The Council has recently announced its proposed cuts in its education budget in its ‘Children Young People & Families Directorate Factsheets’. You can find it online here.
The Council says ‘We need to make big cuts in our services in the next financial year and substantial cuts are expected to continue at least until 2018. This means we are planning for a future with a lot less money to spend on services for Birmingham people.’
So the cuts listed below may well increase in future years.
Below are the main cuts proposed, taken from the Factsheet with BCASE’s comments in italics.
Outdoor Learning Service (OLS)
Public consultation will lead to an informed decision point for Cabinet in March 2014. The three options being presented for consultation are:
A. No change: accept deficit and fund from elsewhere.
B. Partial decommissioning – partially reduces revenue liabilities, but does not address capital spend requirements of £4m.
C. Complete decommissioning – eliminates revenue liabilities and capital spend requirements (repairs) and may deliver capital receipt (approximately £2.8m).
We say this is a very well-regarded high-quality service using Birmingham’s exceptional range of sites. It needs to be protected. The worst option is C, which would leave the field to private companies seeking profit with a lower quality of provision and staffing. Schools need to write in now demanding no cuts in OLS.
City Learning Centres Service (CLC)
This provides ICT curriculum guidance and support to early years, primary and secondary schools. The CLC is a fully-traded service but had a deficit last year and is currently projecting a potential deficit in 2014/15. Options proposed are either:
a) Efficiency savings from closing one centre, reduction in staffing (due to the decline in the demand for Music Technology) and increased traded income generation from both Birmingham Schools and other LA areas. A one-off saving of £25,000 in 2014/15.
b) Closure of both centres
We says again, schools using the service need to be campaigning to save it.
Schools and Settings Improvements (SSI)
This aims to secure good or better (as judged by Ofsted outcomes) education for children in all Birmingham schools. The service will need to be further restructured to achieve the proposed savings. School-to-school support for school improvement will continue to be coordinated via the School Improvement Group (SIG). This is currently supported by LA School Improvement Advisers working directly with vulnerable schools and those in special measures, in line with the LA’s statutory responsibilities to secure standards. The savings target will necessitate further reductions in these staff. One-off saving of £98,000 in 2014/15.
We say this service is already pared down to the bone – a team of 9 for around 400 schools. Now it looks like perhaps 3 will lose their jobs. Responsibility for school support is now largely the responsibility of the schools themselves through the new Birmingham Schools Partnership, but the LA still needs a large enough central team to coordinate support and carry out its statutory duties. Reverse this cut!
Early years and children’s centre services
Early Years has the statutory duty to ensure all 3 and 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds (60%) have access to 15 free hours early education.
Children’s Centres (CC’s) provide access to a combination of health, family support, early education and training and employment services across the core purpose for families and children aged minus 9 months to 5 years, increasing to age 11 where appropriate. The local authority has a duty to provide sufficient CCs for all under 5s (85,000) in order to improve health and education outcomes and address child poverty through early help and intervention. A cut of £1m in 2014/15 and a further £11m in 2015/16.
Savings in 2014/15 include Workforce Development – £200K will be saved by ending the Council’s support to developing early years practitioners to become graduate leaders and gain early years professional status following removal of DfE funding – and First Steps Networks – £250K will be saved from the recommissioning of this service, which supports child-minders in each of the 16 children’s centre localities.
For 2015/16, the Council needs to implement a transformational change in this service. The Green Paper, Supporting and Educating Young People has identified that the Council’s investment in these services is significantly higher than in comparator authorities, whilst it has underfunded child protection services. This saving proposal is designed to address this issue.
The Council has identified that some £11m of its current spend on services provided by children’s centres could be charged to Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) with the approval of the Schools Forum. The review of early education, early help, family support and Children’s Centres will identify to what extent this cost will be met from DSG in 2015/16 or reduced through the transformation of the service.
We say that the option here is to transfer most of the cost from the LA to the schools by getting the DSG to pay – which means a cut in schools’ budgets, which are supposed to be protected. If they don’t, the service will be cut back. And this at a time when Mr Gove is intent on victimising Birmingham.
Education Welfare Service (EWS)
The current service provides statutory functions in supporting parents, carers and schools around absence from education. This includes working with families where children have not taken up a school place, support with finding appropriate schools, taking court action where parents fail to follow up school places and working with children who are persistently absent from school. The service has already reduced its staffing capacity from over 160 two years ago to 19.
A one-off cut of £687,000 in 2014/15. The savings will be achieved by a deletion of current vacant posts, and further reduction in management and other posts.
The service funds £188k for Education Social Work (ESW) posts within the Youth Offending Service and this figure would be reduced in order to prioritise resources within the newly configured team. This would have a direct impact on support to young people to improve attendance in education and targeting those at risk of not being in education, training and employment (NEET). Withdrawal of this funding may also impact on targeting of troubled families.
The work of Education Welfare has been critical to supporting the work around troubled families and the team is developing effective partnership working to support work across Family Support, Safeguarding Teams and Schools.
There is a risk that absence figures across primary and secondary groups may increase for vulnerable groups as a result of reduction in training and support to schools to target this area.
Targeted support to schools around attendance has been critical and resulted in year on year improvements in attendance at secondary level. The service provides training programmes to Birmingham schools to undertake the spotlight on attendance process which has to be undertaken prior to any statutory legal action being initiated. The service also receives income generation from marketing of education packages for primary and secondary schools and this work would cease as there would be no capacity to continue, resulting in loss of annual income of £80,663 based on 2012/13. This activity could be picked up by the Birmingham Education Partnership.
Again, a vital service where cuts will hit hardest at the most vulnerable. If BEP takes it over it will further reduce schools’ budgets since that is where BEP funding will come from.
Dedicated Schools Grant
The Council no longer has the ability to meet costs from its own resources that could be charged to the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) and is seeking to work with the Schools Forum and wider Education community to rebalance expenditure between the rate fund and DSG. The areas that are under discussion include:
- PFI costs
- Chargeable overheads
- Tripartite agreements which share the cost of meeting the needs of very vulnerable children between education, health and social care
This aims to achieve a one-off saving of £8m in 2014/15. These proposals will impact on the amount of funding available to schools but it is intended to mitigate much of this through the use of DSG under spends in 2013/14 carried forward into 2014/15.
But if DSG underspends don’t cover the £8m then either the schools will have to pay more out of their budgets for this year or the Council will make more cuts elsewhere.
BCASE says that these cuts will damage the services, the schools, and our children and young people’s education, especially the most vulnerable. They need to be vigorously opposed by the schools, the unions, parents and communities. Let’s make our voices heard in the consultation (though whether they’ll listen is another question) and let’s campaign to defend our services.
For the city-wide and local campaigns against the cuts go to Birmingham Against the Cuts at birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com.
- Birmingham’s end of local government white paper: ‘Don’t panic Mr Mainwairing, we’re all doomed’ (thechamberlainfiles.com)
- Birmingham council says it may soon be unable to fund statutory services (theguardian.com)
- Savage cuts to services in Birmingham (b26community.wordpress.com)
- Service Birmingham Profits Are The Teeth In The Jaws Of Doom (gogwit.wordpress.com)
- Bore’s call for a citizen army of volunteers (birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com)