Somerset Headteachers up In arms
The Somerset Association of Secondary Heads (SASH) has written in damning terms to Somerset County Council. In particular they complain about the relationship with Director Of Children’s Services (DCS), Julian Wooster. The dispute revolves around the High Needs Element of the DSG (Dedicated Schools Grant).
Various proposals for how to fund this bit of the budget have gone to and from between the two parties. Mr Wooster has reassured the head teachers that the budget can be managed without redundancies. However Mr Wooster himself has a lot on his plate. In December it was announced he would become Chairman of Children’s Services for Northamptonshire. This is in addition to his role as Director of Children’s Services for Somerset.
Since then, and specifically over the past two months, the head teachers complain that the relationship has deteriorated. Their letter notes: “Our major concern as a group of school leaders is the lack of confidence we have in the DCS to lead and manage the change with High Needs Budget.”
The most recent meeting between the parties to resolve matters does not seem to have worked. The letter from SASH notes: “Following the meeting yesterday, these concerns about leadership have become acute. When pressed
yesterday the DCS stated publicly that he was very confident that £2.4m of savings could be made ‘in year’ by schools and that he believed this could be achieved without redundancies. When pressed for details of how this would work, he could not provide any indication of how this could be achieved.”
Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell Grainger has now offered his pennyworth. He told The Leveller® “Today I have written to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to intervene. It is unacceptable for our key educationalists to be ignored for so long by an overpaid council overlord”
Nor surprisingly this is not the way Somerset County Council see it. Their spokesman told The Leveller®: “We are grateful for all the hard work our schools and our head teachers have carried out, and continue to provide, during the pandemic to support all students across Somerset. We note the points in the private letter – this is clearly a long-running debate and although we disagree with much of the content within the letter we are happy to confirm that we will engage with SASH and explore solutions where appropriate. We will seek prompt resolution that will enable our joint collective and important work helping students of all abilities across our county.
“As SASH correctly point out in their letter, in addition to the £340m mainstream school funding there is a £60m high needs element of the schools grant which supports the education of our most vulnerable children. This funds the excellent special schools and bases, and pupil referral units in Somerset, and also pays for specialist provision for students whose needs cannot be met in Somerset Schools. We recognise that the current level of this grant from government is not sufficient to meet all the needs in Somerset, however the proportion of Somerset children needing support from this grant continues to grow rapidly and we are asking schools to look at ways they can support more children with special educational needs in their schools, so that this grant can go to those most in need.
“It is disappointing that SCC appears to be criticised at a time we are investing £1.7m, on top of additional funding of £7m by government, into this budget by picking up the costs of specialist education advisors and investing £46m million in building new special school places.
“One point we are happy to comment on publicly is our complete confidence in Julian Wooster as our Director of Children’s Services. Not only is he doing an outstanding job supporting and championing the interests of all Somerset children, but he has been nationally recognised as a leader in this area with his recent additional appointment as chair of the Northamptonshire Children’s Trust.”