Labour Says Trust the Experts Not Parents/Workers! The Troubles of Leicester’s SEND Consultation

In the context of the Tories criminal underfunding of special educational needs schools, late last year Leicester City Council undertook a public consultation on changing the way in which these limited funds are allocated.

This consultation focused on just six schools: Ellesmere, Oaklands, West Gate, Nether Hall, Millgate and Keyham Lodge – with the Council’s proposed changes meaning that the first four schools would receive more money, and the latter two less.

On March 11 this consultation was then discussed at a special meeting called by the Council’s “Children, Young People and Schools Scrutiny Commission” — with most councillor participants raising serious concerns with the process.

The nature of their worries echoed the most significant findings of the 148-page Council report under discussion which showed that less than half of the teachers, support workers, and non-teaching staff from the schools agreed with the Council’s plan.

With regard the funding system “for identifying pupil teaching needs” the report notes: “For teachers, the split was 48% in favour versus 37% not, with the remainder indifferent. Non-teaching school staff were evenly split.” While the proposed “use of standardised funding for non-teaching related costs” was opposed by “the majority of teachers and non-teaching staff”.

One councillor agreed that the standardised funding was his “biggest worry” adding that “Intuitively it just doesn’t seem to make sense.” This too was the position of the biggest education trade union who in their official submission to the consultation explained: “UNISON cannot support this proposal in its current form.”

Unsurprisingly it was only the head teachers and governors from the schools obtaining more money that supported the proposals.

The report pointed out that the governors at Keyham and Millgate School “confirmed they cannot accept the funding review in its current form, arguing it is flawed, not equitable and not based on the needs of individual children.”

This opposition was completely ignored by Assistant City Mayor Elly Cutkelvin who also fobbed off attempts to find out why the view of parents and children had remained undiscussed by the Council.

Under repeated pressing it was eventually revealed that most parents/children opposed the changes (with most input coming from the two schools facing massive funding cuts) but Cutkelvin went on to disparage their views saying they should just “trust” the Council “experts”.

Cutkelvin first cynically agreed with her critics that “families and the children should be at the centre of this consultation” before adding that the consultation is a “bit of a red herring”. She continued: “You should trust the experts on this, a parent will always say ‘my child needs more, my child deserves more,’ ‘my child needs more than that child over there’.”

Hence after belittling the people whose views should be at the centre of the consultation she concluded that the “key stakeholders…were those special schools head teachers in the first instance.” So, the key people to listen were the heads of the four schools who were set to benefit from the consultation!? So much for consulting the public or the workers at the schools.

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