Cash-strapped special school in funding plea
November 30, 2010
A Woodley school for children with disabilities is calling for extra funding to help it maintain support standards because it receives almost half the place funding of similar schools in Berkshire.
Data presented at a meeting of Wokingham’s Schools Forum in October showed Addington Special School in Woodlands Avenue received £17,000 worth of funding each for some pupils, while the Avenue Special School in Reading received almost double the amount at £30,000.
Due to more high-level special educational needs pupils, the school said it needs additional funding of £283,000. It also said there may be a need for further increases as the school would still remain underfunded
A report presented to the meeting stated Addington School had bigger class sizes and less support as a result of smaller funding levels, leading to difficulties in provision for high level special needs pupils.
It also said staffing levels were a problem and could continue to be so without extra funding.
Members of the forum agreed an increase in funding should be provided and three options were outlined at a second meeting of the schools forum on Wednesday, November 17. The options suggested an increase in Addington’s place funded budget allocation in 2011- 2012 of either 10 per cent (or £263,210 more), 15 per cent (£394,810), or 20 per cent (£526,410 extra).
Headteacher Liz Meek outlined in a report the elements of staffing and facilities which could be achieved with each level of increase, with the maximum funding allowing a clinical psychologist and play therapist.
The minimum increase of 10 per cent would allow the school to keep an extra class open and employ 10 extra learning support assistants across the school.
Councillor Rob Stanton, executive member for children’s services, said: “Essentially Addington is saying strongly it needs more money. They have three options but they cannot chose any until we actually see what the funding settlement is in December.
“They would like to give Addington more but what we have to remember is if you give them 10 per cent more we have to take it from somebody else. So the debate is where do you take it from.
“Addington does a fantastic job and some of the complex cases they deal with are extreme, but at the end of the day we are living in very difficult times. If we can help we will but we will have to wait and see.
“Reading schools do definitely get more funding. When they pass the money on to us for their students that are in any of our schools it is paid at Wokingham rates and some of the headteachers find that a bit unfair.
“But on the flip side there is the issue that if Reading rates were paid for some children in Wokingham schools you then end up with some students getting more money than others, so it’s very hard to resolve.”
Liz Meek, headteacher, told The Wokingham Times: “Our request for additional funds ... has been partly granted. The schools forum, however, have not granted the full request until such time that they better understand the funding implications for next year with cuts expected to be announced next month.
“Addington School fully understand this position and very much appreciates the support and commitment from the schools forum to help us mitigate the risk of children being placed away from their homes.”