Inside Croydon has obtained an email sent this week from Councillor Tim Pollard, deputy leader of Croydon Council with responsibility for education services. The email typifies the mixed messages we get from some of our local public servants – say one thing, do another.
In the mail, sent to a local resident, Pollard spends two sentences denying that Purley Oaks Literacy Centre is to close, and then almost 800 words apparently explaining how the council is about to do just that.
Of interest is how Pollard’s “non-closure closure” of the literacy centre has been deferred until July – coinciding with Croydon Council’s delayed announcement on the fate of six of the borough’s branch libraries (the consultation on which Councillor Sara Bashford has failed so far to report to the public, in Croydon’s usual approach to openness and transparency).
It will also be interesting to see how any closure of the Purley Oaks Literacy Centre sits with Pollard’s Tory party colleague, Councillor Maria Gatland, who in the past used her support for the literacy centre as a plank of her election campaign in Croham ward.
Here’s Councillor Dullard’s email:
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2011 15:05:18 +0001
I have received a number of emails and letters lobbying me about rumours that Purley Oaks Literacy Centre is to close and its staff are to be made redundant. As these rumours contain a number of inaccuracies, I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of ‘frequently asked questions’, which I hope will set residents’ minds at rest.
Does the Council value the work which the centre does?
The Literacy Centre is a valued part of our support network for schools in general and primary schools in particular. It makes an important contribution in helping children for whom the support available through the school alone is not sufficient for their needs. I know that parents and carers particularly appreciate the support they provide.
Is the Purley Oaks Literacy Centre going to close?
There is no proposal to close the service. There is, however, a plan to change how the Literacy Support service is delivered to make it both more efficient and able to support children more conveniently in their own schools. How this is funded will also be amended to reflect the Government’s recent decision to move the financial support which it provides for this area from the local authorities to instead going direct to schools (see below for more details).
How will the funding for the Centre change?
At the moment, approximately 80% of the funding for the centre comes from schools, including some parental contributions, and 20% from the council, whose contribution had been funded by a grant from central government.
This year the Government has changed the rules about which parts of the education budget go to the local authority and which parts go to schools. The funding streams which we previously used to support the Literacy Centre have now been moved into the funding passed directly to schools. As a result we are having to develop a new funding model which takes account of this and sees the Literacy Centre pass all its costs directly to schools instead of partly to the local authority.
How will how the Centre works with the children change?
At the moment the children are brought from wherever they are schooled in the borough to the Centre. It is effectively this transporting of the children which the Council funding currently supports, with the schools effectively paying the Centre for the tuition. The plans currently being developed will see the Centre staff go out to the children and provide the tuition in their school. We believe this will be significantly better for the children, whose other education will be much less disrupted by the travelling than it has been. As there will no longer be this transportation of children to the Centre, there is no longer a requirement for the cost of this to be met by the council.
Do schools have to use the Literacy Centre?
No, some schools have already developed the in-house capacity to provide more specialist support, so have chosen to invest in this instead. It is possible, given that responsibility for this type of work now lies squarely with schools, that an increasing number of schools will wish to develop this sort of provision in-house, but the Literacy Centre can also support and train them in doing this. In the end, what matters is that the appropriate support is given to the children who need it.
Are the Centre’s staff really being made redundant?
The law requires that all staff whose area of work is being restructured should be served notification that their post is ‘at risk’. In many cases this does not lead to redundancy. Our intention is that the teaching staff at the centre will continue to support their pupils, albeit funded slightly differently, and provided in schools not in the Centre. Provided that schools wish to continue to buy the service, there will be no need to make the staff redundant.
When will these changes take effect?
We had hoped to achieve this change by April, in time for the start of the new financial year, but we have recently extended the deadline until July, to give us the time to ensure we have it right. It will therefore take effect from the start of the new academic year in September. As a council we are committed to resolving this issue as quickly as possible and are doing everything we can to expedite the process.
Will my child see a difference in the service they receive going forward?
Our intention is to enable the work of this service to continue in an improved way, given that children will not have to spend time travelling. No child needs to miss out as the additional support can be bought by schools as has always been the case.