Agenda and draft minutes

Schools Forum - Thursday, 13 January 2022 4.30 pm

Venue: Zoom Meeting. View directions

Contact: Derek Morgan  01344 352044

Media

Items
No. Item

216.

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.

 

The Chair highlighted that Debbie Smith had indicated this would be her last Forum meeting as a Secondary School Representative as Sandhurst Secondary School would have converted to an Academy by the time of the next meeting.  The Chair thanked Debbie for her contributions to the Forum.  Paul Clark added that he was due to review the structure of the Forum and would bring some proposals to the meeting in March relating to the Membership Structure as well as plans to fill vacant posts before September.  The Chair expressed that Debbie would be welcome to stay as a member of the Forum.  Debbie Smith advised she would consider that but would like to open it up to other academy colleagues.

 

217.

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:

Keith Grainger declared an affected interest regarding Item 6 (2022-23 Proposals for the Local Authority Budget) in relation to the capital programme associated with Garth Hill College.

 

Councillor Barnard also declared an affected interest regarding Item 6 as a governor of Garth Hill College and Item 5 as a governor of Warfield Primary School and advised that the Leader of the Council Paul Bettison would take forward any decisions relating to that item if applicable.

218.

Minutes and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 162 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of 9 December 2021.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Forum on 9 December 2021 be approved as a correct record.

 

Arising from minute 212, Paul Clark had not had an update from Chris Taylor in relation to correcting and reissuing the information that had been shared with the Headteachers regarding the Local Plan.  Cheryl Eyre added that Chris Taylor was aware of this and would ensure that correct information was included in the strategic document presented to the Forum in March.

 

Action: Chris Taylor

 

The Chair asked if the Special Educational Needs (SEN) sufficiency document had been created.  Paul Clark confirmed it had and that it would be presented to the Forum in March as part of the Capital Strategy and the School Places Plan. 

 

The Chair expressed his surprise that there was to be no update on the High Needs Block (HNB) at this meeting as the Forum had asked for regular updates and nothing had been presented for a short while.  The Chair was further disappointed that there was no item on HNB funding for 2022/23 on this agenda as reports had been received on the Early Years Block Element of the Schools Budget (Item 4), the Schools Block and Central School Services Block Elements of the Schools Budget (Item 5), and the Local Authority Budget (Item 6).  This left the HNB funding update for the meeting in March, and the Forum had previously expressed concern about that as it presented the Forum with a “fait accompli”.  Debbie Smith seconded that view.

 

The Chair requested an update on the banding matrix.  Cheryl Eyre advised that Jenny Baker had presented the descriptors to the subgroup and then a demonstration had been presented to the SEN Service.  Descriptors were being looked at by Mandy Wimbush and Veronica McDonald (Learning Support and ASD teachers) and that piece of work was ongoing.  Once completed, the descriptors would be handed to Paul Clark to work on modelling the finance for each band and this would then go back to the subgroup.  Cheryl Eyre had proposed that the banding matrix be incorporated into each individual Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) review to ensure that the agreed banding matrix would be appropriate for each individual child, as opposed to transferring all the children at once to the new bands.  This was due to commence in March / April 2022 and the Headteachers had been fully updated on this.

 

The Chair asked for an update on the six project workstreams to address the HNB deficit budget that had been presented to the Forum at the meeting in November 2021.  Regarding the governance framework and process, Cheryl Eyre explained that two project managers were working on that; putting details on the database, testing the system, and proofing the system to highlight any gaps.  That piece of work was on track to finish by the end of March 2022 and the system would be ready to use at the beginning of April 2022.  Training would be required  ...  view the full minutes text for item 218.

219.

2022-23 Proposals for the Early Years Block Element of the Schools Budget pdf icon PDF 184 KB

To seek agreement from the Forum to proposals for the 2022-23 Early Years budgets, including the values to be attributed to the Bracknell Forest Council Early Years Funding Formula.

Minutes:

The Forum considered a report which sought agreement to proposals for the 2022-23 Early Years budgets, including the values to be attributed to the Bracknell Forest Council Early Years Funding Formula (EYFF).

 

Cherry Hall explained that the formula had already been considered by the Forum during the meeting in December but at that stage the monetary values had not been available.  DfE had subsequently confirmed that Bracknell Forest Council would see an increase in funding of £0.17 per hour for 3- and 4-year-olds and £0.21 for eligible 2-year-olds.  The early years pupil premium (EYPP) was due to increase by £0.07 per hour and the funding rate for the disability access fund (DAF) would increase by £185 per year. 

 

The calculations had been more challenging due to the pandemic which had disrupted participation rates.  The outcome was that a weighted average had been used instead of the usual proxy measures. 

 

There was a need to use a share of the increase in the hourly rate to support other parts of the formula such as the deprivation and quality supplements so that they had the right proportion of funds.  Therefore, the proposal was that the hourly base rate would increase by £0.15 for 3- and 4-year-olds and by £0.19 for eligible 2-year-olds.  The impact of this meant that one provider would see a reduced income of up to 2% whereas all over providers would see an increased income.  Cherry Hall explained that this provider was likely to be a childminder and that some childminders could potentially only have one child that was funded over the course of a financial year. 

 

The DfE had confirmed that schools would be allocated additional funding from the Schools Supplementary Grant to cover the increase in employer National Insurance contributions and wider costs.  However, private and voluntary sector (PVI) providers would not be eligible to receive this funding and Cherry Hall had raised this apparent funding inequality with the DfE and was awaiting a response.

 

Sue Butler expressed her frustration that there was an uneven playing field between the maintained sector and the PVI sector.  The PVI sector has gone through the same challenges as schools and colleges but with far fewer resources and no support with staff costs.  The EY Single Funding Formula had been brought in to give equality but funding for the PVI sector remained inadequate and unfair.  Sue Butler feared that, if the sector were to remain underfunded, in 5 years’ time there would be no PVI sector. 

 

Councillor Barnard expressed that he understood what Sue Butler was saying on behalf of the PVI sector and that he was willing to present any evidence to the DfE to support the need for more financial support.  The Forum was sometimes asked to make comments on childcare sufficiency and Councillor Barnard felt it was important for the DfE to understand the impact on the PVI sector.  Sue Butler added that the Government had not taken into account the increased cost of providing the hours.  Businesses  ...  view the full minutes text for item 219.

220.

2022-23 Proposals for the Schools Block and Central School Services Block Elements of the Schools Budget pdf icon PDF 860 KB

To present final proposals from the Council for the 2022-23 Schools Block and Central Schools Services Block elements of the Schools Budget.

Minutes:

The Forum considered a report which presented final proposals from the Council for the 2022-23 Schools Block (SB) and Central Schools Services Block (CSSB) elements of the Schools Budget.

 

Paul Clark explained that the report repeated the decisions that the Forum had previously made and brought it all together in one document along with some new information: namely, the confirmed implications from the October 2021 census update.  There had been a big increase in the Additional Educational Needs (AEN) factors such as free school meals.  Overall, the impact of that increase and all other proposals would be a budget gap of £0.510m if the Council adopted all proposals.  This was higher than the usually anticipated budget gap of between £0.2m and £0.3m.  Whilst there was additional pressure from AEN, the funding that the Council received would still be based on the AEN eligibilities from October 2020 whereas the Council had a responsibility to fund schools based on the AEN eligibilities on the October 2021 census. 

 

In order to balance the forecast shortfall on the SB, the Council was proposing to finance the normal funding gap form reserves, with the additional AEN pressures from scaling the NFF rates as follows:

 

1.         to draw down up to £0.182m from the reserves created by the Council to help finance the additional costs of new and expanding schools;

2.         to draw down to £0.174m from the unallocated Schools Budget Reserve to support the additional costs of new and expanding schools; and

3.         to fund schools at 99.75% of the NFF, with all factors scaled by the same percentage, equivalent to £0.154m.

 

It was also reported that a new school supplementary grant had been allocated by the DfE to help cover the health and social care levy and other increases in costs.  An initial calculation indicated schools would get an average increase in per pupil funding of 3% which was more than the core DfE settlement.  Therefore, taken together, on average schools would receive a 5.7% increase in per pupil funding.  Costs would also increase next year but at this stage it was difficult to assess that with any accuracy.  However, initial assumptions indicated there was sufficient funding to cover those costs.

 

The Forum expressed concern about rising costs and the uncertainties ahead and asked whether there was any opportunity to look at this again if further information became available.  Paul Clark replied that nothing would change in terms of income to be received from the DfE; all that would change were the cost pressures which would be different school by school and each school would have to make decisions about how to spend the money it had available. 

 

RESOLVED

1.         in its role as the representative body of schools and other providers of education and childcare, the Forum requests that the Leader of the Council AGREES the following for the 2022-23 Schools Budget:

i.         the changes to budgets as set out in Table 3 of the report, in particular:

a.       that the Schools Block  ...  view the full minutes text for item 220.

221.

2022-23 Proposals for the Local Authority Budget pdf icon PDF 534 KB

To present for comment the draft proposals for the Council’s 2022/23 budget.

Minutes:

The Forum considered a report which presented for comment a

summary of the Council’s draft budget proposals for 2022/23 as agreed by the Executive on 14 December 2021, with a particular focus on the impact expected on the People Directorate. 

 

Paul Clark explained that the proposals were published prior to confirmation of the Local Government Financial Settlement so were based on assumptions regarding government funding informed by the 2021 Spending Review.  There was an estimated £3m funding gap on the revenue budget, and the report detailed the proposals as to how that would be covered.  The second part of the report looked at the capital proposals. 

 

The Chair noted the continued financial support towards the cost of new school places.  However, the Chair and other members of the Forum were more concerned about the £20m cumulative HNB deficit and the potential payback period starting in April 2023.  Paul Clark explained that it was a national issue and the Government had put in place a three-year period for Local Authorities (LAs) to work towards balancing their budgets and then there would be a further decision around any accumulated deficit.  That part had not yet been addressed by the Government and it was unclear what the position would be, but it should be assumed that debt liability would transfer to councils.  Councillor Barnard added that there would be a lot of LAs in financial difficulty so there would be a need for the Government to step in. 

 

The Chair felt that the Council was a long way away from a balanced budget.  Councillor Barnard expressed that he had genuine confidence that there would be significant changes with the new commissioning strategy.  Cheryl Eyre added that the HNB project group had identified the areas of work that were needed to bring the deficit down and there was clarity around where the issues were.  Cheryl Eyre was confident that the HNB would be in a far better position within two to three years, as the change programme would take time to have a significant financial benefit.  Cheryl Eyre appreciated the support of colleagues in the Schools Forum.

 

Keith Grainger requested a meeting to get an update on the Garth Hill College capital project as, whilst he appreciated it was a draft proposal, the most recent conversations he had had did not reflect what was set out in the report.  Cheryl Eyre confirmed Chris Taylor would set up a meeting with Keith Grainger. 

 

Action: Chris Taylor

 

Paul Clark explained that the proposals reflected the position at November and there may now be more up to date information.  Keith Grainger highlighted that the report was in the public domain and that people could draw the wrong conclusions from it.  The Chair added it needed to be corrected before being presented to Council.  Councillor Barnard was confident that would happen. 

 

The Forum noted that the Revenue reserves looked very healthy and whilst that suggested prudent management, it seemed to be a large reserve.  Councillor Barnard responded that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 221.

222.

Dates of Future Meetings

The next meeting of the Forum will be held at 4.30pm on Thursday 10 March 2022.

 

Meetings have also been scheduled at 4.30pm on the following dates in the 2022/23 municipal year:

 

23 June, 15 September, 17 November, 8 December 2022, 12 January and 9 March 2023.

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Forum would be held at 4.30pm on Thursday 10 March 2022.