Vital school support services at risk following funding cut
Councils are warning they could fail to meet their legal duties to protect school children, under new rules and funding arrangements announced by government.
New government rules state that councils must seek the permission of schools if they are to provide essential services such as criminal record checks of staff, safeguarding, managing asbestos risk in school buildings and ensuring adequate water supplies are available.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, is warning that nearly five million pupils could be put at risk as schools are forced to decide what services they are able to maintain.
The changes will also affect student welfare services, mental health support, fire safety and escape routes, air quality, maintenance of school buildings and playing fields, as well as other general health and safety requirements.
From September 2017, councils will continue to have a statutory duty to provide these services but will no longer have the money to fund them. The council can only undertake these duties if the school agrees to do so from its own budget.
Councils have previously warned that the £600 million reduction proposed to the Education Services Grant (ESG) will leave councils with little resource to perform their statutory duties and should be reversed to maintain improvement capacity within the schools system. These new regulatory changes will place further burdens on schools and will mean that such services will now have to be paid for from school budgets.
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board said:
"Councils have their hands tied. They are legally obliged to provide these services but will have no money to do so unless the school is prepared to pay for it from its own pocket.
"Councils are committed to ensuring all children get access to high quality education and that they can do so in a safe and healthy environment. Changes to regulation and school funding mean that councils could fail to meet their legal duties which protect children and teachers whilst at school.
"Services that were previously provided to schools by councils will become an extra burden for schools, putting additional pressure on already overstretched budgets.
"If councils are to continue to provide these vital services the £600 million proposed cut to the Education Services Grant needs to be reversed."
16 March 2017
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