Former Banbury MP berates County Council on Frank Wise School funding
Sir Tony Baldry acts over special schools funding: “Someone has just got to wake up and get a grip on the situation”
Former Banbury MP and High Steward of Banbury Sir Tony Baldry has written to Oxfordshire County Council Leader Ian Hudspeth berating the County Council over what Sir Tony says is a failure to properly fund Special Schools such as Frank Wise.
Sir Tony told Banbury FM: “The present situation just can’t continue. Frank Wise can no longer balance its budget. By law it has to balance its budget. Someone has just got to wake up and get a grip on the situation.”
Figures supplied to Banbury FM by Sir Tony show that across the country the average amount given to a special needs school for each child is £23,000. In Oxfordshire its approximately £18,500 per child.
Sir Tony said: “I cannot believe you can educate a child in a special needs school in Oxfordshire for £5,000 less per child than the national average.”
Last week a number of representatives from Oxfordshire’s Special Schools, including Frank Wise, wrote to Cllr Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, the Cabinet Member for Education and Cultural Services and Kevin Gordon, the Director of Childrens’ Services, to raise their concerns.
The letter states: “We are aware that, for a number of years, our schools have shared their concerns with County Council Officers regarding the level of top-up funding they receive and the way in which this has become increasingly misaligned with the cost of provision. We are also aware that the level of top-up funding provided to the schools by Oxfordshire County Council is significantly lower than the national average, and is also below the published average level of funding provided to children with EHCPs educated in Oxfordshire’s mainstream resource base settings.
“Despite the assurances that something would be done to address this situation, our schools still find themselves with a lack of clarity regarding both the timescale and level of increase in funding they are likely to receive. Whilst we appreciate that there is significant pressure on the High Needs Funding, it is frustrating that despite a significant uplift in the High Needs Funding allocation from central Government, very little of this has been passed on to the Special Schools. This is hampering both their ability to meet the immediate need of the children within the school and make appropriate financial plans for the future.”
Sir Tony, who’s wife Pippa is the Co-Chair of the Resources Subcommittee at Frank Wise School feels the situation must be addressed now. He said: ““Their funding is no longer sustainable. They’ve just been falling further and further behind. Its almost like they have been completely forgotten by the County Council.
“Over the last few years the increase in the budget for Frank Wise has been just over 2%. That’s way below even the increases in teachers’ pay in that time.
“A school like Frank Wise can’t balance their budget by sacking teachers or sacking care assistants. These are children who need support and care.
“Whenever Head Teachers of Special Schools courteously raise this with officers and councillors at the County Council, as they have been doing for some time … all they get back is someone saying ‘We’re really sorry about this. We hope we can address it sometime in the future’. That is not sustainable. It needs to be addressed now.
“In addition to the money that is given [to the County Council by the Government] for every day schooling the Government also allocates some money for the higher needs allocation of funding. That higher needs allocation of funding has gone up by 26%. That is a significant increase in funding that Oxfordshire has received, whereas special needs schools in Oxfordshire have only received an increase of 2.3%.
“County Councillors are going to need to try and work out where has this money gone. Its come to the County Council but its certainly not gone to schools like Frank Wise.”
Banbury FM has contacted Oxfordshire County Council for a response.
Listen to our interview with Sir Tony Baldry here: