26 November 2007

A very small step forward for deprived children in Kingston

The working party of the Kingston Schools Forums that I have been on for about a year has finished it's work and our proposals will be going out to schools for consultation soon. The result of our deliberations will see a small shift of funding away from the majority of schools towards the handful that have relatively high levels of deprivation, as measured by the eligibility of pupils for Free School Meals (FSM). I have problems with both the amount of funding being redistributed (you can only give to some schools by taking from others) and the approach taken by Kingston Council to funding deprivation.

Schools that have high levels of deprivation need funding to cover four main areas of cost:
  1. Addressing social problems within the families, such as attending meetings with Social Care and the Police. This can be almost a full time role for a senior member of staff.
  2. Addressing learning difficulties arising directly from deprivation, typically speech and language skills. Usually this means employing additional staff so teach small groups of children.
  3. Making up for things missing from home life, such as having books around and visiting places of interest. Basically this means schools paying for things that parents of wealthier parents normally pay for.
  4. Making up for the reduced donations from parents. Some schools get tens of thousands of pounds from their parents whereas others get almost nothing.
The proposals in Kingston go nowhere near addressing these costs. The most that any school will gain is under £100k but the costs are easily twice that.

Kingston Council recognises two types of need at pupil level, deprivation and Special Education Needs (SEN). The funding for SEN is needs based and each SEN child gets an amount of funding based on their assessed need. However, deprivation funding is quite different being based on a pot of money which is allocated between the children eligible for FSM. If deprivation goes up, each deprived child gets less.

Because of the reasons given above I am very unhappy at the way that Kingston is planning to fund deprivation and the battle will continue in future years, it has only been ten years so far!

Sadly, in one way this is actually a relatively positive outcome. A very small step in the right direction contrasts with all the steps taken in the wrong direction in previous years. So the situation overall is bad but it is slightly better than it was.

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