Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum
Monday, 16 December 2019 4.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Time Square, Market Street, Bracknell, RG12 1JD. View directions

Contact: Derek Morgan  01344 352044

Items
No. Item

123.

Apologies for Absence/Substitute Members

To receive apologies for absence and to note the attendance of any substitute members.

Minutes:

There were no Substitute Members.

124.

Declarations of Interest

Members are asked to declare any disclosable pecuniary or affected interests in respect of any matter to be considered at this meeting.

 

Any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in a matter should withdraw from the meeting when the matter is under consideration and should notify the Democratic Services Officer in attendance that they are withdrawing as they have such an interest. If the Disclosable Pecuniary Interest is not entered on the register of Members interests the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.

 

Any Member with an affected Interest in a matter must disclose the interest to the meeting.  There is no requirement to withdraw from the meeting when the interest is only an affected interest, but the Monitoring Officer should be notified of the interest, if not previously notified of it, within 28 days of the meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interests.

125.

Minutes and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 247 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of 21 November 2019.

Minutes:

The Forum noted an amendment to minute 121 of the Forum held on 21 November 2019 as follows:

 

RESOLVED

2. to AGREE:

i. the budget changes for 2020-21, as summarised in Table 4, with particular consideration given to:

a. the impact of changes in funding to the CSSB; and

b. that the Minimum Funding Guarantee is set at the maximum amount of +1.84%;

ii. on-going central retention by the Council of Central School Services funding for the areas and amounts set out in Annex 4;

iii. the updated criteria for allocating funds to schools experiencing significant in year increases in pupil numbers be implemented from the October 2019 census (Annex 5); and

iv. that options be developed for the December meeting to consider whether amendments should be made to the distribution of funds to schools in order for 1 FE schools to receive increases close to the overall average increase in

per pupil funding.

3 To DEFER a decision on the following to the next meeting:

a. the revised medium-term funding strategy for meeting the additional cost arising from the Growth Fund (Annex 3);

b. the elements of the 2020-21 Growth Fund (Table 3);

c the updated text for the Funding Policy for New and Expanded

Schools (Annex 1);”

 

RESOLVED that the amended minutes of the meeting of the Forum held on 21 November 2019 be approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

 

Arising from minute 117 Chris Taylor had prepared the latest projections of forecast pupil numbers and available places which was included on the agenda.

 

Arising from minute 119 Derek Morgan would ensure that any confidential papers could be accessed by all members before meetings.

 

Also arising from minute 119 Cherry Hall had prepared final figures for the additional funding for early years for 2020-21 which was included on the agenda.

 

Arising from minute 121 Paul Clark had checked the legal status of whether the Forum would be statutorily tied to previous decisions made in relation to financing and associated budget for the Growth Fund, and this was detailed in the background papers relating to Item 7 of the agenda.

 

Arising from minute 122 Joanna Gibbons confirmed that the Council Chamber was booked for all forthcoming meetings apart from the meeting to be held on 16 January 2019.

126.

Childcare Sufficiency Assessment pdf icon PDF 196 KB

To present the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment to the Forum.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Forum considered a report which presented the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (CSA).

 

Cherry Hall advised that the CSA shows there was sufficient childcare provision in the Borough, and prospective providers were being advised of that. Further analysis was required on the impact of new housing and business growth in the Town Centre (TC) on supply and demand. This was more difficult to assess for pre-school age children.

 

Following presentation to Schools Forum the CSA would be submitted to the executive member for approval in January 2020 and subsequently published on the Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) website where it would be available to the public.

 

The Forum questioned how the expected decrease in the birth rate would be managed. Cherry Hall admitted that it was a challenge and difficult to predict. The CSA was looking at 2019-2023 but a lot of the children wouldn’t have been born yet. Lots of parents were using informal childcare so the Council was looking at promoting the free entitlement in the Town & Country magazine. The next step would be to look at how many young children were coming in and going out of the Borough for childcare. Cherry Hall explained that the team were talking a lot to providers and advising them about changing their business models to be more attractive to parents. The aim was to try to help existing providers to stay sustainable and discourage new provision.

 

The Forum queried whether the Council had any other mechanism to prevent new provision apart from just discouragement. Cherry Hall advised that the Council could only discourage; Ofsted was the only body which had the power to register or not register.

 

The Forum asked whether existing providers knew they would have to manage a reduction in numbers? Cherry Hall explained that once providers become aware, they would often approach the Council for advice. Some providers have managed quite well but others were not so business-minded so lots of work had been done around that. For example, when the Government introduced extended 30 hours free entitlement for 3- and 4-year olds of working parents, the council supported providers who required help with business modelling. Michelle Tuddenham added that small businesses had complications in their staffing models and weren’t able to lay off workers in the quitet autumn period and ask them to come back in January; instead, they kept workers on and hoped they would generate sufficient funding during the busy times to fund them during the quieter times.

 

The Forum questioned what the impact would be of the TC development. Cherry Hall explained that there was one nursery within the TC area which would be displaced with the changes happening in Coopers Hill. If that provision were to be lost there would be a deficit, so the team was looking at where to relocate that provision.

 

RESOLVED to NOTE the contents of the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment, which indicated that there was sufficient childcare in Bracknell Forest to meet demand and the ongoing work to understand the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 126.

127.

2020/21 Proposals for the Early Years Block Budget pdf icon PDF 164 KB

To seek agreement from the Forum to proposals for the 2020-21 Early Years budgets, including the values to be attributed to the Bracknell Forest Council Early Years Funding Formula (EYFF).  There is also a decision to consider in line with the statutory funding framework.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Forum considered a report which sought agreement to proposals for 2020-21 Early Years budgets, including the values to be attributed to the BFC Early Years Funding Formula (EYFF). There was also a decision to consider in line with the statutory funding framework.

 

Cherry Hall explained that the figures took into consideration the changes the Forum agreed at the last meeting in relation to funding providers for deprivation.

 

To inform future changes, expenditure through the EYFF was analysed and compared to the agreed budget allocations and showed, amongst other things, that the Special Educational Needs Inclusion Fund (SENIF) overspent by 17% and that the council was subsidising some provider support services.

 

Cherry Hall advised that, if all the proposals put to the Forum were accepted, 14 providers would see a decrease in funding of up to 1.5% in hourly rate. However, most providers would see an increase. All decreases were due to changes in eligibility for the deprivation supplement, either due to changes in children attending or corrections in the calculation method. The 14 providers affected were mostly private or voluntary providers including childminders but three were schools.

 

RESOLVED to AGREE that:

1.    for the 2020-21 financial year

          i.        the Early Years DSG income budget be set at £7.560m (Table 2 of the report);

         ii.        the funding rates in the Early Years Funding Formula are as set out in Table 4 of the report; and

       iii.        the relevant budgets are as set out in Annex 1; and

2.    there are appropriate arrangements in place for administration of the Early Years free entitlement funding.

128.

School Places Plan and Capital Strategy pdf icon PDF 143 KB

To note the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy 2020-24.  These were last approved by the Executive in January 2017 and have now been updated to cover the five-year period from 2020 to 2024.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Forum considered a report which presented the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy (SPP) 2020-24. These were last approved by the Executive in January 2017 and have been updated to cover the five-year period from 2020 to 2024.

 

Chris Taylor explained that primary school numbers were decreasing across the Borough. Secondary numbers were still increasing as the previous rise of primary numbers was working its way up through secondary schools. The two main factors affecting pupil numbers were birth rate, which was decreasing, and new housing, where predictions often exceeded delivery.

Pupil yields arising from new housing have also decreased.

 

Chris Taylor highlighted the new mainstream pupil forecasting methodology (outlined in Annex 1 of the report), which was based on the principle of cohort survival and DfE guidance as well as consideration of best practice from neighbouring authorities and an external specialist. The Forum questioned whether the methodology has been tested on previous years to validate it. Chris Taylor advised that it had been tested to a degree and found to work.

 

Primary Schools

In September 2019 half of primary schools had no surplus places and the other half had surpluses to varying degrees. Borough-wide this amounted to a total surplus of 905 places or 8%. Therefore, there were no plans to add any additional primary school capacity in this forecast period. Demand for places would be met across each planning area, acknowledging that pupils could travel to neighbouring schools if their catchment area school was full, but could not be expected to travel further across the borough or to neighbouring boroughs.

 

As surplus places put pressure on school budgets, the capacity strategy outlined that removal of further surplus places may be required during the forecast period. This could be achieved by converting teaching spaces to other uses such as learning support or leasing out surplus accommodation to paying tenants.

 

The Forum queried why the strategy did not include the possibility of closing schools. Chris Taylor replied that there didn’t appear to be any appetite in the Council to close schools, so this was not included in the strategy. Councillor Barnard added that local schools for local children was very important to the Council and that there was a need to hold onto local links.

 

Chris Taylor advised that reductions in school places would need to be carefully considered in the light of the surplus places at each school. Removal of surplus places would also need to go hand in hand with finding compatible alternative uses for the surplus accommodation.

 

The Forum questioned whether the Council had a list of schools they were earmarking. Chris Taylor advised that, if the strategy were to be agreed, it would be put into place and those schools would be identified and then contacted. Chris stressed the importance of input from the Forum regarding the strategy and was happy to take ideas of measures to reduce surplus places.

 

Academy numbers were not set by the Council, but where academy schools had shared their  ...  view the full minutes text for item 128.

129.

2020/21 Proposals for the Schools Block and Central School Services Block pdf icon PDF 639 KB

To present an update to the 2020-21 budget proposals that were presented to the last meeting of the Forum.  Associated decisions need to be agreed at this meeting in order to meet the 21 January 2020 statutory deadline for agreeing individual school budgets.

Minutes:

The Forum considered a report which updated on the 2020-21 budget proposals that were presented to the last meeting of the Forum. Associated decisions needed to be agreed in order to meet the 21 January 2020 statutory deadline for agreeing individual school budgets.

 

Paul Clark explained that data had not yet been received from the DfE which was needed to calculate actual school budgets so there would be fluctuations from that as well as an imminent update on school business rates. Two other budget matters remained outstanding: diseconomy funding top-ups for new schools, and whether changes should be made to the values in the BF Funding Formula to ensure a larger average increase in per pupil funding for 1 Form Entry (FE) schools.

 

KGA Binfield Diseconomy Funding

 

Regarding the question as to whether we were legally obliged to pay diseconomy top-up funding, Paul Clark advised that we were not, but any changes made to current arrangements needed to be reasonable. The specification developed for the required competition for the new provider – which KGA won – confirmed diseconomy funding “would be provided until the school reaches a viable size”.

 

On the current model, KGA Binfield was forecast to receive £5,721 per pupil which was 3.3% higher than average per pupil funding at the two other highest funded secondary schools, and 9.7% higher than the average for all secondary schools. The Forum was asked to consider whether the current funding allocation was reasonable. Paul Clark was asked if he was able to advise as the finance professional on the question of reasonableness and he replied that his view was that it was reasonable, taking account of the circumstances at the school which would be at around 40% capacity in September 2020. The Forum enquired whether the test of reasonableness could be set against a benchmark of other local authorities. Paul Clark agreed to seek information from otherlocal authorities.

 

Action: Paul Clark

 

The Forum expressed the following:

·       Allocating precious funds to KGA felt awkward but it would be unfair on KGA to make changes at this stage before all the data was available; and

·       Diseconomy could be seen in different areas in different schools such as running costs of older buildings.

 

Councillor Barnard queried whether BFC would only fund the additional cost of setting up KGA to the number of places agreed. Paul Clark advised that this was the case and that KGA would have to bear the financial risk of anything additional.

 

The Forum enquired whether it would be possible to quantify what the diseconomy scale looked like in terms of outcomes over 6-9 months. Paul Clark explained that it would be difficult to link that to outcomes.

 

1 FE primary school funding

The Forum were presented with two alternative funding options to the original Option 1 (scaling all School National Funding Formula (SNFF) factors by the same percentage) which had been discussed in the meeting in November and that were intended to result in a more even distribution of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 129.

130.

Dates of Future Meetings

The next meeting of the Forum will be held at 4.30pm on 16 January 2020.

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Forum was due to be held on Thursday 16 January 2020 commencing at 4:30pm (preceded by a briefing for members at 3:30pm).