Wirral Schools Forum member expresses concern at proposed £600,000 cut for children with special educational needs

Wirral Schools Forum member expresses concern at proposed £600,000 cut for children with special educational needs

Wirral Schools Forum member expresses concern at proposed £600,000 cut for children with special educational needs


Wirral Schools Forum 3rd December 2014 Agenda item 4 Consultation on the local schools funding formula L to R Andrew Roberts,  Julia Hassall, Richard Longster (Chair)
Wirral Schools Forum 3rd December 2014 Agenda item 4 Consultation on the local schools funding formula L to R Andrew Roberts, Julia Hassall, Richard Longster (Chair)

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Above is video of the Wirral Schools Forum meeting of the 3rd of December 2014 which discussed the local school funding formula and PFI and Central Budget Review

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and the Chair decided (after matters arising) they would deal with item 4 first, then item 3 followed by item 5.

The first main agenda item was consultation on the Local School Funding Formula – Verbal Update (Consultation letter to schools attached). There had only been three or four responses to the consultation so it was extended to the end of term. There would be a further report back to the Wirral Schools Forum meeting in January 2015. The officer Andrew Roberts was not sure whether this was being the proposals were not contentious or whether schools needed more time to answer the questions asked (the questions asked as part of the consultation are below):


1. Looked After Children
Question 1 – Do you agree that deprivation funding should be top sliced to help equalise
funding per pupil for deprived and looked after children?

2. Deprivation
Question 2 – Do you agree a cap on the amount allocated per FSM per pupil should be
implemented? Do you have any additional comments?

3. Low cost High Incidence SEN and KS3/4 AWPU
Question 3 – Do you have any comments on these areas?

4. High Needs Place Funding for Alternative Provision (AP)
Question 4 Do you have any comments on this proposal?

Question 5 Do you have any additional comments?


Various members of the Wirral Schools Forum including Brian Jordan commented on the consultation, answers to the questions and proposed changes. Andrew Roberts also commented on the table on an illustrative free school meals cap illustration for 2015-16 and additional looked after children table comparison to 2014-15 tables. Various schools either gained or lost funding under the proposals.

Brian Jordan, headteacher at Bebington High Sports College said that the proposed changes had a bigger effect on schools such as Bebington High Sports College as it had higher proportions of pupils attracted the pupil premium.

Other members of the Wirral Schools Forum commented on the proposed changes, Andrew Roberts replied, Brian Jordan made a further point and the Chair thanked people for their “points well made” and moved to item 3 (PFI and Central Budget Review).

Andrew Roberts gave a long introduction to this report and appendix which was about making permanent savings to the central budget of £2.3 million to pay for the costs of PFI to the Council’s contractor. He referred to the Schools Forum Working Party and comments that were made on the various proposals. He was asking for the School’s Forum’s views on the proposals which would make up the budget which would be brought back to the Wirral Schools Forum in January 2015.

The Chair stated he would run through the proposed savings individually to see if there was any opposition.

3.1 £23,600 saving in admissions – no opposition
3.2 £200,000 saving from school closure/retirement costs – no opposition
3.3 £25,000 saving from School Sports Coordinator – there was opposition and some explanation from officers explaining what this saving was not about, it was suggested by officers that even if it was deleted from the budget that in the future schools might be able to buy it back as a traded service
3.4 £180,000 saving in school intervention – there was opposition to this
3.5 £120,000 saving from City Learning Centres – there was opposition to this
3.6 £45,000 saving from LACES – no opposition
3.7 £11,600 saving from clinical waste disposal – no opposition
3.8 £19,800 saving from use of swimming baths – no opposition
3.9 £200,000 saving from PPM (planned preventative maintenance) – no opposition
3.10 £25,000 saving from insurances – no opposition
3.11 £600,000 saving from SEN (special educational needs) top ups – opposition
3.12 £200,000 saving from statements – no opposition
3.13 £200,000 saving from support for SEN – no opposition

Here is what one Schools Forum member had to say on making a £600,000 saving from SEN top ups which is at this point in the video, “I think the special schools have written to Andrew [Roberts] further to that answer about £600,000 coming out of SEN contingency. The SEN contingency is around £900,000 but the question was asked as to why it hadn’t been distributed to those children with the statements by the top up banding system?

The top up banding, the top up errm allocations that were decided in 2012 for 2013/14, based on the staff budgets with an understanding that we’d look at the needs of the children in those schools and look at comparative neighbouring authorities. We’ve since looked at comparative neighbouring authorities and Wirral is by far the lowest, for an SLD school on Wirral we pay £7,000 above, Knowsley and Sefton paid ten and a half, Cheshire paid fourteen and Halton paid twenty-five. The … seems a similar picture, Wirral pay eight, Halton pay between seven and twenty-five, Cheshire paid thirteen and that goes with children not just within the special schools sector but children with base provision within primary and secondary as well.

And we’ve got to remove £600,000 suddenly gives the local authority no way to adjust that top up either today or in the future. Once it’s gone it’s gone! The special schools are also facing increased costs of the TA [teaching assistant] regrading. The TA … that are now in effect for £2,500 for each member of staff and considering the amount of staff we have within the special schools sector and within the primary base and secondary base provision. It’s going to have a huge impact upon budgets and it was felt it was a huge amount to come out of one sector.”

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Marvin the Martian returns to try to understand the incredible Lyndale School situation and the £1 million SEN budget cut

Marvin the Martian returns to try to understand the incredible Lyndale School situation and the £1 million SEN budget cut

Marvin the Martian returns to try to understand the incredible Lyndale School situation and the £1 million SEN budget cut


Marvin the Martian from Disney's Looney Tunes
Marvin the Martian from Disney’s Looney Tunes

The below is a fictional interview with Marvin the Martian about Lyndale School. Marvin the Martian is trademarked to Warner Brothers Entertainment. Our legal team point out their trademark doesn’t actually cover its use on blogs but in case they try to argue this blog is an “entertainment service”, it isn’t, so no laughing! Yes I mean it, not even a smile! We also point out it’s not an infringing use of class 9 of this trademark as that refers to its use on goods rather than virtually.

We rely on s.30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and class this as “fair dealing” due to the acknowledgement above. As the The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Quotation and Parody) Regulations 2014 have come into force earlier this month, we’ll rely on this too and the new section 30A on parody.

JOHN BRACE: Thanks once again for agreeing to be interviewed about Lyndale School. We asked Wirral Council for a meeting about Lyndale School but they declined.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: You’re welcome. Well that is a shame I was looking forward to finally meeting people from Wirral Council that I have seen on your video broadcasts. Why do your politicians think they can get away with making decisions like this?

JOHN BRACE: They believe they’re doing the right thing in making “difficult decisions” that are “unpopular”. Also many are what’s in “safe seats”, and many of them (if they choose to do so) will not have to face the public in an election for many years to come.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: But they’re still subject to laws right, that meeting last Thursday the people making the decision didn’t have the required statutory guidance for decision makers which includes the SEN Improvement Test as part of the papers for that meeting?

JOHN BRACE: Well the politicians could have adjourned the meeting and received the correct documents but they chose not to. However you can’t expect politicians to know what they’re doing. They’re elected to look at things from the public perspective and rely on officer advice in such matters. Anyway preparing the papers for a meeting is an officer function in consultation with the Chair.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: You can’t blame this on the committee services officer Lyndzay Roberts though as she only includes in the papers for the meeting what she’s been given in time for it to be published and on that subject why do they keep picking the committee services officer who is a wheelchair user for the Lyndale School meetings?

JOHN BRACE: I’m afraid I can’t read people’s minds and would prefer not to answer that question.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Ahh the “Lynn Wright” defence eh? How much do you get paid then?

JOHN BRACE: Not enough to be answering questions from fictional characters about difficult subjects and I’m assuming your second question is a joke! I know what I got paid last year, so does HMRC. I can estimate what I will get paid this year but as I’m on a fixed amount plus an element that is related to performance, I literally could only tell you it’s above £x,xxx/year. I’m also not sure if you mean gross or net salary as a certain proportion of my earnings I don’t get as they are paid in taxes. I have income from sources other than my salary though.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Ha ha! OK, I won’t pry too much! Back to Lyndale, what was decided on Thursday?

JOHN BRACE: To uphold the Cabinet decision of 4th September 2014 on a majority 9:6 vote.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: And remind me what the Cabinet decision of 4th September 2014 was?

JOHN BRACE: Following the first consultation, to have a further second (but different) consultation on closure.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: I thought they’d just had a consultation!

JOHN BRACE: This is a similar but different sort of consultation.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: OK, I never realised closing down a school was made so complicated!

JOHN BRACE: A final decision on closure has not yet been made. This is just an “in principle” decision on closure.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: And how much is this all costing?

JOHN BRACE: Who knows? The school closure/retirement costs budget for this year is £326,000. However it looks like £200,000 of that will be moved to another budget heading soon.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Which budget heading?

JOHN BRACE: PFI (private finance initiative).


JOHN BRACE: Well you always have to plan for the worst and hope for the best with school closures, extra call in meetings, delays, legal challenges et cetera. Sometimes that means budget allocated goes unspent which can be used for other things.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So they’re not going to use a £200,000 underspend on the school closure budget to keep Lyndale open another year (costing ~£190,000)?

JOHN BRACE: No, pending a decision by the Wirral Schools Forum an underspend on the school closure budget will be spent instead next year on the ~£12 million a year PFI contract.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: OK, so when does this second consultation on closing Lyndale School start?

JOHN BRACE: Wirral Council officers had authorisation to proceed with implementation of the Cabinet decision of 4th September 2014, once the call in ended on 2nd October 2014. This has been delegated by the Cabinet to Julia Hassall to implement.

Regulation 8 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 will require Wirral Council to publish a notice on their website shortly after Julia Hassall implements this decision. This public notice has to contain the date of the decision, a record of the decision and reasons, details of any alternative options considered and rejected and the names of any of the Cabinet that declared a conflict of interest in the decision.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Well how likely are Wirral Council to do that?

JOHN BRACE: They probably won’t. They always have great difficulty in complying with their legal requirements (of which there are many).There have been many decisions delegated by councillors to officers taken since these new regulations came into effect near the start of August 2014 ranging from taxi licences to other types of decision. Another part of the same regulations dealt with filming of public meetings, which thankfully settles a long running industrial relations dispute with us and them. As far as I can tell no public notice has been published by officers relating to those yet?


JOHN BRACE: Some of the officers to whom the decisions have been delegated to make don’t have the authorisation to publish public notices on the website through the Modgov system. Also this change to legal requirements (which should’ve been implemented from August) would require a change to working practices which requires consultation with the trade unions through the HR department before implementation. Finally, in the vast majority of cases, there are either existing capacity issues with staffing or the decisions are so minor that nobody’s really apart from myself is paying that much attention whether internally or externally while more interesting things are happening and putting the necessary political pressure on to ensure these new regulations are implemented?

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Like what is more interesting?

JOHN BRACE: Like officers’ plan to persuade the Wirral Schools Forum on Wednesday evening to make £1 million of in year cuts this year in 2014/15 to (SEN Top Ups/Independent School Fees (£600,000), statements (£200,000) and support for SEN (£200,000)).

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: And why are they proposing to cut a further £1 million from the SEN budget this year?

JOHN BRACE: So they can pay for PFI costs in 2015/16.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: And why have PFI costs risen so much?

JOHN BRACE: Because a political decision was made a long time ago to take ~£2 million out of the PFI budget for 2015/16 and get schools to pay for it instead through budget cuts. Also the calculation in the contract bases yearly increases in how much is paid based on the RPI value in December of one year compared to the previous year then multiplied by ninety percent. That’s my simple explanation, the contract itself refers to the 90% as 0.9 and has a formula as to how the increases are calculated.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So if the other special schools (other than Lyndale) think they’re safe they’re not?

JOHN BRACE: Indeed, their budgets were protected this year by dropping by more than 1.5%. Based on the draft regulations circulated by the government (Schools and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2014) as part of the current consultation (which closes on October 17th 2014), for special school that protection (assuming the draft regulations aren’t changed) will end in 2015/16. The department for education can be emailed at 2014SchoolFinanceRegulations.Consultation@education.gsi.gov.uk about the policy side of the consultation, or consultation.unit@education.gsi.gov.uk or by telephone on 0370 000 2288 or by mail to Department for Education, Beth O’Brien, Department for Education, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT. Further detail about the consultation is on the DfE website here and you can respond online to this consultation here.

However for mainstream it looks like the minimum funding guarantee of at least 98.5% of last years budget will continue in some form?

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So because they can (or assume they can) Wirral Council will target more special schools for cuts in the future?

JOHN BRACE: Probably, but officers don’t decide that however they can recommend that. That’s ultimately decided by the Wirral Schools Forum/councillors.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So is the money they’re getting for schools each year, the ~£175 million they get from the government under the direct schools grant going down next year?

JOHN BRACE: No it isn’t, but a financial and purely local decision by Wirral Council has been made to withdraw the extra funding from Wirral Council that paid for the PFI affordability gap. This amounts to £600,000 this year and millions next year (2015/16). The PFI affordability gap is the total PFI expenditure minus the fixed grant minus the costs schools pay for the services under the PFI contract which is next year about £2.6 million.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So who was the Cabinet Member that originally agreed to this PFI contract in the first place?

JOHN BRACE: Councillor Phil Davies, the current Leader of Wirral Council.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Is there any way out of the contract, when does it end and can it be renegotiated?

JOHN BRACE: Yes, 2031 and yes.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So will they try to renegotiate to save money or terminate it?

JOHN BRACE: Probably not no, management were asked this at the last Wirral Schools Forum, however management only know what they’re told about the contract, they’re not managing it on a day to day basis. Terminating it would be expensive as there is still 17 years left to run, renegotiating would be the more likely option of the two if the political will is there.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So you’re saying the Wirral School Forum members asked Wirral Council officers that hadn’t actually read the contract?

JOHN BRACE: Judging by their answers probably not, managers don’t do things themselves they delegate tasks such as reading contracts and managing contracts to others, maybe not even people that are directly line managed by them but people lower down the food chain.

You can’t expect a senior manager to read such a long contract. Even if they did, it’s hundreds of pages long. It would be very hard to remember all the details unless they brought an electronic searchable version along to the Wirral Schools Forum on say a tablet computer or alternatively circulated an electronic copy to the members of the Wirral Schools Forum. I suppose as a councillor (and member of the Wirral Schools Forum) Cllr Wendy Clements could ask for a copy if she so wished.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So what does the PFI contract actually say about renegotiation?

JOHN BRACE: Wirral Council have to ask the provider (Wirral Schools Services Limited) about changes to the contract and be specific. Wirral Schools Services Limited then have a limited time period in which to respond stating (and I summarise here) whether they agree or not to the changes or not. If they agree they are implemented. However if there is disagreement between Wirral Council and the contractor there is a dispute resolution procedure that can be followed.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So are there any changes they have to agree to?

JOHN BRACE: Yes certain changes they have to agree to. For example there was a legislation change recently on free school meals for children under a certain age. As this was a legislation change, Wirral Council can ask for such changes to be implemented so that Wirral Council does not breach its legal obligations.

There are other categories of change that the contractor has to agree to too.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Indeed, so could Wirral Council’s legal department come up with similar changes which could result in the total cost being lowered?

JOHN BRACE: Wirral Council’s legal department has issues of its own. Also it in order to implement changes quickly it would require agreement of the contractor Wirral Schools Services Limited. Wirral Council would have to seek appropriate authorisation internally from sufficiently senior officers and if it had large budgetary implications in terms of costs or savings then also authorisation from politicians.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: So it’s possible?

JOHN BRACE: Anything’s possible. However as the contractor is a large organisation with a turnover off the top of my head of about £62 million, although they are considerably smaller in annual yearly revenue budget than Wirral Council, Wirral Council still get scared of organisations with that sort of financial clout, as well as organisational and legal resources at their disposal.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Does current senior management at Wirral Council want to renegotiate the contract?

JOHN BRACE: If the Wirral Schools Forum and/or politicians in the administration asked them to they’d have to to look into the option (which would depending on the option and the savings/cost implication would affect budgets through to 2031). After negotiations, generally officers would bring back options to politicians/Wirral Schools Forum for a meeting. However the Schools PFI contract is complex, it is hard for anyone to understand easily.

If neither of those formally happen, senior management already have enough on their plate already and lack the current internal capacity as they are already negotiating a 7 year extension to a contract of a similar size (~£12 million a year) with Biffa Waste Services Limited.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: But Biffa is in a different strategic directorate to schools!

JOHN BRACE: Indeed but there are capacity issues at the management level and across the organisation at all levels. This is due to annual leave requirements, illness, other factors and the mere practical constraints of there only ever being so many people to keep all the plates spinning up in the air at once.

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: Oh dear. So what is the likely net result to be?

JOHN BRACE: Instead of renegotiating savings on a contract, Wirral Council in the absence of either strong leadership at either the Wirral Schools Forum level or political level will probably accept the status quo and instead make in year cuts of a further £1 million to special educational needs. Officers will probably point out that they have tried to make sure the cuts don’t adversely affect front line services, but they will!

MARVIN THE MARTIAN: How on Mars do you make £2 million of in year cuts without it affecting frontline services?

JOHN BRACE: Indeed… here is a link to the papers for tomorrow’s Wirral Schools Forum meeting which is a public meeting starting at 6.00pm in the Council Chamber in Wallasey Town Hall.

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Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall “we’re not having straightforward consultation” (part 10)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall “we’re not having straightforward consultation” (part 10)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall “we’re not having straightforward consultation” (part 10)


Phil Ward (Wirral Council's SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014 (who chaired the consultation meeting at Acre Lane on the 16th June)
Phil Ward (Wirral Council’s SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014 (who chaired the consultation meeting at Acre Lane on the 16th June)

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Lyndale School Closure Consultation Meeting 16th June 2014 (Audio only)

Continues from Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Cllr Dave Mitchell “They need the care they’ve got!” (part 9).

This transcript below starts at 1:05:50 in the video above.

Just before we get to it, just before we get to it, I’ll just make the point about you’ll know there a number of people sitting here who will know we’re having discussions about Elleray Park and Stanley …(unclear)… and more recently we’ve been having discussions about Foxfield based on comments that have been made towards us.

Subsequently and clearly I’ve got to talk about the nature around the Wallasey School, but what was referred to was Wallasey School is currently based at an outpost base where inevitably …(unclear)… similar …(unclear)… some space …(unclear)… and I think that’s a very short-term arrangement, so it’s nothing at all to do with the Lyndale School.

Well thanks for that point about a shared site.

Can I just come back to the point the gentleman made at the back you know? I’ll come back in a minute on what Alison McGovern said. You’ve said why haven’t we got parents at the front telling?

I said there’s, I don’t want to object, but whether it was legal.

and I had a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Council, Graham Burgess. There were three parent governors, two of whom are here tonight and they said to Graham Burgess and myself, it feels like we’re not having straightforward consultation about some of these issues. We don’t know err what you’re doing to investigate the other eight options along with the other proposals that have come forward and what we have done and what Alison McGovern also said was I think, was is there something about, can you recreate Lyndale ethos in a different setting? Can you explore that and so we’ve had one meeting so far, we’ve got another meeting on Friday, to try and have a different kind of conversation about how we explore all the different options because I think the gentleman here raised the point when we were at the Floral Pavilion, it feels like when we have these meetings sometimes you can, questions from the floor, we know we kind of almost it feels like defend the position, whereas you can with smaller groups sometimes saying you can have a different kind of conversation but we’re doing that in tandem with these meetings to try and flush out all the different options and look at them in real detail.

OK, well can I just say that the replication of Lyndale and that’s what I want to talk about. Lyndale even though we knew at the beginning of the year and it’s fully documented, it says many of the children have had PMLD [profound and multiple learning disabilities], it’s the actual, it’s the vast majority, it’s almost all the children.

It is.

So, the reason why Lyndale is so effective in that area is because it’s a small, lovely school and it does feel like, it does feel like a home and people say …(unclear)… 0.1%, it’s the very most vulnerable of our children. So they are all, this facility actually caters for them because they are vulnerable, they are vulnerable to other more boisterous children in care.

They need more responsible adult care, they are in the absolute …(unclear)… in this Borough and the reason why I’ve gone round approaching all those businesses, is because one hundred percent of the people think that that 0.1% of our most vulnerable children should be the …(unclear)… number one priority on everybody’s agenda and everything else should come second to this.

He received a round of applause for what he had said.


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How was the history of the Lyndale School closure consultation rewritten by Wirral Council?

How was the history of the Lyndale School closure consultation rewritten by Wirral Council?

How was the history of the Lyndale School closure consultation rewritten by Wirral Council?

Phil Ward (Wirral Council's SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014

Phil Ward who chaired the consultation (Wirral Council’s SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014

A while ago, well nearly two months ago I was at the last of the six consultation meetings about Lyndale School. Nobody could really fathom out then why the officers were keeping the notes of these meetings “a secret”. In fact, had it not been for the Freedom of Information Act request of the Wallasey Conservatives I doubt they wouldn’t have been published for a further few weeks (and let’s face it they can use “future publication” as a reason to turn down FOI requests).

The officer chairing that meeting, Phil Ward was adamant in that meeting that the notes were for councillors on the Cabinet. Previously on this blog I’ve written up a transcript of the first hour or so of that meeting. Yesterday I compared the transcript of the meeting to the notes that officers wanted to use to tell Cabinet Members about the meeting.

One of the councillors in Eastham (where Lyndale School is) (who was present at the meeting) is Cllr Chris Carubia. He has written several books for example, The Raven Flies which is described as “finding out the location of his father, Sigurd and his crew, join King Olaf of Norway’s invasion to the land of the Moor’s, encounter a strange new culture and battle a savage new enemy”. I’ve never read any of his books (this isn’t really a blog for book reviews) but this is to make a point. The reason I mention this obscure fact is that his books would be put in a library under the “fiction” section. He used his imagination to come up with them. They’re made up.

This is probably where the notes (which let’s face it officers were going to use to persuade Cabinet to make the decision they wanted) should be as they are veering towards a fictional account of that meeting. Now the alternative viewpoint is, oh don’t be so cruel John, officers are doing their best under difficult circumstances. Yes, they are, but we’ve seen this subtle rewriting of history recently before at the Improvement Board where Wirral Council asked for questions from the public, rewrote their questions and handed out the “approved” version of history to those at the meeting hoping nobody would “spot the difference”.

So what is the proof I have of this? Well yesterday (and believe me it took some time to do as it was a two-hour meeting) I compared the notes to the transcript of what was said by whom. I am only about halfway through the meeting. It is only then when you can compare and contrast the two versions that you see what edits were made, what was left out and how things were changed. After all this is consultation, Wirral-style where we ask for your contributions but then officers meddle afterwards with them.

Call me biased (because let’s face it on Lyndale I am and it’s an editorial line we all agree on here but this is a serious point about how consultations are done and how decision-making happens). Is this the way consultations should be done? If the information politicians take into account when making important decisions has been altered in between being gathered and being put before politicians by officer/s is this honest? Does the way the notes were presented originally give anybody reading them the impression that the meeting was vastly different to how it happened and the misleading impression (as apart from a brief list of some present) as no names are used so that officer’s views can look like people responding to the consultation?

Below this is just the first half of the meeting compared to the notes. Things I have added are I hope highlighted in green. There are aspects of the notes that are broadly similar to what happened and I’ve left them in unedited. The aspects of the notes that seem to be at odds with what was said, have got a line through and are replaced with a direct quote of what was actually said. There are sections which were originally blank in the notes and some of the extra detail has been added.

This is so you can compare the “Wirral Council version” to my version of what happened based on the transcript. I hope that is clear. Most of the changes happen to the “key points” column. As names aren’t in the original version, this could’ve originally given the misleading impression that “key points” were made by the public. However this is just officers’ (and the Cabinet Member’s) viewpoints. It would take a long time to transcribe the rest of the meeting and do the same with the last few pages of the notes. If I have the time I will though. You can listen to the whole consultation meeting at Acre Lane about Lyndale from start to finish if you wish. Please leave a comment on this as (as has been mentioned many times by politicians and others before) getting consultation right is key to the decision making process at Wirral Council.

Annotations are added in red.

Public Consultation Meeting re The Lyndale School held at Acre Lane

16th June 2014: 5.30pm to 7.30pm

In Attendance:

Julia Hassall: Director of Children’s Services, Phil Ward Senior Manager SEN, Councillor Tony Smith: Lead Member for Children and Family Services (arrived late not present from start), David Armstrong: Assistant Chief Executive, Andrew Roberts: Senior Manager School Funding and Resources.

Attendees 34.

Questions/Comments                                                      Key points

Can we have a copy of the notes which you have been taking throughout the 6 consultation meetings

Could you then have key bullet points, or pick

up the themes and can we see them.

These are high level summary notes and not minutes and we will be using them to inform Cabinet. They are to capture your views

Phil Ward: “They’re not for circulation.”

They will be made public when our report goes

to Cabinet

I have been to 100 companies so far and have asked them what they think of the closure of Lyndale and they are 100% against it.

You are public servants and you should be serving the needs of people not yourself

Thank you for your comments

Phil Ward: “Is that something you’d like to submit to us?”

The consultation document is not worth the

paper it is written on

Phil Ward: “point taken”

When the children’s assessments are done

will they be used to cost need. Will you look at the banding

The assessment is about capturing the most up to date information of a child. This will be done on an individual basis

Phil Ward “then we had captured the up to date information that we retain on the children so that we could begin on an individual family basis”

The banding system is new and it was agreed by the Schools Forum.

There will be review after the first year. DA/AR will feed this information you are raising back to the Forum

David Armstrong “Just on the banding system, the banding system where we have five bands because of the special schools budget.  Clearly, it’s new so it’s only been in place for a short while and I mentioned the Schools Forum before.” … He referred to the Schools Forum and how questions about the banding feed into the Schools Forum.


Ed – 1st update: Everything below this has gone a bit wrong (table wise) below this point. I’m working on fixing it! 2nd update: Fixed (11:36 13/8/14) 3rd update 3:55 pm removed duplicate cell in column 1 (above)

Councillor Dave Mitchell:

Will the petition from
5 years ago also be presented to Cabinet?

“Will that include the decisions made by Council which were fully supported by all parties?”

All 3 parties fully supported it and decided not to close Lyndale

“I think that’s a very important issue, it should actually be highlighted. It was a notice of motion to Council and it was fully supported by the local authority at that time.”


David Armstrong: No, it would just include references to previous reports.

Julia Hassall: This is a new consultation.

“We did make clear reference to that to my recollection at the call in.”

Lyndale school is a fabulous resource inside
the school as well as outside. We are able to take our children out so that they can enjoy the trees, the garden etc. The idea of
squashing us into another school is not conducive to provide a high level of care and education

Phil Ward: “Thank you for that point.”

Is it 5 or 10 places in Stanley School, it is
just a play on words

The new building was built to accommodate a higher number of pupils.

The number of extra places will depend on the needs of the children

David Armstrong: “The school’s brand new and what we learnt when the Lyndale School was built was looking at primary schools. We built them absolutely tight on the existing campus. We found that the schools became more popular and also you’re building something for fifty or sixty years. We’re building something for fifty or sixty years, so we’re building to a generous standard and the new style that was built to a generous standard. The school, the school that we’re building had a capacity of ninety pupils. The new building is capable of taking a hundred and ten and the reason for that is that we’ll be building to the maximum standards in place, we’re building some spare capacity because we’re investing several million pounds for the next couple of years.” 

Are there any PMLD children at Stanley School at the present time?

No, but there are some children with PMLD at Elleray Park

David Armstrong: “The school was built to take the full range of PMLD.”

I have visited Stanley School and I would be petrified to leave my child there.
I think it would be a massive risk as I don’t
think my child will be safe
be absolutely petrified to leave Scott there. I’m absolutely petrified.”


Both Head Teachers are confident that they can safely integrate your children into their school. Across the country there are many
schools who do this successfully

Phil Ward thanked her for her point.


Has anyone spoken to Paediatricians or
Specialist Health Visitors about this consultation

Phil Ward: “Sorry I can’t speak for paediatricians, but surely the point… No they have not, no is the answer to that.”


What is going to happen if there are growing
numbers with children with CLD if you transfer our children into Elleray and Stanley

This is something which we have to manage all the time. We need to keep
up with the changes in SEN.

Phil Ward 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.


In your special arrangements to provide an up
to date assessment of each child you need to take into account that some of the children don’t have language etc and the
environment is as important as well as relationships, friends, as well as a sense of place and security. They need a safe environment and this could be difficult if you mix them with children who have ASC
ASD (autistic spectrum disorders)

We have asked our Principal Educational Psychologist to ensure that we have an up to date picture of each child and their needs. She understands each child and if we know the needs of each child, this will help to drive our future provision

Julia Hassall “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 interacty with each other.”

What about Councillor Chris Carubia: However nobody had mentioned Foxfield School before?
That was a great provision why have you not put this forward as an option

This is a secondary school; children come into this school at aged 11. One of the options mentioned in the consultation document is a 2 to 19 provision. We are looking at Foxfield School as an option as parents have asked us to.

Also it is important to remember that if we close Lyndale we will have a discussion about each child and parents can state their preference for any school

How come at Stanley only 90% is funded,
will this mean that the other 10% will not be funded and have to
be found our of their resources

She said that there were ten children at the school [Stanley] that were not funded and would this be sorted out if the Lyndale School children went to Stanley School?

Annually there is a census for each
school. Numbers are reviewed and amended taking this into

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.”

We gained public support when we fund raised £80,000 for the sensory garden,
if you close what will happen to it and how will you give the money back to the general
public who had donated it?

was their hard work and you are going to knock down Lyndale!

There is an amphitheatre; do you know who built it?

It was the YTS lads from Wirral Action

Phil Ward: “We don’t know”
David Armstrong: “there’s no decision been taken to determine it”….

In other schools we have always made sure that if we were about to
close and transfer the children, we relocate
any other equipment where possible
. “anything that was in memory of a particular pupil we’ve dealt with that first and then we’ve gone on from that” We will look to relocate the sensory garden

David Armstrong: “I don’t know.”

David Armstrong: “I can’t know every detail.”


Ian Lewis

4 years ago officers put forward a
proposal to close Kingsway Primary
School because it was not financially viable and this was voted against and this school is still here. So what is to say 4 years on Lyndale will not be the same and continuing to deliver high quality care and education.

“If in four years time that’s [Lyndale] still here, who’s to say it won’t be viable?”

Kingsway remains a small school which limits its budget income and there is
an outstanding Council resolution to carry out a review.

David Armstrong “In Kingsway, we haven’t gone back, but at some point there’s a Council resolution to go back and revisit Kingsway.”


Elleray and Stanley school do not
always provide 1 to 1 support or even 2 – 1 support for their children so if you relocate Lyndale will that not effect
their financial viability

The Head Teachers of both schools are
confident that they will be able to manage integration of the children from Lyndale.

Ian Lewis

5 years ago at a full council meeting
all 3 parties agreed to keep Lyndale open. Therefore the message is keep it open

Julia Hassall The
difficulty as mentioned is that there is a change to the funding formula and we have been funding empty spaces in this school. You
have been really clear during these consultations that what you want is wherever your children go to school that it needs to
replicate the provision at Lyndale

“No, no the significant difference Ian now to five years ago, is the government have changed the funding formula. So Lyndale is
currently funded as if there were actually forty children at that school and over the last seven years, the numbers have gone down. It’s been about fifty odd percent occupancy in the school and following the exact funding formula, it will mean that as some point, the £10,000 per a child will have to be applied and that will mean £230,000 for twenty-three children as opposed to £400,000 because there aren’t the children in the places.”

I have an issue in relation to the banding of our children. I accept that they all have different needs but my worry is that my child who is on band 4 is getting £8,000 less than others on a band 5 but what will happen at Stanley School?
what band are they because how much money are they going to have taken off them?

We do not think that this will work as my son needs 1 to 1 care as although my son can feed himself he also needs to be fed as well.

Andrew Roberts: The banding is a new system and only came into being on 1st April 2014.

David Armstrong The question about whether your child is on the right band needs to be fed in to their annual review. You can also take this up with the Principal Educational Psychologist.

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.”

If the banding was changed would that keep the school open?

David Armstrong:

In relation to the National Funding, Local
Authorities have the ability to say what system they are going to use and Wirral chose to do a banding system which has no flexibility.

“decided to do away with this system, which you know because it was easier,
but it really doesn’t have much flexibility or address the actual needs of the children involved.”

The difficulty is that by the time you go to the Schools Forum to change this system, Lyndale will be closed

(no response given)

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Was the Wirral Council Cabinet decision to consult on closing Lyndale School lawful?

Was the Wirral Council Cabinet decision to consult on closing Lyndale School lawful?

Was the Wirral Council Cabinet decision to consult on closing Lyndale School lawful?


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 why he thinks the Cabinet should agree to consultation on closure of Lyndale School

Unless you’ve been on holiday or don’t read the papers you can’t fail to have heard about the decision by Wirral Council’s Cabinet last Thursday to start a consultation on the closure of a primary school called Lyndale School in Eastham for children with special educational needs. This was reported on this blog and in the Wirral Globe. There is also a large petition against closure that had attracted over five thousand signatures before the decision at the Cabinet meeting.

Over a year ago (on 10th September 2012) a law came into effect called The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 which changed the way Wirral Council’s Cabinet made decisions and introduced some further requirements as well as checks and balances.

The report seeking approval to consult on the closure of Lyndale School deems this decision to be classed as a “key decision”. There are four regulations in The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 which relate to key decisions.

Regulation 8 merely defines what a key decision is.

Regulation 9 states the following (decision maker refers to the Cabinet and is defined here):

9. (1) Where a decision maker intends to make a key decision, that decision must not be made until a document has been published in accordance with paragraph (2), which states—

(a) that a key decision is to be made on behalf of the relevant local authority;
(b) the matter in respect of which the decision is to be made;
(c) where the decision maker is an individual, that individual’s name, and title if any and, where the decision maker is a decision-making body, its name and a list of its members;
(d) the date on which, or the period within which, the decision is to be made;
(e) a list of the documents submitted to the decision maker for consideration in relation to the matter in respect of which the key decision is to be made;
(f) the address from which, subject to any prohibition or restriction on their disclosure, copies of, or extracts from, any document listed is available;
(g) that other documents relevant to those matters may be submitted to the decision maker; and
(h) the procedure for requesting details of those documents (if any) as they become available.

(2) At least 28 clear days before a key decision is made, the document referred to in paragraph (1) must be made available for inspection by the public—

(a) at the offices of the relevant local authority; and
(b) on the relevant local authority’s website, if it has one.

(3) Where, in relation to any matter—

(a) the public may be excluded under regulation 4(2) from the meeting at which the matter is to be discussed; or
(b) documents relating to the decision need not, because of regulation 20(3), be disclosed to the public, the document referred to in paragraph (1) must contain particulars of the matter but may not contain any confidential, exempt information or particulars of the advice of a political adviser or assistant.

As you can see from the above, the decision “must not be made” until a document has been published containing the information specified in (a) to (h) above at least 28 clear days before the meeting on Wirral Council’s website.

I emailed the Chair of the Families and Wellbeing Committee Cllr Wendy Clements and she pointed out in her reply that the Forward Plan listed the item Permission to Consult on an Option for Change at Lyndale School on 18th December 2013.

Yes, this entry on the Forward Plan complies with regulation 9(1)(a) and 9(1)(b).

However does it comply with 9(1)(c) and include “where the decision maker is an individual, that individual’s name, and title if any and, where the decision maker is a decision-making body, its name and a list of its members”? No it just states “Decision due: January 2014 by Cabinet”, with no list of who the individuals that make up the Cabinet are.

Yes, regulation 9(1)(d) is complied with, however 9(1)(e) is not. Although there is a link now to the Cabinet report, this report was published on the 9th January 2014 therefore wouldn’t have been in existence on 18th December 2013. When this item was published on the Forward Plan this document wasn’t listed. Nor did it state the address from which copies of it could be obtained (Regulation 9(1)(f)).

Also as this report was submitted to the Cabinet, in contravention of Regulation 9(1)(g) this entry in the Forward Plan did not state that “other documents relevant to those matters may be submitted to the decision maker” or how to obtain these (Regulation 9(1)(h)).

There is provision within regulation 10 and regulation 11 for a decision to be made without following the notice requirements in Regulation 9, however this is only with the permission of the Chair of the relevant overview and scrutiny committee (in this case the Chair of the Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee) Cllr Wendy Clements. I emailed Cllr Wendy Clements asking her was she asked and did she give her permission, her reply was “In response to your specific questions; no, I was not asked, and no I did not give permission.”

The School Organisation (Prescribed Alterations to Maintained Schools) (England) Regulations 2007

Moving onto another legal requirement, regulation 8 of the The School Organisation (Prescribed Alterations to Maintained Schools) (England) Regulations 2007 which states

8. Any governing body, local education authority or adjudicator (where applicable) when—

(a) consulting on proposals;
(b) considering or determining proposals;
(c) considering what are related proposals;
(d) making decisions on matters relating to implementation
must have regard to any guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State.

This is the fifty-seven page guidance issued by the Secretary of State. Was this guidance that Wirral Council “must have regard to” included as an appendix to the report? No it wasn’t.

Had this guidance been read by Cabinet prior to making the decision to proceed to consultation they would’ve read things like this:

The Special Educational Needs Improvement Test (Paragraph 4.55)

When considering any reorganisation of provision that would be recognised by the LA as reserved for pupils with special educational needs, including that which might lead to some children being displaced through closures or alterations, LAs, and all other proposers for new schools or new provision, will need to demonstrate to parents, the local community and Decision Makers how the proposed alternative arrangements are likely to lead to improvements in the standard, quality and/or range of educational provision for children with special educational needs. All consultation documents and reorganisation plans that LAs publish and all relevant documentation LAs and other proposers submit to Decision Makers should show how the key factors set out in paragraphs 4.59 to 4.62 below have been taken into account by applying the SEN improvement test. Proposals which do not credibly meet these requirements should not be approved and Decision Makers should take proper account of parental or independent representations which question the LA’s own assessment in this regard. ”


“4.59 Decision Makers will need to be satisfied that the evidence with which they are provided shows that LAs and/or other proposers have taken account of the initial considerations and all the key factors in their planning and commissioning in order to meet the requirement to demonstrate that the reorganisation or new provision is likely to result in improvements to SEN provision. ”

So bearing the above in mind, I’m starting two polls on this blog.

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