Headteachers and managers at two hundreds schools in Northamptonshire have issued an unprecedented public warning to county council bosses that their proposed cuts will put the safety and wellbeing of children at risk.
An astonishing open letter, made public this afternoon (Saturday, October 6), has been sent to council leader Cllr Matt Golby to ask him to find another way to save the millions necessary to balance the beleaguered county council’s budget.
The authority recently announced a new series of cuts as part of its latest ‘stabilisation plan’.
The 160 school leaders between them manage 200 different schools, nurseries, colleges and the University of Northampton.
Their letter states: “It is clear that there is an acute need to reduce expenditure.
“However, this cannot be made in a reckless manner; preventing the effective delivery of education in our county and putting the safety and wellbeing of our children and young people at risk.”
The letter says that specific areas in the Stabilisation Plan that are unacceptable include £1,832,000 of cuts to social care.
It continues: “(The cuts) represent an unsatisfactory risk to the fragile improvements made in recent years to safeguarding in the county.
“.. there are still fat too many vulnerable families either without a constant social worker or none at all. Making further cuts to service at this time puts at risk the safeguarding of many vulnerable families in Northamptonshire.”
The document is also critical of the proposed £1.1m cuts from home to school transport.
It states: “Cutting a further £1,100,000.. represents an unnecessary risk to the wellbeing of the most vulnerable children in our schools.
“Problems already exist within the school transport system; including the time that many children with disabilities spend on buses and in taxis, arrival times at school, and the impact of such cuts on parental choice of special placement,.
“This also raises concerns about the absence of proper consultation to changes in services which calls into question the legality of this process.
“Other local authorities are currently undergoing legal challenges for making similar decisions.”
Another area of cuts criticised by the signatories includes £3.8m of identified savings made against learning disability commissioning.
It states that there has been no proper consultation which represents an ‘irresponsible assumption.’
The letter concludes: “It diminishes the quality of service that schools are already struggling to provide.
“It is unacceptable that vulnerable children and adults in our county should pay the prices of financial mismanagement from an unsatisfactory administration.
“We therefore reject these proposed cuts to children’s services and ask that you find ways to achieving financial savings that are not at the detriment to the education and wellbeing of children and young people.”
The Educating Northants group released a statement on social media that said: “Here in Northamptonshire, we believe that by working together we have the determination, passion and solutions to improve the life chances of our young people. It starts by rejecting proposals by @mycountycouncil which will significantly impact on our most vulnerable learners.”
Tom Rees, Education Director of the Northampton Academy Trust, shared the message on social media, saying: “Enough is enough”.
The letter also has the backing of University of Northampton vice-chancellor Nick Petford, Julia Harley, headteacher at Northampton School for Girls, principal of Northampton College Pat Brennan-Barratt and Jamie Clarke, CEO of the Tove Learning Trust,
Other notable signatories include Wayne Norrie, director of the Greenwood Academies Trust which runs 14 schools in the county,and Chris Hill, CEO of the Nene Education Trust.
You can read the full letter and list of signatories here