Schools’ Forum report

UNISON’s forum member Keith Manville updates us on the latest news.

Keith Manville, workplace rep at Oakgrove College

Staff shortages and school viability

“Following restructuring resulting from departures in WSCC senior roles, one of the issues recognised by the local authority’s (LA) education teams is the fact that the LA has not recruited to new posts, leading to significant departmental staffing issues.

“During my time on the schools’ forum (SF) there has always been increasing demand for services to support students, especially within SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) teams. I’m sure many of our SEND team members recognise this problem along with increased pressure to deliver services with fewer resources.

“I wish I could be optimistic, but despite additional money from the national funding formula, only a third of schools in the schools’ block will benefit. Despite increased funding, West Sussex remains one of the worst-funded authorities in the country.

“There is a crisis of viability facing our smallest primary schools especially in rural areas.  Amongst the difficult options recommended to at-risk schools are mergers, academisation or possible closure.

High needs block pressures

“Significant pressure remains on schools in the high needs block (HNB), which covers funding for special schools and where a significant cost driver is the increasing number of early help and care plans (EHCPs).

“The HNB faces an overspend and as previously, requested SF approval to transfer 0.5%  (£2.4mn) from schools block funding to offset this. Following consultation with maintained schools, responses were sympathetic but overwhelmingly against it. SF did not approve the request, despite recognising it is well deserved and knowing this would cause additional funding problems.

“It’s difficult to understand denying the money. However, the schools block can’t afford to give money it doesn’t have. This would only push funding issues elsewhere within education, as well as sending the wrong message to government that our schools are well funded.

“High needs funding is broken and not fit for purpose. SF hasn’t approved the transfer over the last 3 years of my time as UNISON representative. Continued requests have proven to be controversial. It’s clearly not an effective long-term strategy to solve funding issues like this. The matter will now be referred to the secretary of state for education.

“Many schools’ members will feel the effect of these decisions. UNISON will be there to support you. We will continue to highlight the issues of how schools’ funding and government policy continues to let down young people in West Sussex.”

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