How much school budgets are being quietly cut in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

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The government has launched an advisory that proposes a cut of half a million pounds from school budgets across Cambridgeshire each year.

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On Friday, October 29, an advisory was launched to close the School Improvement Monitoring and Brokerage Grant, which has been awarded to councils on a six-month basis since 2017 to support maintained schools.

In 2021, as part of the grant, Cambridgeshire County Council awarded a total of £461,364 for improvements to 122 council-supported schools in the district.

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Read more: Ofsted ranks each school in Cambridge from ‘excellent’ to ‘requires improvement’

In the same year Peterborough was awarded £56,406 to support its 27 schools.

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Consultation from the Ministry of Education proposes reducing the scholarship by 50 percent in 2022, with the goal of eliminating the scholarship entirely by 2023.

The scholarship is currently used by councils for the essential improvement functions of schools that are not academies.

These functions include understanding the performance of these schools, warning and intervening in schools of concern, and implementing appropriate measures for improvement.

Instead, the government is proposing to allow councils to take money from their schools’ budget shares to fund the provision of improvement services, bringing the council system more in line with what academies already do.

It states that this will facilitate the transition to convert all schools into academies and beyond the control of the council, which has been the long-term goal of the government for years.

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The proposal suggests that this will give more improvement decisions to school leaders via school forums. To fund these improvements, it is proposed to allow this work to continue by allowing councils to “de-delegate” or “top tranche” of schools’ budget shares, without mentioning whether they will be strengthened to meet any shortfalls after the grant is discontinued.

Announced during half term, the advisory states that school improvement work “has changed dramatically in recent years, with the growth of school-led approaches, such as Multiple Academic Trusts (MAT), placing school improvement in the hands of the most powerful schools and school leaders.”

Speaking to the education news site Schools Week, Nick Brock, deputy secretary of the NAHT School Leaders’ Union, said the proposal would be “received with disbelief” by many during the same week that Rishi Sunak’s spending is being reviewed.

“Some will view this as a thinly-lined attempt to turn up the heat on the local authority schools they maintain, to encourage more to leave local authority control and join the academy funds,” he added.

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The grant to English Language Schools is worth £50 million annually to support improvement services for the nearly four million children who continue to attend the schools being pursued. The scholarship is calculated based on the number of schools maintained per district, with a minimum of £50,000 per authority.

The consultation argues that while the full amount is used by authorities, few areas provide formal warnings or interventions, assuming instead that most of the allocations are used for early stage interventions that can be combined into a “continuum of broader improvement activity that councils may choose to undertake. “.

The consultation is open for comment now, and ends November 26. Submit your opinions on the online government survey here.

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