This is the key information about the North Yorkshire County Council consultation about changes to the High Needs Budget for next year and how it will affect our school
One of the proposals (Proposal 2) is about changing the way provision for secondary aged pupils who are excluded or at risk of permanent exclusion is commissioned and funded across the county. North Yorkshire County Council proposes to save £1.5 million from the budgets of the Pupil Referral service in North Yorkshire, including The Grove Academy.
These changes will have a very serious impact on The Grove Academy.
What are these changes?
Two proposed changes affect the budget of The Grove Academy:
- The Local Authority removes ‘Discretionary Funding’ completely. This is two-thirds of the Grove’s total budget.
- The ‘top up’ funding for each statutory pupil cut from £9,000 to £7,000.
On like-for-like place comparisons, these changes would mean an 83% cut to the Grove’s budget. Obviously, such a catastrophic cut would make it impossible for the Grove to continue to offer the outstanding education it has offered for 12 years: it could not afford its current staff team. Yet at the same time the Local Authority is looking to slash our budget, it is proposing that the Grove takes on even more pupils. This is an impossible demand for us to meet in such a short space of time.
The Grove is an outstanding provision
The Grove is proud of its record of success in helping vulnerable young people. We are one of only ten Pupil Referral Units nationally (3%) that have achieved three Ofsted outstanding judgements in a row.
Currently, the Grove offers a successful personalised, nurturing education with an emphasis on the creative and technical arts; a love of nature encouraged in its land-based-studies and outdoor-education courses and therapeutic interventions with in-house counselling and SEN support. The Grove has also worked hard on improving its academic outcomes. If you look on our website, you will see that our examination results are significantly higher than for similar provisions.
Since leaving direct Local Authority control, and joining the Delta Multi-Academy Trust, The Grove has prudently managed its resources to create a fiscally responsible balanced budget for the next five years. The modest surplus it now generates is being invested in improving our provision: dramatic improvements in the building and learning environment; mental health and emotional support from the new Just B service; work-related learning and vocational support from the YES project; numerous learning outside the classroom opportunities – all of which support our work in improving the mental and social wellbeing of your children.
The Grove is currently expanding its provision: building a new workshop facility, new specialist classrooms and therapeutic spaces. We are recruiting a Speech and Language Therapist to support literacy and communication needs. The Grove also has ambitious plans to create a specialised space for a Thrive intervention programme and develop more vocational courses and facilities as well as a therapeutic Zen Garden space. All these plans are now seriously threatened by the proposed budget cuts.
The cuts are being rushed through
The Grove has already taken part in consultations with the Local Authority about the proposed cuts. We recognise that the current education system needs improving and the causes of the dramatic rise in exclusions and mental health problems among young people urgently needs addressing.
However, we believe that the LA is rushing through cuts to the Pupil Referral Service (PRS) before it has allowed sufficient planning and transition time to a new system to take place. Similar changes in other Local Authorities have taken two to three years. The LA risk destroying the PRS before it has put in place an effective and equally outstanding alternative. This could irreparably damage the life chances of vulnerable young people.
We are also concerned that these severe cuts will not help the LA in its current financial difficulties. Many of the Local Authority’s schools and special schools are in serious financial trouble. Some schools have budget deficits of over a million pounds. Moreover, the Local Authority also spends nearly £4 million to educate a small group of students in private, out-of-county special schools. The loss of The Grove Academy or the other North Yorkshire Pupil Referral Units will make little dent on the Local Authority's substantial debts and is, therefore, a false economy. Once skilled PRS teachers and staff are lost, families will feel the impact across North Yorkshire.
The House of Commons Education Committee has recently published a report: "Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions"; this recognises that alternative provisions such as the Grove often offer the best outcomes for children with complex needs and vulnerabilities. If you believe that your child deserves the high quality of education that the Grove offers, I urge you to take part in the LA's consultation process, which lasts until the 11th November 2018.
- Please find enclosed information from the North Yorkshire Local Authority on its proposed changes to the High Needs budget for next year and complete the consultation questionnaire.
- There is a Parents’ Consultation on the 7th November 12.00-13.30 pm at the Cedar Court Hotel in Harrogate.
- Alternatively, express your views online: https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/changes-high-needs-budget
We believe these deep cuts to be ruthless, reckless and rushed. Please support us in saving The Grove Academy.
J M Warren
The Grove Academy
House of Commons Education Committee report: "Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions"
Institute for Public Policy research report: "Making The Difference: Breaking the link between school exclusion and social exclusion "https://www.ippr.org/publications/making-the-difference