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 the representative body which had been selected to make decisions on behalf of the schools.
The Forum commented that the impact on schools of Option 1 was probably fairer, and the money involved lower, so Option 1 appeared to be the “least bad” option.
Paul Clark explained that the SB budget was facing a funding shortfall of £0.227m. The good news was that the DfE had agreed that the Council could continue to add money from Council reserves to part-fund the additional costs. This would cover the SB funding shortfall.
By adding the extra funding from the council, 2021-22 would be the first year school budgets would be set at 100% of NFF values.
Regarding the Early Years Block Budget, the DfE had published guidance on 17 December 2020 which set out their intention to follow the normal approach in setting LA funding allocations in 2021-22, using actual participation rates. However, given the more recent lockdown, there was a concern that take-up numbers would be much lower than expected, which when numbers increased as could be expected, there would be a budget overspend and the income would be based on lower January participation rates. Therefore, final budget proposals for the Early Years budget would be presented to the Forum in March 2021 following more information from the DfE and better insight on the January 2021 take-up. Cherry Hall then updated the Forum based on government information just released on the morning of the meeting. The guidance confirmed children that could be funded during the spring term. This information had been circulated to all funded Early Years providers.
The Forum expressed thanks to Cherry Hall and Paul Clark for the updates.
1. in its role as the representative body of schools and other providers of education and childcare, the Forum requested that the Executive Member AGREES the following for the 2021-22 Schools Budget:
i. the changes to budgets as set out in Table 3 of the report, in particular:
a. that the Schools Block DSG be set at £81.769m (line 3);
b. that the Central School Services Block be set at £0.912m (line 3); and
c. that the changes to other budgets aggregate to £6.721m (lines 8-19); and
ii. that the factors used in the BF Funding Formula for Schools and their relative values are the same as those used by the DfE for BF in the NFF (Annex 4 of the report);
iii. that the £0.227m funding shortfall arising from using NFF rates in the BF Funding Formula, will be met from Council Reserves, if permitted by the secretary of state;
iv. that the cost of the MFG should be financed by all schools above the 2% increase, not just those above the average increase;
v. that other Schools Block related grants be reset to the amounts anticipated in 2021-22 (paragraph 6.39 of the report); and
vi. that the resulting DfE pro forma template of the 2021-22 BF Funding Formula for Schools, as set out in Annex 5 be submitted by the 21 January deadline; and
2. as decision maker, to AGREE:
i. that the arrangements in place for the administration of central government grants are appropriate;
ii. the financing and budgets for the Growth Fund are as set out in Annex 1 of the report; and
iii. the budgets to be centrally managed by the council on behalf of schools, as set out in Annex 2 of the report; and
3. to NOTE that due to uncertainty on national funding arrangements for the free entitlement to early years childcare and education, that final budget proposals will now be presented to the Schools Forum in March.