Councillor Whyte – magician or Emperor in the all-together?
16 November 2017
I went to the protest on Monday against the closure of 35 children’s centres in Bucks. The protest was covered by BBC South, local radio, the Bucks Free Press and the Bucks Herald - see
Councillor Whyte, the Cabinet member on Bucks County Council who is responsible for the proposals to close the centres, is still trying to pretend that the rationale for the proposals is to improve services. Somehow, magically, he can cut £3.3 million from the budget (which has already been cut by £1.4 million this year) and services will be improved. Is he really a brilliant magician? Or an Emperor posturing in the all- together hoping he won’t get exposed?
Councillor Whyte might have a word with his boss at county hall – Councillor Tett. You see Councillor Tett is on the executive of the Local Government Association and the LGA said yesterday
….”the services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on are at serious risk due to rising demand and unprecedented funding pressures. Simply put, children’s services are at a tipping point. Government has to take immediate action and provide the funding we need to deliver the support our children deserve.”
In other words, it is all about money – or the lack of it.
Presumably Councillor Tett agrees with this statement from the LGA. Presumably he also agrees with a letter the LGA sent today to the Government jointly with the Chief Executives of Barnado’s, Action for Children, The Children’s Society and the National Bureau for Children.
The letter says “Children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with an unprecedented surge in demand leaving services across the public, voluntary and community sector struggling to cope.” It adds that the funding gap will reach at least £2 billion by 2020.
7 years of austerity by consecutive Conservative Governments has put millions of children in poverty and created a surge in demand for children’s social care. Rather than respond to this problem it has created, the Conservative Government – and Bucks County Council - is slashing childrens’ social care.
7 years of Conservative austerity means there is not enough money to safeguard and look after our most vulnerable children and young people in Bucks
Will Councillor Whyte answer our questions in person at the protest on 13 Nov, County Hall, 10am – 1pm?
11 November 2017
I sent the blog below (“The omnishambles of BCC’s proposals on Early help”) to Councillor Whyte and he responded as follows:-
“You seem to have missed the point of a consultation. Responses need to be reviewed, collated and then carefully considered. Your blog puts on a spin that is rather far from what I said at that meeting and the subsequent news release, and I'm disappointed that you don't welcome the extra time to consider the responses fully.”
I responded as follows:-
"Dear Councillor Whyte
You say you are disappointed I don't welcome the extra time you are taking to consider the responses to the consultation. There are a lot of things I would welcome.
To start at the beginning, I would welcome a Government that believes in investing in children and young people and looking after the most vulnerable in our society. What we have is a Conservative Government putting hundreds of thousands of children into poverty and leaving the vulnerable to cope for themselves.
What I would welcome is a county council that would protest publicly about the cuts to local authority grants and recognise publicly that the cuts are unsustainable. What we have is a county council that pretends all is going well and that it will be saved from bankruptcy by its commercial investments.
What I would welcome is a county council that would fight to the bitter end to protect the services to its vulnerable children and young people who can't fight for themselves. What we have is a county council making £3.3 million more cuts to these services and pretending they are "savings".
What I would welcome is a cabinet member who has the competence to re-organise services with clear, detailed and substantive proposals underpinned by convincing evidence, and with realistic deadlines and plans for consultation and implementation.
Instead you have provided insubstantial proposals without convincing evidence and had to extend the consultative deadline. You have still not provided information on for example:
- Where is the robust evidence base for the proposals?
- Exactly how are you going to cut the budget by £3.3 million on top of the cut of £1.4 million already made this year?
- Why have you not taken legal advice on the proposals to have discussions with children and young people in public venues like cafes? How are you going to ensure BCC is not breaching for example the Human Rights Act 1998, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Children Act 1989 and the common law duty of confidentiality?
- Why is the Equalities Impact Assessment still not available? The nature of children’s services and the demographics of Buckinghamshire mean that the impact of these proposed changes would fall disproportionately on women and ethnic minorities. How are you ensuring that BCC complies with Section 149 of the Equalities Act 2010?
- Where are the detailed plans for moving to the new arrangements and how will you ensure a smooth transition? BCC has informed me that all the work in scope of the proposals is in future to be carried out in-house. This is causing many charities concern as they do not know when their funding for the work will cease nor what arrangements will be put in place for the transition.
You should have anticipated the interest in your proposals and should have built in sufficient time for review in your plans.
I would welcome, like many others in the Labour Party in Bucks, a fully considered and professional approach to the consultation, including actively reaching out to far more local organizations and extending the consultation deadline to July 2018. At the same time BCC would need to extend the funding to organisations carrying out the work – and quickly.
I will be at the protest meeting on Monday morning outside County Hall. It would be good if you could talk to us and answer our questions personally. I hope to see you there.”
The omnishambles of BCC’s proposals for “Early Help”
4 November 2017
BCC’s Select Committee covering Children’s Services met on 17 October. It should have scrutinised the proposals for re-organising the “Early Help” services for children and young people. These proposals will affect thousands of vulnerable children and young people and their parents and include cuts of at least £3.3 million.
However, BCC’s Select Committees - mainly composed of Conservative Councillors - consistently fail to scrutinise the work of the Conservative- dominated Council and this was no exception.
If you want to watch Councillor Whyte, the cabinet member responsible for the proposals, explain how wonderful they are and see the Select Committee give him an easy ride, the link is
I must say here is a man who enjoys the sound of his own voice. He doesn’t say very much – but he says it at length.
Councillor Whyte told us that the consultation went so well that BCC decided to have more of it and extended the deadline. He didn’t tell us how many of the 2000 people responding objected to the changes or what those objections were. And no-one asked. Pity - as that would have been helpful.
Councillor Whyte also told us that the same sort of re-organisation has been done all over the country and all BCC needed to do was find out how others did it. Easy peasy. On the other hand, BCC has decided to delay making a decision until January. No-one asked why the delay if everything was so going so well and everything was so easy.
Committee members muttered that times were difficult what with austerity and all and hoped that the savings wouldn’t affect services to children and young people. They asked Councillor Whyte to let them know how it all turns out. Short of buying him a pint down the pub, they couldn’t have been nicer.
Instead of sitting through the whole thing I suggest you get the flavour from the 5 minute video in the blog below.
A member of the public from an organisation called YC2, which provides support to young carers in North Bucks, is asking Councillor Whyte a question. YC2 had previously met Councillor Whyte with the support of a Labour district Councillor, Robin Stuchbury, and were so successful at lobbying that Councillor Whyte agreed, out of the blue at the meeting, to exclude young carers from the proposals.
Here she asks Councillor Whyte if this exclusion means that services for young carers will continue to be delivered as currently and that all organisations providing support to young carers will be consulted on any changes.
Putting all the verbiage to one side, the answer is that Councillor Whyte has no idea about long term plans for the services for young carers (or is not letting on) – and he mumbled something about support for young carers having to take a share of the cuts.
Did the member of the public get an opportunity to say whether she was satisfied with his response? Well no.
Did any of the Select Committee members ask searching questions about the future of the support for young carers? Well no.
Did they ask for example exactly what is meant by excluding young carers from the proposals? YC2 has been told that young carers would be “considered separately for changes and these changes would need to be aligned with those agreed in the Early Help review”. So the organisations for young carers can now not challenge any of the proposed changes as they are not included but they will get “aligned” in any case. That’s democracy for you with the Tories.
Did anyone ask for the impact assessment if cuts are made to these services? If young carers don’t get support and can’t cope, what is it going to cost social services and the NHS in picking up the pieces?
Did anyone ask why it is only young carers who have been taken out of the proposed changes? Why are they “not suitable” to be included? Are there other groups who are not suitable?
Is it simply that these organisations have raised objections and questioned the validity and timing of the proposals? And there were no answers to these questions?
Could it even be that the Director of CarersBucks, another organisation which gives support to young carers, is on the Select Committee? Surely not?
Will support to young carers in Bucks continue to be delivered as currently?
Cutting Early Help for vulnerable children and young people – what’s happening
6 October 2017
Bucks County Council is consulting on its proposals to bring all the preventive work on vulnerable children and young people into one programme and cut the budget by at least £3.3 million. Children’s Centres will close and be replaced by 9 hubs (see blog below of 17 August) Children and young people will be interviewed in their homes or cafes or libraries. The proposals are to be implemented by next Spring.
A lot of people are fighting these proposals.
1. There are two linked petitions – one by Aylesbury Labour and one by 38 degrees. Please sign.
2. At least 1900 people have sent in responses to the consultation document. The consultation deadline has been extended to 16 October. Constituency Labour Parties in Bucks have sent or endorsed a substantive response (summary below). Councillor Whyte, who is the BCC cabinet member for these proposals, responded to our comments to say: -
“Please submit your comments to the Early Help Consultation website so that they are properly considered by the county council officers.”
Hardly a considered response.
3. Buckingham Town Council voted unanimously to express concern about the closure of the Children’s Centres. The motion was proposed by Labour Councillor Robin Stuchbury and reported in the Buckingham Advertiser see
4. We are asking questions about the proposals at BCC’s Education Select Committee on 17 October and as freedom of information questions. There are a lot of questions to ask as the proposals are heavy on rhetoric and very light on practicalities.
5. A Day of Action is planned in Aylesbury on 14 October and there’s a street stall in Wycombe town centre tomorrow.
6. The Bucks Children’s Safeguarding Board is aware of the proposals and its independent Chair has said
“Early Help is a key area of priority for the Board and something that is regularly discussed at Board meetings. This has included hearing about the proposals in the Early Help Review and encouraging all of our partner agencies to respond to the review. The Board will continue to consider the implications of this review. This will include a focus on whether services are targeted according to need so that children and families receive the right support at the right time, and seeking to ensure there is no adverse impact in terms of the safeguarding and welfare of our children”.
7. We are going to ask OFSTED to take a keen interest.
8. The media are covering the proposals – both local papers and local radio.
9. BCC has already agreed to exclude the work of two charities from the proposals so charities might note that direct lobbying works.
Meanwhile Martin Tett, the Conservative Leader of Bucks said in an interview in the Guardian that investment in social care was a priority for him. Beggars belief.
Summary of our response
We are opposed in particular to the proposals:
- to push responsibility for supporting vulnerable children and young people even further onto the children and young people themselves and onto their families and the communities;
- to make further cuts to the services to vulnerable children and young people;
- to carry out confidential and often distressing conversations with vulnerable children and young people and their families in public places - we believe this is disrespectful, unprofessional and might be illegal; and
- to contract out these services rather than keeping or bringing back the services in-house; experience shows that contracting out such work leads to it being carried out by inexperienced, unqualified and under- paid staff providing poor continuity and inadequate services while providing profits for senior managers and shareholders.
We believe the impact of these proposals will fall disproportionately on women and ethnic minorities and would like to see the equalities impact assessment.
We are surprised and concerned at the lack of substantive details of this proposed re-organisation which will affect many thousands of vulnerable children and young people. Such a critical re-organisation needs to be rigorously and transparently planned and implemented. We have many questions it would like answered before these proposals are considered further.
3 years ago BCC’s Children’s Services was assessed as “inadequate”. 3 years later, after what BCC describes as steady progress and considerable hard work, the services still “require improvement”.
With this track record, how is it possible for BCC to carry out this proposed major re-organisation in 6 months?
We believe the timescale for implementation (i.e. by spring 2018) is unrealistic and puts the services to vulnerable children and young people at risk. We hope you will pursue a more considered and professional approach.
There’s no money to tackle rising exclusions from Bucks schools – just hubs and virtual schools
29 September 2017
Back in February I blogged about children being excluded from Bucks primary schools. Bucks County Council officials had identified an increase in the number of children being excluded.
A report to BCC’s Select Committee on education described how children who were excluded got far fewer qualifications and were more likely to develop mental health problems and commit crimes.
The report analysed the data about the children who were most likely to be excluded and showed they were disproportionately male, black and poor. They were most likely to be excluded from schools assessed as good or excellent and the main reasons for exclusions were failures in the educational system, including a lack of teachers.
The officials had taken action and exclusions had gone down.
I congratulated the officials on an excellent report.
In September it was the turn of secondary schools – and what a difference from the previous report.
The only piece of real information in the paper was that exclusions from secondary schools had gone up by 100% in 2015/6 and by 6% in 2016/7. We are not told who these children are. Are they boys or girls? Which ethnic groups or socio economic classes are the children from? Which schools did they get excluded from and why? What are the underlying causes? And why was there this huge jump in exclusions in 2015/6?
All we get are 2 or 3 pages of BCC management speak.
We have a Fair Access Board which ensures the sharing of insight, holistic pictures of children, a key note address introducing training with an incomprehensible title, an Integrated Services Board which “will allow for evolving themes to be escalated” (I kid you not).
The secondary Pupil Referral Unit was full up so “education was resourced from a Virtual school and Youth Services”. (What on earth is a Virtual school – and is there anyone left in the Youth Services? How many children were taught by a virtual school and the Youth Service?)
We got a new Inclusive Education working party which astonishingly is committed to promoting inclusion. It has also pledged to review and foster all sorts of useful things.
However, there were no new resources so “any work undertaken has been done within the current budget”. Which begs the question whether any work has been done or whether the pledges remain unfulfilled.
We are also promised a Prevention and Support Panel, a “Hub” and an “Inclusion Charter”. Plus a schools- led model and stretch targets.
I’m left wondering what all this management speak is hiding. What is really happening to exclusions in secondary schools?
Is this report simply hiding the fact that schools lack the necessary funding to help children who have problems – and those children end up excluded not just from school but from society.
BCC propose to close Children’s’ Centres and cut the budget for children by over £3 million
17 August 2017
In July, Bucks County Council put out one of its most important consultation documents to residents.
On the face of it, the proposals seem reasonable and good value. However, they are radical, based on extreme right-wing Conservative doctrine and will put vulnerable children and young people in Bucks even more at risk.
The proposals need challenging by everyone who cares what happens to our children and young people. The deadline for comment is 22 September.
BCC proposes to bring together all its services for children and young people (i.e. everyone from 0-19 years), and their families, into one service called the Early Help service. The existing services to be brought under this one umbrella include
- Bucks Family Information Service
- Advice and support for young people through Connexions (Adviza)
- Early Help coordinators
- Families First
- Family Resilience
- Support for children who have lived with Domestic Violence (Refuge and Outreach) (Women’s Aid)
- Support for parents through Barnardo’s
- Young carers support
- Youth Services.
The consultation document (link below) has all the right buzz words – prevention, targeting those most in need, reaching out and “interacting close to the families”, value for money, co-ordinated advice from one trusted source. What’s not to like? Sounds good doesn’t it?
It’s only if you read the accompanying Cabinet paper that worries start. The link to this paper is below but unfortunately since starting this blog the connection seems to have gone down.
So you will have to take my word for it that BCC plans to cut the budget for these services by at least £3.3 million/year. These proposals are a cost cutting exercise.
You will have to take my word for it that the Conservative-dominated Council is not interested in supporting children and young people. Its vision is:-
“Residents will take greater responsibility for meeting their own needs, and those of their families and their communities. Aspiration, rather than dependency, will be valued, and everyone will play their part in the success of the County. Within this context, the Councils’ resources will be focused on enabling the conditions in which our communities can prosper.”
No mention here of the Council’s responsibility to provide support – it’s down to families and the communities. It’s not about the Council providing good quality services –it’s about “enabling the conditions”.
Remember we are talking here about children and young people who may be severely disabled, or with mental health problems, or with abusive or negligent parents.
Gone is any thought that vulnerable children and young people are legally, or morally, entitled to help. They and their families should apparently be ashamed of their “dependency”. They have got to “aspire” rather than look for support.
This is not a vision I share; I find the vision despicable.
The Cabinet paper goes on to propose that the Early Help service will consist of nine teams of “lead family workers supporting families where they are e.g. in their homes, in community and other settings”.
The lead family workers will no longer carry out assessments of the needs of the children or young people but will help the family to understand where they are (I can’t give you the exact words because of the lost connection). The lead family worker will no longer prepare a care plan to deliver the help which is required; they will help the family plan how it can reach its desired outcomes.
The whole thing is turned on its head. Family workers are not there to support vulnerable children and young people – they are there to put the responsibility squarely on the family.
The patronising language only adds injury to insult; many families understand very well where they are, they just want good support to help them manage.
All of these discussions are now to be carried out in the children’s and young people’s homes, or in a coffee shop or in a library.
Just keep this thought in mind – this is where “whole family” discussions about alcoholism or debt or crime are going to take place. This is where teenagers are going to discuss their drug problems, or contraception or venereal disease. This is where small children are going to discuss their disabilities or illnesses or their abusive parents.
Children’s Centres are to go. The Cabinet paper doesn’t actually say so but if there are to be no centres and the work is to be radically re-organised, then we can assume the Children’s Centres are going.
According to BCC, “building based services” do not promote independence and do not “support people reaching their full potential”. Of course, if BCC move away from “building based services”, it does not need buildings and it can sell or rent them out.
And so we get to the nub of it. This will save BCC money – an initial £3.3 million.
BCC cite two external sources in support of their new model for Early Help service. One is a report published by the Early Intervention Foundation. I can find no support for rejecting “building based services” in that report.
The other is the success of the “Troubled Families”. However, the official evaluation of the £1.3bn government “Troubled Families” scheme concluded it had had no discernible impact on a range of measures for the families including unemployment, truancy or criminality. The report was suppressed by David Cameron.
So the buildings will be closed, the budget will be cut and very probably most, if not all, of the work will be contracted out to the cheapest bidder who will pay their senior managers large sums of money and employ unqualified, low-paid staff.
Three years ago, OFSTED gave a damning assessment of Bucks Children’s Services. For three years, BCC has had to increase its budget and get its act together. OFSTED now says it is making “steady progress”.
Now there is a new Cabinet member responsible for Children’s Services, Councillor Whyte, bringing in a right-wing Conservative doctrine, and suddenly all this work is to be thrown up in the air. BCC never learns.
And children and young people will pay the price.
Bucks County Council has no major updates or decisions to make on schools before September. So that’s alright then.
9 July 2017
Wouldn’t it be good in these uncertain times if our local elected representatives had a sure grip on the problems in our schools?
You can probably write your own list of problems but here are a few of mine
- Cuts in funding
- The ever continuing huge gap between the attainment of our disadvantaged children and their peer group
- The increasing lack of local school place as developments are built without schools
- The viability of Bucks Learning Trust
- Cuts to non-core education (such as careers advice, mental health provision, sports, art and music provision)
- Cuts to support to children with special needs
- The continuing scam of the 11+
- Schools’ responsibilities for preventing radicalisation
- Schools going into special measures
On top of that there are now concerns, arising from the Grenfell Tower fire, about fire safety in schools.
Wouldn’t it be good if Bucks County Council shared their expertise and experience with these problems with the schools – or at least helped schools to share their expertise and experience?
Wouldn’t it be good if BCC helped to clarify what’s coming down the line? For example, which of the promises in the Conservative manifesto are now going to be implemented in Theresa May’s “bold” new government.
We know that the proposed expansion of grammar schools is dead (thank goodness although that doesn’t help Bucks much). We also know that the abolition of free school lunches is not going to happen.
However, is the Government still going to build a hundred free schools a year? Is it still going to insist that universities and independent schools sponsor or set up free schools? Is it still going to review school admissions policy?
Will the government still expect every child to know their times tables off by heart? Or 75% of pupils to have entered for the Ebacc combination of GCSEs?
Will the government still “offer forgiveness” to teachers on student loan repayments while they are teaching. (I know - I don’t understand this either. It sounds as though teachers have committed a sin in taking out loans and will be forgiven their sins while they teach.)
And crucially is the government going to implement the fairer funding formula – and if so when? And when do schools get some of the £4 billion extra funding promised in the manifesto?
Well it might have been good to share experience and get clarification – but it’s not going to happen. Bucks County Council has cancelled the meeting of the Schools Forum scheduled for 11 July. (The Forum is where all the head teachers get together).
BCC explained that:
“With no news having been received from DfE about budgets and finance we have no major updates or decisions to make before the new academic year.”
Says it all really. Apparently BCC is merely there to disseminate information and the schools are just to get on with it. After all, they are all businesses now. Aren’t they?
5000 students at Bucks Univ. How will they vote?
31 May 2017
Something like an extra million young people (18 -24 year olds) have registered to vote in this election – a quarter of a million on the last possible day.
About twice as many young people vote Labour as Conservative.
So with 8 days to go to the election, the results may depend on turnout of younger voters.
About 5000 of those young people are concentrated in Wycombe at Bucks New University.
In 2015, Steve Baker, the Conservative candidate won by 15,000 votes and, I’m afraid, many of those votes came from students at Bucks Uni.
A profile of students provided on the University website at the time (now irretrievable on my computer which is under repair) showed that they tended to be more affluent, and more right wing than the average student (which figures being in Bucks).
Since the Conservative Party came to power in 2010, university tuition fees have trebled to £9250 a year and maintenance grants have been abolished. The average students now starts life after uni with debts of £44,000
So here is just a few things in the Labour Party manifesto which might make them change their minds (and the minds of their parents)
- University tuition fees will be abolished
- Maintenance grants will be re-introduced
- Unpaid internships will be banned
This will cost £11.2 billion
The Conservatives have created a funding crisis for schools in Bucks – Labour would invest £6.3 billion nationally in schools
22 May 2017
I thought I would look at what’s on offer from the Conservatives and from Labour for Bucks teachers and parents of Bucks school children.
It is clear that the main educational concern in Bucks is the impending crisis in school funding. Mainstream schools face a cut in their budgets of 7-8% by 2019/20 i.e. £3 billion.
Bucks head teachers have written collectively to the Prime Minister with their concerns and individual school heads and school Governors have been writing to parents to explain why schools face this crisis.
The extract below from one primary head teacher in Bucks is typical – and unusually blunt in placing the blame for the crisis squarely on the Government.
“Ministers have repeatedly claimed that education funding is protected in real terms - it is not, and bodies such as the NAO confirm this. We feel that the Government should be the champions of education but Ministers seem to be in denial about the realities of school funding and its impact on children – the crisis in teacher recruitment is there for all to see as a clear example of the need for better policies and proper investment in our children’s futures. There is also a multi-billion pound shortfall in money for school buildings which means that premises are deteriorating and ultimately will cost more to repair than if an adequate amount was invested each year.”
It’s not only Ministers who are in denial. So too is Bucks County Council. It refuses to accept that there is an impending funding crisis.
The four ex- Conservative MPs In Bucks – Steve Baker, Cheryl Gillan, Dominic Grieve and David Lidington – also seem to be in denial. They have said nothing about this schools funding crisis (actually they don’t seem to have said much about education at all).
What the Conservatives offer
The Conservative manifesto puts its priority on the creation of more free schools (at least a hundred a year) and establishing more grammar schools.
Then it mentions the curriculum where the main proposal is to expect all 11 years old to know their times tables by heart.
Third it offers to support teachers. Teachers will be offered “forgiveness on student loan repayments while they are teaching” (whatever that means).
Finally are proposals on funding i.e. that no school will have its budget cut as a result of introducing the fair funding formula and the “overall schools budget” will be increased by £4bn by 2022 i.e. 4 years time. I understand the “overall school budget” includes free schools which will be generously funded in comparison to mainstream schools. So the funding is not going to cover the funding gap and will come too late; cuts will still have to be made.
What Labour offers
Labour’s manifesto has a chapter on education. I know I am biased but anyone interested in education in Bucks (and there are a lot of you), then I would recommend you read it. The link is below.
It sets out a vision for a National Education Service which would, over time, provide cradle-to-grave learning free at the point of use. It has proposals for childcare and early learning, schools, further and adult education, apprenticeships and higher education.
But back to school funding. The manifesto says
“Labour will not waste money on inefficient free schools and the Conservatives’ grammar schools vanity project. Labour does not want a return to secondary moderns. We will also oppose any attempt to force schools to become academies….
We will make sure schools are properly resourced by reversing the Conservatives’ cuts and ensuring that all schools have the resources they need. We will introduce a fairer funding formula that leaves no school worse off, while redressing the historical underfunding of certain schools. Labour will also invest in new school buildings, including the phased removal of asbestos from existing schools”
All the Labour Party’s proposals are costed. Those for the increased funding for schools, including protection against losses from the new funding formula, and for free school meals and the arts pupil premium is £6.3 billion by 2021/2.
Teachers and parents can take their choice. I know I want Labour’s vision and its practical, professional proposals for my granddaughters.
And by the way, the Labour candidate for Aylesbury is a retired primary school head teacher.
Operating losses of Bucks schools got worse in 2016
23 April 2017
The operating surpluses or losses of six secondary schools in Bucks – three non-selective schools and three grammar schools - are set out below. They are taken from the latest accounts which these schools are now required to send to Companies House as they are now companies.
All the schools have had to make large adjustments to their final operating balance because of what are called “actuarial losses on benefit pension schemes”. This means all six schools operated at a substantial loss during 2016.
The figures in brackets are the operating balances without the pension adjustments. The three grammar schools would have operated at a surplus without the pension adjustment, the three non-selective schools would have operated at a loss. I do not know if this is significant as I selected the six schools at random.
All schools now face a 7-8% further loss by 2020.
It does not make happy reading.
Most secondary schools and some primary schools in Bucks are now private sector companies. The assets and staff of previously state-owned schools were transferred to private sector companies limited by guarantee; they are called academies. Free schools are companies set up by the private sector and run for profit.
Not a lot of people have realised this.
If anyone would like to know the operating loss or surplus of their local school, if it is an academy or free school, I can help if you contact me.
Net income/expenditure (£000s)
Princess Risborough School
Aylesbury High School
Sir William Ramsay School
Sir William Borlase Grammar School
Holmer Green Senior School
- 1,072 (-138)
Royal Grammar School
Posted by Linda Derrick. Promoted by Martin Abel on behalf of Linda Derrick at 5 Spenser Road, Aylesbury HP21 7LR
What BCC doesn’t tell you about education in Bucks – but its retiring Director does
10 April 2017
Councillor Zahir Mohammed, Bucks County Council’s cabinet member for education, has made much in the past few months of the possibility of more funding for Bucks schools under the Government’s proposed funding formula.
So it was interesting to hear what Mr Wilson, BCC’s Service Director for Education said last month as he made his last appearance, before he retires, at BCC’s Select Committee on education (see https://buckscc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/254414 at 1.26)
Mr Wilson was asked by Labour’s County Councillor Robin Stuchbury about the continuing failure of Bucks to improve the educational performance of children from some ethnic groups and how this could be tackled. Mr Wilson took the opportunity to describe three changes in the school system which would not help tackle this problem.
First, Mr Wilson made it clear that whatever the Government decided about the funding formula, BCC already knew that most schools in Bucks would face a real loss in funding of about 7-8% by 2020. This was the result of an increase in the running costs of schools and in the number of school children.
Well, BCC might know it but I haven’t heard it tell the voters about this real cut in funding.
Second, Mr Wilson also said messages from central Government had confused the effective running of schools. After the EU referendum, a key education Bill had been dropped. The Bill would have strengthened the role of school leadership and clarified the role of local authorities. Without the Bill, local authorities were uncertain about their role.
Again, I haven’t heard BCC explain to voters what will happen as more and more schools are privatised; local authorities still retain the statutory duty for ensuring school children have an appropriate education but have lost the power to enforce this with the private sector schools i.e. the academies and free schools. BCC hasn’t told voters about this Government shambles either.
Third, Mr Wilson said BCC had a further reduction of £4 million in its Educational Services Grant from central Government.
Mr Wilson did not explain the consequences but it is clear that this will cut the grant that can be given to the Bucks Learning Trust. The Trust was set up by BCC as a private sector company to carry out BCC's statutory responsibilities for school improvement.
The cut will put BLT’s financial viability at risk. Its grant has already been cut this year from £8 million to £6 million and it has had to make staff redundant. It now forecasts a small surplus for this operating year and reports disappointing commercial trading results. In the coming years it faces a double whammy – an unknown cut in its BCC grant and an increasing reluctance by schools to pay for its services as schools funding becomes increasingly tight.
No. BCC hasn’t volunteered this information either.
Posted by Linda Derrick. Promoted by Martin Abel on behalf of Linda Derrick at 5 Spencer Road, Aylesbury HP21 7LR
Grammar schools need to provide the evidence for the Bucks 11+. Or it’s a complete scam.
23 March 2017
Over a month ago, I asked Mr. Hudson, the Chairman of The Bucks Grammar Schools (TBGS), for some very basic information (see blog below). I asked him if he could provide any evidence to show the Bucks 11+ does what it is intended to do i.e. assess academic potential.
If that evidence existed, I am sure Mr. Hudson would have sent it to me quickly. Indeed if it existed, I think it would have been published by now. But he didn’t send me any evidence and nothing has been published. He has not even bothered to reply.
So I think it is reasonable to assume that there is no evidence to show the 11+ assesses academic potential.
It is worth pausing to understand what this means.
The 11+ in Bucks underpins the whole rationale of deciding that some 10 year olds should go to grammar schools and other 10 year olds should go to upper schools. It affects the education of tens of thousands of children every year and influences their life chances for decades.
The 11+ is the cornerstone of selective education. If the 11+ doesn’t do the job, the whole edifice crumbles.
However, neither the grammar schools nor Bucks County Council can produce any evidence that the 11+ does what it is meant to so.
The whole system of selective education in Bucks is built on the 11+ - and, unless someone comes up with the evidence, the 11+ is a complete scam.
Year after year, the gap between the educational attainment of disadvantaged children in Bucks and their peer group is one of the biggest in the country. BCC’s own research (the Strand report) suggested a major causes of this difference was the fact that Bucks had selective education.
But BCC doesn’t seem to care. It carries on believing selection is a wonderful thing.
During the last meeting of the Select Committee for Education, Robin Stuchbury, Labour’s Councillor, asked Councillor Zahir Mohammed, the cabinet member for education, whether he supported the Government’s proposals for funding more grammar schools which would be at the expense of other schools. The answer seemed to be yes.
So let’s see the evidence for this support from Councillor Mohammed. Let’s see his evidence that the 11+ selects on the basis of academic potential. Because if it doesn’t, the whole system falls down.
Or perhaps we could all agree with Paul Irwin, a Tory Councillor, who at the meeting simply said “if we got rid of the grammar schools, we would sort out the problem of the gap”. His Tory colleagues ignored his comments.
List of schools in Bucks which will lose funding under proposed DfE changes
26 February 2017
I asked Councillor Mohammed, cabinet member on Bucks County Council, for a list of schools in Bucks which would lose funding under the proposed changes to the funding formula. He said these schools would lose perhaps 1 or 2 teachers.
In response, an official sent me the link below
The link is to an excel table on the Department of Education’s website. The table has a list of over 20, 000 schools. The official suggested
“The last tab ‘NFF all schools’ filtered on Buckinghamshire might be the most useful to you.”
I am surprised that BCC does not have a list of these schools readily available.
No matter, I extracted the list below, after some degree of eye strain. As I have done this myself, please treat the list with caution as I may have made a mistake.
The figure after the school name is the percentage loss compared to the 2016/7 baseline. (N.B. In the first year of transition local authorities can modify the allocation between schools)
Beechview School -1.2
Little Missenden Church of England School -0.8
Millbrook Combined School -1.4
Dagnall VA Church of England School -0.6
The Mary Towerton School At Studley Green -0.6
Chalfont Valley E-ACT Primary Academy -1.2
Chalfont St Giles Infant School and Nursery -1.2
Chenies School -0.5
Denham Village Infant School -0.8
Drayton Parslow Village School -0.8
Roundwood Primary School -1.2
The Iver Village Junior School -0.4
Jordans School -0.9
Thornborough Infant School -0.7
The Meadows School -1.2
Booker Hill School -1.3
Ash Hill Primary School -1.3
Woodside Junior School -1.3
Chepping View Primary Academy -1.4
St James and St John CofE Primary School -1.1
Padbury Church of England School -1.1
Whaddon CofE First School -0.8
Lee Common Church of England School -0.9
Westcott Church of England School -1.0
Oakley Church of England Combined School -0.9
St Peter's Church of England Primary School, Burnham -1.3
Swanbourne Church of England VA School -1.2
Cuddington and Dinton CofE School -1.3
Cadmore End CofE School -1.0
Ibstone CofE Infant School -0.7
St Louis Catholic Primary School -0.8
Kings Wood School and Nursery -0.8
Speen CofE VA School -0.9
Buckinghamshire UTC -1.1
Highcrest Academy -0.2
Cressex Community School -0.9
Bucks grammar schools fail to provide evidence that the 11+ works
15 February 2017
Selection to the grammar schools in Bucks is the responsibility of the Bucks grammar schools.
Bucks County Council is responsible for ensuring there are equal educational opportunities in Bucks.
All the Bucks grammar schools use the same test, known as the 11+, for the selection.
The 11+ is intended “to enable all children to demonstrate their academic potential without excessive preparation”.
The 11+ is critical to the educational and life chances of thousands of children each year in Bucks.
Despite the importance of the 11+ to so many children,
1. It seems, the grammar schools cannot provide any independent verification of the 11+ i.e. there appears to be no evidence from any independent source that the 11+ assesses potential effectively.
The only evidence cited by the grammar school heads is an analysis by the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) which developed and sold the 11+ to the Bucks grammar schools.
2. It seems the grammar schools cannot provide any evidence that the 11+ assesses potential.
On the contrary, the evidence which the grammar schools provided indicates that the 11+ assesses skills.
Proficiency in skills can be taught. It is dependent on, for example, the quality and quantity of teaching, parental background, culture, language and coaching.
Potential is something within the child, waiting to be developed. It is independent of these external factors.
If the 11+ assesses skills rather than potential, it would explain why children in prosperous areas in Bucks e.g. Chiltern district do very much better than children in less prosperous areas e.g. Aylesbury Vale. Children in Chiltern district would have more of the advantages that help children improve the skills assessed by the 11+.
Selection to grammar school would discriminate in favour of the prosperous-as we know it does.
If Mr Hudson truly believes the 11+ assesses potential (as is promised), then he must also believe that children from prosperous families have more potential than children from poor families – and that children in Chiltern District have more potential than children in Aylesbury Vale.
I will check my understanding of the situation with the grammar schools and ask Bucks County Council to get independent verification of the 11+ in Bucks.
The evidence for what I say.
In January, I asked the head teachers of the grammar schools in Bucks why the results of the 11+ varied so much between the four districts (see blog below). On 6 February, I received a response from Mr Hudson, the Chairman of The Bucks Grammar Schools (TBGS), reproduced at the bottom of this blog.
The only evidence cited for the TBGS’s belief in the 11+ is an analysis by the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM). The CEM develops a range of assessment tests, including the Bucks 11+, and sells them on the open market. It is therefore evaluating its own product. The CEM incidentally is part of the University of Durham where fellow academics dispute the validity of the 11+.
Mr Hudson says the 11+ is “specifically designed to work out a child’s potential”. He goes on to say the intention of the 11+ “is to measure pupils’ skills”. And finally he says the 11+ “provides an accurate measure of pupils’ abilities and potential”.
Skills and potential are very different things.
Although Mr Hudson appears confused about the purpose of the 11+, the CEM is clear it is about potential.
The only evidence Mr Hudson provides which would indicate that the 11+ assesses potential is a “strong correlation” of the results of the 11+ with the results of Key Stage 2 (KS2). KS2 is part of the national tests required by Government for state schools.
KS2 assesses skills i.e. what the child has learnt. It does not assess potential.
Correlation between the 11+ and KS2 therefore cannot be evidence that the 11+ is effective in assessing potential; on the contrary, it indicates that the 11+ assesses skills.
Response from Mr Hudson:
“My response is on behalf of all 13 grammar schools which form The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools (TBGS).
The Secondary Transfer Test (STT) used by TBGS has been specially designed to work out a child's potential. By the age of 11, such potential has been developed in line with a wide range of factors. The intention of the test is to measure pupils’ skills in order that all children go to a school that can best meet their educational needs.
The percentage of children qualifying for grammar school places varies from year to year across the four Bucks regions. The fact that children in different areas perform at differing levels reflects an existing pattern at KS2. 2014 STT entry data, for example, was analysed by CEM. This data showed a strong correlation between Bucks 11+ scores and the scores those same children achieved at the end of Year 6 in the government's KS2 national curriculum tests.
The Secondary Transfer Test reflects modern research into the nature of ability and the quite widely-held view that people have multiple abilities. It is therefore considered appropriate to test children's ability to think in a range of different contexts. TBGS believe that the STT provides an accurate measure of pupils’ abilities and potential.”
When schools becomes businesses, it pays to exclude
9 February 2017
At the end of January, Bucks County Council’s scrutiny committee on education considered a report on the permanent exclusion of children from primary schools. It is an excellent paper. Congratulations to the officials who wrote it.
First, the facts:
-- The number of children permanently excluded from primary schools in Bucks increased from 6 to 24 a year.
- If children are permanently excluded, their education suffers and they are more likely to develop mental health problems and commit crimes.
- A head teacher decides whether to exclude a pupil. BCC then has to offer the pupil alternative education.
- It costs a lot more to educate a child in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) than a mainstream school.
- Last year all the places in the PRUs were full and BCC had to pay for extra places.
Virtually all of the excluded children had special educational needs and most had had their needs identified before exclusion. The children were
- mainly boys
disproportionately Black or Black British
di disproportionately poor
- mainly excluded for persistent disruptive behavior
- mostly excluded from outstanding or good schools; the better the OFSTED rating, the more likely the school was to exclude children more than once.
Second, the causes for the increase in exclusions:
- a lack of experienced teachers
- OFSTED placing a greater emphasis on behaviour and schools responding by excluding pupils who could adversely affect their ratings;
- delays with getting support/assessment for children with special educational needs and for schools;
- it is cheaper to exclude a child than buy in additional support; and
- schools get less money to take on a previously permanently excluded pupil so there is no financial incentive to reintegrate a pupil back into the mainstream.
Third, action has been taken successfully in Bucks to help reduce the exclusion. Again, congratulations to those concerned. However, resources for this work had to be taken from elsewhere.
What officials could not say is that this is what happens when you turn schools into businesses - short-term, selfish actions which minimize the costs to the school leaving BCC to pick up the bill. It costs society and the taxpayer more in the long run and leaves the disadvantaged adrift.
Response from Councillor Mohammed on SEN children is misleading, inaccurate and totally irrelevant
19 January 2017
Just after Christmas, I asked Councillor Mohammed, who is responsible for education on Bucks County Council, why there were so few children with special educational needs in grammar schools (see blog below).
Councillor Mohammed replied:
1. “It is important that children are able to attend educational settings that are as far as possible suited to them where they can perform. To this end it is important that there is choice and diversity of educational provision. Parents and carers can make a request for a particular school, college or other institution, so a placement at a particular school is very dependent on the following, taken from the SEND Code of Practice, 2015”
This does not answer my question; parents can ask for their child to go to grammar school until the cows come home but the child will not get in unless they pass the 11+.
2. “There were a total of 688 pupils in our grammar schools who either had SEN Support, a Statement or an EHC plan which equates to 4.4% of the total grammar population.
The figures quoted in my blog refer to children with statements of SEN or with education, health or care plans because it is this category which is used by the Department of Education. I could therefore compare the intake of this category into Bucks grammar schools with national figures. It is was then clear that individual Bucks grammar schools have far fewer children than expected.
Councillor Mohammed includes children who have SEN support in his category. He does not provide a comparable figure for all Bucks children in this category, not just those in grammar schools, so residents cannot see whether grammar schools take their fair share.
So the figures are misleading and do not, in any case, answer my question.
3. Buckinghamshire is a good education authority where SEN/EHC pupils outperform similar pupils nationally at KS4, illustrating the importance of choice and diversity of educational provision…. Buckinghamshire SEN/EHC pupils outperform similar pupils nationally by about 12% and also shows that Buckinghamshire results have improved since 2014 whereas nationally they have remained static
Councillor Mohammed is quoting the wrong set of figures. In fact, Bucks SEN/EHC pupils outperform similar pupils nationally by 2%. The results have deteriorated in Bucks since 2014 whereas nationally they have remained static.
So the information is inaccurate and does not, in any case, answer my question either.
There is a pattern here – If BCC does not want to answer the question, it will answer the questions you didn’t ask with irrelevant, misleading and inaccurate information.
Let’s hold the decision-makers to account for the 11+
15 January 2017
Just after Christmas, Bucks County Council put the first set of statistics about the outcome of last year’s 11+ onto its website.
The statistics are published on behalf of the Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools who are responsible for setting the 11+ and preparing the statistics. The statistics are for pupils who will start secondary school in September 2017.
As far as I am aware, neither BCC nor Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools have given the statistics any publicity – you have to know where to find the data on the website.
BCC has a statutory duty to provide equal educational opportunities for all children in Bucks.
It is also the job of BCC’s Select Committees to help improve outcomes for Buckinghamshire's residents and hold decision-makers to public account.
However, BCC has no plans to scrutinise the statistics and publicly hold the decision-makers to account for the outcomes on the 11+.
So let’s start the process for them. Here are some of the outcomes.
% getting necessary mark for entry to grammar school
Aylesbury Vale district 18
Chiltern district 41
Wycombe district 22
South Bucks district 36
The 11+ is meant to measure innate or inborn aptitude or potential i.e. abilities and talents which can be developed during secondary education.
The measurement should have nothing to do with what children have learned by the time they are 10, nor with the quality of the teaching they have had or any difficulties they might have with the English language.
If we believe the 11+ does what it is intended to do, children in South Bucks district are twice as like to have the necessary inborn aptitude or potential to benefit from a grammar school as children in Aylesbury – and children in Chiltern are even more likely to have this innate aptitude or potential. A remarkable outcome.
If we believe in the 11+, we have to believe the Fairy Godmother sprinkles twice as much fairy dust on babies in Chiltern and South Bucks districts as in Aylesbury. Unbelievable or not?
I know there are credible explanations for this remarkable outcome but I think it is time for the decision-makers – BCC and the grammar schools – to be publicly held to account.
So I will ask for an explanation.
Oh to see some scrutiny from BCC’s Select Committees
6 January 2017
One of BCC’s education priorities is to narrow the gap between the educational achievement of pupils eligible for pupil premium and their peers. Pupils on the premium are disadvantaged primarily because their parents are poor.
This attainment gap is measured at different stages of education up to Key Stage 4 (which is GCSE or equivalent). Narrowing this gap is a priority for BCC because the gap in Bucks has been consistently wider than the national average; at GCSE level Bucks is one of the worst local authority areas, if not the worst, in helping poor pupils perform as well as their peers.
Bucks was criticised publicly about this poor performance a few years ago by Ministers.
According to a paper that went to the Children’s Social Care and Learning Select Committee in December, the attainment gap has remained wider in Bucks at all stages than the equivalent gap nationally.
There have been some improvements at some stages, including at GCSE level, but the picture remains the same – the gap narrows as pupils go through primary school and then increases substantially in secondary schools.
As you can see from the graph, the gap at GCSE level hasn’t improved since the beginning of the reporting period and is 39 % i.e. 35.5 % of poor pupils get 5 good GCSEs compared with 74.5 % of their peers
Research carried out in 2014 showed pupils on pupil premium do very poorly at the 11+ (4% passed compared with about 33% overall).
The conclusion to be drawn is that the primary schools do a good job in helping poorer children catch up to their peers. However, few get through the 11+ and they fall behind again dramatically.
The role of the Select Committee is to hold decision-makers to account for improving outcomes and services for Buckinghamshire. It is part of BCC’s scrutiny function.
Its job in December was to hold Cllr Zahir Mohammed to account for BCC’s poor performance on this educational gap. Unfortunately, most of the Committee spent the 20 minutes or so telling one another that BCC was great on education.
However, two Councillors got to the core of the problem.
One of these was a Tory Councillor, the Select Committee’s Chairman, Cllr Dhillon. The other was a Labour Councillor, Cllr Stuchbury. Both made the point that poorer children do well up to 11 and then the gap widens because they do not get to grammar school.
The point was ignored of course by Cllr Mohammed but thank goodness there are two Councillors on the Select Committee who understand the problem.
Wouldn’t it be good if other Tories scrutinised the evidence?
Why are there so few SEN children at grammar schools?
A friend sent me some statistics giving the percentage of children at grammar schools with special educational needs compared with the percentage of children at secondary modern schools with special educational needs. I have checked and added to them below.
I should say up front that I think the 11+ should be abolished (for so many reasons) but given that we have an 11+ in Bucks I think we should see what is happening to our children with special educational needs.
The statistics show that the grammar schools take in a very much smaller percentage of children with special educational needs than secondary modern schools do. One grammar school has none.
I mentioned this to a number of people and their first reaction was to say something like “well of course most children who have special educational needs wouldn’t be able to go to grammar schools – grammar schools are for clever children who will do well academically. Yes the 11+ discriminates against children with special educational needs but that discrimination is fair.”
But let’s think about it.
Children have special educational needs for so many reasons. They may be dyslexic. They may have physical disabilities or illnesses. They may have mental health problems or find it difficult to concentrate. The 11+ is meant to measure innate aptitude or potential not what children have learnt by the time they are 10. So why is it that so many children with special educational needs are not going to grammar schools?
One of the aims of Bucks County Council’s Fair Access Protocol is to
• Ensure that all schools and academies, free schools and University Technical Colleges (UTC) take a shared responsibility for the admission of pupils with challenging educational needs with no one school/academy having to take a disproportionate number of pupils.
Bucks County Council appears to be failing to achieve that aim so I am going to ask Councillor Zahir Mohammed, who is responsible for Education on BCC, why not. I will let you know what he says. Our Labour County Councillor, Robin Stuchbury, has asked before and got no answer but we will try again.
School /% children with statement of SEN or education, health or care plan
Aylesbury Grammar School/ 0.5
Aylesbury High School/ 0
Aylesbury Vale Academy/2.2
Wycombe Grammar School/0.5
Wycombe High School/ 0.2
Cressex Community School/2.1
Sir William Ramsey School/5.2
Sir William Borlace Grammar School/0.3
Great Marlow School/2.2
Nationally 1.8% of schoolchildren have special educational needs.