School funding cuts could leave councils 'unable to meet legal duties'

SCHOOL funding changes could leave councils unable to meet legal duties to protect children, the LGA has warned.

From September 2017, councils will have to seek the permission of schools to provide services such as criminal record checks for staff, safeguarding and managing asbestos risk in school buildings, but will only undertake them if the school agrees to pay from its own budget.

The changes will also affect student welfare services, mental health support, fire safety and escape routes, air quality and maintaining school buildings and playing fields, as well as general health and safety requirements.

Cllr Richard Watt, chair of the LGA's Children & Young People Board, said: "Councils have their hands tied. They are legally obliged to provide these services but will have no money to do so unless the school is prepared to pay for it from its own pocket."

The LGA has previously warned that a planned £600m to the Education Services Grant will severely reduce councils' capacity to meet their statutory duties.

"Councils are committed to ensuring all children get access to high quality education and that they can do so in a safe and healthy environment. Changes to regulation and school funding mean that councils could fail to meet their legal duties which protect children and teachers while at school," Cllr Watt said.

"Services that were previously provided to schools by councils will become an extra burden for schools, putting additional pressure on already overstretched budgets.

"If councils are to continue to provide these vital services the £600m proposed cut to the Education Services Grant needs to be reversed."