23 Nov

Graham

I’m sitting at Euston station writing this week’s blog. I’ve spent the day with the Department for Education discussing some key issues within our sector. Schools across the country are facing the same challenges.

To be honest, the majority of today’s meeting centred around funding. The funding, or lack of it, that is coming into our schools is becoming really, really worrying.

Similar to most special schools, over the last couple of years we have lost over 14% of our income. On top of that, this week we were asked by Oldham LA to comment on a consultation that will further reduce our base funding by another 2%. In money terms, the total equates to well over £1million.

On top of these reductions is the added challenge of providing services to our children that were previously undertaken by either the health authority or social care. I’m thinking particularly of dispensing and managing medication, supporting the emotional challenges of our children and caring for some of our most medically vulnerable children. The list goes on.

Almost all of the extra-curricular activities our children and young people attend were funded through social care contributions at one time. Our before school clubs, our after school clubs and our holiday clubs are all now funded through our core ‘educational’ funding.

Nearly all of the money from the health service and social care has dried up. The Children and Families Act of 2014 was constructed to avoid this type of situation!

When we established our schools, over 10 years ago, we had a number of principles that we built our success upon. A key one was:

  • to offer all our young people access to an extended year through holiday clubs and before and after school activities

It is the right thing to provide.

To be honest, it is becoming increasingly challenging to provide a full ‘wrap around’ offer for our children and families in today’s financial climate. I am constantly asking our school leaders to reflect on their organisations and to try to rationalise and work more smartly.

If anything, the needs of all our children and young people, over the same period, have become more complex. To meet their needs we have had to design personalised curriculums, we need to offer targeted interventions, we have to raise aspirations. The accountability framework has increased and the money reduced.

Oldham and Tameside are in a fortunate position in that most of our schools are outstanding – despite these cuts. If things don’t start to improve, and I am lobbying hard at both a local and national level, we will need to open up consultations as to how we redefine our offer. I am meeting with Angela Raynor, the shadow education spokesperson, and writing to both Damien Hind and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain the reality of the situations we are facing in our schools.

We’ve managed to face these challenges in the past by being entrepreneurial. I think part of our solutions will be to continue to be outward facing and to try to generate more income. I’m not certain where that is at the minute!!!

Despite facing these ongoing challenges, I have to pay testament to our wonderful staff teams. They really are amazing. I know that we are asking more and more of them and I’d personally like to thank them for their continued commitment to all our children. You have my personal guarantee that I will continue to support every one of you.

Maybe we need to unite as a community and become more active?

One thing’s for certain, we won’t sit idly by and let these stresses get in the way of our ambitions for each and every one of our children and young people.

Have a great weekend,

Graham

You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here