School funding: Teachers 'visit charity shops for materials'

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Media captionHead teacher Jane Jenkins says teachers are going to car boot sales for supplies

Schools are not getting enough money to meet the demands on them or give pupils the education they deserve, a Welsh Assembly report has said.

One Cardiff head teacher described how her staff have been driven to sourcing materials from charity shops and car boot sales.

The education committee is calling for an urgent review to establish how much funding schools need.

The Welsh Government said it would respond to the report in due course.

Jane Jenkins, head teacher of Moorland Primary in Cardiff, said this was the hardest year she had ever experienced since her career began in 1997.

"I've got a supply [teacher] budget of zero... On teaching materials, we've cut our budget by 50%. So we've got enough for the basics - pencils and books, just about, but all the lovely extra things we're not in a position to afford."

While parents are generous when asked, any fundraising does not generate anything like what is needed, she said.

But she said she hoped children had not noticed, and teachers had been creative about sourcing materials for "experiential learning".

"They're going to car boot sales, charity shops, giving up their time, evenings and weekends to make sure the children don't miss out," she said.

"It's not right - we should be funding these things properly as a school."

'It could get worse'

The Assembly's education committee said the contributors to their inquiry had painted "a very bleak picture" and schools faced a period of "unprecedented funding concerns".

Chairwoman Lynne Neagle said the evidence was "overwhelming" that there was "not enough money going into the education system in Wales and not enough finding its way to schools".

"On top of our concerns about the level of funding and the complexity of the system, schools are also expected to implement an increasing number of reforms, such as the new curriculum, the new additional learning needs system and the whole school approach on emotional and mental health.

"Our worry is that with increasing pressures, the challenges for schools could get worse."

Image caption In 2018-19, £2.6bn was budgeted by local authorities to spend on schools

The committee's inquiry into school funding looked at how much money was going into schools and how it is divided up.

Their report called for a review of school funding, much like a major report that was done into the Welsh NHS's finances.

How does school funding work?

The Welsh Government provides a notional amount for each local authority to spend on schools, but councils then set their own budgets and use different methods to divide the money between schools.

In 2018-19, £2.6bn was budgeted by local authorities to spend on schools, which was £5,675 per pupil.

But it varied from £5,107 per pupil in the Vale of Glamorgan to £6,456 in Powys.

AMs rejected calls from some unions for a wholesale review of the Welsh Government's formula for sharing money between councils, claiming it would lead to "financial turbulence".

But they did say there could be scope for a minimum funding level for each school, with additional funding for factors such as the level of deprivation and the condition of buildings.

The committee also said there should be closer monitoring of how much local authorities are spending on schools.

A Welsh Government spokesman said it prioritised education spending despite austerity cuts to Wales' overall budget from the UK Treasury, including a £24m "package of professional learning" for teachers to help raise standards.

"We are grateful for the committee's work in producing this report and will respond in due course."

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