Children’s services budgets at risk from academies

Children's services budgets may be used to pay for the increase in academies, it is feared.

Children’s services budgets may be used to pay for the increase in academies, it is feared.

A briefing paper for peers points out that the government is planning to allow academies to recoup more of their centrally-held funds from councils than before.

Because local authorities differ in how they calculate the level of funds that are top-sliced for services, the impact in some could be massive, says policy consultant Martin Rogers, who compiled the paper with the National Union of Teachers.

Under the proposals, the extra funding the academies would receive from councils would range from £13,000 a child in Islington, London, to £217 a child in Buckinghamshire.

“This will have an impact on the whole of the children’s services budget, although it would be up to councils about how they absorbed that cost,” Rogers said.

Debbie Jones, head of the resources committee for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said the organisation was working with the Department for Education on the financial implications of the increasing number of academies.

“Children’s services budgets is part of where the devil is in the detail,” Jones said. “We’re having discussions with the government about how to have a proper transition with academies because the budgets we’re talking about provide a range of services.”

Matt Dunkley, ADCS vice-chair, said the uncertainty was destabilising for children’s services.

“Any number of your schools could become academies extremely quickly and you won’t be told until the point that they’re going to do it,” he said. “They then take with them the funding that pays for your services. The instability that will cause, on top of an already tough financial environment, will be very dangerous.”

Education secretary Michael Gove yesterday announced that the Local Government Association (LGA) and the ADCS would be part of a new ministerial group to advise on the role of the local authority in education and children’s services.

Gove told the LGA’s annual conference in Bournemouth he was keen to hear what they had to say about the role of local authorities “as the government’s policies on education and children’s services develop”.

It followed a call from the LGA for councils to have a commissioning role for academies. This would ensure schools would still be part of prevention strategies for child protection and take in a fair share of disadvantaged children, the LGA said.

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