An alternative view of funding….Monty Python’s Life of Dave. By Dave Whitaker (@davewhitaker246)

Deciding levels of funding for children in Alternative Provision (AP) is a complicated and sophisticated process ………


Dave: This bloke won’t haggle.

Dave’s Finance Manager: Won’t haggle?!

LA Officer: All right, do we have to?

Dave: Now, look. I want twenty for that kid

LA Officer: I– I just gave you twenty.

Dave: Now, are you telling me that kid’s not worth twenty shekels?

LA Officer: No.

Dave: Look at my provision. See the quality. That’s none of your rubbish mechanics course at the local garage.

LA Officer: All right. I’ll give you nineteen then.

Dave: No, no, no. Come on. Do it properly.

LA Officer: What?

Dave: Haggle properly. This isn’t worth nineteen.

LA Officer: Well, you just said it was worth twenty.

Dave: Ohh, dear. Ohh, dear. Come on. Haggle.

LA Officer: Huh. All right. I’ll give you ten.

Dave: That’s more like it. Ten?! Are you trying to insult me?! Me, with a poor dying grandmother?! Ten?!

LA Officer: All right. I’ll give you eleven.

Dave: Now you’re gettin’ it. Eleven?! Did I hear you right?! Eleven?! This provision costs me twelve. You want to ruin me?!

LA Officer: Seventeen?

Dave: No, no, no, no. Seventeen.

LA Officer: Eighteen?

Dave: No, no. You go to fourteen now.

LA Officer: All right. I’ll give you fourteen.

Dave: Fourteen?! Are you joking?!

LA Officer: That’s what you told me to say.

Dave: Ohh, dear.

LA Officer: Ohh, tell me what to say. Please!

Dave: Offer me fourteen.

LA Officer: I’ll give you fourteen.

Dave: He’s offering me fourteen for this!

LA Officer: Fifteen!

Dave: Seventeen. My last word. I won’t take a penny less, or strike me dead.

LA Officer: Sixteen.

Dave: Done. Nice to do business with you.

LA Officer: Huh.

Dave: Tell you what. I’ll throw you in this work placement as well.

LA Officer: I don’t want it, but thanks.

Dave: What?

LA Officer: All right! All right! All right!

Dave: Now, where’s the sixteen you owe me?

LA Officer: I just gave you twenty.

Dave: Oh, yeah. That’s right. That’s four I owe you, then.

LA Officer: Well, that’s all right. That’s fine. That’s fine.

Dave: No. Hang on. I’ve got it here somewhere.

LA Officer: That’s all right. That’s four for the work placement.

Dave: Four? For this work placement? Four?! Look at it. It’s worth ten if it’s worth a shekel.

LA Officer: But you just gave it to me for nothing.

Dave: Yes, but it’s worth ten!

LA Officer: All right. All right.

Dave: No, no, no, no. It’s not worth ten. You’re supposed to argue, ‘Ten for that? You must be mad!’ Ohh, well, one born every minute.


The role of a head teacher has clearly changed. I seem to spend hours in negotiations with local authorities about the amount of funding that should be allocated to providing an education for challenging and vulnerable children in alternative provision.

Those children, that nobody else seems to want, are at the mercy of a postcode funding lottery. I am sure that most people are aware of the current funding crisis in schools. Different local authorities have different levels of funding and therefore children have a different start in life depending on where they happen to live.  This is so wrong, and has clearly been recognised in the higher echelons of the government. Whether they actually do anything about it is a totally different question; let’s just watch this space and see.

As far as the funding of Alternative Provision (including pupil referral units) is concerned, like SEND, we are at the mercy of local negotiations. How good are we at haggling? How many shekels are our children worth? How cheaply can the LA get their quality provision through hard negotiation to keep the price down? Being an AP head teacher shouldn’t be about how good I am at haggling. Like Brian, from the real Monty Python film, I’m not actually that good at it (I’m a Geography teacher!). In fact, I can’t be that good at it because I’m struggling to make ends meet. However, if I go to another AP provision in a neighbouring authority the children get £4000 per year more!!


For those who aren’t familiar with AP funding, it is really simple. Each child is funded at a base rate of £10,000 per year. This, in theory, gives the organisation the stability to plan, staff and resource the provision irrespective of if it is full or not. This funding is based on planned places. There is then an additional ‘top-up’ that is ‘negotiated’ between the organisation and the commissioning body (mainly local authority but sometimes directly with schools). This is where the haggling happens and the lottery begins. This is where, once again, we are at the mercy of unfair funding arrangements that are inconsistent from place to place.


How can it possibly be fair for a child, with the same additional needs, to be funded by as much as £4000 difference per year?

Why do I have to spend hours haggling, for what I consider appropriate funding?

Why can’t we just have the appropriate level of funding in our education system that allows everyone a decent start in life regardless of where they happen to live?

And so, the system continues to confuse, baffle and be unfair ……..

“…there shall, in that time, be *rumors* of things going astray, errrm, and there shall be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things wi – with the sort of raffia work base that has an attachment. At this time, a friend shall lose his friend’s hammer and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before, about eight o’clock. Yea, it is written in the book of Cyril that…”  Boring Prophet (Life Of Brian 1979)


Dave is an Executive Principal and Director for the Wellspring Academy Trust. He works across five local authorities in the North of England in Special & Alternative academies. He is also a founder member of HTRT.

One thought on “An alternative view of funding….Monty Python’s Life of Dave. By Dave Whitaker (@davewhitaker246)

  1. Nicola Partridge October 28, 2017 at 5:51 pm Reply

    Something that wasn’t solved by the Fair Funding formula either! If the High Needs budget pretty much stays the same then there is no wriggle room for committing more finances to AP and doing things differently in response to the growing numbers of FTEXs and PEXs. It’s also a travesty that any expansion of AP in a county has to come out of the existing High Needs pot and is not invested in directly from government! – lots of focus lately on vulnerable learners though ironically!

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