16 May 2007

Kingston Schools Forum (May 2007)

I spent rather longer than I expected at a meeting of the Kingston Schools Forum last night where we had a long debate on our response to the DfES consultation on school, early years and 14-16 funding for the years 2008-11. we discussed about 25 of the 38 questions before we ran out of time, but by then we were mired in some of the more detailed technical aspects.

I spoke rather more than I had expected to and found other committee members agreeing with me far more that I am used to! I hope that the greater understanding of the subject by my colleagues is in some part due to my contributions to the funding debate over the years, otherwise there is little point me being on committee like this.

My overall perception is that having painted itself into a corner on schools' funding a couple of years back (when some schools lost heavily under the revised funding scheme for which Local Authorities and the Government blamed each other) the Government is now trying to loosen some of the strings to allow more of the extra money that has undoubtedly gone into education to go to the places where it will do most good.

Funding for deprivation was again a large part of the discussion and the main problem is that we are being asked to identify the factors that should direct funding without first defining what precisely we mean by deprivation. In particular it is unclear if low-level Special Educational Needs should be included.

An issue with deprivation funding are that the main indicator used for this is entitlement to Free School Meals (FSM) but that only has two values (yes/no) whereas, clearly, deprivation is a wide range. Another factor is that the cost of meeting deprivation is exponential, 2+2=5.

We do seem to be making some progress on this issue and the next step is a workshop with Heads on 12 June.

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