10th February 2011
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We've had a couple of heroic defeats on the sporting front this week. Year 8 boys reached the last 16 in the National Cup and at the end of extra time against Theale Green School from Reading the score stood at 2-2. Unfortunately the tie was eventually settled in Theale Green's favour after a nerve-wracking penalty shoot out which finished 9-8. Year 7 went down to a heavier defeat at the same stage of their National Cup competition against a school from London. We're enormously proud of the boys and look forward to these teams continuing to perform at the highest level as they pass upwards through the school.
I promised that I would turn to some of the financial issues around the proposal on Academy conversion. The central point here is that Academies receive a grant called the LACSEG which is currently top-sliced by the Local Authority. North Somerset uses this to provide central services to schools such as educational support and advice. As a large and successful school we have never made much use of these services and now that the cuts have affected North Somerset Council there is in fact very little service to receive. The LACSEG grant for Gordano would amount to just over £577,000. From that grant we would be able to buy back any services that we still wanted to receive and use any balance for other school purposes. We are working with North Somerset to set a figure on the likely costs to Gordano but it already seems clear that there would be a significant amount of surplus funding.
It will be important for us to have at least one area of increased funding as the financial picture is otherwise quite worrying. The government is prioritising spending on students who are socially and economically disadvantaged. This funding is called the Pupil Premium. The consequence of this is that other schools will receive less. Having added up the impact of the loss of Training School Status, the reduced funding that we will now receive for our other specialisms, incoming cuts to Sixth Form funding, loss of extended services grants and a very small allocation of pupil premium we estimate that next year Gordano School may be up to £400,000 worse off than we were this year. We can obviously make some economies ourselves but we have a poor set of buildings which will continue to deteriorate without investment and more importantly we have a very high quality of education to maintain for the young people of the school.
Academy conversion addresses our financial situation in two ways. We would have funds from the LACSEG grant available to spend. Additionally we would have the business freedom to make contracts with any organisation that we choose. For example, by switching away from the LA's broadband supplier we could save £17,000 and there are many other examples of services that we either would not require because we can meet the need within our existing staffing or that we might obtain at a better price elsewhere. North Somerset are neutral on the issue of Academy conversion and where the best price is available through the LA we will still be able to purchase services from them.
Our business manager, Clare Sanders, and I have visited Norton Hill School in Midsomer Norton which is a very successful school in a similar situation to Gordano. It was very clear that the greater income and freedom of academy status are worth the extra complexity of audit, Companies House registration and VAT returns. We already operate an £8.5 M budget with minimal supervision from the LA and we feel certain that as an Academy we could deliver exactly the services that Gordano students need to Portishead with success.
I'm sure that these points will come up at the Parents and Community meeting next Wednesday at 6pm and look forward to fielding some questions then.