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Headteacher bravely lifts lid on strain pushing schools and their staff to breaking point

Jaz Hemming: Flintshire Daily Post

A headteacher from Flintshire has said it's time to "stop covering up and tell the truth" about the crisis facing the county's schools.

Jennie Downes, who runs Ysgol Nannerch, Mold, said her school has used “as much imagination to think of ways to cover the shortfalls as we can”.

Her comments come after headteachers across Flintshire wrote to parents highlighting the pressures they are under because of tighter budgets.

They argued that the council’s “cash flat” proposals actually mean a real-term cut of 3-5%.

After 20 years as a teacher, Mrs Downes says it is time to “tell the truth” and stop “covering up” the problems in the county’s schools. She said the mental wellbeing of colleagues is being affected as the stress of trying to provide children with a proper education with reduced resources impacts their health.

Mrs Downes also revealed special needs provision is having to be funded from school reserves in some cases because not enough money is coming from council coffers.

I have seen heads at breaking point over the lack of resources,” she said.

“Secondary school heads are burning out and quite a few have left the county.

“When you’re seeing those people breaking because they can’t do it any longer, where it’s affecting their families, it’s hard.

“I’ve been there myself. I was told by my GP if I didn’t take time off... I was approaching breaking point.”

Mrs Downes said staff in the local authority education department were doing a “great job” but many key posts had fallen under austerity’s axe, especially when it came to teaching children with special educational needs.

She added: “Staffing, especially for special needs, is going to be a problem. We had an excellent resource for special needs in Flintshire. All these resources were coming out to schools but that has been cut to the bone - then further again. That was what triggered a lot of unease from heads.

“We were being told to use what reserves we had to pay for special educational needs for children, just for them to be able to access education.

“That’s a statutory requirement - we have a legal responsibility, a specific responsibility to these children.

“The money that is being put in by the council does not cover what is needed.”


Flintshire council has been approached for comment but with regard to educational funding it previously said: “Our Revenue Support Grant (RSG) provided by Welsh Government is not ‘hypothecated’ or ring-fenced to specific services, and is made available for the Council to spread across all service funding needs.

“We draw down and spend 100% of our allocation to finance education and all other services.”

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