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Edinburgh Council’s education budget meeting on 22 January: The Outcomes

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Harald Tobermann, BhsPC chair, attended the Council’s education budget meeting on 22 January along with some. 60 other PC chairs, two finance councillors, Paul Godzik, the education committee convenor, and a number of senior officials from both departments.

While presentations could have been a bit shorter (or better still: replaced by advance papers), it brought everyone present onto the same page.

Perhaps the most productive part of the evening was the informal opportunity to chat with Cclr Rankin (finance convenor) Cclr Cook (LAB, vice-chair), Hugh Dunn (senior CEC finance official), and Lindsay Law (the new parent rep on the Education Committee). An early version of our budget paper was shared with a number of PC chairs – their feedback helped us to improve the paper further (latest revision is still open for online comments here, before it was sent to our eight local councillors.

In summary: this year’s budget is unlikley to change much from the framework we looked at our special budget MSG meeting on 18 January before it is adopted on 7 February.

Our plans is to persuade everyone who needs to be persuaded of our “free” quick gains; and to follow up with finance councillors after the current budget to look at get the Council to look at our medium term gains.

 

Special budget meeting with councillors this WED, 16th 6.30pm @ BHS

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Dear Parents and Carers

We are meeting with a (handful) of our local councillors on WED (6.30pm) to talk about the Council’s draft budget proposal — given our own interest, obviously with an eye on education items.

To give you an idea of the scale of things: for the coming financial year (from April 2013), the Council is seeking to save £3.8m. This rises to £31m in 2014/15 and £95m in 2017/18. Given that education accounts for 33% of the total Council budget, a lot of these savings could translate as cuts into a more poorly resourced education budget.

The format of the meeting will be relatively informal, seminar style: rather than lobbying the councillors present, the emphasis will be on gathering as much information and rehearsing arguments as possible to make the maximum impact at a special budget meeting for PC chairs in the following week with the convenor of the Council’s finance committee.

The aim of the meeting will be to identify any weaknesses in the draft budget and to outline any alternative ideas/priorities that benefit BHS either immediately or longer term (through better education budget husbandry). The ideal outcome of the meeting would be three to five well-tested points and arguments that I can take to the meeting with the finance committee convenor.

In addition to MSG members and local councillors, any BHS parent or carer interested in this is welcome to contribute.

Harald Tobermann
Chair, BHS Parent Council

School sport at risk, says Labour

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Labour says the government has risked “salami slicing” school sport by abolishing a requirement that all pupils do at least two hours PE a week, according to a post this week from BBC News.

The party is calling for “tough action” to deliver a schools’ sport legacy to match the success of the Olympics.

It says recent data suggests just more than about half of children do this much exercise, down from 90% in 2010.

The government said it was putting competitive sport at the heart of the new national curriculum.

In a new action plan, launched ahead of Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the year final, Labour calls for the two-hour a week of PE requirement to be reinstated.

For the rest of this important article, click here.

Scottish schools to get extra £1m for musical instruments

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Schools are to be given an extra £1m by the Scottish government to buy musical instruments for pupils, says a recent news post from the BBC.

Ministers will also set up a working group to look at music tuition fees, which can vary across councils.

Among issues it will examine is the question of charges for pupils sitting SQA music exams.

The EIS teaching union, which has been campaigning for “fair access” to music education for pupils in all parts of Scotland, welcomed the announcements.

Minister for Learning Alasdair Allan said every child should have the opportunity to learn an instrument.

“Currently, there are too many children being put off taking up music because of the cost of the instrument,” he said.

Mr Allan said the new Instrumental Music Group would look at how music tuition is delivered.

He added: “The group’s work will also examine how we ensure local musical traditions are catered for as well as studying what role the wider musical community can play in supporting our ambitions for our children.”

The group, which will include representatives of parents and teachers, will start work in January and report back next summer.

Read the rest of this exciting article here.

School Budget News

This is the text of a letter from the Council education committee convenor, Marilyne MacLaren, setting out the administration’s budget rationale.  It contains a link to the actual budget proposal (now adopted).

’10 February 2012

Dear Parent Council Chair

Council Budget

Following the Council Budget Meeting on 9 February I thought it would be useful to provide you with more details of the decisions affecting Children and Families.

The full details of the revenue and capital budgets can be accessed on the Council website with the main points being incorporated in the Administration motion which can be found through the following link:

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/34885/administration_budget_motion_and_addendum_grants

There are a number of key points within the budget plans which I wanted to bring to your attention as they are of particular significance to schools.

Savings Proposals 2012/13

In total, Council departments have identified savings proposals of £4.845 million for the 2012/13 financial year. As you would expect, Children and Families has identified a proportionate share of these savings amounting to £1.158 million however I am pleased to confirm that none of the savings identified will have any direct impact on schools.

Additional Funding

As a result of the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensuring that no council in Scotland receives less than 85% of the average per capita grant in Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council will receive an additional £22 million in 2012/13 with a similar level of funding in the following two years.

Whilst challenges remain in the budgets for 2013/14 onwards this additional funding, together with the financial prudence exercised by the Council itself in recent years, has allowed a level of additional investment to be made in a range of services during 2012/13. Those areas of particular significance to the priorities for children and their families are as follows:

• £1.63 million in the early years and early intervention services (through the establishment of an early years’ change fund as the first tranche of a total investment of £8.6 million over the next three years);

• an additional £147,000 to support increasing numbers of children in early years as a result of rising birth rates;

• an additional £4.1 million which will be available for fabric repairs to schools and some community centres;

• an additional £250,000 funding for school text books, computers and supplies and services; and

• an additional £1.87 million to support increasing numbers of looked after children.

School Fabric Repairs

An additional £4 million will be invested on a one-off basis in Edinburgh’s schools. The investment will help to tackle the backlog of fabric repairs which has build up over the years mainly including redecoration and the replacement of worn floor coverings.

In my visits to schools this is a regular topic of concern. Whilst this is a school responsibility, the provision within devolved school budgets is already under significant pressure making it difficult to sustain a proper maintenance regime in these areas. I am, therefore, delighted that we have been able to take such significant action to address these issues.

The allocation to each school is based on the relative condition of the building and the level of backlog which exists as shown in the last building survey undertaken. This allocation is, therefore, proportionate to need. Details of the funding allocation will be sent directly to each school and we have already started the process of mobilising what will be a significant new programme of works. Each school will ultimately have the discretion to decide where they would like the money to be spent based on their own assessment of priorities.

Public Private Partnership schools are not included in this allocation as maintenance of this nature is part of the contract arrangements; nor will the Wave 3 schools that are already in the process of being replaced, or are scheduled for replacement be included.

School Supplies and Services

An additional £250,000 will also be provided on a one-off basis for school supplies and services. The basis for allocation of this additional funding has yet to be determined in detail however all schools will benefit.

Again, how this funding is used will be entirely at the discretion of the school however this introduces a number of possibilities which the school may wish to consider such as enhancing the funding allocated to fabric repairs or investing in ICT equipment in preparation for the forthcoming ICT refresh programme.

Charges for Services

The budget will facilitate improvements in community access to schools, in school meal uptake and in the number of adult learners through the following freezes in charges:

for school lets this year to help community groups and others to access venues for vital local activities; for school meals for the fourth year in succession; and fees for adult learners for a fourth consecutive year which has led to a year on year increase in the numbers of adult learners.

Achievements

The Administration Budget motion (which you can access on Council website as explained above) sets out the many achievements in improving outcomes for children and families which have been delivered since 2007:

• improvements in every nationally reported measure of educational achievement;

• significant improvements in child protection and children’s social work services, as confirmed by inspectors in their recent inspections;

• the number of young people who leave school into education, employment or training is the highest level for a decade;

• there has been significant investment in the Children & Families estate:

• investment in new schools (Portobello, James Gillespie’s, Boroughmuir); Children’s homes (Seaview Centre and Hillview); investment in community centres (Cameron House, Royston Wardieburn); investment in nurseries (Fort, Gracemount, James Gillespies, Clermiston); school extensions including Corstorphine, James Gillespies, Towerbank; and investment in energy and building improvements in schools;

• improvements in outcomes for Looked After Children which now compare favourably with national indicators;

• Edinburgh is ahead of most other authorities in paying kinship carers at the same rate as foster carers;

• improvements in the extensive programme of activities for young people and families:

• Edinburgh has the biggest Duke of Edinburgh programme in the country; – Edinburgh will maintain its excellent music service, free of charge for all children, and is only one of seven authorities to still offer a free music service; – 7,000 young people a week take part in youth clubs; – 17,000 young people take part in summer holiday activities (31% increase); – 12,600 children participated in the highly successful Active Schools programme in a wide range of sporting activities; – More than 11,000 adults take part in adult education programmes

• improvements in the engagement of young people and families in our services:

• 10,228 young people voted in the Scottish Youth Parliament (104% increase); – Youth forums have been established in each neighbourhood and also citywide.

• 2,500 parents and 9,000 children completed survey feedback about their experience of schools with 95% parents indicating satisfaction with their school.

This is a tremendous record of service enhancement which, together with the significant improvement in the stewardship of our budgets, we can all be very proud.

During my time as Convenor we have faced many challenges in ensuring that we can continue to deliver, and indeed continually improve on, the high standard of services which you rightly expect at a time when we have also had to deal with most significant financial challenges we have faced for many years. Within that context I am particularly pleased that we have been able to achieve what I hope you will agree represents a very positive outcome.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for again for the support and help you give to your school.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Marilyne MacLaren Convener of Education, Children and Families’

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