CLLR Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council cabinet member for children and families, shows a real lack of both understanding and concern for the £23 million held in school balances and the fact that the council wishes to borrow £10 million from the schools’ budget.
Cllr Nicholson might refer to the fact that no school’s budget-setting will be affected, but she refuses to accept that schools could spend more money on education of pupils.
This year Somerset County Council launched a document entitled Somerset Strategic Vision for Education – Excellence for All: Vision and Priorities for Improvement.
Within that document it states clearly: “Somerset’s performance across Key Stages varied in 2015, with good progress in early years and secondary, but poorer progress in primary."
The attainment of vulnerable learners in Somerset compared to their peers nationally, continues to be a cause for concern.
If this is the case then surely the focus should be on supporting primary schools, such as reducing class size, supporting teachers and school assistants and focusing on raising attainment for vulnerable learners.
Instead, the decision of Somerset County Council is to reduce funding available to schools, with the proviso that schools can request that the money is returned if needed.
So we now have a real risk of the county council borrowing money to transform support services to schools and if schools request the return of the funding, when the so-called transformation of support services is taking place.
There will be no so savings to pay off the debt and support services will not be transformed.
Rather than borrowing from the schools’ budget reserves, the council should be encouraging schools to use the finances available, to make a real impact on those pupils who are not reaching the recognised attainment in the key stages of their education.
Cllr Mick Lerry
Leader of the Labour Group, Sedgemoor District Council