Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Funding, banding and need (part 7)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Funding, banding and need (part 7)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Funding, banding and need (part 7)


This is what happened at the last of the consultation meetings about the closure of Lyndale School and continues from Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Kingsway, funding and hydrotherapy pools (part 6).

Julia Hassall (Director of Children’s Services) continued by saying, “Just to reinforce the point that Phil [Ward] has made, we are really clear that if a child needs a certain type of frequency of provision, then we will replicate that in a different school setting.”

The next question was, “Am I allowed to ask about funding?”

Julia Hassall and others replied, “Yes”. Phil Ward said, “Go on then.”

The person asking the question said, “Basically, we do have a big and major issue with regards to the funding with the banding. Obviously you informed us on the last meeting which we work in a way is that band five children have to hit those three things now. We’ve now been made aware that one of the main criteria that they have to be gastroscomy fed. Now a lot of our children are unable to walk, talk, do pretty much anything for themselves, have seizures, … all different types of things, you know choking, aspiration is the main one but we are able to feed them orally, so and they’re getting eight grand less than the kids. I mean can’t we like, you know, surely to God something needs to be done about this? Our kids needs that other eight grand.

I mean because basically, I mean we’re on band four because at this precise moment, us two and you know potentially Robinson as well is going to be in band four right? So our kids are all going to be in band four so we get eight grand. Now where you’ve got the autistic children in Stanley and Elleray who can walk and talk who are on the National Curriculum scale, you know and are …, what band are they because how much money are they going to have taken off them? You know their money’s going to be plummeted.”

Phil Ward said, “Right, let’s bring Andrew in on that because that’s quite a long question. Hang on a sec, let’s bring Andrew in.”

Andrew Roberts said, “I think the main answer to your question is, it goes back to what I said before. This is a new system, it’s a system that’s only started from the first of April with five bands in it. You’ve clearly got to have a means of being able to distinguish between one band and another.”

The person asking the question said, “But we’re already telling you it’s not going to work! It can’t! It’s physically impossible when you’ve got, you know children just because they’re not gastroscomy fed are getting half the amount of money!”

Another person said, “… but he had to have a gastroscomy, because he had seizures and I have to give him his medication at a set time, morning and night.

So if he’s had a seizure and he’s fast asleep after it, obviously I can’t feed him, so then I use the gastroscomy, but if he’s fit and well, I try to keep feeding him orally because I don’t want him to lose the skill of feeding. So, is he going to be in band four and a half, is he band five, is he band four?”

Phil Ward said, “Hang on, hang on.”

David Armstrong said, “I think there’s two issues that are of concern, in terms of taking that away and reflecting on it. It’s two issues. First of all there’s the banding system itself and secondly it is are your children on the right band?

In terms of the banding system, you know, I know it’s simple but it was the special schools budget. We needed to come up with a way of distributing it, we were all in agreement when it was put together on the Schools Forum, including special heads and so on. The banding system was devised, there were comments about the banding system which will also be from outside next week to look at the banding system.

The comments that you’re making back, clearly need to feed back into looking at the banding system after it’s first year of operation. The banding system is a way of taking a fixed budget, which I think is pretty fair and obviously if you adjust one band up, we’ve got to take the other bands down but in terms of are your children on the right band, clearly Andrew [Roberts]’s an accountant, like myself. We’re well away from this. We don’t allocate children to bands, that’s a separate issue.

If your children are sitting in the wrong band, which I can deduce from that, clearly you need to take that up.”

A number of people from the audience started talking at once. One of them said, “We know our children require one to one attention.”

Phil Ward tried to talk but was drowned out by numerous people. He said, “The point’s taken around the banding and the banding issue can also be discussed at every child’s annual review if that needs to be looked at because the point…” He was drowned out by a number of people again. He continued, “hang on a sec, the point at that course is not only to look at the progress the child is making or otherwise but to look at needs as well. Now there’s a lot more… “

Julia Hassall said, “Can I just add one other bit, I think it’s important to feed that in through the psychologist when the meetings are taking place as well.”

Some asked a question about banding and reviews, which was replied to by David Armstrong. Someone responded by saying that it didn’t answer the question.

The next comment made was, “You did say the national funding is the reason why you know it all changed ok? National funding had changed, but local authorities have got you know, they’ve got the ability to decide what change they want to make to funding and what the funding stream is and what those changes are.

Lots of other boroughs have funded on a school by school basis depending on the need. On Wirral they decided to do away with this system, which you know because it was easier, but it really doesn’t have very much flexibility or address the actual needs of the children involved. That could be in relation you know to decide what to do with the banding system.

When you’ve said that you know that’s an ongoing process and the Schools Forum you’ll take it back to them and they will look at it again to reassess it, but by that time in the consultation process rest assured in this exercise you know whether, by the time it’s been looked at possibly splitting band five into two to improve the funding for these children, Lyndale will already be shut. The agreed place allocation as well for Lyndale by the way is twenty-eight, so it hasn’t got fifty percent occupancy.”

Continues at Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Tom Harney “it’s amazing the things that go on” (part 8).

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Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about the sensory garden, resources, Elleray Park and Stanley (Part 5)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about the sensory garden, resources, Elleray Park and Stanley (Part 5)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about the sensory garden, resources, Elleray Park and Stanley (Part 5)


Continues from Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield & the educational psychologist (Part 4).

The next question was about the £80,000 that had been raised by the public to pay for a sensory garden at Lyndale School. He asked what plans do they have for the sensory garden and how would you plan to get the money back to the people that donated it?

Phil Ward answered, “Well what it is, if a school, my colleagues can talk about the buildings on the site, but if a school does close clearly there would be in keeping, well we don’t know. We don’t know”.. “well resources that can be used, well resources that can be used certainly”… David Armstrong said, “It’s a what if question because there’s no decision made. There’s no real gardens, there’s no decision been taken to determine it.” The questioner replied with, “Well I’m sure if we knew at the time that there was the chance that all our hard work would be”… “we would not have done all that hard work.” to which David Armstrong replied, “All I will say is, all I will say is, that certainly in my time here we’ve always treated the school sites, what I’ve tried to do is do it with real sensitivity to what’s been the best care that I can.”

The questioner said it was a very, very unique school. David Armstrong replied with, “What we’ve done is anything that related to a particular pupil, anything that was in memory of a particular pupil we’ve dealt with that first and then we’ve gone on from that”…. The questioner asked who put the amphitheatre at the back of Lyndale School to which David Armstrong replied, “I don’t know.” The person asking the question said it was put there by lads working on a Youth Training Scheme for Wirral Action to which David Armstrong replied, “I can’t know every single detail.”

Phil Ward said, “Well clearly we’ve closed that one down, time moves on, there are different circumstances and we are where we are now.”

Ian Lewis said, “Four years ago, when I was a member of the Cabinet, the officers insisted on .. the officers brought a recommendation to close the Kingsway Primary School in Seacombe. It wasn’t a special school, it isn’t a special school and the argument for closing the school was that it isn’t financially viable.

I and the rest of the Cabinet voted against that proposal and four years later that school is still open and in its recent OFSTED inspection it was found to be outstanding. So on what basis do you think that, for the two directors, on the basis that this here is a school is for children who are vulnerable? If in four years time that’s still here, who’s to say it won’t be viable?”…

“Secondly, you mentioned the teaching in the other schools that you’re proposing Elleray Park and Stanley. That as I understand it won’t be one to one as we currently have at Lyndale, so issues such as basic issues such as toileting they would be left. If the children going to Lyndale, assuming this proposal went through, the children from Lyndale went to those other two schools and if their current level of education was to be maintained I would expect that they would have one to one levels of support as they have now, wouldn’t that therefore affect the viability of those schools that they were going to if they’re having to increase staffing to cope with the one to one and that’s a question to the two directors.”

Phil Ward said, “Well I’ll just reply to the one question if I may..”

Ian Lewis replied, “Sorry, I’m not familiar with who you are. Who are you?”

Phil Ward replied, “I’m the Strategic Lead for Special Educational Needs for Wirral. The question of one to one,…”

Ian Lewis said, “Can I ask the directors that question please?”

Phil Ward said, “If you’ll let me get to the last bit, the question of, I’ll bring them in in a sec, the question of one to one, I’ve spoken with the headteachers at the other schools and the basic premise that we’re working on and the staff that we’re working on that every school, every special school in this consultation can provide similar same levels of support to the youngsters if they had to move. It’s all about to the management of the curriculum and staff within the schools. Nothing is ruled out, nothing is impossible. We would not be significantly changing support for the children at the school.”

Ian Lewis replied, “Sorry if you can’t answer a question than I don’t think you should be involved. You haven’t answered the question about the children.” Phil ward interrupts. Ian Lewis continues despite the interruption, “What I’m saying is, let me finish please, what you’ve said is, you will move resources around into the two existing schools because of the increase in, for the children at Lyndale and therefore by definition, the education of the children in these two schools, will be diminished” and again Phil Ward interrupted him and they both started talking at the same time. Ian Lewis continued, “No sorry, will you please let me finish!? Let me continue please! It’s very, very rude for an officer, thank you! What I’m saying to you is, if you’ve got a set finite number of resources and don’t look at me like that I’d appreciate it. If you’ve got a finite number of resources and you share those amongst the number of pupils, then what you’re doing by putting more of those resources onto the children that need it as we have at Lyndale you must be taking those resources from somewhere.”

Phil Ward replied, “Right, I think I’ll bring in the Director on that.”

Continues at Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Kingsway, funding and hydrotherapy pools (part 6).

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Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield & the educational psychologist (Part 4)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield & the educational psychologist (Part 4)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield & the educational psychologist (Part 4)


Continues from Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about banding, outdoor space and Stanley School (Part 3).

The person asked a question referred to the one to one care that children were receiving at Lyndale School. Julia Hassall replied that that was part of the reason behind getting up to date assessments of each child was to ensure that if they had to transfer to a different school they would get exactly the same care that they get at Lyndale.

A parent said that since the last meeting they had visited Stanley School. She said, “The facilities there don’t get me wrong are absolutely fabulous, but I’d just like you to know I would be absolutely petrified to leave Scott there. I’m absolutely petrified.” and “my child would definitely not go to Elleray so the only other choice would be Stanley and it would be a massive, massive risks for Scott to go to that school.”

Phil Ward thanked her for her point.

The next question was about if anyone had spoken to the pediatricians of children at Lyndale. She said that there were children on hospital wards that might be suitable for Lyndale School but that nobody seemed to have asked the paediatricians or specialists if these children could go to Lyndale School.

Phil Ward answered, “Sorry I can’t speak for paediatricians, but surely the point..” was interrupted by the questioner asking again if anyone had asked the paediatricians to which he replied, “No, they have not, no is the answer to that.”

The next questioner referred to Julia Hassall’s statement earlier that there was a growing number of children with complex learning difficulties and referred to something that Andrew Roberts said at the call in. She asked what would happen when they can’t get into Stanley School? She said that the parents were categorically telling you that they don’t want to send their children to those schools.

Phil Ward asked if her first question was about how they’d respond to growing numbers? He said the question had come up a number of times and the answer was that Wirral Council has a responsibility on specialist provision. When there was evidence that the numbers were growing in any particular category then they would start discussions with schools to plan places.

The next questioner said that if they were providing up to two hundred and thirty places across Stanley and Elleray Park and those places were taken up by children transferring from Lyndale then wouldn’t there not be room for the expected increase in children with complex learning difficulties?

Phil Ward said that it was an ongoing process, as children were leaving for secondary school at the same time as children joining primary school the balance was shifting and changing all the time.

Someone asked what special arrangements that Wirral Council were making to gather the views of the children, almost all of whom had no conventional language whatsoever. He said that there were issues about friendships, relationships, their sense of place and security. As well as these there were issues about a safe environment to do with children with behavioural problems being mixed in with children who were very vulnerable with poor hand eye coordination and couldn’t protect themselves and anticipate danger. He said to find out what the children themselves would need special skills and special arrangements.

Julia Hassall responded, “This is why we’ve got our principal educational psychologist pulling together a group of meetings with the key staff involved with each child, the parents, any health professionals to really understand each individual child but also how the children interact with each other.”

The same person asked when that report would be available? Julia Hassall replied, “What will, they’re very specific to individual named children these meetings to get an update. So I think it would be breaching the confidentiality of the individual children but in terms of using that information to apply this SEN Improvement Test. That’s something we will absolutely make sure the needs of the children are put at the heart of that and this independent person Lynn Wright (I’m not sure of the exact spelling of this person’s name) will absolutely make sure that the needs of the children drive the future provision.”

Councillor Chris Carubia said that he was his understanding that if Lyndale was closed then the children would go to Elleray and Stanley, however nobody had mentioned Foxfield before?

Phil Ward answered, “In relation to, so, should a final decision be made about closure of the school”… “the children have got to go somewhere else. In terms of the legislation, we then would have a responsibility as a local authority then to engage in further conversations with each of the parents, not the parents as a group but each of the parents of each child that’s got a statement of special educational needs and that discussion will be had with each of the parents who may for their own reasons decide to express a preference potentially anywhere frankly. So there’s no presumption automatically that if the school were to close children would go to A, B or C. We’ve got to enter into that conversation.”

The next person referred to a visit to Stanley School and referred to it as a “brilliant building” but wasn’t sure whether it was “usable” and that it “felt like Manchester Airport”. A woman said that when she went to Stanley that it was a ninety place school but had a hundred children in it. She said that there were ten children at the school that were not funded and would this be sorted out if the Lyndale School children went to Stanley School? Andrew Roberts replied, “In terms of places at special schools, those decisions are taken annually. So the schools take it at a point in time, the decision taken in respect of Stanley was taken last November as a census. Clearly we need to be reviewing, as do the number of places at other special schools.” Phil Ward thanked him for his answer.

Continues at Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about the sensory garden, resources, Elleray Park and Stanley (Part 5).

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Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: David Armstrong explains why there’s a consultation and questions begin (Part 2)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: David Armstrong explains why there’s a consultation and questions begin (Part 2)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: David Armstrong explains why there’s a consultation and questions begin (Part 2)


Continues from Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall explains why Wirral Council are consulting on closure (Part 1).

David Armstrong (Assistant Chief Executive) said, “OK, thank you. Apologies to those of you who’ve heard this five times before. This is the last time for you. I wanted to just set out the bones of how the school is funded and set out some information requested by staff and I’m responsible for the two budgets and I’ll come back to those and I’m also responsible for school assets and school buildings and I have been responsible for those back in fact to the days when it was relocated from Clatterbridge.

I look after two budgets, a £80 million budget for the Children and Young Peoples Department budget which pays for things like fostering, adoption and a whole host of the other none related schools services. We also have a £240 million budget which is the schools budget. It comes with the title of Dedicated Schools Grant, it comes from government summarised as DSG, it comes into the Council it has to be passed onto schools.

So as Julia [Hassall] said, it’s not about the Council somehow undertaking some of that money and treating it as a saving. It’s about the long term financial security of the school. The DSG when it comes in covers four areas, early years, primary, secondary and special.

(drowned out by someone’s mobile phone)

It goes through a formula, a local formula and that is distributed into schools.”

He explained how the Schools Forum decided on the formula and how it the Schools Forum comprised of volunteers representing the various types of schools. He said that when he was a head in the 1980s, he only managed two budgets in the school. One was books and paper and the second was whatever the school made selling photos. In 1990 there was a change and the big budgets that had been managed by councils were redistributed to schools.

Mr Armstrong said that to begin with each council had its own formula and that every council used different things to redistribute the schools budget. With special schools he said “it has always been slightly different”. He said that nationally that there was a movement at least in part to fund special schools by pupil and not just by place. David Armstrong said that the numbers at Lyndale School had fallen, making it difficult to run the school. In the last few years he said Andrew [Roberts] working with the school governors, the Schools Forum and the other special schools had funded Lyndale School for a number of empty places.

Looking forward, he said that Wirral Council would have to seek authorisation on whether they could do that from a national body called the Education Funding Agency. In his view the future was less certain because the EFA had said that they’d like Wirral Council to come to a point where they were funding per a pupil and not per a place. He said it was a question about the long term financial stability of the school and it wasn’t about making a quick saving by closing the school.

David Armstrong said that they’d been through this process with other primary schools and a secondary school and that the savings had been recycled into the formula. He was happy to take questions.

Phil Ward (chairing the meeting) thanked Mr. Armstrong and said that before they started the opportunity to ask questions and raise issues, he referred to an attendance sheet and asked people who hadn’t signed it to do so. He said, “A lot of people have lots of things to say with conviction and passion and we would ask they allow everybody a chance to speak and put forward to the meeting to hear what’s been said. So on that basis, are there any questions?” After twenty-five minutes (of a two hour consultation meeting) the people present finally got a chance to ask questions.

The first questioner introduced herself and asked if they could get a copy of the notes being taken? Interrupting the questioner before she’d had a chance to finish and talking over her, Phil Ward barked at the questioner in the tone of voice you’d usually reserve for someone who’d stood on your foot, “I’ve answered that one a few times! We’re not taking minutes of the meeting but high level notes and these notes will be used to capture some of the key points raised at the meetings and these notes will also be reported to elected members [councillors] of the Cabinet. They’re not for circulation. Is that clear?”

The same questioner replied with, “but this is a public consultation!”, Phil Ward again interrupted her and said, “It is a public”, she continued, “it should be for everyone”. Phil Ward replied, “I’ve answered that already but the high level notes, we will capture the views, as we have done for the last five meetings and those views, and those views will be reported to members of the Cabinet.”

Councillor Phil Gilchrist asked whether the notes would set out so that they could get a feel of what’s been raised at the consultation meetings? Phil Ward replied, “We can do it in a different way, we can collate all of the notes together and just do a summary report of the key points or alternatively we could choose to do a summary report on each of the individual meetings laying out if you like the issues raised and I think that’s what you’re alluding to in terms of about each meeting the way it seemed to be borne out with these issues, there are those with these issues so we’ll look at that.”

Another question was asked about the notes to which Phil Ward replied, “They’re notes recording the high level points raised at the meetings and importantly we will be reporting them to Cabinet.”

A different questioner stated that he thought the meetings should be fully minuted. He described himself as a support worker that worked full time over three fourteen hour shifts. He referred to previous meetings that people hadn’t turned up to. A meeting at Lyndale School had been arranged and only seven councillors had turned up to it.

He continued and said that despite working full-time, he had found the time to come to the meeting. Continuing, he said he had asked people if they were against the decision to consult on closing Lyndale School and said that a hundred percent of those he had contacted were against closure of Lyndale School. He referred to flaws in the consultation and that there had been “100% disapproval” on “ploughing ahead” when Wirral Council was there to serve the people of Wirral.

Phil Ward replied with, “Is that something which you’d like to submit to us?”. He replied, “Oh, yes” and Phil Ward said, “Just to remind you the consultation finishes on the 25th June.”

Continues at Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about banding, outdoor space and Stanley School (Part 3).

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Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall explains why Wirral Council are consulting on closure (Part 1)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall explains why Wirral Council are consulting on closure (Part 1)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall explains why Wirral Council are consulting on closure (Part 1)


The last of the meetings concerning the consultation on closing Lyndale School was held in the hall at Acre Lane Professional Excellence Centre. There to answer questions people had were David Armstrong (Assistant Chief Executive), Julia Hassall (Director of Children’s Services), Andrew Roberts and Phil Ward (who was chairing the meeting). There was also a sign language interpreter called Sue March, however Phil Ward sent the sign language interpreter away as there was no one present (from the twenty-five or so others present at the start of the meeting) that indicated they needed sign language interpretation.

Labour’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services Councillor Tony Smith arrived about five minutes late to the meeting. He sat with the three officers, but didn’t take a part in answering the questions people had.

Julia Hassall said she was “pleased to see so many people” and that there had been some people who had been to all six meetings. She was giving the same introduction at each one, which was drawn from the consultation document (copies of which were available for people at the meeting). She described Lyndale School as a special school in Eastham for children with complex learning disabilities whose viability was compromised by a falling roll and a small number of children.

It was at this point that Councillor Tony Smith arrived.

She repeated a point she had made at a previous meeting, that the consultation on closure was nothing to do with standards of education at the school as the last OFSTED inspection in November 2012 had concluded that the school was good with many outstanding aspects. However in her view Wirral Council needed to get future provision right and in her view two other schools (Elleray Park and Stanley) were able to provide good quality education and care.

Ms Hassall said that the closure proposal was not linked to Wirral Council’s need to save money as any money saved would be used elsewhere, however they were under a duty to make sure there were sufficient school places. She referred to the Children and Young Peoples Plan and the Children and Families Act 2014 c.6. She said that the new legislation would improve the partnership between education and health as the care plan would detail how both education and health would meet the children’s needs in a joined up way.

She referred to the report to the Cabinet meeting of the 16th January when they had agreed to start the consultation and the other options that were being consulted on (she went through the options some of which other than closure were becoming a 2-19 school, federating with another school, co locating with another school, becoming a free school or academy). The full list of options are detailed in an appendix to the Cabinet report. Julia Hassall said that during the consultation all options and any new ones were being considered.

Continuing she told those present that the Cabinet decision of the 16th January had been called in and looked at again by the Coordinating Committee on the 5th February and 27th February. She said that the Coordinating Committee had recommended that the consultation start, which had begun on the 2nd April.

Since the consultation had begun, there had been three meeting in April, two already in June with this meeting being the last of the six. Issues that had been brought up previously were referred to. She said that they had to apply the SEN Improvement Test as any alternative had to be as good as or better than the current provision. Julia Hassall said that they had agreed to engage an independent consultant Lynn Wright (Ed – I am unsure of the exact spelling of this person’s name however this was what it sounded like Julia Hassall said) to offer advice how how they looked at the eight options, any new options and to assess how they applied the SEN Improvement Test. She said that Lynn Wright was not known to the officers prior to this and would produce a separate report with an independent view that would be included when Cabinet decided whether to proceed for a formal proposal.

If Cabinet decided to proceed to the next stage, then there would be a four week statutory representations period and if Cabinet finally approved to close the school it would close at the end of the summer term in 2015 and children at Lyndale would be transferred in September 2015. She wanted to stress that no decision had been made and they would take everybody’s views into account. Ms Hassall referred to someone called Janice who was taking notes on the front row. She continued by saying that small schools could go into financial deficit whereas larger schools had more flexibility and could spend a higher proportion on teaching and meeting children’s needs.

Every January they took a census of pupil numbers. There were 401 children attending nursery with complex learning difficulties and within this 401, sixty-four had profound and multiple learning difficulties. However the number of children with profound and multiple learning difficulties had been similar over the past four years and wasn’t a growing trend. She referred to the number of places at Elleray Park and how through discussions with the school and building work they planned to increase the places there to 110. Stanley School had moved from its former site to a purpose built school and in her view they could add a further five to ten more children there without an extension but could extend it if needed to give sufficient places. She referred to a meeting between the Chief Executive (Graham Burgess) and three parent governors and how there would be a further meeting on Friday (20th June). She then handed over to David Armstrong.

Continues at Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: David Armstrong explains why there’s a consultation and questions begin (Part 2).

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