Surplus spaces in Powys schools are keeping an education chief awake at night.
Last month it was revealed that there are just under 2,700 surplus spaces in Powys’s secondary and all through schools.
This means that they are running at around 25 per cent below capacity and is another issue which is affecting school finances.
School finances were discussed at a meeting of Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Wednesday, June 21.
In recent weeks headteachers and school governors have been finalising their budgets for this year and forecasting where their finances will be for the next three years.
Cllr Glyn Preston said: “A lot has been made of school places and in particular the vacancy rate.
“Lots of schools operating at a high capacity are going into deficits especially in year three.”
He asked what impact could empty spaces have on budget deficits in the future.
Education portfolio holder Cllr Pete Roberts said: “The funding forecasts from the Welsh Government look like they won’t be keeping track with inflation if inflation carries on in the direction it seems to be.
“It hasn’t fallen, and core inflation has risen and has to be a concern.”
“Spare places is the thing that’s keeping me awake at night, we have positions where we have lots of bricks and mortar.”
He explained that while the council was undertaking catchment area reviews it was found that “we need” school buildings because of the “geography” of Powys.
But the problem is that there are too few children going to these “bricks and mortar” buildings that need to be maintained, heated, and staffed.
And Cllr Roberts explained that the school rolls could fall further.
Cllr Roberts said: “From the modelling we’re looking at 800 fewer primary age pupils over the next six years.”
He added that the “high point” of secondary school pupils would come in the next year to 18 months and after this cohort leave school the council will face a “challenging” position.
Cllr Roberts said: “We’ll need to look at how we tackle that.
“It’s not a quick fix, there’s a lot to work through and consider.
“Surplus spaces is a problem as we’re spending money on bricks and mortar not teachers and pupils.”