Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum - Thursday, 14 January 2021 4.30 pm

Venue: Zoom Meeting. View directions

Contact: Derek Morgan  01344 352044


No. Item


Apologies for Absence/Substitute Members

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


There were no apologies for absence.


The Chair welcomed Jo Lagares to the Forum who was replacing Neil Davies.


The Chair highlighted that Leslie Semper, an Academy representative, did not seem to have attended any meetings.  Liz Cole offered to ask Leslie whether she still wanted to be a member of the Forum.  It was felt that the Forum would need another Academy representative if Leslie was no longer available, in which case Paul Clark would follow-up. 


Action: Liz Cole and Paul Clark


Paul Clark had been in contact with Liz Savage who was a Headteacher from another Academy who had expressed an interest in joining the Forum.


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.


There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 215 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of 10 December 2020.


RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Forum on 10 December 2020 be approved as a correct record.


There were no matters arising.


School Places Plan and Capital Strategy 2021-25 pdf icon PDF 150 KB

To present the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy 2021-25.  These were last approved by the Executive in January 2020 and have now been updated to cover the five-year period from 2021 to 2025.

Additional documents:


The Forum considered a report which sought approval of the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy 2021-25.  If approved, this would go before the Executive in February 2021 to be signed off. 


Chris Taylor explained that, in the past, forecasts had been less than accurate, but since the new forecasting system had been introduced in 2019, it had proved to be 98% accurate for the 2020 intake.  Chris Taylor hoped that would mean it continued to be accurate going forward.


Chris Taylor highlighted that there had been an expected decrease in early years and primary pupil numbers, which was a continuation of the trend from last year.  Secondary and post-16 pupil numbers were both expected to increase.  This was linked to the previous rise in primary numbers 5-8 years ago which was currently working its way up through secondary schools.  An overall increase in SEN pupil numbers was forecast.


Graph One (paragraph 3.2 of the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy 2021-25) showed the trend of the local population, plotting both the NHS Births data and the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Population Predictions.  Taken together, the figures suggested a decrease in the numbers of 5-year olds in Bracknell Forest over the next five years.


Graph Two (paragraph 3.3 of the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy 2021-25) showed a spike in 2019/20 of housing completions in Bracknell Forest.  The spike was linked to housing development which had been expected in earlier years and finally come to fruition.  It was not anticipated that this spike in housing would result in a spike in the school population as 85% of families moving within the Borough did not move their children from their original school.  It was expected that the peak of demand from the new housing may be reached up to 5-7 years after the commencement of the housing development.


Graph Fourteen (paragraph 8.1 of the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy 2021-25) showed the forecasts of primary pupil numbers Borough-wide over the next 5 years.  In September 2020 there had been a surplus of 11% and, if no action had been taken, this was expected to rise to 20% by 2025.  The strategy to reduce the surplus of places was detailed in paragraphs 8.5-8.13 of the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy 2021-25. 


Graph Twenty-Two (paragraph 9.1 of the School Places Plan and Capacity Strategy 2021-25) showed the forecast secondary pupil numbers based on the intake year 7 for 2020-25.  Overall, there was a surplus of 9% in 2020 and this was due to rise to a surplus of 11% by 2025. 


The Forum queried the likelihood of the forecasts matching the actual numbers.  Chris Taylor replied that the system was changed in 2019 so he had only been able to measure accuracy from the September 2020 intake.  Chris Taylor could not guarantee that it would remain 98% reliable going forward, but the downward trend of population and birth data seemed to affirm the projections. 


The Forum highlighted that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 170.


Update on the 2021-22 High Need Block Budget pdf icon PDF 429 KB

To provide an update on the development of the 2021-22 High Needs Block element of the Schools Budget.


The Forum considered a report which updated on the development of the 2021-22 High Needs Block (HNB) element of the Schools Budget.


Kashif Nawaz advised that steps were being taken as part of the Council’s transformation project to address the pressures on the HNB Budget.  Updates were included in section 6 of the report and Kashif Nawaz noted that progress had only been made possible due to the collaboration with schools and partners.  Further updates would be shared at the next meeting of the HNB sub-group. 


In relation to controlling the number of Education, Health & Care Plans (EHCPs), Kashif Nawaz was producing information that would be shared with the Forum in the next couple of weeks. 


Action: Kashif Nawaz


Progress was continuing in developing provision and two Service Level Agreements had already been signed off for the Special Resource Provisions (SRPs).  The project transformation group was going to keep oversight of that, and data and evidence was being produced parallel to the work being done.


The Chair asked Paul Clark to comment on the financial forecasts, as the Forum had been asked to note that the position had worsened.  Paul Clark explained that he had been continually updating the forecast figures.  The annual overspend had gone up and was close to a £5m.  The assumptions going forward had been amended and all the savings expected from the last work plan had been moved forward.  Progress had been adversely impacted by Covid-19.  Paul Clark was expecting to present more detailed proposals in March. 


The Forum asked for an update on the 15 pupils that had not been placed in schools and queried whether that situation was likely to arise again next September or whether steps had been taken to avoid that happening again.  Rachel Morgan advised that the Council had been working closely with four families to place those children.  There had been an increase in the cost to place those children as specialist provision was required.  Rachel Morgan explained that it was a rare situation which she was hoping would not recur, but other local authorities (LAs) noted the same this year.  The issues arose due to Covid-19 and specialist providers not accepting new admissions.  The Council was conducting a feasibility study of the Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) Hub.  The aim was to gather data and analysis to make a case to create a new provision in the Borough which, if approved, was hoped to reduce pressures. 


The Forum expressed that it had noted on several occasions that the only way to alleviate the HNB budget pressures would be to make radical changes and have more provision within the Borough.  The Forum felt it had not seen evidence of anything radical and asked whether there was a plan to bring forward any plans to start to address that issue.  Kashif Nawaz replied that the plan was set out within the Commissioning Plan and additional resources had been allocated to deliver change within the transformation project.  More details were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 171.


Final Proposals for the 2021-22 Schools Block and Central School Services Block Elements of the Schools Budget pdf icon PDF 596 KB

To present final proposals from the Council for the 2021-22 Schools Block and Central Schools Services Block elements of the Schools Budget.  There is also an update on the Early Years Block where uncertainty on national funding arrangements means that final budget proposals will now be presented to the Forum in March, rather than now as originally intended.


The Forum considered a report which presented final proposals from the Council for the 2021-22 Schools Block (SB) and Central Schools Services Block (CSSB) elements of the Schools Budget.  This was based on previous decisions agreed by the Forum along with the recently received data from the October 2020 Schools Census released by the DfE.  The final decision would be taken by the Executive Member for Children, Young People and Learning, but the Executive Member would draw on the recommendations made by the Forum.


Paul Clark highlighted that there had been quite a lot of movement in the additional educational needs (AEN) measures as detailed on page 67 of the report.  Many measures had come down, indicating that the requirements of schools for funding were lower than they were last year.  Working that through the formula, primary schools would receive £0.341m less than they did this time last year, whereas secondary schools would receive £0.055m more. 


Paul Clark reminded the Forum that, any funding reductions arising from data changes for schools funded at the Minimum Per Pupil Funding Level (MPPFL) had to be offset by a larger top up payment to reach the MPPFL.  When that factor was introduced into the calculations there was another £0.174m added to the Schools Budget.  As a result of the updated data there was a £0.185m reduction in funds allocated to individual schools.


The impact of AEN data changes had had a much bigger impact on the amount of Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG) now being triggered than was expected.  The Forum had been asked to agree previously that the cost would be financed by schools receiving above average increases in per pupil funding, which would be six schools.  It was now recommended that the Forum agreed Option 1, whereby all schools with funding increases above 2% would contribute to the cost of increasing budgets for schools experiencing below 2% increases, which would be 11 schools.


The Forum asked what was happening to schools below the National Funding Formula (NFF) – were they now up to that level, or were they still gaining an additional sum to move towards that figure over time.  Paul Clark replied that there were two different calculations.  The MPFFL was the minimum amount of budget that could be set in 2021-22, irrespective of what their budget was in the current year.  That was the one which was costing the most amount of money and we had no discretion over that as it was set by the Government.  The MFG related to the 2% increase and only equated to £28,000 in context.  The change in the recommendation related to the MFG. 


The Forum noted that schools had been consulted on funding and the MFG and asked whether schools would be consulted this time.  Paul Clark replied that, ideally, they would do that, but there was no time as the budget had to be set on 21 January 2021.  Unfortunately, Paul Clark was not anticipating this change.  However, the Forum was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 172.


Consultation on 2021-22 Budget Proposals from the Council pdf icon PDF 471 KB

To present for comment a summary of the Council’s budget proposals for 2021/22 with a particular focus on the impact expected on the People Directorate, as agreed by the Executive on 15 December 2020.


The Forum considered a report which presented for comment a summary of the Council’s budget proposals for 2021/22 with a particular focus on the impact expected on the People Directorate, as agreed by the Executive on 15 December 2020.


Paul Clark explained that there were four key elements of the Revenue Budget: the Commitment Budget which detailed financial implications from previous decisions, Government grants and other income, service pressures and developments, and service economies. 


In preparing the 2021/22 draft budget proposals, service pressures and developments for each directorate were considered.  The overall proposals were based on the worst-case scenario and resulted in a potential funding gap of £6.242m. 


The suggested approaches to bridge the gap were the same as usual (including an increase in Council Tax and drawing money from the Council’s reserves).  For this year, there was also the use of additional COVID-related Government grants. 


Regarding the Capital budget, Paul Clark explained that the Council was looking at a £12.032m capital programme.  The Council did not have enough funds to fully finance the project so the Council would have to borrow some money. 


The Chair noted that the Forum had not previously received information about the Holly Spring FUSION project outlined in the People Directorate 2021/22 Capital Programme Bids (Annexe D of the report).  The Chair questioned why that project had been put forward without having consideration alongside other projects previously mentioned at meetings of the sub-group.  Rachel Morgan explained that it was an Early Help project, but Rachel was happy to bring details of that. 


Action: Rachel Morgan


The Chair highlighted that the description of the proposed new SEMH facility specifically mentioned refugee children and queried why that was.  Rachel Morgan clarified that, a few years ago, we had several refugee children and it was found that a lot of them had experienced significant trauma which led to the need for SEMH support. 


The Forum was asked to comment on the 2021/22 budget proposals of the Executive for the People Directorate in respect of the revenue budget (Annexes A to C of the report) and the capital programme (Annexe D of the report).  The Forum did not have any comments.


Councillor Barnard noted that the HNB work was a critical part of the overall work and thanked everyone who supported on the sub-group. 


Dates of Future Meetings

The next meeting of the Forum will be held at 4.30pm on 11 March 2021.


The next meeting of the Forum would be held at 4.30pm on 11 March 2021.