School improvement at risk due to education spending cuts, warn councils

School improvement work, planning for school places and criminal checks on staff all in danger, says Local Government Association

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School improvement work is being put at risk by cuts to council funding, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned this morning.

The government has said that it will give £50 million to councils from September 2017 to help monitor and commission school improvement for low-performing maintained schools.

But the LGA has said that councils traditionally received £450m for education improvement work from the education services grant and even topped this up to £815m a year from their own budgets. 

The LGA said that as well as allowing councils to work closely with their local schools to improve where necessary, the grant had allowed them to ensure children are well supported with speech therapy and physiotherapy. It also allowed councils to plan ahead for more school places and run criminal checks before recruiting staff. 

The government announced in the November 2015 spending review that £600m of savings would be made from the education services grant. 

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: "Eighty nine per cent of council-maintained schools are now rated as either good or outstanding by Ofsted. Only this month, in its annual report, inspectors recognised the increase in school performance overall across the country was a direct result of the number of council-maintained primary schools improving during 2015-16. Cutting councils’ school improvement budgets risks the long term work and planning that has been put in place.

"Councils’ track record of helping to improve schools with their local knowledge, expertise and democratic oversight cannot be ignored." 

The warning comes after the National Audit Office said last month that pupils’ education could suffer as schools are forced to find £3bn of savings by 2019-20.

The NAO has urged the government to publish its own assessment of the financial challenges faced by schools.

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