CONCERNS have been raised about the viability of secondary education in Wrexham as all schools face budget pressures approaching £1 million.

Wrexham Council has chosen to increase the amount it spends on education from £81m to £83.5m next year, which represents an increase of three per cent.

However, increases to teacher pay and pensions are among the factors which have contributed to a gap of £952,000 in 2019/20.

Five of Wrexham’s nine secondary schools are in a licensed deficit position, which are agreed in circumstances a balanced budget cannot be set without seriously impacting on education.

There are fears that a further two schools could also fall under the process, which gives them three years to level their budget with support from the local authority.

Backbench politicians at the Guildhall have to discuss the financial challenges facing schools in the county.

Labour group leader Dana Davies said: “There are two schools that are potentially looking at an extremely small surplus of a couple of thousand.

“With this impact here of £952,000, how are those projected out-turns going to look for the schools?

“Are we just basically saying that another two of our secondary schools are going to fall into a licenced deficit position?

“I would question whether our secondary school education is sustainable if we’ve got that many in licensed deficit.

“It worries me greatly this year because of the position we’re in.”

In response Mark Owen, the council’s head of finance, said the proportion of schools in Wrexham with a deficit was lower than the Welsh average of 14 per cent.

He highlighted other areas of the country where almost 40 per cent of schools had cashflow issues.

Meanwhile Cllr Phil Wynn (Ind), lead member for education, said more funding was needed nationally to plug the gap.

“The pressure that schools are facing is significant," he said.

“It’s well known that teachers pay settlement has been agreed over and above the one per cent we were originally forecasting this time last year.

“There’s also been an announcement that the teacher pension fund is currently underfunded and to remedy that they’ve asked for a significant increase in that contribution.

“In reality we are still indicating that there is a budget pressure just shy of £1m.

“By looking to put three per cent into schools, and if the Welsh Government announces an extra £1m, then we can put that into schools without any impact on them.

“I’m hopeful of that happening, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Members of the lifelong learning scrutiny committee unanimously voted to place their concern about the level of deficit in secondary schools on record.