QUESTIONS have been raised whether the education model in Powys is fit for purpose?

This comes as Powys County Council’s (PCC) Cabinet, had to approve deficit budgets for nearly a third of all schools in Powys.

In total, PCC schools are nearly £4 million in debt, with 27 of the 93 schools unable to produce a balanced budget.

In three years time, it’s predicted that only one secondary school could be in the black.

 Portfolio Holder for Highways, Recycling and Assets, Cllr Phyl Davies, (Conservative – Blaen Hafren), said:  “There’s significant questions about affordability, can we afford the model?

“We have to have mature conversations.

“Over the next three years we have one high school, Llanidloes, in a surplus position, that is seriously concerning.

“And a total secondary deficit position of £9.3million (in three years). If we don’t get a handle on this we are looking at a very grim position for the council.”

The education department itself has suffered a £2 million cut to its core services.

Members of of Learning and Skills scrutiny committee wonder whether the cut has been too deep, meaning that schools don’t have the expert help needed to sort out financial issues.

It was a major concern when the committee met on May 24 to scrutinise the schools budget.

Learning and Skills vice-chair, Angela Davies, said: “It’s imperative that the portfolio holder and her cabinet colleagues ensure that there is sufficient capacity within central services to support and advise our schools in a more proactive and timely manner.

“This will be more increasingly needed as resources continue to be squeezed and it’s essential that early action is taken to prevent problems escalating.”

Learning and Skills scrutiny committee chair Cllr Peter Roberts (Liberal Democrats, Llandrindod South) added that staffing at education central services has been,”cut back quite considerably over the last 18 months.”

Head of Education, Dr Alec Clark, answered:  “We believe those financial difficulties are surmountable with the correct level of leadership and correct level of support and governance in those schools.

“These challenges are large but not insurmountable.”

Education portfolio holder, Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, said: “If we look at the number of unlicensed deficits they are in schools with various forms of leadership crisis.

“I’m not against changes in the school structure, but it’s very interesting that Phyl pointed out the only high school to remain in the black is a smaller one.

“I can’t help thinking that some of the previous discussions have been about removing two small schools to make one large school, and then I notice the largest deficits are in the largest schools.”

The report to set the school budgets was then approved by cabinet.