Today I attended the final meeting of the Specific Grants Review Group, where we examined the consultation feedback and determined the recommendations going to Schools Forum.
There were 96 responses from the primary sector, but only 8 from the secondary sector (and 3 others). So firstly I’d like to say “thanks” to primary schools for responding!
Generally, respondents were in favour of the LA’s proposed formula. The exceptions were:
- Primary funding of low-cost high-incidence SEN
- Re-focusing EAL funding to 1-year only.
- De-delegating funding for 14-16 practical learning options.
- De-delegating funding for “staff costs – supply” (covering supply costs during for jury service, etc.) where primaries were in favour (58:23) but two secondaries were against.
The decisions on these items were as follows:
- As readers will remember from my previous post, the LA and the SGRG had different views over the low-cost high-incidence SEN issue. I am pleased to report that the LA has been convinced to use EYFSP data as the prior attainment measure. It remains to determine whether the cut-off point should be 78 or 73 points. I am in favour of 78 points, on the basis that a low cut-off would too narrowly target funding, especially given that KS1 results will no longer be used to inform any SEN/AEN funding. Debbie Rogan has also spoken in favour of 78 points.
- To recommend EAL funding for 2 years. My own view is that this is probably not the best decision, as focusing to 1 year allows schools to choose whether to spend this budget over 1 or more years, whereas averaging over 2 years removes the ability for short sharp interventions. Nevertheless, the feedback from the consultation was clear that schools would prefer an averaged arrangement.
- Not to de-delegate funding for practical learning options (for secondaries).
- To de-delegate funding for “staff costs – supply” on the basis that only the primary return could be considered statistically significant. This is a good decision, especially for small schools, who would otherwise be hit hard by absence of staff for jury duty and other public duties.
The other shift in recommendations came from an intervention I made over KS1 class size funding, supported by consultation written comments. The LA currently has two “pots” for funding schools who have KS1 classes that tip over the 30 mark. One part (5/12 of the funding) comes in April under the funding formula, and one comes in September/October as a contingency (7/12 of the funding). After my earlier intervention at the SGRG, it was agreed to recommend that the 2nd of these elements be put forward as a retained contingency. However, the proposal was to eliminate the first of these. After a long debate today, I am pleased to report that the SGRG is recommending keeping both pots of funding as contingency. This makes very little difference to most primaries (Yannick reported to us that total funding is £500k out of £300m KS funding), but for those small schools affected by appeals spilling their KS1 class over 30, the impact could be pronounced.
On the question of pupil mobility funding, strong representations were received from several schools (though not the majority of respondents) to keep mobility funding. From the written comments returned (and also from my experience at the Colchester briefing sessions) this tended to be from schools with large numbers of MOD pupils. The LA has agreed to ask the DfE for special dispensation to include a mobility funding only for MOD pupils. However, I do not believe this is likely to be agreed by the DfE, as the Government is increasing its pupil premium significantly for children from services families in future years.
Overall, I believe that Essex schools can be happy with the recommendations going to Schools Forum in October. I would like to thank the readers of this blog for your support over the time I’ve been representing you.