Delays in filling roles leads to underspend

Teachers will also consider if class sizes should be cut to 20 across the board
Teachers will also consider if class sizes should be cut to 20 across the board

Pupils attending schools in Midlothian risk losing out on the benefits of additional funding because of delays in appointing additional staff.

A report into the use of more than £2 million in Pupil Equity Funds (PEF) allocated to the local authority’s schools has revealed that some are reporting an underspend in their budget.

And it warns that slow progress in administering the funds could result in  current pupils missing opportunities or the money being diverted elsewhere.

One secondary school reported having around £62,000 in unallocated funds, while four primary schools had between £20,000 and £35,000 sitting unused for the current year.

Auditors reporting on the use of PEF said a review was now under way to look at how the schools had been left with an underspend.

It said: “An exercise was undertaken by management to establish the reasoning behind this variance.

“There was a lead time to recruiting staff and some vacancies have been difficult to fill.

“This will require plans to be revisited for potential different uses of the funding.”

Schools receive PEF from the Scottish Government based on the number of pupils between P1 and S3 they have registered for free school meals.

The auditors’ report revealed that Midlothian Council received £2,253,240 for this financial year, down slightly on the 2018 payment of £2,273,160.

The amount given to each school in the county varies hugely, from £8,400 up to £144,000.

The report by the council’s chief internal auditor revealed that a number of innovative projects had been set-up using the funds.

It said: “Many schools have appointed home-school practitioners or youth workers to support children and young people.

“The Newbattle cluster have shared their budgets and appointed a PEF manager who ensures a joined-up approach to supporting children, their families and schools.”

The audit provided the local authority with a “substantial assurance” that the PEF was being managed well.

It noted that there had been improvements in the learning performance of children from the most deprived areas recorded over the last two years.

However, the audit report also asked that future reports in Midlothian also looked for evidence of improvements among those registered for free school meals.