The following letter was sent on Friday 28th August by Save Middle Schools to Chairs of Governors of Lower Schools.
F.A.O. Chairs of Governors of Lower Schools – Bedford Borough
HOW WILL YOUR SCHOOL BE AFFECTED?
During the summer break, and one week after the School Organisation Review consultation period ended, it emerged that the funding of converting 50 lower schools to primary will not after all be achieved by Council borrowing but by raiding the Dedicated Schools Grant received every year from Central Government. This may result in each school having to find 2% annual savings for potentially the next 25 years.
One can understand why our Council are considering this. The borrowing route will mean a 3.6% increase in Council Tax for 25 years. Projections for the current year suggest an overall overspend of £3million and recent budget projections (assuming no change to the school system and no remedial action taken) point to a requirement to increase Council Tax by £22 million up to the end of 2012/13. This equates to an annual increase of 7% which clearly the Council cannot justify; efficiency savings or cuts in services will be imperative.
One school governor with experience of school building projects has done his own sums on the cost of creating primaries and predicts that the total conversion cost is likely to be over £100 million and not the £60 million included in the consultation document.
Only you will know how difficult it will be to find sustainable cuts in your DSG monies of 2%, 4% 6% p.a.? Very soon, cuts in teaching assistants and equipment will be necessary; and all of this whilst governing bodies will be managing their schools through 5-10 years of unnecessary organisational change.
Many governing bodies of lower schools have supported the two tier proposal on the basis that it would provide opportunities for their own schools. However, in the light of this new information which was not available during the consultation period, your governing body should have the opportunity to reconsider its position and we hope, indeed, that you do so. As the consultation period has now ended, your only recourse now is to contact your local councillor and advise them of the consequences of such a decision for your school.
I am attaching a Press Release from Cllr Michael Headley dated August 3rd which supports our views.
Coordinator, Save Middle Schools
Date: Monday 3 Aug 09
Cllr Michael Headley
Schools Budget To Be Raided For Tiers Change?
It has emerged that the Council is considering taking money from the budget for schools to pay for the change to a 2 tier education system.
They have identified a need for a possible £2.4m per year for 25 years to pay for the borrowing needed to extend lower schools into primary schools.
It had been assumed that this would have to come from the council’s general fund budget. However, just a few days after the consultation period closed it has emerged that the council are turning their attention to taking the money from the “Dedicated Schools Grant”, the vast majority of which normally goes straight to schools.
Cllr Michael Headley said “ It seems bizarre that in the name of improving standards the council is even considering cutting the money going into our local schools. Many people fear that a change of school system will be very disruptive for the education of the children caught up in it, but now we face the prospect of these very same children being short changed with cuts in the schools budget.”
“I’m not surprised that the council have at last realised that the expense of this project would be hard to find out of the council’s budget. But I’m astonished that taking it from the money destined for schools is seen as a better option.”
“No sooner has the consultation ended than we learn about this new development. We will never know if parents, schools and others would have changed their view if they had known at the time that there would have to be a 2% cut in the money going to schools to fund this change.”
“I know that superficially there may look like there are savings in closing the middle schools, but it doesn’t take long to realise that they won’t materialise. There will still be the same number of pupils needing teachers Heads and deputies at the enlarged schools will get paid more, whilst those at the middle schools will have protected salaries. Even the total floor area of all schools could well increase rather than decrease. I can see this cut in the schools’ budget ultimately resulting in a worse educational experience for the children.”
In 2009/10 the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) was £92,249,807. Additional school funding streams brings the total funding for supporting schools to £118,397,466. The £2.4m would equate to 2% of that.