Heads accuse council of targeting special needs children again

Posted On 08 Oct 2019 at 2:26 pm

Head teachers have accused council chiefs of trying to raid school funds in a way that will hit children with special needs hardest.

As a result they are taking legal advice in a dispute with the council over a multimillion-pound mistake in support staff’s pay.

The row follows anger over the home to school transport fiasco which has also hit hardest hundreds of children with special educational needs (SEN), their families and schools.

The new claim comes in an email to senior members of Brighton and Hove City Council and local MPs.

Fairlight Primary and Nursery School head Damien Jordan sent the email after speaking out yesterday (Monday 7 October) at a meeting of the Schools Forum, a representative group of heads and governors.

It follows a costly mistake in pay calculations for support staff who work term-time only and who are owed millions of pounds in holiday pay.

The pay and the calculations are the council’s responsibility but it wants to split the bill with schools over the next 10 years.

Mr Jordan said in his letter to councillors: “Once again … head teachers from all phases and schools across Brighton and Hove unanimously declined the proposed offer made by the council related to term time only back pay.

“Head teachers remain extremely concerned that the correct and legal process has not been followed in deciding this matter and have sought legal advice in this area.

“We are also greatly concerned that placing £3.8 million of debt with schools will destabilise provision and practice and, most importantly and concerning, will impact most greatly on schools with the highest number of SEN children as they have the highest number of eligible staff.

“This presents a huge inclusion issue.

“Our concerns are also around equalities as the group entitled to this back pay are predominantly female teaching assistants who in many cases have already expressed that if schools are having to fund this matter (they) will not take up the offer to claim their back pay.

“While we understand that you have been advised and supported by council officers, we would urgently ask that you engage directly with head teachers over this matter as we have to date not been involved in any part of the process to get to your current position.

“We are keen that you hear our representation as we have already engaged with worried members of the wider community and stakeholders, particularly those with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) and parents of children within our own schools.”

Conservative group leader Steve Bell said: “It’s unbelievable and it’s outrageous. We’ve raised this several times – in the council chamber and elsewhere.

Councillor Bell added: “Once again, Labour want to cut school funding. But this was the council’s mistake and the council should stump up.”

He said that just as the school transport chaos had cut teaching and therapy time for vulnerable children, this would also take away support from those who most needed it.

The Schools Forum was told: “There are pressures on funding social care. There are increasing costs around frail elderly people with limiting conditions and a growing crisis in mental health and dementia care.

“These are all issues (councillors) are aware of, as well as daily issues such as homelessness. That is what they need to balance up when they give any consideration to supporting the schools budget.”

  1. stef Reply

    Why have Labour and the Greens got it in for children with special needs? Surely they need more help not less?

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