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‘Severe cuts jeopardise the safety, effectiveness and efficiency of our schools’ | #schoolsaftey


Fairlight Primary And Nursery School Fairlight Place, Brighton

Head teachers from 40 schools across Brighton and Hove have said that a call to cut a further 10 per cent from their budgets was “morally wrong”.

They also accused the council of being unwilling to charge schools less for certain centrally provided services such as HR (human resources).

In a joint letter to Brighton and Hove City Council’s assistant director for education and skills, Jo Lyons, the heads of primary, infant and junior schools described the proposal as “unsupportive”.

Dr Lyons contacted the heads on Thursday 15 June because, out of the 62 “council maintained” schools, only 27 had submitted a balanced budget for the 2023-24 school year, starting in September.

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A further 35 had a shortfall which would require a “licensed deficit”, with schools expected to show how they would balance their budget in the future.

Dr Lyons wrote that the licenced deficits for next year would total more than £5 million and said: “In order to facilitate the licensing of deficits for the 2023-24 financial year, we are now asking you to further review your budget plan with a view to reducing the size of the current shortfall (licensed deficit value) in 2023-24 by a value of 10 per cent.

“The judgment as to how best to achieve this is for individual schools to make and this can be done through reductions in planned costs against either staffing or non-staffing areas or by increasing income.

“I do appreciate that you will already have been under significant pressure in submitting a budget with the licensed deficit requirement being kept to a minimum but request that you now review this further as part of the work that is required to demonstrate to the council’s chief finance officer that all options are being explored.”

Schools were also asked to produce a costed recovery plan for the next three to five years for any licensed deficit arrangement, with amended budgets to be submitted by Wednesday 5 July.

The heads said in their letter, which was sent on Friday 23 June, that the deadline was “unrealistic”.

They also asked to meet representatives of the council’s finance team before resubmitting any budgets to give them an accurate picture of what they have done to keep their schools operating.

Their response said: “Every school is in a unique position and a broad-brush stroke of ‘find a further 10 per cent saving’ is both demoralising and frustrating.

“This unsupportive request clearly displays your lack of understanding of the steps we have taken to get the deficits to the point they are at. A ‘must try harder’ feedback is not helpful.

“Within our budgets, ‘Services to School’ still remains one of our largest cost centres. When we started looking at cheaper alternatives to the LA (local authority) provision, things became quite heated and the ability to move away from certain services were faced with a number of hurdles.

“Even though money could be saved, corporate need was put above the need of schools.

“You even stated your concern at this point that staff from HR (human resources) may lose their jobs and yet, through restructuring, you are advocating that people we work with (who also live in the city) are made redundant.

“This feels like we are having to make difficult/life-changing decisions while the LA are protected.

“Stripping out swathes of support staff may help balance the books but it is morally wrong.

“We know you must realise that by reducing staff in school this is having a direct impact on what we are offering our children.

“Standards will decline but, more importantly, as we lose our staff who deal with the pastoral support for our most vulnerable children, we will have an increase in mental health issues.

“Ideally, all schools should be run safely, effectively and efficiently. The severe cuts we are making jeopardise the safety, effectiveness and efficiency of our schools.

“We are dealing with a high level of children with different complex needs in mainstream school.

“Sensory breaks, intimate care, supervision while absconding from class or just getting them into the building in the first instance are some of the roles that we need extra staff to carry out.

“Equally, we sometimes require staff to ‘police’ and keep the other children safe from individuals. All of this costs money.

“Further cuts will impact on the effectiveness of the provision schools can give to our children with the highest level of need.

“This will impact significantly on those individuals, causing trauma and frustration from unmet need and meaning they cannot fulfil their potential.

“Additionally, failing to meet these children’s needs will have an impact on all other children in the cohort and increase stress and retention challenges with our staff.”

The continuing fall in pupil numbers is one of the reasons that some schools have struggled with their budgets this year.

The head teachers asked the council to show leadership and tackle the problem.

They said: “We as head teachers all know that we have many school places in the city that are surplus to current requirements and, due to chronic and continuous underfunding, some good schools are not currently financially viable.

“When will this issue be properly addressed?”



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