School funding cuts will put almost five million children at risk, with councils unable to perform criminal record checks on staff and manage the risk of asbestos in classrooms, local authorities have warned.
The Local Government Association (LGA) say new rules and funding arrangements mean councils will no longer be able to afford to meet their legal duties to protect school children.
Local authorities have a statutory obligation to offer mental health support and manage fire safety, maintenance and health and safety in schools.
But the LGA, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, claims that a £600 million cut to the Education Services Grant proposed by the government will leave local authorities unable to fund these vital services.
New government regulations also mean that councils will only be able to carry out these functions with the permission of schools, placing “further burdens” on school budgets.
Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said the government had left councils with “their hands tied”.
“They [councils] 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,” Watts said.
“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 whilst at school.
“Services that were previously provided to schools by councils will become an extra burden for schools, putting additional pressure on already overstretched budgets.”
The LGA’s announcement follows news last week that schools are being forced to axe GCSE and A Level courses in an attempt to tackle severe budget pressures.
But the government insists that school funding is at its highest level on record at more than £40 billion in 2016/17, a figure set to rise by £2 billion in the next two years.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “As announced at the Spending Review, we will be removing the Education Services Grant general funding rate from 2017-18.
“We recognise that local authorities will need support with this change, which is why we have introduced a new transitional grant worth £125m in 2017-18,” they said.
“We have also amended regulations so that local authorities can use other sources of funding to pay for education services once the ESG is removed from September 2017.
“This will allow local authorities to retain some of their maintained schools’ Dedicated Schools Grant so that they can continue to deliver the statutory duties that they carry out on behalf of maintained schools.”