Monday, May 23, 2016

Powys Councillors versus Llanfyllin High School.

I think I take a fundamentally different attitude to the management of schools from my Council here in Powys. Not claiming to be right, but it's what fits my political philosophy. I believe in allowing schools, (governors, teachers and parents) to have a major influence on how schools are managed. And I like to see schools competing for pupils - driving up standards while doing so. It's clear Powys Cllrs take a very different view. Powys high schools will jolly well do as they are told, and pupils will jolly well go to the school Cllrs have decided they should go to. And to hell with any impact on children or parents or schools. At least that's how it seems to me.

Let's look at the background to the growing rumpus about the freedom of Llanfyllin High School to set aside part of it's 'delegated budget' to help with transport costs of pupils from outside the area deemed by Cllrs to be the School's catchment. For many years, the Governors have allocated part of the school budget towards easing the transport costs of these pupils (many from over the nearby border with England). The School claim this has resulted in significant savings to the Council. As student numbers rise, the cost per pupil falls. If the 'outside of catchment' students went to other schools (in England) the Powys funding formula would mean a lot of extra money having to be diverted to the School. Also, the extra sixth form pupils from England enable a broader range of classes (which benefit other Powys Schools under collaborative arrangement). Cllrs have decided that no money should be spent on transport, which will make it impossible for many students to attend Llanfyllin. Or many existing students to stay. It will devastate the plans and lives of many families and students. 

Anyway, 5 yrs ago Powys Council decided that this transport subsidy must end, with I'm told no regard whatsoever for interests of students, parents or the School. Not sure this complies with the Welsh Gov't's 'Learner Travel Wales Measure'. Now that lawyers have been called in, the courts may well be asked to decide. Whatever, the School carried on subsidising transport (in the knowledge I'm told of certain leading Cllrs and officers). A few weeks ago, the Council Cabinet just decided to 'enforce, it's decision, causing massive upset to parents and students. There's even talk of Cllrs taking over the Schools 'delegated budget' - so I'm told. The effect on students, their families and the School itself seems to be secondary as far as some Powys Cabinet Members are concerned.

 Now I'm not sure where this is all going to end. It's clear that Llanfyllin High School is going to fight. Llanfyllin is overflowing with anger and resentment towards Powys Cllrs. I have great sympathy with the people of Llanfyllin over this. I wish them well in their fight with the dominating Council. David defeated Goliath once, and I hope the people of Llanfyllin can do the same. And we now find that at least one other high school has been doing exactly the same. And it's all been known to some leading Cllrs and officers all along. What on earth is going on? We are expecting an 'independent' report later this week into the affair. It should make very interesting reading.

1 comment:

Ian Harrison said...

In a large and complex organisation such as Powys, with an annual spend of over £250m, every penny spent on external services must be attributed to authorised invoices against approved, EU compliant contracts for large contracts. The council officers specify the transport routes and service specifications. They set up and deliver the contracts. For an EU compliant procurement, senior officers will prepare reports for Cabinet member approval. The idea that Powys schools could unwittingly or even knowingly circumvent the authorised procedures in the council's accounts payable department is a joke. A school's delegated budget is that in name only, and no school would be allowed to authorise a non-compliant payment except under very special circumstances, with very senior Council authorisation.

I understand that many 'Border' schools, from Llanfyllin to Crickhowell and Llanidloes have been doing this. What is remarkable is that the Leader of the Council, announcing an 'Independent' enquiry, then appointed a lawyer to complete it. Both the CEO and his deputy are lawyers. Smacks of a cover up to me. The only way to get to the bottom of this is a full investigation by the Welsh Audit Office. Anything else is just pantomime.