Agenda item

School Reserves Year Ending 31 March 2022


That the level of school reserves as at the 31 March 2022 be noted.


In presenting the annual report the Strategic Finance Manager (Schools) provided detailed information on the overall level of reserves held by Flintshire schools which had been impacted by the pandemic.  She explained that the report had been shared with Head Teachers, the School Budget Forum and the Governance and Audit Committee. 


The Strategic Finance Manager provided detailed information on the school reserves across the three sectors, highlighted the reserves for individual schools and the trends over the last 5 years.   She referred to 2020 when there were worryingly low levels of school reserves and said the increases over the past 2 years had been welcomed.  This coincided with significant increased funding to schools by WG over the last 2 years and this was outlined at section 1.03 of the report with every school having specific reasons for the level of their school balances and individual plan in place for the future.  There had to be a balance to ensure that the funding was spent on the education of the current pupils, and that excess amounts of funding were not being held back without clear reasons, so the school did not fall into deficit.  She provided information on the Council’s role in monitoring school reserves and explained that each school had been requested to complete a reserves declaration form and a Medium-Term Plan had been requested for the next 3 years outlining what schools were planning.  


In response to a suggestion from Councillor Dave Mackie around ensuring tables were presented in the same format throughout reports, the Strategic Finance Manager agreed to ensure this was amended for future reports. 


In response to a question from Councillor Mackie on actual reserves being distorted by grant funding, the Strategic Finance Manager said that last year the value of the grants was taken away from the reserves, however last year was different to this year as one of the biggest grants was for revenue repair and maintenance in schools which did not arrive until the last few days in March giving schools no opportunity to spend that money.  Schools would have dealt with them in different ways some spending it straight away whilst others were using grants to fund work over the summer with this still in their balances.  She said presenting it this way highlighted the increased level that schools had received and the potential impact on the level of school reserves.


In response to a question on increasing council tax to assist with deficit budgets in secondary schools, the Strategic Finance Manager confirmed that there was an additional amount of funding put into the secondary school’s budget in 2020/2021 because of the Estyn recommendation 4 addressing secondary school deficits more effectively.  This was outside of the secondary funding formula and targeted specifically towards deficit reduction.  It had been effective but there had been a lot of grant funding provided so they had worked together to improve the financial position at those schools.   She then provided information on meetings held with schools in line with the Protocol for Schools in Financial Deficit and support provided for schools who were not able to obtain a balanced budget and maintain a balanced curriculum.


Councillor Mackie said this was a difficult situation for schools and asked if the Strategic Finance Manager had seen any specific reasons for schools to understand why small secondary schools were struggling.  In response, the Strategic Finance Manager felt there were two factors, but every school was different.  Smaller schools were limited with the leadership and economy of scale especially if the community they served had deprived areas with families in poverty.  She was undertaking research on this as regards to funding and how poverty affected educational attainment.  She would be discussing this at the Secondary Heads meetings to see how these areas could be targeted in the formula more than what was there at present.


The recommendation, as outlined within the report, was moved by Councillor Gladys Healey and seconded by Councillor Dave Mackie.




That the level of school reserves as at the 31 March 2022 be noted.

Supporting documents: