THERE are more than 250 spare spaces at Machynlleth’s all-through school, fresh council data has revealed, making Ysgol Bro Hyddgen the most expensive per pupil school in Powys.

Data shows there are just under 2,700 surplus spaces in Powys’s secondary and all through schools which means that they are running at around 25 per cent below capacity.­

The figure was revealed in answers to questions posed by Cllr Graham Breeze on school finances by Powys County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for education, Cllr Pete Roberts.

The data released by the council shows the only secondary or all through school in Powys which has no surplus space capacity is Crickhowell High School.

The figures show Ysgol Bro Hyddgen receives £7,762 per pupil and has 273 free spaces out of a total of 655, meaning the school is just 59 per cent full.

The new school building which has been agreed by the council for Bro Hyddgen would partially answer the surplus spaces conundrum as it will be for 540 pupils, councillors heard.

Powys council has been working on plans to build a new school for Ysgol Bro Hyddgen since 2017, with the project being delayed amid rising costs and the collapse of the building contractor.

Scaled down plans for a £49 million build were finally approved last year. The new building will have a smaller capacity, but on current pupil numbers would still leave around 160 spaces free.

At Llanidloes High School, figures reveal, there are just 16 surplus spaces.

Cllr Breeze said: “I am deeply concerned that many high schools across Powys will find themselves falling into a financial deficit position in the coming year despite the best efforts of staff and governors to grapple with rising costs.”

Cllr Roberts said: “The pressures of rising energy costs and increased wages is a challenge across the whole of the authority’s budgets.

“Pupil numbers have been declining for some time and some schools have not responded to this by reducing staffing correspondingly.

“Given the general reduction in pupil numbers, most schools are operating significantly below their capacity, but still incur the cost of the surplus spaces.”

Cllr Roberts explained that the money is provided to school based not only on pupil numbers but also taking account the individual characteristics of the school.

This includes, state of the building, whether it is an English medium or has dual English and Welsh language streams.

The calculation even includes an “element” of business rates.

Cllr Roberts said “In the secondary phase in particular, the curriculum drives the need to spend and there is a need to be able to provide a certain breadth of curriculum regardless of how small a school is.

“The larger a school is the more sustainable a broad curriculum offer becomes.”