Big decisions needed soon

070113 Johm Rutherglen at Donaldsons school.
070113 Johm Rutherglen at Donaldsons school.

A MAJOR new study has revealed that Donaldson’s School will lose its £1.9m annual grant after 2017.

The Doran Review, recently published by the Scottish Government, examined how to improve experiences for young people with complex support needs across Scotland.

It flags up funding changes that will mean Donaldson’s in Linlithgow, currently one of seven ‘grant aided’ schools nationally, will no longer carry this description in five year’s time.

The school is set to lose its £1.9m government grant, which makes up 46 per cent of annual school funds, and will have to operate solely as a charity.

Although there will be no short term impact on the school or pupils, the change will present significant challenges for Donaldson’s in the future.

Principal Janice MacNeil said: “This is a massively important review.

‘‘Grant aided schools such as ourselves will need to work alongside the government and other agencies to make sure we are still here in five year’s time.”

Areas of improvement recommended by the review include delivering more high quality services, closer to people’s needs.

A strategic commissioning body will be set up within the next few months to look at how to implement the recommendations, detailing how schools can cope with the funding changes.

Janice added: “The government has committed to funding for a further three years and 
potentially two years after 
depending on the new government, and this allows us to do long term planning.

‘‘We want to make sure we are on the strategic commissioning body so we can influence what is happening.”

The Scottish Government has invested £23.5m in Donaldson’s, as the national school for the deaf. Janice is hoping this unique position will work in the school’s favour as they face funding 
challenges ahead.

She added: “There needs to be a radical change in how we are used.

‘‘We are a national resource but we need to be creative in how to engage with authorities and identify how we can help them.

‘‘We also want to invest more in the early years, rather than wait and see how children do in mainstream school, and then step in.”

Only 17 of Scotland’s 32 
local authorities send pupils to 
Donaldson’s and, with 56 
pupils enrolled in the main school, capacity could be 
increased to around 90 pupils.

Janice added: “We are a centre of excellence and it is essential we develop our national role. We want to look at going more global with webinars and teaching resources online so we can expand our influence.

“The next few years will be challenging and we will need to find other ways to fundraise as we don’t want to cut staff and resources.

‘‘We are in the fortunate 
position that no one else is 
doing what we are doing and this 
review wants to add value to the service we already have.”