To present to the Schools Forum an update on school funding and to seek comments on the final proposals from the Council for the 2019-20 Schools Block and Central Schools Services Block elements of the Schools Budget.
The Forum considered a report presenting an update on school funding and inviting comments on final proposals for the 2019-20 Schools Block and Central Schools Services Block elements of the Schools Budget. The timetable for comments was very tight with the views of the Schools Forum being sought in advance of the deadline of 21 January 2019 for submission to the DfE of the actual Funding Formula for Schools to be used in 2019-20 with associated units of resource and total cost.
Following the report to the Forum in December and the release of key budget data by the DfE, final work on the next year’s Schools Budget had been completed and included some relatively minor changes, as summarised in Annex 4 to the report. The proposed funding package remained in line with the original proposals with a £1.529m (2.8%) increase in per pupil funding from the new School National Funding Formula (SNFF). Against this there were significant cost pressures that would need to be managed, in particular the additional diseconomy costs expected to be incurred for support of the delivery of additional school places that are anticipated in response to new house building programmes.
An explanation of the principles on which the budget had been built up was given, including reference to maintaining the BF Funding Formula as close to the SNFF as possible and setting the Minimum Funding guarantee at the highest permitted amount. It was noted that the issue of DfE verified census data had reduced the amount of pupils schools received funding for by 25 and consequently the allocation. Following the approval of the £0.075m funding allocation next year to Warfield Primary School to reflect additional costs arising from its split site location, it was necessary to set criteria for whether a school qualified for such funding. The Forum endorsed recommended eligibility criteria that set a safe walking distance route of at least one mile between the sites, that they are separated by a public highway and that a lump sum payment is made based on established additional costs.
The Forum turned to consider an additional option included in the report as whether schools on the lowest per pupil funding rates should be fully protected to SNFF funding rates (as previously proposed), or whether for consistency with other school budgets, they should make the same proportional financial contribution to the cost of pressures. Annex 5 and Annex 6 to the report set out exemplifications of the two alternatives showing the headline elements of individual school budgets. The consultation with schools had been carried out on the basis of maintaining the BF Funding Formula to as close to the SNFF as possible for primary schools, and for secondary schools, adopting the key principles of the SNFF, but ensuring greater funding stability with the allocations made in 2018-19 (as per Annex 5), which was broadly known and accepted by schools. Although a late circulation of the alternative proposal (as per annex 6) had been issued in the last few days, the Forum took the view that there was insufficient time for this to be assessed and given proper consideration, given that a decision must be made by 21 January. Although it was possible to argue that this alternative may give a more consistent and equitable outcome, it seemed unreasonable to introduce such a change at such short notice, endangering the principles of consultation which provided the base on which the Forum could take a view. It was suggested, however, that further financial modelling of the alternative be carried out for a more measured consideration in future years.
RESOLVED, in its role as the representative body of schools and other providers of education and childcare, to RECOMMEND that the Executive Member AGREES the following decisions for the 2019-20 Schools Budget:
1. that funds are distributed through the BF Funding Formula for Schools in accordance with the majority view of schools from the options presented in the financial consultation by maintaining the BF Funding Formula to as close to the SNFF as possible for primary schools, but for secondary schools, adopting the key principles of the SNFF, but ensuring greater funding stability with the allocations made in 2018-19 (as set out in Annex 5 of the report).
2. that the amount of DSG funding for delegation into school budgets through the BF Funding Formula be set at £69.895m;
3. that the units of resource for the BF Funding Formula be set at those shown in Annex 7 of the report;
4. that other Schools Block related grants be reset to the amounts anticipated in 2019-20;
5. that the split site cost factor is established according to paragraph 6.21 of the report;
6. that subject to the decision made at 1 above, that the DfE pro forma template of the 2019-20 BF Funding Formula for Schools be completed and submitted by the 21 January deadline.
It was further RESOLVED, as decision maker, that:
7. the arrangements in place for the administration of central government grants are appropriate;
8. the financing and budgets for the Growth Fund items are set in accordance with the decision made at 1 above;
9. the budget amounts for each of the services centrally managed by the council and funded from the Schools Block and Central School Services Block DSG elements are as set out in Table 1 and Annex 3, with the Schools Block items totalling £0.466m and the Central Schools Services Block items totalling £1.060m.