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Cherished courses at a Solihull sixth form could have been saved by funding offer, minister claims

Felix Nobes 6th Sep, 2018 Updated: 6th Sep, 2018

CHERISHED courses axed at a Solihull school – leaving more than 100 students in limbo – could have been saved as it has emerged a government funding package was offered, a minister claims.

Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman has joined parents, students and councillors in their campaign to reinstate pre-apprenticeship courses previously offered by the now closed K2 Learning facility.

K2 was a separate faculty of the sixth form at CTC Kingshurst Academy (CTCKA) and it suddenly lost its funding only days after students were enrolled on courses for September.

K2 supported students who have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) or had been excluded from or did not fit into mainstream education.

CTCKA – and therefore K2 – merged with Tudor Grange Academy due to ‘educational and leadership challenges’, forming the Tudor Grange Academies Trust (TGAT) as of September 1.

As we reported, management at TGAT said it had been unable to secure funding for K2 within the ‘timescale’ of the merger.

We were told on Monday that because K2 courses were ‘further education’ provision, and it was an Independent Learning Provider (ILO), it could not be part of the overall funding arrangement for the merger.

But a letter to Dame Caroline from the government’s education secretary, Damian Hinds, has revealed an ‘interim’ funding arrangement was offered to TGAT by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) – a government body which administers funding to schools.

The letter reads: “The ESFA agreed to fund K2 Learning on an interim basis from 2018/19, in order for TGAT to regularise the funding position of K2 as an Independent Learning Provider (ILO).

“The governors at CTCKA decided that continuing to pursue K2 Learning as an ILP was not a sustainable option.

“With further advice from TGAT, the decision was made not to enrol students for September 2018.”

Mr Hinds continues: “The ESFA will seek to replace lost provision as a result of a voluntary exit caused by the provider’s decision.”

Dame Caroline said she did not know why the ‘interim’ funding option was not taken up.

On Monday (September 3), a TGAT spokesperson apologised for the timing of the decision and claimed the timescale of the merger would not allow any notice in advance of the closure.

Chief executive Claire Maclean said the trust will continue to support students to find alternative places.

She said: “TGAT took CTCKA into the trust on September 1 because it is in need of immediate assistance and the trust has the resources and track record to support it.

“Securing K2 funding would have meant delaying the CTCKA transfer by up to a year and that was not the right option for the students and parents at CTCKA who deserve to benefit from the trust’s support now.

“We have been working really hard to find K2 students good alternative places and we are offering extra help to support students in their move.”

It remains unclear why the merger would have been delayed if an ‘interim’ funding arrangement had been offered to TGAT.

And staff and parents have claimed the alternative provision offered by Solihull College is not adequate for students who struggle in mainstream education.

They say K2 was the primary provider of this type of tailored education in the borough.

FULL RESPONSE FROM TUDOR GRANGE ACADEMIES TRUST:

A spokesperson said: “As per our previous statement, funding for K2 for the period 2018/19 was conditional on the transfer of CTC Kingshurst into Tudor Grange Academies Trust, planned for 1st August 2018, being suspended.

“The ESFA was clear that it could not provide funding to TGAT to run K2 on an interim basis, it could only fund CTC Kingshurst to continue to operate within the funding agreement already in place.

“TGAT were told that negotiations over a funding agreement for K2 could take up to a year.

“In our professional opinion, the legal complexity of the situation would have delayed the transfer by at least a year and this was unacceptable to us given the urgent need at CTC Kingshurst.

“TGAT had no certainty about the long term future of K2. The trust had been working extensively with the governors, staff, parents and students of CTC Kinghurst since April 2018, planning for September and implementing the changes needed to secure rapid progress. “TGAT’s view was that the priority must be to continue with the plans in place to support the school – over 1300 students attend the school – because it needed immediate support.

“TGAT consulted with Solihull local authority and they supported this view and confirmed that other providers in the area could support the students who had shown an interest in enrolling at K2.

“TGAT approached the board at CTC Kingshurst and they made the decision not to enrol students for courses at K2 so that we could proceed with the transfer of CTC Kingshurst into the trust as planned.

“CTC Kingshurst Academy transferred into the trust on the 1st September under a model funding agreement for a mainstream 11 to 18 academy.

“It is our understanding that the ESFA will not provide funding for any other provision. “TGAT would not be able to reverse the planning that has taken place since the 13th July to reinstate K2 provision.

“Term has now begun and staff have been redeployed to other faculties, including one member of staff at another school within the trust, in the short term.

“K2 staff have been informed that there will be a formal consultation on the future of their employment and that this will take place during September, one member of staff chose not to transfer to the Trust.

“Forty-five learners are already known to have enrolled elsewhere and we are very grateful to leaders at Solihull College for the flexibility and commitment they have shown in supporting us to ensure students have options.

“We will continue to focus our efforts on supporting any learners and families who continue to need this.”

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