From Bristol Liberal Democrats
THE government’s policy of getting schools to convert to academies is costing far more than planned, says the Lib Dem councillor in charge of Bristol’s children and young people’s services.
Clare Campion-Smith says a dash for cash is now under way, in which heads and governors are rushing to apply – not necessarily because they want to escape local authority control, but because it means extra funds from Whitehall at a time when spending is tight.
Figures in a consultation paper about the government’s new Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant (LACSEG) show that Secretary of State Michael Gove’s academies drive is likely to cost nearly £600 million more than was planned over the next two years.
Schools that decide to leave council control will continue to be dependent on government (though, now on Whitehall rather than the local authority).
They will also get substantial extra money (the LACSEG) on top of their standard funding. For a large secondary school, for instance, this could amount to £400,000 or more. Schools that convert to academy status before August 31 will receive even larger LACSEG grants.
“The government have already taken £900,000 out of Bristol’s budget this year alone to cover the cost of these new LACSEG grants,”
said Councillor Campion-Smith.
“This level of funding appears unsustainable, robbing Peter to pay Paul. We know great change is on the way in how and whether the local authority continues to deliver back-up services to schools. Academies will be able to source resources of this kind where they choose.
“We don’t quarrel with this. But these extra grants – created as an incentive to get schools to apply for academy status – are being funded partly by using resources allocated to the decreasing number of schools that choose to stay in council control. That’s blatantly unfair.
“We welcome extra money going into schools but it should be based on the needs of the pupils and not on what type of school it is.
Funding needs to be fair for all pupils, so we will be responding to the consultation on LACSEG and on the national single funding formula to make that case.”