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More than £11m cut from Royal Borough's maintained schools budget

More than £11m cut from Royal Borough's maintained schools budget

Simon Meechan

More than £11m will be trimmed from the Royal Borough's maintained schools budget – for schools that it directly funds as local education authority.

For 2016/17, the borough has budgeted £42,127,000 for maintained schools, compared to £53,544,000 last year, a reduction of £11,417,000.

Secondary schools will get £10,356,000 of this, with £31,952,000 being spent on primary schools.

The Government has reduced the council's dedicated schools grant by £11,012,000 to £64,970,000, but it is actually pledging more money to Royal Borough schools this year, as £39m will be given to academies, which are funded separately.

When this £39m of school funding is included, the money the Government has pledged to Windsor and Maidenhead schools totals £104,842,000, a boost of £1,234,000 on last year.

This, the budget report says, is due to a net increase of 2,011 in pupil numbers, and includes an extra £266,000 for children with 'high needs'.

The borough has cut £405,000 more from its education budget than its schools grant has been reduced by.

Cllr Phillip Bicknell, the council's cabinet member for education, said schools will have £10 less per pupil.

The budget report identifies a 'failure to meet expected standards of attainment' as a potential risk of the budget cut for maintained schools.

But Cllr Bicknell said: "I do not believe that these sort of cuts, £10 a head, are going to cause any problems whatsoever on attainment.

"Our attainment levels in the Royal Borough are going up.

"I do not agree with the thought process at all."

According to Department for Education statistics, last year 64.6 per cent of students ending Key Stage Four, at the age of 15 to 16 years old, achieved at least five A* to C grades in GCSE or equivalent, including English and maths.

In 2013/14, 62.3 per cent achieved that target, compared to 68.3 per cent in 2012/13.

The council will spend £13,430,000 on 'alternative provision' for children with special educational needs, compared to £12,796,000 last year, to address what Cllr Bicknell says is a 'widening attainment gap' in that area.

Cllr Bicknell says he is not 'happy' with having reduced resources but he accepts a need for the budget to be trimmed.

He said: "What I would say is, it's inevitable when a country is effectively living beyond its means.

"Everybody needs to pull their belt in, that's what's happening across all Government departments.

"Hopefully the country can start moving towards a positive situation, then we can turn things around."

Elsewhere within children's services, the budget for safeguarding the children in care has been trimmed by £268,000, despite the same level of income as in 2015/16.

The report identifies allocating children to a social worker, delays in court cases, failure to meet statutory and regulatory requirements for children in care, a failure to deliver fostering plans effectively and failure to recruit foster families as potential risks in the budget.

Cllr Natasha Airey (Con, Park) the cabinet member for youth services and safeguarding, said the budget has not been trimmed 'rashly’ and said the borough has heavily invested in safeguarding children over the last three years.

Cllr Airey says she is 'very confident' her team can deliver despite the cuts.

On Monday, the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) was launched which is a collaboration between several bodies including the council, police and health services, which seeks to share information and resources in a bid to protect children.

Cllr Airey added: "I'm really amazed already by the impact it's made. We have already had a very positive outcome through MASH in the last three days.”

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