Yesterday, I received two comments from different parts of the country about issues that this blog has been highlighting over the past few months. I have reproduced these comments below:
The funding issue is key here and seeing all this unfold is quite alarming. It seems that the government is intent on more MATs forming, though some of the income streams are becoming more uncertain, especially ones that can buoy up emerging MAT central teams. I think it is crunch time at the moment because the government is essentially funding two systems at the moment—an enlarging academy sector and a diminishing LA sector. I think this is one of the reasons why money is so tight.
There remains the question of small schools, as they will not fit into MATs (put simply, they do not bring in enough cash and are too difficult for most), and the diminishing funds available to LAs means that small maintained schools are suffering and will continue to do so. You cannot get rid of many of these schools as they are strategically important in many rural areas, and losing them would just consign many rural communities to being retirement destinations, the economies would lose any vibrancy without families living in them, and there would be potential food security problem if farms cannot pass onto younger families to run.
Finally a word about SEND. The situation is dire, with in effect there being a cut in money for SEND—at a time when there is a massive rise in demand. For this year, the ** Schools Forum has put 0.5% of the Schools block funding in to the Higher Needs block (though there would still be a £4.5 million deficit), and is consulting on putting 1.0% into the Higher Needs block next year.
To my mind the whole system is unsustainable, and clearly shows that the Tories simply do not care about children with SEND. I reckon that all of our PRUs and current alternative provision in the county will disappear in its current form over the next two years, as the funding is being cut by half next year. This is a massive crisis as it will just mean that the system as a whole will have to pay more for these hard to place youngsters as they get older, and their problems have not been solved whilst they were children in the education system.
Shortly after I received the above, this note followed:
Another dimension which has not yet been much talked about is the impact of the so-called ‘Hard formula’. If that means money is allocated direct to every school from London, the scope for the Schools Forum to make minor tweaks is removed for maintained schools, but MATs will still be able to make transfers within their schools, as far as I understand it. This is because the DfE money will, in the case of MATS, go to the MAT and not the individual schools. This potentially puts schools in MATs in a difficult position. The Schools Forum is at least public and democratically observed, whereas the MAT trusts seem to me to be able to do whatever they want.
Both comments are from those with experience in education and whose views I fully respect.
If The Secretary of State is really intending to reduce exclusions, as he said yesterday, then these are the issues he has to ask his civil servants to start to address.
With birth rates now lower than a few years ago, the plight of rural schools where there is no now housing in prospect, could be dire, especially if they have any extra costs not catered for in the national formula. Time for some Tory MPs to wake up and smell the milk, so to speak.