SCHOOL leaders are taking a stand against “chronic underfunding” after rejecting proposals to transfer money from their main grants towards budgets for children with special needs.

Funding for schools is met from the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), a ring-fenced grant made up of four blocks, which is then distributed by local authorities.

Currently, schools do not know what funding they will recieve for 2019-20 as allocations have not yet been announced for Department for Education.

St Helens Council recently carried out a consultation with primary and secondary schools on proposals to transfer 0.5 per cent of the DSG schools block to the high needs block in 2019-20.

This would fund the costs of top-up payments for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in primary and secondary schools.

This week, members of the Schools Forum, which is made up of various teachers and governors from across St Helens, voted to reject the proposals.

If the council decide to proceed with the transfer, then an application may be made to the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP, for a final decision.

Out of the 63 schools that were consulted, 24 responded before the deadline.

Greg Tyrer, the council’s head of finance, systems support and procurement, said all of those who responded to the consultation were “overwhelmingly in opposition” of the proposals.

Andrew Rainard, head teacher of De La Salle, said the crux of the issue was “ongoing chronic underfunding”.

Robert Owens, finance operations director for Rainhill High School, said the issue was bigger than “any individual school”.

He said members of the Schools Forum needed to “take a stand” and push the decision back to try to force a review into high needs funding at a local and national level.

Mr Owens said: “I don’t think any school can afford to grant that 0.5 per cent.

“I’d love to. I think it’s right that the high needs students are supported but I don’t think we’re in a position to do so.

“And I do think both at a local authority level and a national level, that unless we send that clear message, and other authories follow suit, it’s never going to be resolved.”

Bill Bradbury, chairman of governors at Billinge Chapel End Primary School, also said other authorities need to take a stand.

Mr Bradbury said: “I think we’re right to push this back to the Secretary of State.

“My personal view is that, schools have soldiered on, covering up this, and yet the responsibility for the underfunding isn’t with the schools or the local authority – it’s with the Secretary of State.

“So, if more and more authorities pushed back and said look, we’ve come to the end of our tether, we can’t carry on robbing schools, then we might have to do that.”

Members of the School Forum took a vote on whether to support the proposals, with a majority voting to reject them.