Axing of the £600m Education Services Grant puts key services at risk, councils warn

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

There have been further warnings from local government this week that the cut to the £600 million a year Education Services Grant (ESG) could see councils failing their child protection duties.

The government is planning to allocate £50 million to councils in England from September 2017 for school improvement work.

However, at the same the £600 million ESG is being axed because more schools are converting to academy status and leaving local authority control.

The ESG is spent on things like speech, physiotherapy and occupational therapies, tackling truancy, carrying out Disclosure and Barring Service checks, safeguarding, managing asbestos risk in buildings, ensuring adequate water supplies, mental health support, fire safety and escape routes, air quality, maintenance of school buildings and playing fields, and general health and safety requirements.

New rules are also being introduced from September 2017 that will force councils to seek the permission of schools to provide these traditional ESG services.

Councils will continue to have a statutory duty to provide many of these services but the Local Government Association (LGA) says that with the ESG cuts they will no longer have the money to fund them. It will mean, the LGA says, that councils can only undertake these duties if the school agrees to do so from its own budget. The LGA represents around 350 councils in England and Wales.

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 while 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.”

The call has been echoed by the National Association of Head Teachers.

General secretary Russell Hobby said: “Used by local authorities to support schools, we know a cut to this funding will hit school leaders hard. School budgets are at breaking point, and any cut in funding exacerbates this. The LGA is right to warn that this cut will see further burdens placed on schools to pay out of existing budgets. Many schools have taken tough decisions to make budgets balance, but we know that schools are running out of things they can cut without impacting on the quality of teaching offered.

“The government must reverse this cut and ensure there is sufficient funding for schools. Without this, real-terms cuts will mean teaching and learning will suffer."


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