A REVIEW of the number of primary schools in Carmarthenshire is taking place, with the council’s education director admitting that a handful of smaller ones were struggling.

Gareth Morgans said he had been tasked with looking at the footprint of the county’s primaries, and that a report would be brought to the authority’s executive board in due course.

“We have five or six very small schools which are struggling financially, with staff, and with leadership,” he said.

His comments came during a discussion about school budgets in an education and children scrutiny committee meeting on November 25.

Mr Morgans and fellow education chiefs had been asked by Cllr Gary Jones to explain what the term “rationalisation”, which featured in a school funding report, meant.

Mr Morgans said neighbouring Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire had moved to an “area” rural school provision, with each school having 150-plus pupils.

“We are looking at some of those ideas,” he said, adding that this work tied in with a wider modernising education programme.

Mr Morgans also said new ideas could be looked at for a couple of smaller secondary schools, such as amalgamating local schools to create a new one for three to 19-year-olds.

The report before the committee said schools across the county had £1.5 million in reserve at the beginning of 2018-19 but were nearly £400,000 in deficit by the end.

A £3 million schools budget deficit is forecast for the current year, prompting education chiefs to write to 30 schools expressing their concerns.

Committee chairman, Cllr Darren Price, said there was some discontent at the tone of the letter, and wanted to know if the intervention was having an effect.

Schools can save money by “federating” with other schools – thereby sharing some costs – and are being advised to review all annual contracts, and teacher and learning responsibility payments.

School governors must support a staff redeployment policy to cut redundancy costs.

The council also wants surplus staff to be available for neighbouring schools to reduce supply teacher and agency costs.

Schools have been asked to report back before Christmas with actions they are taking.

Mr Morgans said follow-up meetings had been “very positive”, and that it had been “a very difficult time for our schools in recent years” for wider economic reasons.

“We certainly value and appreciate the contribution of governors,” he added.

“But they are responsible for financial management.”

This, he said, came as a surprise to some governors.

Cllr Price said: “I have not come across any governor who is not aware that this is the position.”