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A message from Patrick Leeson:

12 April 2016 weekly update

12 April 2016

This week, Patrick summarises the DfE Schools National Funding Formula consultation, High Needs Funding reform and the International Baccalaureate Careers Related Programme Initiative, which is gaining momentum in Kent.

Dear Colleagues

I hope you had a relaxing Easter break.

Schools National Funding Formula Consultation

As you know, on 7 March 2016 the Department for Education (DfE) launched its eagerly awaited national fair funding consultation. The consultation is split between two separate documents, the first deals with the “Schools national funding formula” and the second with “High needs funding formula and other reforms. Both consultations can be found via the following links:

The DfE have confirmed that this will be a two stage consultation process, with the second stage (in May) providing more detail and illustrative figures for schools. Stage one (this consultation) focuses on the key principles underpinning a national funding formula, the building blocks they plan to use in such a formula and the factors that they would like to include.

Also attached are the final consultation response forms from KCC. These were discussed with the Kent Schools Funding Forum on 4 April prior to our submission by the 17 April deadline.

Summary of our Responses

  • We welcome the introduction of a redistributive approach to funding schools so that schools and their pupils receive similar levels of funding nationally.
  • We do not agree with the hard formula approach and the ring-fencing of the Schools Block separately from the other blocks in the DSG because this works against the concept of local flexibility and accountability in the management of some formula elements for schools.
  • We are concerned with the prospect of funding being directed via MATs as this will not necessarily result in funding to individual schools being consistent. Yet this form of local flexibility is exactly what the DfE is attempting to stop by excluding LAs from school funding arrangements.
  • There is currently no published evidence base to any of the proposals and we would like to see the detailed evidence that backs up these proposals.
  • This consultation is being conducted in a very tight timeframe which includes the Easter holidays for schools. This makes full engagement with schools and the schools forums extremely difficult. Without much more detail and certainty it is very difficult to plan for the implementation of the proposals for 2017-18 and it is therefore very important that the release of the second stage consultation must be timely to allow for full responses which can be completed prior to the summer holidays.
  • The DfE has created national arrangements for the ‘easy’ elements of funding formula - the pupil-led parts - but left LAs with the difficult issue of premises and, worse, are proposing to fund these based on historic costs. Currently the LA manages these elements first, in line with local priorities, and distributes the remaining funding to all schools.
  • The difficult part includes the PFI costs, joint use costs, split sites, pupil growth and rates, and how to effectively manage small less economic, but necessary schools. Without the flexibility to manage these costs first, either schools will be out of pocket or the LA will be, depending upon how the regulations are written. Neither arrangement is satisfactory or fair.
  • We believe ring-fencing the Schools Block will leave no incentive for schools to be inclusive. Funding will not alter if they take or leave a child with SEN, this will place extra pressure on the High Needs Block, which can currently be managed by moving money between DSG blocks if necessary. A national high needs funding approach is likely to cap what we currently spend.

The requirement to delegate 100% of the schools block to schools from 2017-18 is, therefore, a concern. We have over the last three years, with full Forum support, used headroom to meet unfunded high needs pressures.

It is not possible to say at this stage whether Kent schools and academies will gain or lose funding from these proposals, as the DfE have given no indication of the rates or the weightings between the factors. This will be possible when the stage 2 consultations are launched.

While the consultation seeks views on whether a PFI factor should form part of the National Funding Formula, it offers no solution on how this might be formularised if a hard formula is introduced.  We, like some other LAs, have increasing PFI costs linked to annual inflation and there is a risk that these will not be factored into the DfE’s plans.

Funding for pupil growth is not adequately covered in the consultation, and the DfE want to undertake further work for 2019-20. This is a key issue for local authorities like Kent which have seen significant growth in recent years, and expect it to continue.

I believe it is important that we share the Council’s draft response with all schools and I encourage you to submit your own response to the consultations by 17 April. KCC’s responses are attached to this e-bulletin.

Kent IB Careers Related Programme Initiative Gains Momentum with 27 Schools

I am very pleased to say that a further 18 Secondary schools in Kent have joined an initiative to offer the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) Career-related Programme (CP) from September 2017, taking the total number of schools involved to 27. The initiative is the second phase of a successful CP pilot, initiated by Kent County Council in partnership with the IB, which began in 2012.

The CP is designed for post 16 students wishing to engage in career-related learning while gaining transferable and lifelong skills such as communication, critical thinking and applied knowledge. Nine Kent Secondary schools were involved in the pilot, which resulted in a 96 percent pass rate, and increased student retention, attainment and ambitions. All nine of the schools have continued to offer the programme and will be involved in helping the schools now joining the initiative to implement the CP from 2017.

Siva Kumari, Director General, International Baccalaureate said: “The Kent initiative is particularly heartening for the IB because it is a community committed to the betterment of children’s lives via a rigorous academic Career-related Programme. Working together with public, private, educator and IB association partners, we are looking forward to further serving the community of Kent by creating educational pathways that allow students to excel in their immediate job or professional needs and also prepare them for a lifetime of learning and success. We are deeply honoured to be a part of this educational venture and to build it on the success of the pilot."

With 18 schools new to the initiative, 30 percent of Secondary schools in Kent will be offering students the opportunity to study an IB programme from 2017. By working with the IB to extend access to the Career-Related Programme to 18 more schools across the county, we will continue to raise student aspirations across Kent. Thanks to the success of the first pilot we have seen students’ life chances vastly improved in deprived areas of Kent: for example two thirds of last year’s cohort progressed to higher education, something which would not otherwise have been expected.

The Career-Related Programme is for students aged 16-18 years and packages a career-related qualification (e.g. a BTEC) with at least two IB Diploma Programme courses and four unique ‘core’ components (personal and professional skills; service learning; language development; and a reflective project), the programme enables students to become self-confident, skilled and career-ready learners. This mixture of disciplines makes the programme highly appealing to students - helping them gain the experience and skills necessary to focus on prospective careers or further education - and to employers, universities and other institutes of higher education. We believe this is a very flexible and impressive curriculum to be offering more young people in Kent, which we expect to have a big impact on improving student outcomes and their life chances.

For more information, please contact, Head of School Improvement.

Patrick Leeson
Corporate Director for Education and Young People's Services