Saturday, 20 November 2010

Chair of Governors Autumn Meeting

This week I attended the autumn term chair of governors meeting with Surrey County Council.

Unsurprisingly academies, school finances and school place provisioning dominated the agenda.

Last month Surrey made national headlines when the media suggested all Schools in Surrey could become Academies at the same time.

Guardian’s coverage of that story can be found here.

Only one Surrey school called Cleves School in Weybridge has converted to an Academy with a second going through the process.

Despite last month’s media coverage of all Surrey schools becoming academies the message to Chairs of governors couldn’t be more different.

Councillor Peter Martin, Surrey County Council Cabinet member for Children and Learning said “I am not convinced that academies are the best thing in Surrey”

Surrey Head of Schools and Learning, Nick Wilson added “I am uncertain about the benefits of any Surrey school becoming an academy” and “If it ain’t broke don’t break it!”

Both were concerned that if too many Schools opt out of Local authority central services then there could be a tipping point where it might be difficult to provide continue to provide those services for those remaining.

There was also doom and gloom on School budgets with a view it is difficult to predict final funding for next year's budget with current information available from the DfE.

It was suggested it was unlikely that any of the Pupil premium funding would come Surrey’s way.

Although the national School Budget increased by 0.1% when you factor in Inflation currently at 3.2%, rising energy prices, Teacher & support staff pay increments and loss of extra funding such as the Technology grant which paid for broadband access Surrey suggested that Governors should prepare for 10% increase in School expenditure over the next two years while receiving funding broadly based on last year. The reality is this could mean a 5% cut in School budgets which in most Schools will mean reductions in staffing levels.

I believe it is estimated that up to 40,000 teaching and teacher assistant jobs could be lost in the next two years as the reduction on Local Authority funding bites.

In Surrey’s case they need to reduce their budget by 28% over four years, 12.5% of it in the first year.

This equates to 19 million pounds this year and 53 million pounds over four years.

Access to capital will also reduce by 45%.

If that wasn’t depressing enough we then moved on to School place provisioning. The birth rate in Surrey has grown by 18.3% between 2000 and 2008. Primary school places are required across Surrey but there is little access to capital. Surrey plan to borrow 145 million pounds over the next four years to meet their legal obligation of providing school places for a rising population in Surrey.

Peter Martin said he would be delighted to hear from groups of parents who wanted to open Free schools in Surrey. There is a number places in Surrey which require extra school capacity and funding for new Free Schools would come from central government therefore reducing the burden of borrowing money for Surrey tax payers.


  1. I have thought about setting up a free school, since I live in an area of Surrey which is desperately short of school places. Do you know if there is a central link where people who are interested can find out about all the other people who are thinking about the same thing? Or any resources like how to find out some of the figures we would need to put into the budget to see whether the numbers will add up? It would really help if we had some access to someone who was already involved in a school, to help us decide things like, even simple things like where it would be possible to outsource school meals to or how many cleaners would we need for a certain size of school, not to mention the teaching recommendations.

  2. Carolyn please drop me a line at