Why early years care and a business-like approach could help struggling schools in Leeds

Early years intervention has long been cited as one of the best tools for tackling social inequality in Leeds.

Friday, 15th November 2019, 6:00 am

Yet schools are still feeding breakfast to many children, providing school jumpers to families that can’t afford them, putting on extra activities in after-school clubs - and having budgets slashed. In this latest round of manifesto calls to whoever makes up the new government, Emma Ryan looks at why a more business like approach could be the answer.

There are 4,000 secondary schools in the country, Sport England says that 60 per cent of sports facilities are on school sites, 29 per cent of swimming pools are based at schools.

Yet they are not available to use beyond 5pm.

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The hiring out of school spaces for sports, drama and events is a way that schools can make extra money.

School Lettings Solutions (SLS) is a north west based venture that works with 300 schools across the country to help them get extra revenue for hiring out facilities such as sports halls, classrooms, libraries and kitchens to businesses or community groups to use after school’s out.

They work with 53 schools in Yorkshire including ones in Leeds, Dewsbury and Ossett with five more Leeds schools set to join the books in the new year.

SLS charges the group a fee for using the school space, factors in a rate for admin, opening and closing it before and after the event, cleaning it and then agrees a split with the school.

Private business investment

SLS founder Scott Warrington.

Since launching in 2011, SLS has put £13m back into school funding pots. It has also put £20,000 into repairing the pool at a school in Ossett which was going to be closed because funds weren’t there to fix it. Hire of the pool made £50,000 within the following year.

Scott Warrington, co-founder and director, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I am not privy to the budget but it will be teachers, text books, managing the building, breakfast clubs and paying for teaching assistants to help kids with learning difficulties.

“We have a business and it works, schools want the money but can’t develop it because they are so busy. Their budgets have been smashed left, right and centre and they have to think how to supplement that.

“We always ask why a school wants to hire out space. Some want to engage with the community, some have a problem with numbers and want to market themselves but nine times out of ten it is about money because they are struggling.

Leeds City Council's education member, Coun Jonathan Pryor.

“There is building of new sports facilities but schools have some of the best in the area but they close at 5pm. Young people should be able to go back to school after they have had their tea and do positive stuff. Why can’t schools be supported with budgets that allows them to be open, be a community resource and have the health and revenue benefits that come from that? It would solve massive issues.”

Special needs provision

Funding for special needs pupils, post 19 education for young adults with special needs, school repairs and the funding allocation per pupil are all issues that Leeds needs addressing in order to provide a wider scope educational service.

Coun Jonathan Pryor, the cabinet member for education at Leeds City Council, added to the YEP’s manifesto call to address education in the city with his own list of post election demands.

He said: “The Leeds High Need Block funding for special educational needs is massively underfunded£5m was cut from it last year but the number of children with disabilities is increasing and increasing rapidly. We just don’t have enough money. We have been oversubscribed for a number of years and the consequence is other things have to be cut. I would also like to see post 19 education for special needs. We want to be really aspirational and want to be better for children and young people.

“We have a school repair backlog of £100m but get £6m a year so that is not even close to getting on top of that. Three schools need a complete re-build and we have managed to get money for one but not to do the other two. If you have a quality building it shows children you are taking education seriously, it makes them want to go and learn and to be at school.

“I would look at per pupil funding, this is more national policy but every year it is cut by eight per cent. That leads to bigger schools, bigger classes, less teaching assistants, teachers that are overworked, stress levels rise - there are so many knock on effects.”

He added that tackling child poverty would also have educational benefits in that children who have access to food, quality homes and a support network have better achievement rates, school performance is better and tackling other social issues can be built up from there.