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New money for school improvement, following £600m cut

Heads say money must be distributed fairly

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Heads say money must be distributed fairly

The government has announced £190 million for school improvement work, which will come into effect as it cuts the £600 million education services grant (ESG).

Education secretary, Justine Greening, this afternoon said £50 million would, from September 2017, help local authorities monitor and commission school improvement for low-performing maintained schools.

The money also includes a further £140 million ‘strategic school improvement fund’ targeted at maintained schools and academies “most in need of support" to "drive up standards, use their resources most effectively, and deliver more good school places”.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was transitional funding as the government moves towards an all-academy system where school leaders, working together were responsible for school improvement, rather than councils.

He called for discussions with the Department for Education to ensure the £140 million was distributed fairly, without placing burdens on schools.

He told TES: “The key thing is to ensure that support is targeted where support is most needed. There is going to have to be a very sophisticated process to identify where the need is greatest.

“We would be very concerned if a bidding process was involved, because writing bids takes time away from the teaching and learning in the school, and these contracts tend to be awarded on the basis of the bid, so it’s the quality of the bid rather than the need.”

Ms Greening also said the Education Endowment Foundation had committed to spend a further £20 million over the next two years to build up and disseminate “evidence-based programmes and approaches”.

She said: “I want this investment to not only transform outcomes for children by improving schools, but also to make sure our school-led system learns from that work. That is why the EEF has a key role to play in this project.

“It’s vital that we now pull these two aspects together to get the maximum impact for children and schools.”

Earlier this month, the Local Government Association (LGA) called for ministers to use the chancellor’s Autumn Statement to reverse the planned £600 million cut to the ESG next September, saying it would leave councils with little means to pay for school improvement, as well as education welfare, admissions, HR, early years, exam validation, recruitment and transport.

Speaking before the statement, Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “We do not believe there is capacity within the system to withdraw funding and powers for councils to support school improvement and hold schools to account in August 2017 as currently planned by the government.”

His plea fell on deaf ears.

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