11 Mar

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Graham Thankfully this week hasn’t been quite as hectic as last, although it has still been eventful.

On Monday I was asked to present to a group of Head Teachers from Yorkshire and Humberside. It was great to catch up with a number of colleagues, many of whom I used to work with. It was also interesting to hear from them, first hand, about some of the challenges that smaller special schools are experiencing. Many of them are facing the prospect of losing staff as a result of the financial pressures. This is having a knock-on effect in respect of their schools then struggling to meet the demands of both a revised curriculum and assessment model. As you can imagine, this can quickly lead to a cycle of decline!

One of the things that our Group has always been particularly good at is seeing the bigger picture and positioning ourselves accordingly. This has, in turn, meant that we can continue to recruit the best staff and provide our young people with a vibrant and relevant curriculum and extra-curricular offer. I truly believe that combining the three schools over 10 years ago and subsequently converting to a Multi Academy Trust has provided us with a stronger financial base to build our successes from.

As if schools have not had enough significant changes to constantly manage from central government, we found out yesterday that the Department for Education is conducting a High Needs Funding Reform consultation. They are inviting views on:

  •  the structure of a formula for funding local authorities to provide services for children and young people who attract high needs funding
  •  improvements to the distribution of this high needs funding to schools, colleges and other institutions

Our experience, unfortunately, is that these types of consultations often result in both ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Reforms often equate to cuts and subsequently less funding. We will ensure the voice of our (Northern) children is put forward!

Some of you may have seen the Oldham Chronicle on Wednesday featuring a front page story about the proposed new special free school that Kingfisher School have applied to run. The new school, if it goes ahead, will offer places for another 140 children.

In one respect, the growth in numbers in the special school sector is testament to our collective achievements and the faith that our families have in our schools. However, it also challenges us to ensure we plan the provision for our next generation of children in Oldham.

Have a great weekend,