Posted by: John Brace | 5 December 2014

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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Responses

  1. could Julia Hassell look any more disinterested?

  2. This one is a subject close to my Head and Heart, note Head comes first!!!!
    Whilst I may not be the Brightest Crayon in the Box. Let me consider a number of the issues raised at this Forum: PPM – School Maintenance (Preventative Measures) £200,000 They have just lost Property x2, not a Gas Leak (Little Green Marvins?). Maybe they could be assisted by the Police or Health and Safety to find out the Cause?
    £600, 000 SEN? Special Education Needs? Is this not again a Contravention of their own Constitution? to Protect the Most Vulnerable in Soceity? There appears to be a theme surrounding the last 3 on the list ” Darwinist Theory ” perhaps.
    As for the other ones on the list, Lessons should have already been learned.

    • Some questions that need to be asked Why Cuts, Where and Who is going to Benfit?

      • Cuts of £2.3 million to pay for Wirral Council’s PFI costs to Wirral School Services Limited for a primary school, various secondary schools and a couple of city learning centres.

        The amount Wirral Council is getting for education isn’t changing. These are self-inflicted cuts as the shortfall on PFI was previously funded from outside the schools budget.

        As to who will benefit – Wirral Schools Services Limited.

        In fact £600,000 has been taken out already from this year’s budget as Wirral’s contribution is being phased out. I think the £600,000 also came (if memory serves correct) from SEN too.

        However these cuts discussed by the Schools Forum are permanent cuts.

        It is also to be noted that all of the schools covered by the PFI contract (that runs to 2031) are mainstream schools.

    • Well cuts to a planned preventative maintenance budget usually lead to higher repair costs later.

      No not a breach of their constitution, because in year changes to the budget can be made by the Wirral Schools Forum, then agreed by Cabinet.

      These cuts relate to the schools budget for 2015-16 anyway which has yet to be formally decided by the Wirral Schools Forum, Cabinet and Council.

  3. Yes, I understand that 2015 -16. However the “Main stay of any Reasonable Constitution”, whether it be 2010 – 2050 is to protect the Most Vulnerable in Soceity, not to possibly increase that number. Once again you are Right in respect of Changes, however if there is NEED for changes to be made, surely you would be looking towards a Variance in Terms of the PFI Contract and this can be done in various ways (Legally), Not a CUT in Services. They have the ability and the trained staff to do this. If I can see this and as previously stated am not the Brightest Crayon in the Box, then something is wrong.
    However to be completely Certain I would have to be in a position to see the FULL TERMS, CONDITIONS, SIGNATURES, PROCURMENT, TENDER EXERCISE, etc. Again as previously stated, Why, Where, When and the Reasons behind the PFI Contract

    • The PFI Contract hasn’t changed since 2004 and isn’t likely to do so in the forseeable future.

      What is different is this. Between 2004 to 2013/14, Wirral Council got a grant to pay some of it, schools paid the rest (for various services eg cleaning, caretaking et cetera) with Wirral Council paying the rest from outside the schools budget.

      What changes in 2015-16 is that the shortfall of £2.3 million paid outside the schools budget Wirral Council is no longer expecting to pay the difference (classed as the PFI affordability gap) from outside the schools budget.

      As these extra costs of £2.3 million now have to be borne by the schools budget, the equivalent in savings has to be made because of a political decision.

      The amount paid each year under the contract raises by (December RPI of one year/December RPI of previous year) * 90 percent.

      The grant stays fixed, so the “affordability gap”, that is the difference between the grant of £5.5 million and the amlunt schools pay and the to