Joint letter from Headteachers regarding funding consultation

Joint response by the South Gloucestershire NAHT and the South Gloucestershire Primary Heads Executive to the LA Funding Consultation

 

The Heads’ Executive Survey (Summer 2018), and the LA Funding Consultation (October 2018) demonstrate serious issues faced by schools, with not enough funding to maintain high quality provision. These pressures are so great that we fear some of our schools may even be unable to meet statutory responsibilities, in relation to curriculum provision, health and safety or special educational needs.

 

The context:

South Gloucestershire has always been one of the worst funded local authorities and remains so, in spite of a move to the National Funding Formula in 2017-18. (We are now the lowest funded per pupil authority in the country).

A lack of capital funding is another key factor in restrictions on specialist provision within our Local Authority, limiting the Local Authority’s ability to develop new SEND provision, leading to a number of expensive, out-of-county placements, needed in meeting the special needs of some of our most vulnerable children.

 

The lack of funding for schools also inhibits the early intervention and special needs provision in our schools. The survey 2018 showed ¾ of schools to have already cut teaching assistant support. In some schools, there are now only additional support staff for children with an EHCP (Education and health care plan); this seriously impacts on the school’s ability to provide an education which is fit for purpose and meeting the needs of all its pupils.

 

As a county, the number of EHCPs is higher than that seen in other authorities. Also the cost of these EHCPs is higher than in other authorities.

 

The LA, council and schools have been working together for some time to try to address this issue, whilst still meeting the needs of individual children. This has led to an increase in specialist provision since 2015-16 and further plans to increase special SEN provision in-county. Schools are also working with the LA, to explore other models of early intervention, to reduce the number of EHCPs and make sure that funding for EHCPs is correctly targeted at those with the greatest needs.

 

Since 2015-16, LAs have had responsibility to meet young people’s Special Educational Needs until the age of 25, rather than 18, as was previously. This has been without additional funding, placing further pressures on SEN spending.

 

South Gloucestershire are not alone in facing the pressures of SEND costs. In fact, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) undertook a survey in September 2017 to develop a better understanding of the pressures on high needs funding. This provides some up to date information about the situation in different LAs: http://adcs.org.uk/assets/documentation/ADCS_High_Needs_Funding_Survey_of_ADCS_Members_October_2017.pdf.

 

Out of 152 LAs, 85 (56%) responded, covering all nine regions, and representing London boroughs, unitary councils and county councils.

This highlights a £130m High Needs deficit for these LAs.

 

In 2017/18 103 LAs (out of 150) transferred £118m from Schools Block (Schools main budgets) to High Needs Block (Special Educational Needs), in order to meet SEND costs.

For South Gloucestershire, The Dedicated Schools Grant (funding allocation from LA to schools) first went into deficit in 2015/16 with a deficit at the end of that year of £1.2m. By the end of 2016/17 it had grown to £4.8m. Measures were taken, approved by schools, to transfer money from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block. This reduced the difference between funding and expenditure. However, SEND costs continue to out-grow funding, meaning that by March 2017, the deficit was £6.5m. Projections show the cumulative deficit likely to be £12.5m by the end of March 2019. As Headteachers, we are greatly concerned that this deficit is increasing, and many of us are questioning why further restorative action has not been taken sooner.

 

The recent funding consultation sent to schools proposes a further £3m transfer of funds to address the growing deficit. It proposes three options which seek to take this money either from the Schools Block, High Needs Block or both. Any of these options are likely to lead some schools to breaking point. Indeed, any transfer from the schools block would undermine even further the capacity of schools to meet needs themselves without recourse to an EHCP.

 

We recognise the need for actions to:

  • Increase in-county specialist provision
  • Further develop in-school and inter-school early help for SEN
  • Reduce the numbers of EHCP
  • Reduce the costs of EHCPs

 

We will continue to work with the LA in these areas.

 

However, we wish to add our voice to numerous campaigns for increased funding for schools and a review of SEN funding, in order to enable schools to continue to meet the needs of all pupils.

 

We encourage schools, teaching staff, parents and governors to respond to the funding consultation with a response of:

‘We approve none of the three options and request that the serious under-funding of South Gloucestershire schools is raised with the Secretary of State for Education, as a matter of urgency.’

 

Yours sincerely

Jon Bird (Chair of S Glos Headteachers' Executive Committee).