Bristol

School documentary 'brings home' issues

Members of staff from CSET
Image caption Several schools in South Gloucestershire featured in the programme

A programme about schools has "brought home the challenges" of education funding, a council leader has said.

The BBC Two documentary School has featured an academy trust in South Gloucestershire and shown the problems of one school in special measures.

The authority is currently consulting on how to fund a £3m shortfall in funding for special educational needs.

Council leader Toby Savage said he had been asking for more money from central government.

School has focussed on the CSET trust and shown Castle, Marlwood and Mangotsfield schools which are based on the outskirts of Bristol.

Image caption The six-part series discovers the tough decisions schools have to make

Marlwood has been in special measures, and the programme showed head James Pope leaving his post.

No options 'acceptable'

South Gloucestershire's consultation over its £3m shortfall produced three options, which included taking money from mainstream schools.

Parents are due to meet in Hanham later to discuss the situation, and the Liberal Democrats have proposed a council motion to call on the council to demand more cash from the government.

Some schools in the council area, following advice from a group of head teachers, have simply replied to the consultation saying that "none of the options are acceptable".

"The local authority must work with central government to provide a fourth option, where both mainstream and High Needs education have adequate funding," the text added.

Image caption The Multi-Academy Trust featured in the series is responsible for educating 5,000 students

Conservative Mr Savage said: "We continue to press the case for even more funding for South Gloucestershire children.

"I'm doing my best. Over the past year I've met with three different ministers within the Department for Education.

"Every opportunity I get I'm championing the cause of South Gloucestershire children."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said it "recognised the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more".

"South Gloucestershire will receive an increase of 5.3% per pupil for its schools by 2019/2020, compared to 2017/18 funding levels - which is an increase of £8.8m when rising pupil numbers are taken into account.

"Local authorities continue to have flexibility on how this funding is distributed across schools, and we expect South Gloucestershire Council to take account of local circumstances when money is being allocated."

'Can't afford to run education system'

Cuts to special education needs budgets are also having an impact in Gloucestershire.

Dominic Burke, the head of Balcarras School in Cheltenham, has written to county council leader Mark Hawthorne to urge the government for emergency funding for pupils.

In the letter, Mr Burke said Gloucestershire "can no longer afford to run its education system on the funding allocated".

"In the intervening period costs have risen considerably, particularly when you factor in National Insurance and pensions changes which have been totally unfunded.

"In 2012 we spent 74.5% of our grant funding on staffing - this year we will spend 87.7%. Next year... we will have to spend 90.4% of our grant income on staffing which is unsustainable."

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