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Listening to year 7

Professor Mick Waters looks at the importance of student voice to support transition in year 7 – and offers some tips Page 11


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Academy head slams ‘incompetence’ of DfE

Exclusive by Dorothy Lepkowska

The headteachers of some newly converted academies have still not received their budgets for the current school year, prompting fears over job losses and cuts to courses. Some schools that converted in

the spring and were given interim funding from April to August have still not received a full budget for their financial year, which began this month. This week, one accused the

Department for Education (DfE) of “incompetence on the highest level” after being told he would have to wait until November. Hugh Bellamy, headteacher

of South Dartmoor Community College in Devon, was informed only on August 22 that he would receive another short-term budget because information required to finalise his annual funding was still not available. Unlike maintained schools,

which are funded in accordance with the financial year beginning in April, academies receive fund- ing for the academic year starting September. He told SecEd: “Having to wait

until August for our annual budget was already putting us in difficulty because we didn’t know wheth- er we would be able to continue employing staff who were on short- term contracts. “As a result, I have not been

away during the summer as I’ve been waiting for these financial details to arrive so I could make any strategic decisions – such as telling people that they did not have a job to come back to.” But two and half weeks ago he was advised that information

required from local authorities about devolved funding had still not been calculated and Mr Bellamy was given another interim budget until November 1. Mr Bellamy added: “The whole

situation has been compounded by the fact that (education secretary) Michael Gove has reduced the amount of carry forward for acad- emies to two per cent, compared with five per cent for maintained schools, so we haven’t been able to hold money back for this sort of eventuality. “If there is a cold draught in

November we haven’t got the money to draw on.” Furthermore, the time lapse

in receiving the full year’s budget means that some staff employed on 12-month contracts will have exceeded a year in employment and may be eligible for redundancy. Closer analysis of the school’s

interim budget also revealed that the per-pupil funding was based on old figures, even though the school had provided officials with the most recent data. This has left the school with about £50,000 less than it was expecting. Mr Bellamy added: “It is an

absolute mess. We were told becoming an academy would free us up but I feel more constrained than ever as we are not being provided with the information on which to make important strategic decisions. “The Conservatives have had 10

years in opposition to sort out this policy and get the strategy together. But there is clearly no capacity to run this properly.” He said there was no immedi-

ate risk to the jobs of teaching assistants and other support staff, and some marginal courses may be begun but not continued beyond November.

He continued: “Staff are aware

they are in a vulnerable situation. We won’t get rid of anyone in September and it will be business as usual but we cannot know what will happen beyond November. I won’t in all conscience be able to advise staff not to take alternative jobs that are offered to them because I just don’t know if I will be able to keep them on. “This is incompetence by the

DfE on the highest level.” Meanwhile, Liz Allen,

headteacher of Newstead Wood School in Bromley, south London, which also became an academy in April, said the school was missing some funding because LACSEG (Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant) information had not yet been finalised with the local authority. She told SecEd: “Although the

DfE has the correct January 2011 SEN numbers, it has taken the overall pupil numbers from January 2010, which leaves us 26 pupils down. “This is a big concern. Our

6th form is expanding and we have to accept that the funding lags one academic year behind. So we have educated these students through year 12 with no funding and we just can’t do it for another year. “We have registered a query but

have had no response to date.” A DfE spokesman told SecEd:

“There is an issue at a small number of academies where the department is still in the process of verifying the data with local authorities. “We have agreed that the Young

People’s Learning Agency will provide interim funding based on previously held data, and will ensure that every academy gets their appropriate funding later in the autumn.”

Taking flight: Angel Romaeo, 14, won three medals at this week's UK School Games. See page 2 for more


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