Funding: How is it affecting your school?
The level of funding we receive enables us to create and provide, but it also restricts what we are able to do. As with mainstream school funding, the use of the high-needs block is significantly different across the country. It would be interesting to compare the way needs are met in this block, and to discover the many differences in the way the finance is allocated and used.
There are many questions that I would love to hear the answer to. Has the basic sum and top-up element simplified the funding process? Or does it remain as complex as ever? Will there ever be a national funding formula, and is so, how will it affect the process? Can we categorise students using a national formula when there are so many different local situations and systems?
Evidence from surveys (Barry Carpenter) suggests that both numbers of students and complexity of needs are increasing, is this is case for you? If it is, then we would be keen to hear if the costs now outstrip the income, and how you are meeting the need. There is evidence coming to light from around the country that, as other service budgets shrink, the costs for those services are now being met by schools.
It’s a sad fact that social work teams are only dealing with crisis cases, nursing teams and occupational therapy services are reducing, speech and language therapy teams are struggling to meet demand, while psychologists are only able to carry out statutory assessments. These issues could be affecting you and adding pressure to your budget, and if they are, how are you solving problems in the face of such strain?
We know there are additional pressures to face. Are you experiencing an increase in commodity prices? Are you finding there are fewer companies making specialist equipment, resulting in an increase in prices because the remaining firms monopolise the market? I’d also be interested to hear how charges for clinical waste and medical supplies have altered, and how you’re coping with this.
As you receive more students with mental health issues, are you finding services available e.g. CAMHS, and are there sufficient services available? Do you have to divert funds to provide your own bespoke services in this area?
With all budgets potentially under pressure, how many schools have developed additional income streams? Most of all, I’m keen to hear how you balance the many demands. It would be fascinating to share innovative ideas with colleagues.