia were set up in the first place means, actually, that there are very, very different pictures according to specific local authorities. So, for example, in the south-east, you've got a company limited by guarantee who are the consortia. In the ERW part of the world—most of the people working for ERW are still employed at local-authority level. So, it's a different structure.

Well, I'm aware that the consortia are often set up as the ones who retain money for bureaucracy, and that's the kind of caricature, sometimes, possibly. But local authorities you don't think do that to the same extent, then.

You've obviously seen the letter from ASCL, and we're quite clear that there's £406 million that's retained in the local authority.

We do feel that there is a need for the local authority, obviously, to retain some money to support education and the functions they have around transport, ALN and so on. So, we recognise that some of that needs to be there. I guess that our members feel quite strongly that £406 million is a very large figure and that, where some of the headings around that are around school improvements—and we can see the links with the consortia, or strategic leadership of education—we're suggesting that there's some duplication.

We've done a freedom of information request from local authorities and we've had 18 out of 22 respond, and we asked them specifically about money they spend on school improvement. And what I can tell you is that the local authorities pay to the consortia just under £10 million a year—these 18 that we've got answers from—they retain, the same local authorities, £12.5 million. Now, our view is: if the consortia are there to do school improvement, why are the local authorities retaining more than they give to the consortia?

And that was my point about the differences because certain local authorities, I think, politically, have committed quite heavily towards the consortia, so they have very few people left within the authority. There are others, who, I would say, are probably continuing a lot of work at the local authority level that is questionable when you've got a regional consortia in place.

Okay. I've got a couple of supplementaries on this, but it would be really helpful if you might be able to share that freedom of information information with the committee, if you don't mind. I've got Janet, then Dawn, on Hefin's questions.

When we've challenged here about the funding formula (a) going to local authorities, because, of course, that's an old model based on 1991, and we're now in 2019, and although it's been tweaked, it's been done so on a very ad hoc basis. So, there are many local authority leaders and things who believe that that isn't adequate any more. But also when we've challenged on the funding formula coming to schools, both Ministers categorically state, in a very robust manner, 'But it's not our formula: there's this forum that comes together, pan-Wales—'. Now, yesterday we were told that it was school leaders, unions, it was everybody within the mix, and we get told by the Minister for local government—you know, he gets the chief execs, the leaders together, and that, pan-Wales, they agree this formula. So, for me, I just find it difficult to get my head around why we're being told, across the piste, that the funding formulas are wrong, but then they're able to say, 'But this is agreed at these forum levels.' Where is that disconnect in that—? I know that it's very difficult to find the minutes for these forums that everybody sits at. They're usually about six months late in publishing them—very hard to keep somebody to accountability—

—if there's no transparency, though, in the process. So, why is there that disconnect between what we're being told by Ministers and what I certainly believe you're telling us now?

10:20

It would be interesting to know who's in the room talking. I'd want to know names, frankly, because certainly Tim and I were at previous events, which were to do with what was seen as joint health and education policy that had apparently been signed off, and four of the things that we were hearing about—two of them we've never heard of. So, I'm not entirely sure who they're talking to in terms of school leadership in that, and I'd be really keen to know who they are.

There is also—just to be very quick—a tension in the system, isn't there, in the sense that, as a school leader and representing school leaders, we just need a certain amount per pupil to deliver that? If you are having to make decisions based on the quantum that you receive, I guess that that may drive different behaviours.

Yes. I think there are two different things going on here, actually. There's the school funding formula, which I think you're talking about, and the local government funding formula, and I think they're two different things, and that's where they can't get agreement. And it should be the Welsh Local Government Association—and they've been told time and time again that if they can come forward with an agreed position, Welsh Government will accept it, and they don't do it. So, I think it's two different things.

But I just wanted to question on the duplication side of it. You've talked about school improvement. What are the other areas of duplication? Because if we are double counting the same stuff, I think that's quite significant, potentially.

Yes. We do have some questions about service level agreements, which is where a school pays a local authority to deliver service on their behalf so, for example, human resources. There is a significant amount of money that goes from the local authority to the school and then bounces straight back again in order to buy in those services. Now, we feel that some of those services—schools should have more options open to them rather than having to buy. Enormous pressure is put on schools by some local authorities to use those services—

Yes, but that's not duplication. I was asking specifically about your suggestion that there is duplication. You've given us a very good example on school improvement, but the implication in your letter is that there is a significant amount of duplication being held centrally and with the consortia, and I want to know what that duplication is.

I think that strategic school leadership has a heading of—and I may get my figures slightly wrong—around £55 million. It's also something that we would see as something in need of further exploration in terms of duplication. Clearly, as headteachers, we are responsible for the strategic leadership within our school. There is clearly a responsibility within the consortia around that school improvement. It seems that there are potentially at least three layers of strategic leadership of schools.

Okay. Perhaps we could get a bit more information about that.

Suzy—and can I ask for brief questions, brief answers, because we have got a big section still to come?

Right, okay. You're all headteachers or school leaders. If I were to say that some of our schools are getting excellent and green categorisation but are getting the lowest per-capita core funding, would that be true?

Yes. To some extent. And perhaps—

Yes, some. And some of the schools in Newport, for example, are coming out with green categorisation and excellent inspection reports and some of the lowest funding in Wales. That doesn't make it right.

No. That leads me to my main question, which is about the transparency and the consistency of how decisions are made between local authorities. You've dealt with this to a certain degree—

There's a cumulative effect.

What I'd say is that, certainly, a local authority—in the Vale of Glamorgan local authority, I know we have schools in there that are green category. They are now having a conversation with the regional consortium to say, 'Actually, we don't know that we can sustain that green category any longer.' It's getting to that point.

Right. That's what I'm coming to. It's about the local authorities' approaches. If they see a green sticker on something, are they going to be giving you less money, and is that part of the lack of transparency?

It's the perverse incentive to be not very good.

Very practically, schools that target the attainment and achievement of their pupils, on the whole, it's through intervention and staffing to move those children on. So, obviously, good generic learning and teaching that goes on in the classroom, but knowing your children's well-being, achievement and attainment—if you haven't got that staffing and that's an increasing story, you won't have that impact—

Sorry to cut across, because I'm going to get a row—this is about the local authorities' approach to how they do their school funding. Is it transparent and is it consistent? And what I'm trying to get to is: is the perverse incentive still applying?

It's not consistent. We did a FOI request asking about the age-weighted pupil unit and the criteria used in those, and they vary across the whole of the local authorities. So, you end up with certain local authorities that add elements in that other local authorities don't. Some local authorities were unable to explain their criteria to us. Sometimes, they're so historical that, actually, the person who originally must've put it there is no longer there, I don't think, and no-one seems—but they just stuck to it. So, those differences are massively different, and our members and schools, and I would argue parents of children, need to know that their child is having their fair amount of money, irrespective of where they are in Wales.

10:25

Brilliant. Thank you. Sorry I had to do it speed-dating style there. [Laughter.]

Thank you. Right. We've got some questions now specifically on consortia. Janet, I think the first one's been covered.

Yes. Are the four regional consortia the best vehicle to channel resources for school improvement and specific priorities?

I think it depends what's meant by 'resources'. In terms of financial resources, no. There are some pieces of work that are undertaken that do make a difference to schools and across regions.

[Inaudible.]—obviously, yes, because there are four different consortia, and they have four very, very different models. I'm aware that Dean's consortium is very different from what we see, maybe, in the others. 

In terms of—we've heard about duplication; I won't duplicate that. That is definitely true. In terms of money retained, there is a very, very big issue when one hears stories of consortia organising trips for headteachers and officers to New York—whether there is the best use of money. There are questions about the retention of grants—my particular hobby-horse is the looked-after children's grant. I've been given a quarter of what I need to meet the needs of the 10 looked-after, or previously looked-after, children I have in my school, because what I want to do doesn't meet the consortium's criteria, because they've taken a tranche of the budget and decided what they want to do. They obviously have to put officers in place to manage that budget and put a panel together to consider the bids, and the schools have to put together an idea of how they're going to collaborate. Collaboration is brilliant, but in terms of meeting the individual needs of learners, it's not always necessary. And that whole process is sucking money out of provision for the children. So, that's one example of where, in my view, some of the activities in some of the consortia are actually not in the interests of the children, and therefore it's not a good vehicle for distributing funding.

There are differences across Wales, and from my previous local authority, a very small authority in Blaenau Gwent, our school improvement service was very small and ineffective, on the whole. When the consortium was established, we benefited greatly from a higher level of support that had a bigger impact in our schools. So, the delivery we saw on the ground in terms of school improvement was so much better. So, I think it comes to the point, really, that we've got a duplication in the system of local authorities and consortia. I'm not going to get involved in which one of them should be right, but I think it should be just one of them.

And for me it's about the school being the ones who lead on what the areas are to be developed. What we get at the moment is a top-down model in terms of offering support and training on a package that we're going to offer from a consortia level to schools. If we're talking about a self-improving system, the leadership in each school should be the ones identifying what they need, knowing their schools well and what they need to do in terms of improvement. And then the consortia, or whatever the body is that's undertaking the school improvement, should respond to that, as opposed to trying to deliver some kind of generic training and development model. Because currently it is a little bit too top-down.

Okay. Given that the witnesses are concerned about the value for money of funding channelled through the regional consortia, are you more concerned about the funding that the consortia receive from local authorities to undertake school improvement functions on their behalf, or are you more concerned about the grant funding that the consortia distribute on behalf of the Welsh Government?

My director in Wrexham would say that, for what Wrexham give to GwE, you couldn't buy a school improvement service. So, from that point of view, there's an argument of it being good value for money. But I think our concern would be more around the huge amount of money that we don't know what it is and where it goes—the lack of transparency that Rob was saying before. We don't know how much money is going out to the consortia or where that's going, and, as I said before, the block on that money coming to school.

Again, from our freedom of information request that we've already alluded to, there is a significant amount of grant funding that is retained within the consortia, and there are significant differences between consortia. We would certainly think that that's something that needs to be looked at carefully.

This is from me now: do you think that there needs to be better and improved—some form of scrutiny as to how the consortia spend their money and on what?

10:30

Yes. We've been saying for some time we feel that what is needed is someone to be in charge of the consortia. They're answerable to the Welsh Government generically, but there doesn't seem to be any one person who is in charge, and that seems to us to be a weakness, that we need somebody who is, if you like, the managing director of the lot, and therefore would achieve more consistency. Because consistency is one thing we certainly don't have.

One of the other issues as well is the relationship between the local authorities and their consortia. Politically, there are real issues around that, and we've seen examples—for example, to show how flawed it can be—of one consortia generating a training offer package for their schools, a local authority from that same consortia not being happy with that training package, and then developing their own. So, almost competing with the same schools. That shows to me that it's a broken system, and it's not working. So, from a schools' point of view, my gut feeling as a head is I wouldn't be worried about where that support's coming from; I just want to make sure I get maximum impact, and also we're not wasting resources at that level. 

Generally, now, not just about finance, doesn't that kind of layered system—and you say, really, the consortia aren't accountable to anybody in government; that is really bad news—is the layered approach creating a lack of accountability in the system?

We've said the middle tier, if you look at the middle tier in education, the middle tier is hugely top-heavy in Wales. It's got far too many organisations that require resource to function, and what we need to identify is what their remits are, are they duplicating things, because I'd argue that, in some cases, yes they are, and whether we are maximising that impact for pupils. Because ultimately, that's what we're here for. We're measured at school level on value for money and impact for pupils. Unless we can evidence that's happening from each of those middle-tier organisations, and we have that level of scrutiny, then I think we're letting the pupils down. 

Okay, thank you. Well, we've come to the end of our time. Thank you very much for your attendance. I think it's been a really useful and wide-ranging discussion. It would be really helpful if both unions were prepared to share with us the FOI requests that you've referred to, because we're as keen as you are, really, to try and understand where all this money is going.

But thank you very much, anyway, for your attendance. You will be sent a transcript to check for accuracy, as usual. Thank you. The committee will now break until 10.40 a.m.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:32 a 10:43.

The meeting adjourned between 10:32 and 10:43.

10:40
3. Ymchwiliad i Gyllido Ysgolion: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth
3. Inquiry into School Funding: Evidence Session

Welcome back, everybody, to our second evidence session for our inquiry into school funding. I'm very pleased to welcome Tim Cox, Wales policy and casework official from NASUWT; David Evans, Wales secretary for the NEU; and Dilwyn Roberts-Young, general secretary of UCAC. Thank you all for your attendance. If you're happy, we'll go straight into questions. If I can just ask a general question to start about what you feel the current scale of the pressure is on schools' core budgets, and how you feel that compares with previous years, and what you think the outlook is for the future.  

Allaf i jest wirio? A oes cyfieithu? Mae yna. Jest eisiau gwirio oeddwn i. Diolch. 

Wel, mae'r sefyllfa yn anferthol ar hyn o bryd. Mae o'n bryder drwy Gymru gyfan, ac mae'r effaith hwnnw, dwi'n siŵr byddwn ni'n trafod yn ystod y sesiwn yma—byddwn ni'n trafod yr effaith o ran y ffaith bod y dosbarthiadau yn cynyddu; y pwysau gwaith aruthrol ar athrawon; yr angen i ni, fel byddwn ni'n trafod, dwi'n siŵr, yn ystod yr awr, i ymateb i'r gofynion sydd yna, yr adolygiadau o ran anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, y cwricwlwm newydd a chyrraedd y targed 1 miliwn o siaradwyr. Mae hwnna i gyd yn creu pryder. Ond, ar ben hyn, buaswn i'n meddwl ein bod ni eisiau pwysleisio ar y cychwyn cyntaf y cwmwl sydd yna o fygythiad, bygythiad i swyddi. Mae'r bygythiad yna rownd y flwyddyn erbyn hyn, ond hefyd y tanseilio amodau gwaith athrawon o ran y disgwyliadau sydd arnyn nhw—y disgwyliadau ychwanegol sydd arnyn nhw—ac hefyd, bod yr hyn sydd yn hawliau statudol yn cael ei erydu yn ddyddiol mewn ysgolion.

May I just check? Do we have interpretation available? I just wanted to check. Thank you.

Well, the situation is of great concern at the moment. It's a concern the length and breadth of Wales, and we'll discuss the impact of that during this session, of course, in terms of the fact that class sizes are increasing; there are huge pressures on teachers; the need, as I'm sure we'll discuss over the next hour, to respond to the needs arising from ALN, the new curriculum and reaching the target of 1 million Welsh speakers. All of that is a cause of concern. But, in addition to that, I would like to emphasise at the very outset the cloud hanging over us in terms of the threat to jobs. That is a year-round threat at the moment, and also, the undermining of the working conditions of teachers in terms of the additional responsibilities placed upon them, and also, that what are statutory rights are being eroded daily in our schools. 

10:45

Over the years, we've seen it getting worse and worse, and Dilwyn's already referred to the effects upon teachers and staffing resources. But it's not only that; it goes beyond that in schools, with schools that can't afford the basic resources to deliver the curriculum in the school, and that causes us a major concern.

I was at a school yesterday where they're facing a potential £900,000 deficit for this year in the budget. Obviously, that's looking at redundancies; we're looking at potentially five teaching jobs being lost there and another five support jobs being lost there as well. This is a school that has managed to avoid any compulsory redundancies for an extended period of time, going back to at least 2010, when that head first started in that school. The impact upon the staff there is tangible.

We know that headteachers have written to parents in Conwy. We know that Rhondda Cynon Taf has written to headteachers about pension issues, and not being able to afford that. These are unprecedented times. I was pleased to see the debate and some of the comments that have been made here in the Senedd a day or so ago with regard to school funding. These are very real issues. These are huge concerns that are impacting not only upon our members in the schools, but are impacting upon pupils and the way in which education is being provided, and whether or not we can actually deliver the national mission.

I've been active in the NASUWT since 1995. I think this is the worst year I've ever seen for school budgets in Wales. We've been in action, industrial action, over redundancies just about every year, and that's been increasing year on year, the number of redundancies, but we're anticipating this year to be, by far and away, the worst that we've ever seen. Without going back over all the pressures that are currently there, the scale now of the budget deficits that we're seeing is absolutely massive. And these are last year's figures that 40 per cent of secondary schools in Wales are already in deficit. Anecdotally, in Wales, it's usually between 85 and 90 per cent of school budgets is spent on staffing. If you compare that across the border in England, that's usually more in the region of about 70 to 80 per cent is spent on staffing. School budgets are already cut to the bone in many, many places, where there is nothing left to cut apart from staff. And that's a massive, massive concern. 

You will have seen some of the figures that we've produced on this. It was in our written evidence that, since 2010, there has been a reduction of 29 pupils in schools in Wales, but over that period of time, 1,400 fewer teachers in schools in Wales. You can't contemplate how those two things marry up. Class sizes have risen as a result of that. Some of it is to do with school reorganisation, but a lot of it is to do with the nature of school budgets. 

Roeddech chi'n sôn yn fanna ynglŷn ag efallai nad ydy niferoedd disgyblion ddim yn gostwng i'r graddau y maen nhw wedi gwneud, ond mae'n siŵr bod y darlun yna yn amrywio ar draws y wlad. Felly, ydyn ni'n sôn am doriadau oherwydd llai o arian, neu ydyn ni'n sôn am doriadau oherwydd llai o arian ac oherwydd bod niferoedd disgyblion yn gostwng mewn rhai ardaloedd? Ydy hwnna'n gwestiwn teg i'w ofyn?

You mentioned there that the numbers of pupils possibly aren't decreasing to the extent that they have, but it also varies a great deal across the country. So, are we talking about cuts because of less money, or are we talking about cuts because of less money and because the numbers of pupils are decreasing in some areas? Is that a fair question to ask?

I actually think it's both. The cuts—. In any event, the first thing everyone looks at, and the first thing everyone fears each year when the budgets come out is that there's going to be a further cut. We know already that the Welsh Government itself has suffered due to austerity, and has lost out on a significant amount of money. We see pupil numbers actually rising. There are 604 more pupils in local authority maintained schools now than there were in January 2017 and yet we're still seeing the cuts, we're still seeing less money. So, it's an amalgam of the two issues really, and it's one that we've not yet got to grips with. We were absolutely delighted when it was announced that you were going to do this inquiry, because it's been long overdue. This is an issue that has plagued us, as all three of us have said, for many, many years. So, if we can do something about this and do something soon—it is absolutely dire straits at this moment in time in schools.

10:50

I think one of the things about this is that, by and large, schools have been protected over recent years. Local authorities and Welsh Government have done that. This year, all that protection has gone and local authorities are in real difficulty in terms of their budgets and are seeing that they can now cut school budgets, so they are. And, to some extent, it's—. This varies quite a lot, in the same way as pupil numbers vary and the direction of local authorities varies as well. But, in some, it's almost like, 'Oh, now is our chance to get back to where we should have been maybe several years ago with schools', and the pressures are therefore almost like five years' worth of cuts in one go, and that's a concern.

Dwi'n credu ei fod yn eithriadol o bwysig ein bod ni'n sylweddoli ei fod o'n broblem genedlaethol, a dyw hi ddim yn broblem ranbarthol, rhai ardaloedd. Mae'r tri ohonon ni wedi gweithio fel swyddogion undeb am flynyddoedd maith ac wedi gweithio yn y byd addysg am flynyddoedd maith hefyd. Dwi wedi ymweld â phob sir yng Nghymru a thrafod, fel undeb, fel ysgrifennydd cyffredinol—dwi wedi bod mewn cyfarfodydd—a dwi'n meddwl mai un peth mae'n rhaid inni fod yn ei ystyried hefyd yw beth ydy'r oblygiadau tymor hir. Mae yna oblygiadau o ran cyrraedd y weledigaeth genedlaethol ar gyfer addysg, ond mae yna faterion eraill hefyd—toriechyd. Beth yw oblygiadau tymor hir toriechyd ar y gweithlu ac erydu amodau gwaith athrawon, sydd yn dod i wrthdaro rhwng awdurdod ac unigolion a'r bygythiad o dribiwnlysoedd? Dwi'n gweld mwy a mwy o rieni yn herian, mewn gwahanol feysydd—herian ysgolion ynglŷn â'r diffygion sydd yna yn yr ysgolion ac mae hwnna'n golygu oblygiadau ariannol, heb sôn am yr oblygiadau ar lwyth gwaith a morâl y proffesiwn.

I think it's exceptionally important that we recognise that this is a national problem rather than a regional problem in certain areas. All three of us have worked as union officials for many years and have worked in education for many years too. I've visited every county in Wales and I've discussed, as a union rep and as a general secretary—I've attended meetings—and one thing that we have to take into account is the long-term implications of this. There are implications in terms of delivering the national mission for education, but there are also other issues. What are the long-term implications of ill health on the workforce and the erosion of the working conditions of teachers, which will bring conflict between individuals and the authorities and the threat of tribunals? I see more and more parents challenging schools in various areas because of the deficiencies that exist within those schools and that does have financial implications too, never mind the implications in terms of workload and morale within the profession.

Okay, thank you. We've got some specific questions now on the impact on the workforce from Dawn Bowden.

Thank you, Chair, and I'm grateful, David, that you—nice to see you again, by the way—. I'm glad to hear that you acknowledge that we're in a difficult position in terms of Welsh Government's budget. We're into our, nearly, tenth year of austerity now and, whatever we are able to do here and whatever recommendations we make here, I think we all acknowledge that actually the real problem here is that there is not enough money in the pot. And so we can look at different formulae, we can look at all of the different ways in which schools can be better funded, but we still have that backdrop of £1 billion less available to Welsh Government than we had in 2010. But, more specifically now in terms of the workforce, I think you commented on the effect on staffing levels, and I think you were saying, Tim, that there's probably a dual purpose for that, but is it primarily that you're facing a reduction in staffing levels due to the inability of schools to be able to fund the appropriate number of staff that you need per pupil?

—the budget first and foremost. By and large—[Inaudible.] Many local authorities will not allow schools to have redundancies unless it's an issue about their staffing and their budget. In fact, they wouldn't otherwise meet some of the tests in law. But let's not go into that now.

So, yes, there is restructuring going on in relation to the new curriculum, which is causing concern. There is the advent of these three to 16, three to 18 all through schools, where local authorities are rebuilding and closing schools and reopening them as new schools, which is also causing redundancy situations, which we think is unacceptable. But a lot of that is to save money. So, the staffing reductions, the teachers losing responsibility allowances—TLRs—are because of the pressure on the budget. So, local authorities restructuring schools is because of pressure on budget; schools cutting staff is because of the pressure on budgets.

10:55

Sure. And 1,400—was it you, David, who said it was 1,400 staff less?

Sorry, that was you, Tim. Yes, since 2010. You were also suggesting that the level of school funding has been down to the fact that ring-fencing of the education budget has been removed. 

So, from your point of view, you would want to see that reintroduced, then, would you? 

Yes. Yes, absolutely.

Yes. In the last Assembly, the promises made about keeping it 1 per cent above the—. That was very helpful, clearly. Now that's gone, we're seeing the consequence of that.

Okay. In terms of the reduced numbers, obviously, what particular impact is that having on the quality of teaching in schools? Is it starting to impact on the quality of the education you can deliver?

Wel, dyna'r perig. Os dŷch chi'n edrych ar beth ydy'r bygythiad o ran cyllido, mi ydych chi'n edrych ar ddosbarthiadau mwy, ac mae dosbarthiadau mwy yn golygu llai o gyfle i weithio efo disgyblion, ond hefyd cynnydd yn y gwaith o ran pwysau gwaith o ran asesu, cynllunio—yr holl waith dydd i ddydd yr athro. Dŷch chi'n edrych, yn yr uwchradd, ar yr ystod o bynciau—athrawon yn gorfod dysgu mwy a mwy o bynciau ac, wrth gwrs, llai o arbenigedd. Ac o wneud hynny hefyd, mae gennych chi'r broblem o ran llai o bynciau—mae'r ysgol yn gallu cynnig llai o bynciau, sy'n cael effaith unwaith eto ar y cyfleon i ddisgyblion.

Dŷn ni'n gweld beth roeddwn i'n sôn amdano yn gynharach, ynglŷn ag erydu amodau gwaith: penaethiaid yn cymryd mwy a mwy o gyfrifoldebau. Yr amser cynllunio, paratoi ac asesu—yr amser CPA—yw amser allweddol i athro i gynllunio, i baratoi ac i asesu. Ond, unwaith eto, dŷn ni'n clywed am fwy a fwy o ysgolion yn colli'r amser yna ac yn mynd yn ôl, mewn ffordd, i dorri ar draws yr amodau gwaith sydd yn statudol ar eu cyfer nhw. Wrth gwrs, efo datganoli cyflogau ac amodau gwaith, mi fydd y flwyddyn, yr amser, pan fyddwn ni'n trafod yr amodau gwaith yn allweddol.

Well, that's the risk. If you look at the threats in terms of funding, then you are looking at larger classes, and larger classes mean less opportunity to work with pupils, but also an increase in workload in terms of assessment, planning and all that day-to-day activity of the teachers. If you look at the secondary sector, the range of subjects that teachers are having to teach—they're having to teach more and more subjects, with less expertise. And, in doing that, you have the problem in terms of there being fewer subjects available within schools, which has an impact on the opportunities for pupils.

I mentioned this earlier, the erosion of working conditions—headteachers are taking more and more responsibilities. The planning, preparation and assessment time—the PPA time—is crucial for teachers to plan, prepare and assess. But, once again, we are hearing of more and more schools losing that time and going back and cutting into the statutory working conditions that are in place for them. With the devolution of pay and conditions, the year, the time, when we'll be discussing working conditions will be crucial.

Thank you for that. Sorry, David, did you want to say anything?

Yes, I just wanted to build on what my colleagues have said. There is a huge concern here with regard to it's not just the teaching staff, it's support staff as well. In the letter from the secondary headteachers in Conwy, which went to all parents and carers on 19 February, which is a significant step for them to do that—I don't know whether you've actually seen the letter—the first thing they say is that they're having to consider decisions that will result in larger class sizes, fewer teachers, fewer senior staff. It also goes on to refer to cuts to pastoral services, including teaching assistants and support staff in general. Then, when you start to factor in all the other issues, such as lack of resources to deliver the curriculum, and the fact—. We did some research recently relating to money being spent by teachers individually just to provide resources for the classroom. When you factor in those issues as well, you begin to appreciate the true scale of this problem.

Just coming back to what you said right at the very start, Dawn, the issue—yes, UK Government has a massive responsibility here and we have to recoup some of that £1 billion that has been lost in recent years. I was very pleased when Mark Drakeford made that announcement when he was still finance Minister about the money that was being lost. We need to address that. We need to campaign against UK Government. We need to make sure the money's coming in here, into the Welsh Government, but then we need to make sure that the Welsh Government is spending it wisely and making sure that the schools actually get the money that is destined or should be destined for them.

I know there was huge concern when the Minister made the announcement in respect of the additional moneys for professional development recently. The WLGA were up in arms that that should go into the RSG. Well, no, development of teachers is an absolutely key and vital issue, and the Minister was absolutely correct in making sure that that money went to schools. We would say it was not enough, and you would expect us to, but that was clearly a step in the right direction.

11:00

There's an issue here about recruitment and retention as well. The pressures on teachers are immense at the moment, with the new curriculum coming in and the changes to ALN. Although these things shouldn't have happened yet, they are happening. As I said before, schools are restructuring around the Donaldson curriculum, although we don't know what the curriculum is yet, and schools are starting to implement the additional learning needs Act, even though they shouldn't be doing that until 2021, I think. The pressures are huge, and the consequences of redundancy often mean that teachers are teaching out of their specialism as well, so morale is really low at the moment, because of all of these things. It was the case, probably about 10 or 15 years ago, that teaching was the No. 1 choice for graduates, and now it's not even in the top 10. It's really hard for schools to hold onto good staff and experienced staff; that's bound to have a knock-on effect on the quality of delivery. If you can't recruit the best people and you're losing people because of redundancy or because the workload is too great and people just can't deal with it any more, the consequence is what happens to the pupils. First and foremost, our members are in their jobs to do the best for the pupils, but that's becoming increasingly difficult.

Have you got particular evidence of teachers, in particular, but I guess support staff as well, leaving because of the pressures? Is that something that you know about, as representatives?

The EWC has produced those figures. I think we've all produced figures individually as trade unions, but the EWC has also presented those figures and shown that, over the last five years, 10 years, teachers have left the profession. They've been leaving, and, if you ask for the reasons why, it's workload pressures. It's financial issues as well; they're not being rewarded properly for the job that they're doing. Remember, teachers go into the profession and they're never going to be the richest people in the world, they're never going to have a holiday home in Mustique or anything like that, but they're going into it for a particular purpose. They go in because they want to put something back and they want to deliver the best education that they can for the pupils within their classes. To see those going—. I think the figures were something like 20 per cent, or just over 20 per cent, leaving the profession in the first five years of having qualified. That's an absolute travesty. It's a sad indictment of the way in which we're actually treating teachers here. And, ultimately, a lot of this comes back to the money that's not going to these schools and the pressures that those who are in the schools then face as a result.

Roeddwn i mewn cynhadledd cyn y Nadolig yn siarad ynglŷn â lles a iechyd athrawon. Yn y cyfarfod hwnnw, roedd rhywun wedi awgrymu efallai nad yw athrawon yn dymuno gweld newid. Beth allaf i ei ddweud ydy: os oes un proffesiwn sydd wedi ymateb i her newidiadau, athrawon, y proffesiwn dysgu, ydy hwnnw—newid ar ôl newid ac ymateb i her. Dŷn ni wedi gwneud dau ymchwil: un ynglŷn â llwyth gwaith a'r llall ynglŷn â dymuno bod yn y proffesiwn. Mi oedd y ffigurau yn ein sobri ni. Ond hefyd, pan fo'n dod i ymrwymiad i'r proffesiwn a'r llwyth gwaith, chawsom ni ddim un athro nad oedd yn credu bod cynllunio, bod asesu, yn bwysig, bod rôl sylfaenol athro yn allweddol. Dyna oedd y farn yn llwyr yna, ond mae'r amodau yn mynnu eu bod nhw'n methu, ac wedyn mae'n dod i gydbwysedd wedyn. Yr hyn a gawsom ni oedd pobl a oedd wedi gadael y proffesiwn, pobl a oedd yn dymuno gadael y proffesiwn, pobl a oedd ddim yn gweld cyfleoedd eraill—achos mae'n rhaid i chi feddwl am bobl mewn ardaloedd yng nghefn gwlad lle does yna ddim opsiynau gwaith eraill. Mae ardaloedd lle nad oes yna ddim llawer o boblogaeth neu lle mae pentrefi ymhell wrth ei gilydd; mae pobl yn gaeth yna, a phendraw hwnna ydy—yn mynd yn ôl eto at y dôn gron i mi mewn rhyw ystyr—yr effaith ar forâl ac ar iechyd, ac mae goblygiadau hwnnw hefyd yn oblygiadau cyllidol.

I was at a conference before Christmas, speaking about the health and well-being of teachers. At that meeting, someone suggested that perhaps teachers don't want to see change. One thing I can say: if there's one profession that's responded to the challenge of change, then that is the teaching profession—it's been change after change and responding to challenge after challenge. We've done  two pieces of research: one on workload and one on the desire to remain within the profession. The figures were quite startling. But, when it came to commitment to the profession and workload, we didn't get a single teacher who didn't believe that planning and assessment were important and that the fundamental role of the teacher is crucial. That was the view across the board, but conditions don't let them do that, and then it comes to a matter of finding a balance. We had people who had left the profession, people who wanted to leave the profession, and people who didn't see other opportunities—because you have to think of people in rural areas where there aren't any other options available in terms of work. There are areas where the population is sparse or villages are a long way apart; the upshot of that—and I return to this again; I'm beginning to sound like a stuck record—is an impact on morale and on health, and there are implications to that, and they are funding implications too.

I understand that entirely. My final question, because it follows on from all of that—and David, in particular, will appreciate that this is not necessarily my view, from my background—but some will say that the teachers' pay award this year was somewhat excessive, at a time when we had very scarce resources and it could have been used for other reasons. What would be your response to that?

11:05

A fairly simple response, to be honest, Dawn. It could be excessive for the next few years, and we'll still be playing catch-up on where it was in real terms, going back not very long ago. Teachers were on hold, really, for the last 10 years or more. So, whereas, yes, you can say that—. Well, we would never say that it was excessive, it didn't meet what we'd asked for; it went some way to meeting that. There's still some way to go, and we're looking forward to discussions now that pay has been devolved here in Wales.

Sorry, I guess, really, what I was trying to—and I absolutely accept that answer.

I ategu beth mae David yn ei ddweud, yr hyn oedd yn rhwystredig hefyd oedd y gwaith caled roedd yn rhaid ei wneud i sicrhau bod San Steffan yn sylweddoli bod angen trosglwyddo arian penodol ar gyfer y codiad cyflog. Roedd hwnna’n waith eithriadol o anodd. Gweithion ni’n agos iawn gyda Ben Lake Aelod Seneddol ar hynny, a dyma ni’n gweld ar hyn o bryd bod yntau hefyd yn ysgrifennu i’r Trysorlys ynglŷn â’r codiadau pensiwn lle'r oedd ymgynghoriad ar y codiad pensiwn yn rhywbeth lle'r oedd y ddogfen ar gyfer Lloegr yn unig, lle dŷn ni’n gwybod dyna un elfen sydd yn mynd i gael ei ddatganoli.

In addition to what David said, what was frustrating too was the hard work that had to be done in order to ensure that Westminster realised that we needed to transfer specific funding for that pay rise, and that was exceptionally difficult work. We worked very closely with Ben Lake MP on that, and we're seeing, at the moment, that he too is now writing to the Treasury on the pension increase, where there was a consultation on the pension increase, and the document was for England only. And we know that that's one element that's going to be devolved.

Yes. And I think what I was trying to get at is—and I think you've articulated it, David—whether there is a cost-benefit analysis in terms of the amount of money spent on teachers' pay as opposed to what it could have been spent on in other areas. But I think, you know—

And remember, the recommendation from the schoolteachers' review body was not implemented in full by the Secretary of State; it should have been more. For certain groups of teachers, they didn't get what was recommended, but the consequences of not doing that would have been absolutely massive on the morale, again, of teachers.

As David said, we're still playing catch-up on years. We're playing catch-up now on other graduate professions, and we've seen quite a lot of real-terms wage growth in other sectors, and that 3.5 per cent, or 2 per cent for some, still is nowhere near what other graduate professions have been receiving. Again, we've seen a massive impact of that, with people leaving the profession because they can get better remuneration elsewhere, and the consequences of that.

Thank you. I've got a supplementary from Suzy on this.

Yes. Just very quickly, having been successful in getting that transfer of money from Westminster down to Welsh Government, and a commitment from the Welsh Minister that every single penny would go towards teachers' pay, were you alarmed, as we were, to hear from the earlier session today that some of that money may not be going towards the teachers' pay because of decisions at local authority level? Are you putting pressure on there?

Dŷn ni’n cydweithio â’n gilydd ac yn herio’n awdurdodau ynglŷn â chyllido. Dwi’n meddwl ein bod ni’n dod, efallai, at ail thema fyddai’n codi o’r drafodaeth yma, sef tryloywder. Mae hwnna’n broblem anferthol. Pan ydyn ni’n edrych ar y berthynas rhwng San Steffan a Llywodraeth Cymru, pan ydyn ni'n edrych wedyn ar yr awdurdodau, consortia, i lefel ysgol—ac i’r hyn sy’n mynd i fod yn llesol i’n haelodau ac yn llesol i’r disgyblion—dwi’n meddwl bod hwnna’n waith anferthol mae'n rhaid ei wneud ar fyrder.

We are working in collaboration and we are challenging our authorities about funding. I think we're coming to the second theme that arises from this discussion, which is transparency, and that's a huge problem. When we look at the relationship between Westminster and the Welsh Government, and then when we look at the local authorities and the consortia, to the school level—and what's going to be beneficial to our members and to the pupils—I think that's a huge piece of work that needs to be addressed urgently.

Wel, cawn ni gwestiynau manwl ar hynny, felly. Ydy hwnna'n reit? Diolch.

Well, we'll have more specific questions on that. Is that right? Thank you.

We've got some very specific questions now, and the next ones are from Michelle Brown.

Thank you. Good morning, everyone. Putting the issue of sufficiency and the quantum of the overall school funding available—what are your views on the actual way that funding is distributed from Welsh Government via the local authorities to schools?

I think that it does cause some significant difficulties and has done for some time. Years ago, it seems now, the phrase 'funding fog' was coined. I know that we did some analysis back in 2005 and 2009. We commissioned a consultant to look at this specifically; both his reports were delivered to the Welsh Government, but very little seems to have taken place to resolve that or dissipate the funding fog. So, you've got 22 local authorities with 22 different funding formulae deciding on a particular pot of money when they've also got competing issues for the money that's coming into their main budgets. So, they have to make difficult decisions. I think a decision for the Welsh Government has to be whether or not you direct quite clearly how this money should be spent and how the school should receive that money; whether or not you make a decision that there should be hypothecated funding across the board; whether or not there should be hypothecated funding for certain specific policies and delivery of certain new policies. Those are all difficult decisions.

I know that the local authorities will have different views on that, but what we see, of course, are schools—. I mentioned earlier I was in a school yesterday—I think I may have already mentioned it twice. That school, it's a secondary school, has a £1,000 per pupil difference in its budget to another school within that local authority. Now, that can't be right. And, given the number of pupils in there, it's a significant amount of money that they're losing out on. And that's not just in the authority that I was in yesterday, it's repeated right across Wales. 

11:10

There are anomalies all over the place. We support local decision making, although we don't always agree with some of the decisions that are made. So, we still think that the mechanism of providing local authorities is the right one, but over the years, we, with other colleagues, put in a report into the Welsh Government right at the beginning of the Welsh Assembly, about needs-led funding, and various reports have come out and talked about needs-led funding. What happens over the years is that some of the background statistics that have been used are well out of date, but by and large, what happens in local authorities is they maintain the budgets of schools from year to year. So, whatever a school had, by and large, they try to replicate that moving forward so that there isn't massive turbulence. Now, that's not necessarily providing funding relating to need; it's just making sure that things, by and large, stay the same. Now, that's not a good system; that really isn't a good system.

So, what we would like to see is a move towards more needs-based funding at least as a floor that then can be added to for whatever reason. But there are certain principles that we'd always have in terms of deprivation and special needs and other things, as well as making sure that there are sufficient services at local authority level, because the economies of scale that you get and the value for money by collective services provided by the local authority, they're invaluable. And what we're seeing is various voices arguing for certain things, by and large because the quantum isn't big enough; the overall pot isn't big enough, so people want to cut it up in a different way to get a bigger share for themselves. So, we're talking about the issues around hypothecation, grant funding and local authority central funding issues; they're all messed up because there isn't enough money in the system. But that doesn't mean to say that you shouldn't also look at exactly how that distribution takes place and moving it forward in terms of up-to-date data, and also trying to get into a needs-led funding system would be the ideal.

Roedd Tim yn sôn am y tegwch fanna a beth ydy tegwch, a dŷn ni’n swyddogion sydd yn mynd i ysgolion, fel dŷch chi wedi clywed; dŷn ni yn siarad gyda phenaethiaid, dŷn ni mewn prosesau staffio. Roeddwn i mewn cyfarfod yn ddiweddar lle'r oedd aelod o’r corff llywodraethol yn ddyn busnes eithriadol o lwyddiannus ac roedd o—[Anhyglyw.]—yn dweud, ‘Byddwn i byth yn gallu gweithredu fel hyn o ran fy musnes fy hunan.’ Ac, mae’n anodd iawn blaengynllunio, neu gynllunio ymlaen ar gyfer addysg. Dŷn ni wedi cael nifer o benaethiaid sy’n aelodau UCAC yn cysylltu yn ddiweddar yma’n sôn am wahoddiad i wneud ceisiadau am grantiau o arian sydd ar ôl mewn gwahanol botiau, ac unwaith eto, mae’r systemau grantiau dal yn gymhleth. A hefyd, wrth ymateb y funud olaf, dim mater o gynllunio ydy hwnna, ond ceisio cymryd mantais o’r ychydig arian sydd ar ôl, a dyw hwnna ddim yn iach ar gyfer cynllunio i'r holl flaengareddau, yr holl gynlluniau, yr holl fentrau sydd yna yn y blynyddoedd nesaf yma.

Tim mentioned fairness there and what constitutes fairness, and we're officials who do go to schools, as you've heard; we speak to headteachers and we are present at staffing processes. And there was a meeting recently where a member of the governing board was an exceptionally successful businessman, and he said, 'We could never operate this way' about his own business. And, it's very difficult to forward plan for education. We've had a number of heads who are members of UCAC getting in touch recently and telling us about an invitation to apply for grants of funding that's remaining in different pots, and once again, the grants system is still complex. And also, in responding at the last moment, that's not a matter of planning, but just trying to take advantage of the little money that's remaining, and that isn't a healthy situation in terms of planning for all of the initiatives and plans that are in place for the next few years.

11:15

Yes, please.

Jest pigo i fyny ar gwpl o bethau sydd wedi cael eu dweud cyn belled. Roeddech chi, David, yn sôn am ddau adroddiad dŷch chi wedi gwneud ynglŷn â newidiadau ddylai ddigwydd i'r fformiwla. Beth sydd wedi digwydd i'r argymhellion yna? Pam nad ydy'r rheina wedi dod ymlaen, dŷch chi'n credu?

Just to pick up on a couple of things that have already been said, you, David, mentioned two reports that you have undertaken in terms of changes that should be made to the formula. What's happened to those recommendations? Why haven't they come forward, do you believe?

The two reports that I was referring to were specific, commissioned work that we undertook regarding funding itself, and it was an analysis of the way in which the money actually got from the UK Government to the Welsh Government to local authorities and to the schools. The differences right across the country were incredible. Now, we brought both those reports to the Ministers who were responsible at that time. Those reports are outdated now.

There were recommendations in the reports. There were recommendations with regard to the possibility of hypothecating some of the funds. There were recommendations with regard to possibly having a standard funding formula right across Wales. There were recommendations with regard to the manner in which the money was received, and the percentage that should be devolved directly to the schools, and various other things. We didn't want just to identify a problem without offering some solutions. I have to say very few of those recommendations were ever taken on board, and so we're—

Is that because it's too difficult to get a national formula, or you're going to have competing local authorities saying different things? Is that why, and is there any point looking at it now? Because we're going to be back in the same situation.

One would think that perhaps that is the reason why, or perhaps there wasn't the political will at the time to do anything about it, which the cynic in me suggests may well have been part of the issue as well. I'd love to see a situation whereby all the money that's designated for schools actually gets to the schools in some way, however which way that is.

To an extent. I think you need to have—there has to be some control by the local authorities, but there has to be some money that does have to go to the schools for specific purposes. So, it's finding the right balance on it, and that's the trick, really.

I think Tim also said that the services that schools get from the local authorities are invaluable.

Oh, absolutely, yes—

Well, as David said, there's a balance here, okay? So, in some circumstances, direct grant funding does work. Earlier, David referenced the money for professional development. Some funding needs to go directly to schools, but by and large, as I said earlier, if there was a formula that generated the floor based on need, then potentially you could send that in directly to schools. But we've seen the problems we've had in England over direct funding and a national funding formula, and the consequences of that, and we don't want to follow that route. We really don't want to follow that route. We didn't want England to do that, either, because at the time I was involved in the discussions with the Department for Education over that. That was clearly a political decision that was not in the best interests of a lot of schools. So, it's finding that right balance in terms of how you cut the cake again.

Ac fel undeb sydd wedi ymgyrchu dros gyfundrefn addysg annibynnol i Gymru ers 1940, mae'n rhaid inni edrych ar beth ydy'r weledigaeth, a sut mae'r awdurdodau yn gweithio gyda'i gilydd tuag at y weledigaeth yna. Roedd David yn sôn am gymorthyddion mewn ysgolion a'r staff ategol sydd mewn ysgolion; mae meddwl hefyd am y math o wasanaeth y mae'r awdurdodau—er eu bod nhw'n eithriadol o werthfawr, mae yna golli ffydd yn digwydd, ac nid achos unigolion, ond achos bod y gwasanaeth wedi cael ei deneuo cymaint. Dŷch chi'n edrych ar y gefnogaeth i anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, mae yna lai a llai ohoni.

Roeddwn i mewn cyfarfod, fel oeddwn i'n dweud, ddoe efo aelodau a oedd yn sôn am ddiffyg argaeledd y gefnogaeth yna—adnoddau dynol. Pan ddechreuais i efo'r undeb 15 mlynedd yn ôl, roedd y timau adnoddau dynol gydag arbenigedd. Erbyn hyn, maen nhw'n bobl sydd yn gwneud gwaith pontio, gwaith addysg a gwaith corfforaethol, ac yn methu dod i ben efo'r pwysau gwaith sydd arnyn nhw. A beth sy'n digwydd wedyn ydy bod yna ysgolion yn colli ffydd ac ysgolion yn mynd at asiantaethau eraill, ac rydym ni yn gweld arian yn mynd allan o'r pictiwr—arian, er enghraifft, gwaith cyflenwi, lle ers talwm roedd y cyflenwi yn digwydd yn fewnol. Mae yna filiynau yn mynd allan ffordd yna, a hefyd ysgolion yn mynd at wasanaeth annibynnol a chyfreithwyr annibynnol i gael cyngor oddi wrth yr awdurdod. Yn bendant, dydy hynny ddim yn iach, fel rydym ni wedi clywed yn barod gan ein cymdogion. Mae hynna wedi creu sefyllfa eithriadol o annerbyniol. 

And as a union that's campaigned for an independent education system for Wales since 1940, we have to look at the vision and how the local authorities are working together towards that vision. David mentioned the support staff in schools and the classroom assistants, and you also have to think about the kinds of services that the local authorities provide. Although they're exceptionally valuable, people are losing faith, not because of individuals, but because the services have been spread so thinly. If you look at the support for additional learning needs, for example, there is less of that.

I was at a meeting, as I said, yesterday with members who were talking about the lack of availability of support in that area—human resources. When I started with the union 15 years ago, the human resources teams had expertise. Now, they are people who do transition work between education and more corporate activities, and they can't deal with the pressures upon them. What happens then is that schools start to lose faith and go to other agencies, and we are seeing funding lost from the bigger picture—funding in terms of supply work, for example, where the supply used to happen internally. Now, millions are being lost there, and also schools going to independent services and independent lawyers to seek advice. Certainly, that's not a healthy situation, as we've already heard with our neighbours. That's created an exceptionally unacceptable situation over the border.   

11:20

Thank you. Tim mentioned earlier that the funding should be based on need, but could that be broken down into the main indicators that you would consider appropriate for determining funding going into schools? 

Tim Cox 11:21:19