Department for Education provides £20million to cover budget shortfall
Gary Kynaston is the headteacher of Hammersmith Academy
A headteacher has welcomed a £20 million government bailout to help schools in Hammersmith and Fulham buy resources for children with a range of special needs.
The council has built up a huge deficit in its High Needs budget, which pays for extra staff and equipment that helps children with a range of issues, from autism to PTSD and physical disabilities.
By the new financial year, the council’s deficit for this budget had reached £23 million.
Gary Kynaston, the head of Hammersmith Academy, said the extra funding recognised that for years the borough had not received enough money under the Department for Education’s formula for funding schools.
“It’s a fantastic offer and we’re one of the few authorities this has been offered to,” said Mr Kynaston, who also chairs the borough’s Schools Forum.
“The formula didn’t favour Hammersmith and Fulham… the borough was a net importer of children with SEND [special educational needs and disabilities] and there wasn’t a quid pro quo situation for how resources were provided across boroughs.”
For instance, he said it was common for parents in Kensington and Chelsea and other boroughs to send their children to schools in Hammersmith and Fulham.
He added, “There’s been a high deficit for a long time. Through the Schools Forum we have been looking at ways of getting that deficit down.”
The Government’s bailout will be paid over four years, starting with a £6 million addition to the council’s Dedicated Schools Grant that was paid just before the end of 2020/21.
The Department for Education (DfE) has stated that the council will need to spend the cash on “early intervention” activities such as “speech, language and communication needs offer for children and young people on SEND support.”
The department hopes this will prevent young pupils’ needs escalating to the point of requiring expensive Education Health and Care Plans during secondary school.
Mr Kynaston explained, “It’s about prevention rather than cure.
“The DfE hasn’t determined how to achieve these changes. It’s going to be about how needs were spread out in different service provisions and looking at meeting needs at an earlier stage so there’s not more demand at a later stage of children’s educational progression.
“The local authority and the schools are forming a working group to look at what those [changes] can be.”
Hammersmith and Fulham is one of five boroughs around the UK to receive a share of £100 million from the Government. The other councils that benefited were: Kingston upon Thames, Richmond upon Thames, Stoke on Trent and Bury (Greater Manchester).
Children and families minister Vicky Ford said the money was given to councils with the highest deficits on their High Needs budgets, after councils such as Surrey complained they had missed out.
Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter