First of all, everyone associated with this campaign wishes Frank Branston a speedy recovery from his two operations after an aortic aneurysm.
We met on Wednesday afternoon in his office to “clear the air” and he appeared in good form. Nobody knows when ill-health will strike and perhaps we should all be thankful for this above all else.
Today’s blog is extracted from Frank’s blog of July 12th when the decision-making process was discussed. One of his respondents (“A Governor”, who does post here occasionally as well in a balanced way) discussed in some detail the difference between the upper-secondary funding plan versus the lower-primary funding, from their experience of a schools building project.
The estimate of the lower-primary switch that “A Governor” comes up with is nearly double the highest figure the education officials have come up with…
To put this in context, Frank had mentioned that the BSF money had already been allocated.
From “A Governor”
We could debate the positive feeling the word “allocated” creates, but whether one’s preference is for significant change or incremental change, it is actually the funding of the move from lower to primary that is the biggest financial concern with the proposal.
As you say, £340m spread between 8 secondary schools is a well funded programme. However, the other piece of this jigsaw is the maybe £45m that needs to fund turning 50-odd lower schools into primaries.
I will reiterate that, because of its huge significance – £340m spread across 8 secondary schools and £45m spread across 50 primary schools.
By definition, move two year groups from middle schools to uppers (secondaries) and retaining two year groups from middles to lowers (primaries) means that broadly the same number of additional children will need to be accommodated at both ends of this transition. Most people would accept that secondaries are more expensive because of their requirement for specialist facilities and so would expect a larger proportion of funding to go to secondaries – but, hey, come on there is a massive disparity in the Borough’s assumptions. I will say again, £340m between 8 schools and just £45m between 50 schools – the numbers are just not comparable.
Looking at this objectively we have figures produced for the new Biddenham loop schools where Mike Berrill has needed to propose two solutions; 3-tier and 2-tier and the difference between a 3-tier lower and a 2-tier primary is £2.7m. This £2.7m difference between lower and primary is for 2-form entry.
My school is in the slightly unusual position that we have architectural drawings for how we would accommodate a change to 2-tier primary. We have 1/2-form entry and the build cost of the change is around 800k.
Comparing Mike Berrill’s figure with our figure demonstrates quite a good correlation between the costs of moving from 3-tier lower to 2-tier primary at around £1.4m per 1-form entry.
In the consultation document we end up with (roughly) 75-form entry across the Borough or around £100-110m to transform all lowers to primaries.
All of the above assumes full permanent accommodation for children as I understand is the plan. The above also doesn’t take into account any overhead incurred by working through a LEP (the NAO’s view seems to be that there is overhead, rather than savings in the experience todate).
As I stated at the beginning, we could debate a preference for incremental rather than massive change but the numbers are deeply worrying whatever your view.