Save Beckhampton Centre for Teen Mums!
Graham is calling on Nottingham City Council to save the Beckhampton Centre for Teen Mums and Babies from being closed down. The Council are facing severe cuts from the Tory Government and as a result have launched a consultation into whether the centre should be closed or not. The story has already gained the attention of the local media which can be found below:
Council plans to close 'life-changing' school for teenage mums
Teen mums are protesting against plans to close a "life-changing" school which helps them get the qualifications they need for a better future. Nottingham City Council is proposing to shut Beckhampton Learning Centre – which costs £400,000 a year to run – to the anger of present and former students. Includes quote from Pat Fielding, Director of Education.
‘School for teenage mums like me was real life-saver’
New young mums like Ellie Higgins have enough to juggle already, so taking GCSEs at the same time is nearly impossible. The 15-year-old, who was previously kicked out of school, had nowhere to turn to get her life back on track until she started at Beckhampton Learning Centre nine weeks ago. But now, Nottingham City Council has announced proposals to close the Edwards Lane school. Includes quote from Pat Fielding, Director of Education.
Post comment: Long –term price to pay if centre closes
The proposal to close Beckhampton Learning Centre may save money but at a expense of fairness and common sense. Closure will create problems both for students at the school for pregnant girls and young mothers of school age, and for the mainstream schools they may be directed to. The centre has a place in a city whose under-18s conception rate is well above the national average. Having recorded that fact, let us not be judgemental but concentrate instead on what is best for these girls and their infants.
BBC Radio Nottingham – Breakfast show
Almost 900 people have signed a petition opposing the possible closure of a Nottingham school which supports teenage parents. The city council is considering whether to shut the Beckhampton Pupil Referral Unit because of relatively high costs compared to low pupil numbers. Officials insist no final decision has been made. A public consultation ends a week on Friday. Includes interview with MP Graham Allen (01:02:19, 02:50:21)
Furthermore a petition has been set up which you might be interested in signing can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/nottingham-city-council-are-trying-to-shut-this-school-save-beckhampton-centre
You can read Graham's submission to the consultation below as well as former Headteacher from 2006-14, Angie Mindel's submission which includes more information about the centre and its vital work:
Graham's submission to Nottingham City Council
Dear Council Leader,
As part of my response below to the consultation to close the much-needed Beckhampton Centre for teen mums and their babies in Bestwood, could I ask now that a proper investigation into the issue takes place. I know that the decision is due to be made by Executive Board on 19 January 2016 and ask that you use your processes to make sure the best decision is made.
I am acutely conscious and - I hope you agree - very supportive about the appalling financial situation forced upon our Council by this Government. I hope colleagues will see a very good financial case for retaining this service.
I also enclose the excellent case put forward by the former Head of Beckhampton.
Nottingham has had a huge problem with teen pregnancy. Aspley, one of the wards in my constituency, used to have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy not only in the UK but in the whole of Europe. Because of the hard work of the Council and all those charged with delivering our health services, things have begun to change and according to a recent report, published at the beginning of this year, the number of pregnant teenagers has almost halved since 1998. Those concerned should rightly feel proud of successfully pushing the rates down. I was fortunate as the founding Chair of the Teen Pregnancy Task Force in Nottingham to play a small part in this continuing effort. The Beckhampton Centre has been an important piece of the strategy against teenage pregnancy. It should not close.
My view and that of the Council has always been (over 20 years) that the Centre gives young mums a future which they could not have without special provision. At the Beckhampton Centre they have a chance to achieve a qualification and good education while keeping their baby close to them. This allows them (as their testimonies demonstrate) to make a life for themselves and for their child. This is good for them and our community but it also means that it saves in the long term a lot of money for the City Council and tax payers.
The reason the Centre was set up and sustained is that they cannot get this sort of all-round specialist support in secondary schools in Nottingham. The young people are unlikely to achieve as much for themselves and baby in an ordinary school.
All the evidence on Early Intervention demonstrates the long term effects on the baby/child of poor attachment is made far more likely if the young mum returns to school without having her baby close by.
Through the consultation it is clear from Council officers that even with the expectation that schools retain their girls who become pregnant there will still be a need to procure specialist support for those without a school place or who cannot remain in their school. We already have this provision and decades of experience at Beckhampton. To close it only to open something else elsewhere, or lean on an unstable alternative market, seems short-sighted.
We know times are hard, the Government is cruelly reducing money going to our council. I fully understand that. This facility is not the problem but part of the answer since it actually saves a lot of money so young mums can get work and qualification and their baby gets the best possible help. Early intervention is one of the best ways how to save a lot of money in the long term. The crude assertion that this project costs £400,000 a year is blown out of the water in the attached paper from Angie Mindel [highlighted in yellow]and raises serious questions about how information is presented to Members. A serious -and if necessary independent -cost benefit analysis is necessary to properly cost all the options before an irrevocable decision is made.
My understanding is that this is not a direct Budget proposal that would offer a saving on the Council’s revenue budget. I believe this means that it’s possible to not rush this decision and instead take the time necessary to get it right.
Since my time as Chair it was obvious that there was a push –not from Members- to get lesser quality school based provision rather than support Beckhampton. It is very important that the City Council continue to refer the girls with their new-borns to the Beckhampton Centre. If necessary elected Members of Council should take control of this decision. If officers don’t refer them then of course it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that there are less people using the Centre and that unit costs obviously rocket. It is not clear to me how wide Member involvement has been in the decision making around this, the adequacy of provision in school in certain cases or the level of multi-agency involvement . A Business Plan to secure the long term future of Beckhampton should be brought forward, if officers do not feel able to commit to this then it could be done by an external provider[I would if helpful for example gladly approach Alison Hadley the former National teen pregnancy advisor now Director of Teenage Pregnancy Research, University of Bedfordshire who has helped us before ]
The Beckhampton Centre is one of the best weapons we have had in combating the high rate of teen pregnancy and it would be short sighted and costly to lose it and thus see the quality of life for mums and babies reduced and recurring lifetime costs increase.
I therefore urge the council
- to issue a strong statement of support for the continuation of the Beckhampton Centre.
- to restore the previous referral policy of the Council.
- to commission a proper cost benefit analysis to establish the highly disputed costs of Beckhampton accurately before any irrevocable decision is made on the back of existing and partisan numbers.
- to ask an external authority to come up with a Business plan to secure a positive future for Beckhampton
I would gladly discuss this issue directly with any colleague on the Executive Board.
Many thanks and good wishes,
Angie Mindel's Submission
Beckhampton Centre Consultation Response
Firstly I take issue with the statement in the proposal that ‘the majority of pregnant teenagers/teenage parents in Nottingham City are already choosing to continue their education at their mainstream school/academy setting.’ since this has been artificially produced by telling the girls and their schools that they cannot be referred to Beckhampton Centre. I think any consultation document should be based on fact not opinion and inclusion of this sentence is shameful.
Referrals since May this year have been significantly reduced. The LA officer responsible for overseeing referrals has been telling schools and academies that it 'no longer fits with the City teenage pregnancy pathway'. To my knowledge there was no consultation with BC about this pathway, but it is then being used in official consultation documents. This is obviously a ploy to reduce numbers prior to closing it.
It should also be noted that the numbers in the autumn term are always lower as the Y11 pupils leave in July. Referrals will always go up in the spring term – assuming that they are not blocked. Any decision based on current City school aged pregnancy numbers should be deferred until later in the school year and/or examine past real data.
I would question how many pregnant girls/young mothers are currently being taught in their own schools/academies who would otherwise have been referred to Beckhampton and how well they are all doing there. It is easy to select the one pupil who has chosen to stay on in school herself and done well to appear on tv news as if she is the norm. It is vital that the Executive Board have actual and real evidence of this before making their decision – ie not just be told that they are doing ok. Certainly it is known that midwives have not been able to complete the excellent group work for these girls if they are not at Beckhampton Centre, preparing them for the birth and for looking after a new baby.
Most students at the centre have been poor or non- attenders at mainstream schools; some excluded and many others with serious behaviour problems. Some are in care, others are WASPs, some EAL from Roma community. All vulnerable with Safeguarding and domestic abuse issues, some with prior sexual abuse. Mostly they are pupils the schools are happy to have out of school. There have always been some girls who want to stay in mainstream who the schools want to keep - generally good attenders, high achieving - and always will be. But these are the minority. Also those high achievers who attend BC do very well - see data and ofsted reports - consistently Good with outstanding features. Most disaffected re-engage with education at BC - high EET rate. Some have gone on to university. Our secondary schools themselves do not generally succeed in offering this high level of quality provision for these vulnerable pupils, however hard they try.
Some girls who initially opt to stay in school subsequently change their minds - they find they are being taught in isolation in school – for health and safety reasons - or are bullied/ name called. Or they are made to wear school uniforms that no longer fit. Or become too tired and don’t have a sufficiently flexible regime to support them. They stop attending and stay at home if the school is reluctant to pay for a BC place. BC then have a harder job to re-engage – this has happened in many cases. If the decision is then made for the LA or school to provide home education or alternative provision, this is more expensive than Beckhampton for reduced outcomes, in terms of education, health, parenting support and safeguarding. They also require a longer period of maternity leave and can only return to school if they have adequate childcare. For those with safeguarding issues at home a family member looking after the baby is not a safe option.
Cost wise the provision at Beckhampton is expensive - figures given are about £400K, which also includes the running of the on-site nursery. But this figure is not all funded by the LA or by City schools and it is facile to imply that this is the cost for the current 4 City places! This is misinformation.
- £200K comes from Pupil Place Funding (EFA), for a 20 place unit @ £10K per filled place over the year. This includes the total number of pupils being referred in and out of the Centre over the year, as the DFE recognises the changes in population of PRUs over a year.
- Care to Learn Funding of about £20K per year goes towards the nursery costs, depending on how many babies are in the nursery and for how long – the more babies the higher the income to offset costs.
- Also the County LA and schools/academies buy back some places each year for some of their most vulnerable as they got rid of all their provision some time ago but recognised the need for some pupils. This could be put on a more business like footing to raise more funds – ie charge the full cost for the places. This has always subsidised the City provision for the 5 or 6 places they take up as they are charged more than for City pupils.
The remaining costs are or can be divided between schools paying for the places they take up and the LA keeping some back for those without a school place (WASP). There are possible options for reducing costs and or extending its remit rather than closure that don't seem to have been explored, including potentially being managed by HHE PRU, outreach work for the hard to reach, those with EAL needs eg from the Roma community, work with school age fathers etc.
It should be recognised that BC doesn't only provide good education, they also provide safeguarding, health, childcare support. They reduce isolation, teach positive parenting. The babies are in school nurseries within a couple of years of leaving BC, so teaching parenting also helps our City primary schools in the future.
If BC is closed then we will be going back over 30 years to the situation where these girls are taught for a few hours a week in isolation in their own homes with low outcomes. The safeguarding and behaviour issues experienced now are far greater than they were in the main then. Learn from the County experience – there will always be the most vulnerable who need this level of support.
I would also highlight the comment under their timeline about alternatives if they don't go for closure - what does this mean? Does this mean it is seen as a foregone conclusion? I would also warn against the LA potentially wanting to build up use of private alternative provision for those who don’t attend schools eg Stone Soup which is totally inappropriate on health and safety grounds, the lack of parenting support and similarly expensive.
Once it is closed it will never be reopened! The City is at risk of losing a high quality provision. They won't have another LA to fall back on if they find they need it for the most vulnerable pupils.
Please listen to the views of the young people themselves and to their parents who have put many passionate pleas and stories onto their petition. Also consult with the teenage pregnancy midwives, the Obstetric Consultants at both hospitals, Family Nurse Partnership, social workers and IROs who have often written attendance at BC into their Child Protection targets.
Response to some of the information and misinformation that has been given out:
- The Centre is a non-statutory provision drawing budget from the “High Needs Block”, which is under severe pressure to respond to the Local Authority’s statutory responsibilities due to increasing numbers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
While it is non-statutory, there is a duty to make education provision for pregnant girls and school-aged mothers that is fit for purpose and non-discriminatory. Teaching them in isolation in schools due to health and safety concerns as often happens is not satisfactory and is discriminatory. Most of the students at BC are poor or non-attenders prior to pregnancy, others stop attending while pregnant because they are too tired, bullying/name calling, when their uniform no longer fits etc. Others are WASPs - for whom there is a statutory duty, EAL from Roma community etc.
There appears to be a certain notion that those with recognised Special Needs are more 'deserving' than these vulnerable girls who have often suffered abuse, have safeguarding issues etc
- Current costs are around £400,000 per annum, and the Centre is currently not financially viable with only four pupils from the City registered.
Please see information above, particularly about equating the current number with the total annual cost, which is emotive and outrageous. Also about the block on referrals that has led to this low number. Numbers are always lower in the autumn term as referrals build up over the year and Y11 pupils leave in July. Bearing in mind that block on referrals, having 9 on roll including 4 from City is quite high! That means already 4 pupils who can’t or won’t be taught in mainstream. This number will rise in Jan/Feb and is being deliberately kept low – please look at previous data, prior to the current change in referral policy.
While it is expensive, the remaining cost per place is around £15K locally - which is comparable with any other high level needs eg other PRU places for behaviour exclusions and includes the nursery provision.
It should also be offset in preventing further costs in the future, by reducing safeguarding needs, increasing the students’ own economic earning potential etc. Unfortunately these savings are hard to measure.
- Head teachers are increasingly retaining and making provision for these pupils in their schools in order to ensure that the girls achieve their academic potential, encouraging them to remain in mainstream education.
This would be a good aim if it were realistic. However the reality is that only the good attenders and the well motivated among this group do well in school. This has been demonstrated in research - do speak to Peter Gates of Nottingham University Education Department. In reality the Beckhampton students are usually poor or non-attenders, generally with behaviour issues that may arise out of a multitude of safeguarding, domestic and sexual abuse, and other background issues. Any pupils who wants to stay on in school - and the school want to keep in school - have always stayed on there. BC gets the most troubled and re-engages them with education with great outcomes - see Ofsted reports and student testimonials.
- Guidance on the implications of the Equalities Act 2010 for schools from the Department for Education in May 2014 made it clear that it was no longer legal to discriminate against young women of school age who are pregnant or teenage mothers.
It can be demonstrated with this client group that attending a Centre like Beckhampton increases inclusion - as they now attend and achieve - rather than discriminates. Add in health and safety concerns in schools, the positive health impact - talk to the Teen pregnancy midwives as well as the Obstetric consultants at both hospitals, the GU medicine people, Childrens Centres and social workers etc and you will see that actually keeping them in school is NOT in their or their babies' best interests. It will be interesting to see if Ofsted would agree with the outcomes of those kept artificially in school who don’t attend or have low attendance.
- The number of teenage mothers of school age has reduced.
While this is true for teenage pregnancies in general (15 - 18yr), it hasn’t reduced for school age pregnancies enough to do away with the need for the provision, especially as Nottingham still has one of the highest rates in the country. In fact in my time at BC the numbers of school age as opposed to teenage pregnancies did not change.
ONCE THIS EXCELLENT PROVISION HAS CLOSED IT WILL NEVER BE REOPENED! Please rethink and support plans to keep this centre for the most vulnerable in our City open. Do also talk to Graham Allen MP who knows the positive benefits of keeping the centre open.
Beckhampton Head Teacher 2006 – 2014