Memorandum submitted by Warrender Primary School

 

1)

I am writing to express my serious concerns about the impact of the proposed new funding formula on Nursery provision at Warrender School. I understand and appreciate the key points of the issue, namely:

This is a national initiative, not a local one

The overriding aim of consistency and fairness in funding free Nursery education and care

However, whilst accepting that the principles behind this initiative are fair, my governors and I were stunned when we learnt from the Local Authority's "Impact Indicative" for 2009-10 that we would lose over 32 000 from our current funding. We are already bearing the brunt of a very tight budget, and have already been forced to reduce our staffing provision from September 2009.

 

2)

Warrender School is a 1-form entry school, and we are painfully aware of the range of budgetary pressures that can pile up on a small school such as ours. We are committed to providing high quality education and care, but we struggle to meet this commitment. In the past year we have suffered the impact of a significant reduction in pupil-led funding caused by a temporary drop in pupil numbers. The impact of any such pressures is particularly harsh on a small school, where there is relatively little flexibility within the budget; you will no doubt be aware that the demands we have to meet are by no means commensurately less than those for a school twice or three times the size.

 

3)

We have already cut back in as many areas as possible: this year I have had to give my Deputy Head a full-time teaching commitment, which has had a considerable impact on the school's leadership and has significantly increased my workload. My overriding concern is that we will be unable to absorb the impact of a further cut of 30 000 without taking drastic action. Options we are being forced to consider are: to reduce the size of our Learning Support team - this will have a negative effect on the quality of our provision and will involve making staff redundant; to close our Nursery - this is a drastic move, and one that will have serious knock-on effects for our school, but we are currently at a loss to see how else we could absorb such a budget cut.

 

4)

I would draw your attention to an article in the TES dated 29th May 2009 headlined "Funding Changes leave cash-strapped state nurseries under threat of closure". The article quotes government sources, who make it clear that state schools should not be enduring major funding changes as a result of the SFF:

"The Government has said it recognises that maintained nursery schools are more expensive to run than other state provision and claims the change is not intended to threaten their viability."

"Megan Pacey, chief executive of Early Education (....) said, 'The impact of the formula appears to differ enormously, depending on your local authority...' "

"A government spokesperson said: (...) 'The single funding formula is not about trying to close any type of provider and allows for unavoidable costs - for example, a headteacher in a maintained nursery school - to be recognised.' "

The thrust of the article is that there should be a flexible approach which takes account of varying circumstances. Looking at the new proposals from Warrender School's point of view, I cannot see in the Local Authority's approach any appreciation of our particular needs or challenges: whilst a simple formula uniformly applied across all EYFS providers appears equitable, there is no recognition either of the higher cost burden on maintained nursery providers, or of the limited income generated by the standard 21/2-hour session that applies in Local Authority-maintained nurseries.

 

5)

I am at a complete loss as to where I can find savings to meet the projected shortfall, and am extremely concerned at the timescale for implementation. By the time this consultation is over and any recommendations are made, we will be perilously close to April 2010 - this will leave us precious little time to take whatever steps are necessary to set a budget.

 

6)

My Governing Body and I feel very strongly that if this formula is to be introduced, several factors need to be considered:

How to take better account of higher costs incurred by schools - the cost of graduate teachers rather than leaders; the cost of arrangements for PPA cover; the reduced participation hours which are an inevitable consequence of 21/2-hour sessions and term-time only opening; higher premises costs; etc.

The particularly drastic impact on small schools, which have very little room for manoeuvre in attempting to cover a shortfall of such magnitude.

The importance of - at the very least - significant transitional funding to allow time for schools to reorganise without major upheaval to established staffing levels

 

I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the consultation and hope that submissions from individual schools and our professional associations will clarify for the Select Committee the serious and damaging repercussions of SFF implementation as proposed.

 

 

Attached: a summary of responses from our local Primary Headteachers' Forum to the Local Authority, which I fully endorse.

 

Points from Primary Forum's Response to SFF consultation

 

Generally schools will be worse off - but some schools are better off, and by significant amounts - we fail to see the justification for this.

SFF is supposed to improve provision - but how can lower funding improve provision?

Will schools reduce staff, or reduce qualifications of staff already in nurseries?

Only PVI settings have the capacity to charge higher rates for hours outside the 15 funded hours - maintained schools have no capacity to increase income generated by the children they provide for.

What would other models of distribution look like?

Difference in cost between a qualified teacher in a maintained setting / a graduate leader in a PVI setting.

 

Impact of the formula on smaller nurseries:

1. It appears that many of Hillingdon's smaller maintained nursery classes are hardest hit - this is a serious cause for concern as they have the least capacity to take such cuts on board.

2. Maintained nurseries have to comply with additional controls that do not apply to PVI settings. We would not want to see any maintained nurseries closed as a result of the SFF.

3. Headteachers of nurseries facing a large reduction in funds will be forced to consider reducing the number of sessions available. We believe that this would have a negative impact on parental choice.

 

We believe that the issues of funding experienced qualified teachers as opposed to graduate leaders will cause the greatest hardship. When considering what the final formula should look like we hope that the Local Authority will consider the performance of maintained nurseries and the quality of their provision, and conclude - as we do - that this is a sector worth maintaining and saving.

 

Whilst we understand that this is a DCSF initiative and some of our concerns should be directed towards them, we believe that the Local Authority should recognise that schools will not be able to offer the same level of provision as is currently being offered. We believe SFF will have a negative impact on the ability of maintained settings to offer the requirements of the flexible provision.

 

November 2009