Tuesday 1 July 2014

London Councils warns funding cuts will hit rising school standards in the capital

Government changes to education funding will undermine rising school standards in the capital, according to new analysis. 

The Department for Education is consulting on changes to the Education Services Grant (ESG), which funds a raft of critical services such as school improvement, education welfare services and supporting pupils with special educational needs. The consultation includes an intention to cut the ESG by at least 20 per cent in the next year.

London Councils, which represents London’s 33 local authorities, in its consultation response expressed concern that the proposed changes risk undoing the fabric that has delivered unrivalled and continued success in London to raise school standards and improve children’s outcomes. 

Through the London Challenge scheme, involving councils and schools working in partnership, London’s schools have been transformed from amongst the worst in England and Wales in 2003, to the best-performing today, even when taking deprivation into account. 

The proposed reduction of funding, amounting to £24 million in 2015/16, will limit the ability of local authorities to deliver school improvement services.

London Councils’ analysis notes the proposed changes outline a government vision that seeks to limit the local authority role in school improvement to support all schools. This is inconsistent with how parents see the council role, how Ofsted see the council role, and even how the government itself has said it sees the council role.

London Councils’ analysis also outlines a number of changes that could impact support available to pupils and to improve the quality of education in the capital:
  • The proposed funding does not recognise the higher costs in London to deliver services. Ignoring the higher staff and delivery costs in London means ESG funding will not go as far to support schools and children in the capital as it would for other regions in England.  London Councils is calling on the Department for Education to include an “Area Cost Adjustment” for the capital that will reflect its higher costs.
  • London has experienced the largest growth in the number of pupils with special education need (SEN) statements in England. Demand increased by seven per cent between 2009 and 2013 in London, compared to two per cent nationally. A reduction in funding for support services delivered through ESG for these children would go against rising demand. London Councils is urging Government to ensure that adequate funding is provided to reflect the growing numbers of pupils with SEN.
  • Academies will continue to enjoy extra funding, amounting to £54 million nationally, in comparison to local authority maintained schools for the foreseeable future. The DfE has set out an intention to move towards equal levels of funding; London Councils calls on the government to speed up this process and set out a transparent timetable to put into effect. 
Mayor Jules Pipe, London Councils, said: 

London local government is determined that efficient and high quality education is delivered across London and has led the way in ensuring school and pupil outcomes continue to improve – the capital’s schools are now the best performing in England and Wales.

Parents, Ofsted and the law all see a local government role in supporting rising education standards.

The changes in the government’s consultation sit awkwardly with this and will result in confusion for parents about who is responsible for tackling performance issues in all local schools.

The Department for Education must ensure any changes are consistent and do not unfairly affect London parents, who are already worried about the looming school places crisis. 

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