2nd consultation response to Lyndale School closure consultation from Cllr Phil Gilchrist

2nd consultation response to Lyndale School closure consultation from Cllr Phil Gilchrist

2nd consultation response to Lyndale School closure consultation from Cllr Phil Gilchrist


Councillor Tony Smith at the Special Cabinet Meeting of 4th September 2014 to discuss Lyndale School L to R Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cllr Tony Smith, Cllr Bernie Mooney, Lyndzay Roberts
Councillor Tony Smith at the Special Cabinet Meeting of 4th September 2014 to discuss Lyndale School L to R Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cllr Tony Smith, Cllr Bernie Mooney, Lyndzay Roberts

Further to this earlier post about the recent consultation on closure of Lyndale School which includes the first consultation response I received, I’m publishing here a second consultation response received by myself from Cllr Phil Gilchrist (a councillor for Eastham ward where Lyndale School is based).

I’m still awaiting a response to my FOI request made a week ago, but as my FOI requests get routinely sent to Wirral Council’s press office for final approval before I get a full response I’m not surprised.

Here is the second response I am publishing to the closure consultation. If you have responded to this consultation and would like me to publish your response (please tell me if you wish your published response to be anonymised) please email me at john.brace@gmail.com. I’ve linked to the Cabinet reports and Cabinet agenda item referred to by Cllr Phil Gilchrist in his consultation response for ease of reference.

From: Cllr Phil Gilchrist, 2 Gordon Avenue, Bromborough, CH62 6AL 334 1923

I object to the closure of The Lyndale School.

The Cabinet adopted funding arrangements which could be re-visited if there was a willingness to address the financial constraints imposed on the school. The report to Cabinet (Agenda Item 13 of 16th January 2014) included a number of comments that foresaw and helped create the financial straitjacket for the Lyndale School.

Section 2.5 made it clear that there was a need for any banded approach to..
‘recognise the resource intensive nature of making provision for those with the most profound and multiple difficulties ‘

The Cabinet report promised that the changes.
‘will be kept under review with regular reports to the Schools Forum’

Section 2.5 also raised the prospect that there would be.
..’a contingency fund which would be used to support specialist provision experiencing financial difficulties whilst future options are considered’

Section 2.7 described the Wirral banding model as seen by respondents to the consultation as…‘a reasonable starting point for development’

The aforementioned paragraphs suggested that there was a recognition that the authority was creating a system which needed reviewing and developing.

It was clearly reported that..
‘One respondent argued for a school specific top up significantly higher than the banding proposed because without it the school will not be financially viable next year.’ (2.7)

Instead of heeding the concerns raised the Cabinet adopted a funding arrangement which did not fully reflect the costs of providing the specialist provision valued by the parents of children at The Lyndale School..

During the consultation process covering the options for the future of The Lyndale School the parents made it clear that the school was meeting the needs of their children..

They did not wish to see the teamwork, the expertise of teaching staff and of the support staff at The Lyndale School fragmented and broken up. They made this point throughout.

There was an opportunity to ‘replicate’ the provision at The Lyndale, to plan and develop a modern unit that would have achieved this, but it was broached in a half hearted manner. The local authority seems determined to break up The Lyndale’s centre of expertise by sending the children to other schools.

The children will need the same high quality support in any new setting. The parents have remained unconvinced that this will be the case. They have put the needs of their children first and the authority should do likewise.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist 18th Nov 2014

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Thirteen questions answered about the Lyndale School closure call ins

Thirteen questions answered about the Lyndale School closure call ins

Thirteen questions answered about the Lyndale School closure call ins


Labour's Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) explains at a Wirral Council Cabinet meeting why he thinks the Cabinet should agree to consultation on closure of Lyndale School
Labour’s Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) explaining at a Wirral Council Cabinet meeting in January why he thinks the Cabinet should agree to consultation on closure of Lyndale School

Q. So what are the decisions that are being called-in?

There are two decisions that have been called in. The first is Cabinet’s decision of the 16th January to consult on closure of Lyndale School. The second is is a decision made at the same Cabinet meeting to change how much schools are paid for people with high needs.

Q. So if the decision called in was taken in mid-January why hasn’t the call in been decided yet?

Well the reasons are a little complicated. When the new constitution was approved last year, instead of all call ins going to the whichever scrutiny committee was relevant to the call in, the system was changed so that all call ins go to the Coordinating Committee. However there was a legal requirement on Wirral Council when considering educational matters to have extra voting representatives on the committee making the decision (between two and five parent governor representatives and one representing each of the diocesan bodies). The Coordinating Committee didn’t have such representation and due to the way the constitution is written, only Council can co opt people onto committees, so the meeting got adjourned to the 27th February so that the Council meeting on the 25th February could co-opt the relevant people.

Q. What exactly is a call in?

If six (or more) councillors disagree with a decision, they can request another committee look at it to see if it needs to be changed. Once a decision is called in, nothing further is done about it until the call in committee have reached a decision. That committee can then either uphold the original decision or make a recommendation back to the original decision making body that a different decision is reached.

Q. So what are the reasons why consulting on closing Lyndale School was called in?

Well the lead signatory to the call in (Cllr Tom Harney) has listed the following reasons:

“The Cabinet were not given the full information to make a decision

  • The category of Complex Learning Difficulties (CLD) includes children with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) and children on the Autistic Spectrum. Their needs are different. This is not made clear.
  • The School has been in discussion with the LA about its future for 8 years. The uncertainty has caused some parents to send their children elsewhere.
  • The educational needs of the children are not analysed.
  • In paragraph 2.8, the LA admits they have failed to consider the funding of the school over past years. The funding arrangements are, in reality, in the hands of the LA and, in fact, were agreed at the same time as this proposal.
  • The argument about overheads ignores the present discussions between the LA and Governors about reducing overheads.
  • Table 2 does not discuss the different nature of the intakes of the 3 schools. This is misleading.
  • The work done by Eric Craven on behalf of the LA looking at the needs of the PMLD pupils at the Lyndale and other schools has never been referred to.
  • The resolution of the Council of February 14 2010 and the work done by the LA following this have not been referred to, not even mentioned. This should have formed the context for the present decision.

So what does that all mean in plain English?

  • There are kids who are autistic at the schools that the children from Lyndale School would be moved to if it was closed. The kind of support each group of kids need is different.
  • As parents know Wirral Council have been threatening to close Lyndale School for a number of years, they have chosen to send their children elsewhere as they wouldn’t want their education disrupted if the school closed.
  • I think Cllr Harney is referring to the report being mainly about money. When closure proposals are considered, whoever is making the decision (in this case the Cabinet) has to (its a legal requirement) take notice of guidance issued by the government on making such decisions. Part of this guidance is something referred to as the “SEN Improvement Test”. Put in a nutshell the SEN Improvement Test means if a special school is closed then those children who are affected by its closure and transferred to other schools have to receive an education at those new schools that is equivalent to or better than the education they got at their previous school. The parents of children at Lyndale School disagree that this would be the case.
  • Each year Wirral Council receives a ring fenced grant for education from the government. For 2014/15 Wirral Council will receive just over £240 million. It’s down to the politicians to agree a policy as how this money is divided up each year. Cllr Harney is also referring to the other policy decision that was called in which determines how much money special schools receive for people who have high needs.
  • Overheads refers to the fixed costs of running the school.
  • Table 2 refers to the average cost per a pupil at five schools (Elleray Park, Foxfield, Lyndale, Meadowside and Stanley). Each special school has a different sets of pupils with different needs, therefore different staffing requirements (and overheads). Comparisons on a raw cost of cost per pupil therefore don’t take into account that each child is different, the cost of supporting each child will be different and also that at Lyndale School there are a number of children with medical needs that leads to increased costs.
  • I’m sure Cllr Harney will explain what this refers to on the 27th February.
  • On the 14th February 2011, Council received a petition of 1,874 signatures asking the Council to “develop, as a matter of urgency, a consistent and coherent policy for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties.” Council agreed the following resolution “That the Council initiates, as a matter of urgency, a thorough review of the current provision for children and young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) on Wirral. The review will produce a comprehensive policy regarding the best ways to educate, support and care for these children and young people including transition from and provision during life beyond school. Parents will be fully involved in the planning and writing of this policy. This review will be presented to Cabinet by the end of 2011.”

    This review came back to Cabinet in January 2012. It had eleven recommendations, all eleven were agreed by the Cabinet.

Q. So what are the reasons why the decision on how money is allocated to special schools called in?

The reasons given were

  • The banding proposals (para 2.7) are not based on a clear costing of the needs of the children.
  • In particular, the needs of the children with profound and multiple learning difficulties should be quantified.
  • There is a clear need for one to one in terms of adult presence for many of the children. There is also a need for teaching and other staff. These are in addition to the running costs of the school.
  • In the case of the Lyndale, the funding proposals will result in the closure of the school. This has not been made clear in the paper.

So (again) what does that all mean in plain English?

  • The report and its appendices on banding proposals can be read on Wirral Council’s website. Each child would be placed into one of five bands. Each special school would get £10,000 + an amount depending on which band the child was in. These extra amounts range from band one (approximately an extra £1,000) to band five (an extra £16,000+). The band for the children with the highest needs assumes a staff ratio of 1:6 plus two teaching assistants, plus medical support. Lyndale School has children that would be placed in the new bands three to five (£17,000 to £26,000+ per pupil).
  • Some of the children at Lyndale School require a staffing ratio of one to one. Even if these children were in band five (the highest band), the money that Lyndale school received under the new policy wouldn’t Lyndale School’s costs. Although there is flexibility in band five, Lyndale School’s average cost per pupil in 2012-13 was £33,105.
  • If the banding proposals were adopted it would lead to a shortfall in Lyndale School’s budget of £72,000, getting worse in future years which would lead to the school closing.

So what about the minimum funding guarantee that means that Wirral Council can’t reduce the funding to schools by more than 1.5% compared to last year?

Wirral Council have applied to the Education Funding Agency for an exemption from the minimum funding guarantee which would guarantee schools receive at least 98.5% of what they received last year. The outcome of Wirral Council’s application is at the time of writing unknown.

What about the special schools contingency of £908,900?

Some of the contingency could be used to fund Lyndale School’s deficit in 2014-15. However, Lyndale School’s deficit is predicted to be larger in 2015-16 than in 2014-15. If the banding policy is agreed, it’ll lead to the closure of Lyndale School at some point in the future.

What about the SEN (Special Educational Needs) underspend in 2013-14 of £500,000?

Some of the SEN (Special Educational Needs) underspend could be used to fund Lyndale School’s deficit in 2014-15. However, an underspend in the SEN budget can’t be guaranteed for next year and a more long-term solution is needed.

What about the petition against closure of Lyndale School?

The petition (at the time of writing) is of 6,407 signatures against closure of Lyndale School.

Who will decide the call ins?

There are fifteen councillors on the Coordinating Committee who are Cllr Steve Foulkes (Chair (Labour)), Cllr John Salter (Labour), Cllr Jean Stapleton (Labour), Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour), Cllr Denise Realey (Labour), Cllr Pat Glasman (Labour), Cllr Paul Doughty (Labour), Cllr Bernie Mooney (Labour), Cllr Denise Roberts (Labour), Cllr Alan Brighouse (Liberal Democrat), Cllr Leah Fraser (Conservative), Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative), Cllr David Elderton (Conservative), Cllr Wendy Clements (Conservative) and Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative). Their contact details can be found on Wirral Council’s website.

In addition to these fifteen, there are a further three with voting rights who are Mrs H Shoebridge (parent governor representative), Mrs Nicola Smith (parent governor representative) and Damien Cunningham (representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury). At the time of writing the Diocese of Chester (Church of England) haven’t made a nomination to the committee.

If the Labour councillors (9) voted to uphold the Labour Cabinet’s decisions and the other councillors (6), parent governor representatives (2) and Damien Cunningham voted against it would be a tied 9:9 vote. If that was the case the Chair Cllr Steve Foulkes would have a casting vote.

Are there any more points?

Closing down a school they may have been at for years and moving them elsewhere to a different place, with different staff and different pupils would be very difficult and traumatic for them (and their parents) to cope with. If the school closed and the children would lose staff that had spent many years learning what their needs were. Some of the parents have said if the school is closed they will home school their children instead.

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Will contingency in Labour’s 2014/15 Schools Budget be enough to fund outcome of Lyndale School call in?

Will contingency in Labour’s 2014/15 Schools Budget be enough to fund outcome of Lyndale School call in?

Will contingency in Labour’s 2014/15 Schools Budget be enough to fund outcome of Lyndale School call in?


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The item on the Schools Budget starts at 21:54. I include a transcript below of what was said during this item. The Schools Budget (2014/15) is a recommendation from Cabinet to the Budget Council on the 25th February. This is two days before the Coordinating Committee meets to decide on the call ins on consulting on closing Lyndale School and the top up payments for schools.

Surjit Tour towards the end states that the proposed budget includes a contingency “to meet any potential financial implications that may arise as a result of the forthcoming call in hearing”, however as the Coordinating Committee hasn’t met and made decisions on the call ins yet how can the financial implications be quantified?

7. Schools Budget
Cabinet (13th February 2014)

The report for this item can be read by following this link.

Cllr Phil Davies: The key item there is the Schools Budget for 2014/15 and Tony you’re going to introduce this? Thank you.

Cllr Tony Smith: Thank you Chair. Thank you. This is the Schools Budget for 2014/15. The Schools Budget report which you have summarises the main factors that have been taken into account in setting the Schools Budget of £240 million for 2014/15.

The overall funding for pupils aged three to sixteen is maintained in cash terms. In addition the budget contains a small amount of growth for schools.

There’s funding for the further expansion of two year old provision from September 2014 and for the full year effect of high needs costs for 4-16 students. Some details for academies for high needs have still to be finalised and the Schools Budget will be updated with this information when this information is available.

The Schools Budget report was considered by the Schools Forum on the 21st January. The Forum agreed the recommendations listed in paragraph 2.1 of this report and that said that the dedicated schools grant funding the Schools Budget for maintained schools and academies is approved at the sum of £240,058,000.

The headroom of £1,215,100 which is detailed in paragraph 4.6 is allocated within the formula to all schools and early year providers. The high needs contingency totalling £908,900 is agreed.

A reduction in planned programmed maintenance, PPM, of £200,000 is agreed. Use of the dedicated schools grant reserve totalling £732,000 in setting the Schools Budget is agreed and the remaining balance for automatic meter readers reclassified as a reserve for installation of defibrillators.

An additional recommendation is also made in respect of the funding for school’s private finance initiative. The Council currently adds £2.6 million to the ring-fenced Schools Budget in respect of the PFI funding gap.

£2.3 million of this Council funding is an agreed saving in 15/16 and the remainder is protected at this time. This proposal is to reduce the Council’s funding for PFI by £600,000 in 14/15 … 15/16.

The 14/15 Schools Budget has already been submitted to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and is finalised. However there is a £1 million approx schools budget carry forward from 13/14 to 14/15 which can be used to compensate for the £600,000 funding gap.

The schools therefore will receive the same budget for 14/15 as planned. I’ve got a resolution Chair which I’m putting forward. “Council regrets that due to its financial challenges it is unable to fund in full the PFI affordability gap for 14/15 and will reduce the Council contribution to the Schools Budget by £600,000 to £2 million. Officers are instructed to take appropriate actions in respect of the 2014/15 Schools Budget.” That’s the resolution.

Cllr Phil Davies: Thanks Tony, I’m just going to ask Surjit to just say a few words about one particular element of this Schools Budget, Surjit.

Surjit Tour (Wirral Council’s Head of Legal/Member Services): Thank you Chair. Queries have been raised with regards to whether there is an impact on the outstanding call in, in relation to the Schools Budget which may have a direct impact.

One of them in particular is the proposals for changes to the school’s top up payments for schools with high needs. Members will be aware that the matter is to be considered by the Policy and Performance Coordinating Committee on the 27th February. The position with regards to the proposed Schools Budget is that it includes a contingency provision and that provision is considered sufficient to meet any potential financial implications that may arise as a result of the forthcoming call in hearing and therefore you can agree the, the proposed budget is both sufficient and sufficiently flexible to address any potential implications that may arise and that therefore means that the budget can be proposed to Council forthwith.

Cllr Phil Davies: OK, so Tony Smith’s moved the resolution that we all heard. Can I ask can we agree that recommendation?

Councillors: Agreed.

Cllr Phil Davies: OK thank you very much, thank you Tony. Right OK, thanks very much for that Tony.

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