The December Schools Forum was held on Wednesday 9th December 2015 in Chelmsford. Readers of this blog may be interested in the following highlights:
- There may be a consultation at some point in 2016 over the possibility of requiring maintained schools to pay for their own admissions appeals, delegating the centrally held money to schools for this purpose. In my view this would not be a positive step, and is likely to significantly penalise popular small schools. I asked that the impact on small schools be specifically modeled before coming up with any such proposals.
- After some discussion, a decision was made to renew the Schools Broadband contract from September in order to ensure continuity of service. However, a full review of quality of service and alternative providers will take place over 2016.
- There continues to be an issue with Essex’s very low “Guaranteed Unit of Funding” for EYFS places. Unless this issue is fixed by agreement between the LA and DfE in the new year, I fear that there will be non-negligible consequences for schools funding.
- We received a report on the implications of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review. By far the most significant one is the planned 75% cut of the Education Services Grant. I asked which LA functions are funded through this grant. These include school improvement, statutory duties, LA planning, LA revenue budgeting, education welfare, and the cost of managing the capital programme. I think it is reasonable to expect the final demise of any vestige of LA school improvement work if this cut goes through.
- When benchmarking against other LAs, Essex spends within the top quartile when it comes to SEN support services, but the bottom quartile in high needs budget and individual schools budget. Of course the move to a national funding formula announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review may change this. In my estimate, the major winners in Essex from a move to the national funding formula will be large primaries (due to the likely reduction in lump sum and the change in the primary:secondary funding differential) whereas the major losers in Essex will likely be small secondaries for the same reasons.
- We received a detailed report from the Virtual School Head on the expenditure of Pupil Premium Plus for Looked After Children. Some 8.4% of LAC’s schools are not submitting a Personal Education Plan to access this funding. I queried the reason for this. The LA noted that LAC are often outside Essex and that some schools have problems managing the process, especially outside Essex. I queried the head of the Virtual School about the need to include a LAC element in the school funding formula. She suggested that she was happy with the £500 per child included in the 16/17 proposed funding formula.
I’d like to wish all readers a very merry Christmas.