Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Thursday, 10 June 2010 16:59 UK
Spending Cuts: Paying for Shropshire's education
Protesters outside Shire Hall in Shrewsbury in 2008
Campaigners believe the county should get a greater share of central funding

Education is once again under the spotlight as central government declares more than £1bn cuts across English local authorities.

Before the announcement on 10 June, Shropshire Council was already looking to make £1m savings in education.

Together, Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council now face cuts of almost £4m to their wider budgets.

About £1.71m of this will affect Shropshire Council's education budget, with Telford & Wrekin losing £1.5m from its education funding.

Both councils will also be aware that this is unlikely to be the final word in terms of local authority cuts. It rather marks the opening, if significant, salvo. Indeed, even some of the current round of cuts might not be explicit in central government's calculations.

Spending Cuts special

Telford and Wrekin Council Leader Andrew Eade and Chief Executive Officer Victor Brownlees join Jim Hawkins in the studio from 10am on Wednesday, 16 June as BBC Shropshire investigates what the savings will mean in a special Spending Cuts programme.

Listen to the programme online on the BBC iPlayer until 23 June.

Andrew Eade said: "We already know that our budget this year will be cut by at least £2.36 million, with £1.5 million coming from education grants, £600,000 taken from transport capital schemes and further cuts falling elsewhere.

"It is certain that this figure will grow... This is money that we planned to spend this year that will now have to be cut. We have immediately begun to look at how we can make these savings while continuing to do all we can to protect frontline services."

Finding savings

Local councils will face cuts of at least £4m to their budgets
Shropshire Council's fund for improving road safety is to be reduced by £187,000
Both councils are consulting about where savings can be made

To Shropshire Council, falling pupil numbers are also a major issue, but how they make the necessary savings will be all-important.

The last time Shropshire Council attempted to find savings in 2008, there was a huge public outcry when 22 primary schools were identified for possible closure.

Those plans were eventually shelved, although 14 other mergers went ahead.

Funding pressures remain and Shropshire primary and secondary schools are now centre stage in a public consultation, scheduled to close on 17 September. How the latest announcement of cuts will affect the consultation is, as yet, unclear.

On Thursday, 20 May BBC Radio Shropshire's Jim Hawkins investigated the latest twist in the county's education funding shortfall.

Jim was joined in the studio by Councillor Cecilia Motley, responsible for education in the county, and Jack Cornall from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

Independent report

A report published in summer 2009 by the Independent Policy Commission considered the future of Shropshire's primary schools. It concluded that there was no case on educational grounds for closing schools.

Commission Chairman Neil Kinghan said: "We think the government should give a bigger share of funding to Shropshire and other rural areas facing the same sort of problems."

At the time Cecilia Motley, cabinet member for children and young people, said the report 'has given us some good directions to go down'.

Cutting costs

A year on, the council has launched a county-wide public consultation. It is encouraging schools to work together, to look at ways to cut costs by sharing heads and specialist teachers. Closing one or more schools has also not been ruled out as a possible step.

Children at Moreton Say Primary protest against closure in 2008
Children at Moreton Say Primary protested against closure in 2008

At the end of public consultation a plan will be formed and taken to cabinet in September then full council in October 2010.

Shropshire Council also wants schools, teachers, governors and parents to help them decide how the costs can be cut.

Criteria for primary schools

1. Quality of education: consider new governance and management solutions if a school enters an Ofsted category of concern.

2. Effective use of resources: where surplus capacity exceeds 30 places and/or 25% of agreed net capacity.

The condition of schools and situations where continued maintenance of buildings is impossible without large capital investment.

3. Access to Education: no pupil (in most circumstances) should have to travel more than 45mins to school and an alternative school should be within six miles.

Criteria for secondary schools

1. Quality of education: consideration of new governance and management solutions if a school enters an Ofsted category of concern

2. Effective use of resources: any secondary school with fewer than 600 pupils enrolled. And where surplus capacity is forecasted to exceed 35% over three years.

3. Access to education: in most circumstances, no pupil should have to travel more than 60mins to school. Every home should be within 17.5 miles of a secondary school.

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