To provide an update to the Schools Forum on the matters that can now be dealt with in respect of the Schools Block and Central School Services Block elements of the Schools Budget in order for the timely preparation of the 2019-20 budget, including considering the views from schools as expressed in their responses to the recent financial consultation.
The Forum considered a report on the matters that could now be dealt with in respect of the Schools Block and Central School Services Block elements of the Schools Budget in order for the timely preparation of the 2019-20 budget. Whilst the DfE had yet to provide the final data that must be used to calculate individual schools budgets, decisions on some key matters were sought in order for a final budget to be presented to the DfE by the statutory deadline of 21 January 2019. (The Forum meeting on 17 January 2019 would present a final opportunity to take decisions on next year’s budget should there be any revisions to the budget setting data currently available).
A high level of responses (69%) to the financial consultation with schools showed a clear direction for the development of school budgets. There was strong support from primary schools to continue the move to a local funding formula that closely matches the School National Funding Formula (SNFF) and that the Minimum Funding Guarantee should be used to ensure that all schools receive at least a +0.5% increase in per pupil funding. For secondaries, the preference was to meet the core objectives of the SNFF, but also to maintain a degree of funding stability with 2018-19 budgets.
The following key points in relation to the budget settlement were noted:
Members of the Forum remarked that the £1m being provided by the Council to support schools was very welcome. The Chairman commented that this was the first time that the Council had made a financial contribution to schools from its own resources for many years and the Executive Member concurred. In response to a question the Executive Member informed the Forum that final confirmation of Council funding would come through the Council’s budget setting process.
The report also made reference to a further pressure raised by Warfield Primary school, which had since 2016 operated on a split site. As a result of additional pupil numbers arising from new house building, a new school of 2 forms of entry had opened on a site 1.167 miles from the original school. The school had identified a number of additional costs incurred as a result of the site configuration, mainly around staffing eg. reception, lunchtime controllers, site staff, together with costs associated with a minibus to enable sharing of curriculum and sporting activities across both sites. After discussions with the school on the amount claimed, a contribution of £75k could be justified and had been included in the draft budget proposals for consideration by the Forum. The Forum expressed the view that this provision should be kept under review since there may be some element of one-off costs included and/or other economies which could reduce the additional costs incurred by the school. Since this was a potential for other such claims to arise in future, it was suggested that the officers report to a future meeting proposing criteria as how such requests could be dealt with in the future.
ACTION: Paul Clark
After questions to clarify a number of the details, it was RESOLVED that:
i) the allocation of additional funds to primary schools should be through Option 3, which aims for a close fit to the 2019-20 SNFF allocation for each school;
ii) the allocation of additional funds to secondary schools should be through Option 2, which follows the core principles of the 2019-20 SNFF allocation, but also maintains funding stability with 2018-19 budgets; and
iii) in line with the principles for allocating funds to schools included in both Options 2 and 3, the Minimum Funding Guarantee should be set at +0.5% with any associated costs, as in previous years, being met by applying a cap to the schools receiving the highest per pupil gains.
3. The budget changes for 2019-20, as set out in Table 3 in the report, be agreed, with particular consideration given to:
i) the medium term funding strategy for meeting the additional cost from the Growth Fund, as set out in paragraphs 6.26 to 6.31 of the report;
ii) the request for additional funding from Warfield Primary School to finance the additional cost of operating across two separate sites as set out in paragraphs 6.34 to 6.36 of the report; and
iii) further to ii) above, a report be prepared for the Forum proposing criteria for how such requests could be dealt with in a fair and consistent manner.
4. To meet the expected financing requirements of the medium term funding strategy arising from new schools, the funds in the New School Reserve be increased to £1m.
5. On-going central retention by the Council of Central School Services funding for the services and amounts be as set out in Annex 4.
6. In order to provide more accurate budget information, provisional 2019-20 individual school budgets should be released at the beginning of January 2019, rather than before the end of the autumn term.
Item for Maintained Primary School representatives only:
7. The continued de-delegation of budgets for the services requested by the Council be agreed.
Item for Maintained Secondary School representatives only:
8. The continued de-delegation of budgets for the services requested by the Council be agreed.
Item for all Maintained School representatives (includes Special and PRU) only:
9. A £20 per pupil contribution continue to be made by maintained schools towards the cost of delivering ‘general’ education related statutory and regulatory duties.