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Homepage > Education and learning > Access to learning > Statement of priorities

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Statement of priorities

Revised April 2019.

Foreword

Staffordshire is a great place to live, work and invest where most people enjoy a good quality of life. Every Staffordshire child deserves the best possible education and to leave school or college with the learning and skills they need to succeed in further education or the workplace. A strong economy relies on a high performing education system to produce the workforce of the future, and young people with the right skills, attitude and ambition to meet the needs of our employers or to start a business of their own.

Staffordshire schools are improving and there are many examples of good practise across the county, nearly 90% of Staffordshire schools are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. However, our young people are not achieving the education and skills outcomes that we expect for a county with the ambition of Staffordshire. Key Stage 4 and 5 are below the national average.

The purpose of this Statement of Priorities (StOP) document is to describe how the County Council will use capital investment in schools and educational settings to support the achievement of local and national priorities and to explain the nature of building improvement measures required in schools in order to plan capital expenditure. The StOP is dynamic and recognises that planned proposals may have to be put on hold or re-phased if emergency works are required or if Central Government requires new proposals on strategy and funding. Priorities that are contained within the StOP reflect both the Asset Management Plan (AMP) and as far as possible whole school issues. In addition to this, the priorities recognise the need to consider the Staffordshire Learning Infrastructure Forecast (SLIF) in terms of areas of pupil growth and decline.

The schools’ capital programme is designed to support the County Council in meeting its vision for:

A connected Staffordshire, where everyone has the opportunity to prosper, be healthy and happy.

Context

Capital Funding

As in 2018/19, the allocation to the local authority consists of only two funding streams – Basic Need and School Condition Allocation (SCA). They are part of the Single Capital Pot allocation and can be used for all local Children, Young People and Families priorities, not just in schools. Both streams can be used together.

School Condition Allocation (SCA) which replaced the former Capital Maintenance funding, is paid directly to the responsible body (SCC for maintained schools). SCA’s consider the information collected through the national Property Data Survey programme (PDS) about the condition of schools and allocations are updated annually to reflect new or closing schools and where a school has moved to a new responsible body.

The DfE confirmed the 2019/20 allocations on 04 April 2019 which were broadly in line with Staffordshire expectations (£5,072,313).

School Condition Allocation does not have to be used strictly for maintenance; it can also be used for improvement works. SCA for Academies, including those which have been approved but not yet converted, is not included in the local authority’s allocation.

In addition to the SCA, the DfE announced a “one-off” source of funding called the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund (HPCF) with finance provided from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy for 2018-19 only. The HPCF is intended to improve children’s and young people’s physical and mental health by improving and increasing availability to facilities for physical activity, healthy eating, mental health and wellbeing and medical conditions. Staffordshire’s maintained schools’ allocation was £573,801. Examples of projects carried out utilising HPCF include redevelopment of playground areas creating all-weather sports surfaces; development of garden nurture rooms and external wellbeing areas; trim-trail adventure courses and outdoor fitness equipment; creation of family cooking hubs and life skills centre.

The allocation is 100% grant funded (no borrowing approvals or PFI) but not time-limited so can be carried forward if unspent at the end of the financial year.

Further targeted funding in the form of the Special Provision Capital Fund was announced on 4 March 2017 to enable local authorities to invest in improving the quality and range of provision for children and young people with SEN and disabilities aged 0-25. The funding is intended for children and young people with education, health and care (EHC) plans for who the local authority is responsible. Local authorities can invest in either creating new (additional) places at good or outstanding provision; or improving facilities/developing new facilities in mainstream and special schools, nurseries, colleges and other provision. Staffordshire’s 3year allocation is £934,237 (£311,412 per year from 2017/18 to 2020/21). In January 2019 the DfE announced an additional allocation of £651,794 which will be received in the summer of 2019. The 2018/19 funding was invested across 8 sites and included works to improve the ambiance of areas, providing sensory rooms/gardens and outdoor classrooms.

Basic Need funding is the money given to local authorities each year to help them fulfil their duty to make sure there are enough school places for children in their local area. It. is expected to meet the needs for growth in pupil numbers in relation to all state funded schools in the county, including any Academies, although other funding streams such as Devolved Formula Capital and VA Capital funding may also be used for this purpose. The DfE monitors local authorities’ expenditure on Basic Need via the School Capacity Survey to ensure that it is being targeted at the areas with the greatest need. As commissioner of school places, the local authority has responsibility for determining priorities for basic need.

Already furnished with the 2015/16 and 2016/17 levels of funding, the Basic Need allocations for 2017/18 were announced on 12 February 2015. The allocation received was approximately half of the anticipated estimate and further highlighted the need for the County Council to implement its Learning Infrastructure Forecast to identify shortfalls in the funding of new places in Staffordshire. The projected number of additional places required by 2031 is circa 12,500 for mainstream primary and 8,000 for mainstream secondary education. On 17 March 2016 the DfE announced a 2018/19 Basic Need allocation of £9,263,980. A further announcement on 06 April 2017 confirmed the 2019/20 allocation of £6,756,676 and in May 2018 the 2020/21 allocation of £6,626,898 was confirmed.

School Premises Regulations

The Education Act 1996 places a duty on the Secretary of State to prescribe standards for the premises of all maintained schools in England and Wales. Those for England are set out in The School Premises (England) Regulations 2012 (SPRs) and they apply to all existing and new schools maintained by a local authority.

Similarly, the Education Act 2002 empowers the Secretary of State to prescribe standards for the premises of independent schools, which include Academies (including alternative provision Academies) and Free Schools. These are set out in Part 5 of The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010 (ISS). The Act puts a duty on schools to exercise their functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

There are fewer regulations than previously and they are less prescriptive, allowing schools more flexibility in how they use their premises. Many regulations state that provision must be ‘suitable’. This is not precisely defined, but schools must consider the age, number and sex of pupils and any special requirements they have, when determining whether provision is suitable.

Any requirement that anything provided under these Regulations must be “suitable” means that it must be suitable for the pupils in respect of whom it is provided, having regard to their ages, numbers and sex and any special requirements they may have. A pupil has “special requirements” if the pupil has any needs arising from physical, medical, sensory, learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties which require provision which is additional to or different from that generally required by children of the same age in schools other than special schools.

Strategic Priorities

In the current economic climate, where there is a considerable degree of uncertainty around the provision of capital funding to support schools and education, it is imperative that the County Council has a pre-determined set of priorities already in place so that it has the flexibility and responsiveness it will need to act on those capital funding streams as soon as they become available.

There will continue to be more demand for capital investment than there will be resources available to meet that demand. In turn this will mean that choices, sometimes very difficult choices, will have to be made. The County Council is committed to ensuring that the process of determining priorities for capital investment is open and transparent. Key features of this approach include:

  • Consultation with the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities, the Cabinet Member for Learning and Employability and the County Commissioner for Access to Learning to determine local priorities.
  • Published criteria for the assessment of priorities in the Asset Management Plan, and open access to the information held within it on all schools (Planned Maintenance Programme).
  • Consultation with all relevant partners, including schools and the three Dioceses, both directly and through the Local Management of Schools Consultative Committee (LMSCC).
  • Consultation with the County Commissioner for School Quality Assurance and Intervention – Educational Inclusion (Special Educational Needs).

In accordance with these principles and approaches, the following strategic priorities have been identified for capital investment in schools:

  • Securing sufficient school places, both the provision of new places where numbers are increasing, and the removal of surplus places, so that resources available to schools are used most efficiently.
  • Improving educational standards by addressing highest priority condition issues ensuring schools are safe, warm and dry through the Planned Maintenance Programme.
  • Meeting climate change and sustainability targets.
  • Delivering projects that make a difference to the school environment that are not condition driven but will have a significant impact through the Priority Capital Projects Portfolio.
  • Refurbishment of toilet facilities that are designed and fitted out to a standard that discourages anti-social behaviour and vandalism.
  • Replacement/removal of temporary buildings.
  • Ensuring that Staffordshire’s Pathway schools are fit for purpose to allow children with mobility problems access to mainstream education;
  • Develop ‘in-county’ provision for children and young people with Special Educational Needs, Disability (SEND) and vulnerable groups providing them access to the right support at the right time in the right way so that they can access high quality learning and skills opportunities so that they can realise their aspirations and lead a fulfilling and independent life.

Securing Sufficient School Places (Basic Need)

The County Council has a statutory duty to ensure that there are sufficient school places in the area, promote high educational standards, ensure fair access to educational opportunity and promote the fulfilment of every child’s educational potential. Staffordshire’s highest priority for investment in schools is the provision of new places to meet basic need. The process of school place planning is complex in terms of, for example, the housing market in each area of the county; receipt of capital funding from government and developers; the use of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) at some Local Planning Authorities; changes in parental preference and individual school performance; births and inward and outward migration; new government legislation and policy; building costs; the increasing number of autonomous academies. All these factors combine to create a volatile environment (SLIF February 2015).

A review of pupil place provision and a consideration of projected numbers from population trends and planned housing development within the county clearly demonstrate that in all areas there is a need to expand provision to meet growth. Projected investment required in new basic need projects by 2031 is estimated circa £241m (Staffordshire Learning Infrastructure Forecast). Based on the way we currently pay for schools to be built or extended, the 5 year programme is funded but there is a forecast shortfall of funding in the long term. To meet this gap, communities will look to us to work creatively and ensure that new school buildings are value for money. Officers are continually monitoring numbers, securing S106 funding and updating the basic need requirements for each area as more information becomes available.

Planned Maintenance Programme

Condition surveys of schools are conducted on a 3-year rolling programme to assess the condition of the buildings (suitability and sufficiency information hasn’t been collected for several years). This information is held in a database which identifies the most urgent categories of need. Every school has been provided with an Asset Management Plan (AMP) on which local decisions on capital projects can be made. The condition grades are:

A. Good – performing as intended with day-to-day servicing needs only

B. Satisfactory – performing as intended but with minor deterioration

C. Poor – not performing as intended or with major defects

D. Bad – Life expired and/or at serious risk of imminent failure

The latest AMP condition survey information identifies work totalling £28.1m in the 3 highest priority categories (excluding Academies and Voluntary Aided schools), with work to the value of circa £3.51m identified under priority 1. Previous programmes of maintenance work have focussed on the priorities identified in the AMP, and these have been successful in addressing a significant amount of condition backlog issues. These figures don’t take into account the works completed in 2018/19.

The Planned Maintenance approach enables a co-ordinated programme of repairs and allows resources to be targeted where they are most needed to reduce the effects of unsatisfactory premises on pupils’ education.

As part of the due diligence process Academy sponsors will wish to ensure that the buildings are in a good state of repair. The Maintenance Programme forms the basis for ensuring that building can be transferred in a safe and satisfactory condition.

Climate change/sustainability

The Climate Change Act was passed in 2008 and established a framework to develop an economically credible emissions reduction path. The act commits the UK to reducing emissions by at least 80% in 2050 from 1990 levels. Failure to comply with the legislation carries significant financial penalties. The County Council is committed to helping save energy and reduce carbon emissions and energy saving features are incorporated into building projects wherever possible. Around half of Staffordshire’s CO2 emissions are due to buildings and some 80% of the property assets are schools. The school estate therefore has a vital role to play in meeting increasing CO2reduction targets and it is expected that schools will make a financial contribution to any projects carried out to achieve this.

The academisation of schools means that yearly comparisons across the school’s estate are no longer possible as post academisation many schools choose to leave the centrally managed County Council energy supply contracts. Therefore, the metering data is no longer available for analysis and reporting.

Electricity prices have continued to increase, and the chart below shows the annual average unit price which includes pass through charges:

Year Average p/kWh % Increase
2015/16 12.85  
2016/17 13.19 2.65
2017/18 14.19 7.58
2018/19 14.36 1.20

The commodity price of electricity has remained relatively constant in recent years and the increasing cost is predominately through increasing energy taxes, which are being used to support renewable technologies, these are passed through in the unit price of electricity. “Pass through charges” have increased from 50% of the delivered cost in 2014/15 and now make up over 60% of the total electricity bill and these are forecast to increase year on year. As the biggest revenue costs after staffing, we need to reduce costs to limit the burden on school resources. It is essential that capital funding is made available for programmes to replace inefficient electric heating systems with ‘wet’ systems; upgrade old pipework; install new energy controls that monitor usage; insulation and installing new LED lighting. Prioritisation methodology targets schools where modernising plant or equipment provides best value returns on investment. In addition to direct financial savings, the investment provides a better learning environment for staff and students through improved heating & lighting.

A Display Energy Certificate (DEC) is required for all schools with a total floor area of over 250m2. DEC’s are intended to raise public awareness of energy use and inform visitors to public buildings about the energy use of a building. DEC’s provide an energy efficiency rating of the building from A to G, where A is the most efficient and G is the least efficient and are based on the actual amount of metered energy used by the building over the last 12 months. The operational rating is a numerical indicator of the actual annual carbon dioxide emissions from the building. A carbon neutral building with zero CO2 emissions would have an operational rating of 0, and a building that resulted in twice the typical CO2 emissions would have an operational rating of 200. The benchmark operational rating for a typical school building would be rated at a “D” 100. In 2010/11 the average rating for the DEC’s issued to Staffordshire schools was “E” 108. In 2014/15 the average rating for Staffordshire Schools had improved to “D” 83. This has delivered an improvement in carbon emissions across Staffordshire County Councils schools estate and represents a 25% reduction in carbon emissions for the period 2010/11 to 2017/18.

NB. It is no longer possible to provide the latest ‘direct’ comparison figures as Academies are not required to report their energy consumption to SCC.

Priority Capital Projects Portfolio

Staffordshire recognises the importance that the school environment has in educational attainment and that capital investment is essential to support projects that are not driven by condition. The impact of re-modelling or refurbishing areas to provide more suitable facilities is significant. Research carried out by the University of Salford (‘Clever Classrooms’) revealed that the environmental factors of a classroom can have significant impact upon the learning and academic progress of students. The report revealed that progress could be improved by as much as 16 per cent in just one year with considered implementation of positive air quality, décor and natural light.

The Priority Capital Projects Portfolio encourages schools to use some of their Devolved Formula Capital (DFC), variable dependant on the size of the project/school circumstances to contribute to the works enabling the funding to stretch further.

The District Officers identify priority projects in their areas and liaise with the schools about making contributions. All projects are assessed, weighted and ranked so that a ‘cut-off’ point can be established as to which projects the capital funding can support. If savings are achieved, then the next project on the list is added to the portfolio.

Refurbishment of Toilets

Historically, the design of school toilets has generally not been good for a complex set of reasons. Typically, children are reluctant to use them; when they are used, they are often the centre of behaviour and discipline problems. Prominent amongst the consequences are health problems and dehydration problems. Dehydrated children work less well. Ill children stay away; bullied children carry the pain for life.

There is considerable evidence highlighting the current issues with school toilets and the effects these have on pupils. An effective layout, high quality fittings and finishes, efficient cleaning and maintenance, together with good access policies, are all essential to ensure that school facilities are valued. Overcoming common problems – such as the negative effects on short and long-term health caused by pupils avoiding drinking enough water or visiting the toilet – can have a positive influence on pupils’ welfare, willingness and ability to learn, their behaviour, morale and attendance levels.

The schools where toilet refurbishment is a priority have been identified and we will endeavour to complete as many projects from the list in accordance with the funding allocation.

Replacement/Removal of Temporary Buildings

Analysis of the AMP database indicates that there remains an amount of temporary/mobile accommodation in use across the county. Temporary accommodation is normally placed on a school to fulfil an urgent need and often to cater for increases in pupil numbers.

It is recognised that investment in a programme of replacement/removal of temporary/mobile Buildings is important, not only raising educational standards but also to reducing the carbon footprint (given their poor thermal performance).

Projects where condition dictates that repairs are no longer a real option are considered for inclusion in the capital programme. Where the accommodation is still required, temporary classroom units will be replaced with new buildings which will be more energy efficient and provide an enhanced environment for teaching and learning. The use of modular buildings or off-site construction will be evaluated for cost effectiveness before permanent buildings are considered.

Special Educational Needs

The draft Staffordshire SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Strategy sets out the vision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in Staffordshire.

Our vision in Staffordshire is ‘that all children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are able to reach their full potential. They receive the right support, at the right time, with choice and control so that they can lead fulfilling lives in their local school or education setting, home and community’.

We want our children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities:

  • To live as independently as possible
  • To learn, achieve and make progress
  • To be safe and secure, happy and healthy
  • To live and learn in their local community

Mainstream Accessible Schools Network

Across Staffordshire there are a range of schools that have been categorised in accordance with their accessibility status which has been developed to help professionals make decisions which meet the needs of CYP, are financially efficient and raise awareness of parents / carers about accessible facilities available in their local area.

Recently built schools have been designed to be compliant with equalities legislation in force at the time, but this does not mean that they meet current legislative standards. Schools are described as ‘accessible’ if they meet basic requirements such as level access, disabled toilet facilities, provision of ramps and chair lifts at internal level changes. Compliance of door widths and rate of incline of ramps has not been checked for the purposes of this document; some schools may fail a full, current accessibility inspection if rigorously tested. Being described as ‘accessible’ is not a guarantee that the school meets the full requirements of the Equality Act 2010, which depends on the needs of each individual child.

In making decisions about the accessibility of a school it is acknowledged that there is a continuum of disability and accessibility. There will always be a degree of individual need and uniqueness. Under the requirement to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, set out in the Equality Act 2010, there is an expectation that all schools will do what they can within the scope of their facilities and resources to accept a CYP with a physical disability with some management.

A list of Staffordshire’s Network of Accessible Schools is attached at Appendix 1.

Specialist Placement for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) and Vulnerable Children (VC)

There are 23 maintained and academy Special Schools and 6 Pupil Referral Units (PRU) within Staffordshire, several which have multiple sites, 5 of the special schools have residential provision and some have listed building status.

In addition, there are several resources attached to mainstream schools for Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Speech and Language Centres.

The Governments desire for partnership working between schools has meant that within the Special School estate there are several federated schools and the creation of Special School Multi Academy Trusts (MAT).

SEND Capital Investment Plans for 2019-20

Staffordshire County Council intend to use the Special Provision Capital Funding to focus on current gaps in provision for children with SEND and EHCPs, with a focus on inclusion of children with SEND.

The council is analysing data on children with SEND to identify current areas of need and gaps in provision and consultation will take place with Headteachers and Chief Officers of Multi-Academy Trusts to explore options to utilise the capital funding within mainstream settings, employing the support and skills of staff from special schools.

In addition, following receipt of expressions of interest, it is proposed that some capital funding will be awarded to mainstream schools to improve resources for children with social, emotional and mental health needs. Further details on these projects can be accessed in the SEND Local Offer.

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