Agenda item

Minutes from the High Needs Block Sub Group on 10 March 2021

To receive the minutes of the sub-group meeting held on 10 March 2021.


The Forum received and considered the minutes of the High Needs Block (HNB) Sub Group held on 10 March 2021.  The Forum also received a summary of the HNB business change project scope and update from July 2021.


Cheryl Eyre explained that the HNB business change project was moving at a fast pace with up to four SEND meetings a week.  However, there remained a large amount to do.  Once all the objectives had been met, the HNB was expected to be in a far stronger place. 


Councillor Barnard expressed that it was his primary commitment to move this agenda forward and acknowledged the focus that Cheryl Eyre and all the other officers were bringing to this project.  There was a significant increase in high level resource going into this project in the last three to four months and the project had the backing of the Chief Executive to move forward. 


Cheryl Eyre proposed that the Sub Group would be involved in the final stage of this project and wondered if any new members wanted to be part of that.  The first part of the final stage was around building relationships with partners including schools, external agencies, the local authority (the LA), and parents.  The second part was around frameworks and processes; identifying best practice and highlighting any gaps.  Cheryl Eyre explained that the expectation was that the processes would be agreed by the autumn and would be signed off and embedded shortly after.


The Forum commented that Headteachers have been actively working in partnership for the past seven years and would continue to support going forward.  However, the Forum was unclear about what the specific expectations were of the Sub Group regarding this project.  Cheryl Eyre replied that she would like to meet regularly and present the recommendations to get feedback from the Sub Group and agree what to take forward.  It would be a working group and would include all stake holders. 


The Forum expressed a willingness to help but were cautious about the timetable as schools were breaking up for summer and it would be difficult for Headteachers to have a say during that time.  The Forum needed a timeline of agendas and themes.  Cheryl Eyre explained that her team would be progressing work over the summer holidays and Headteachers would not be needed until September.  At that point activities would need to be worked through quickly.  However, Cheryl Eyre would ensure that requests made on Headteachers would be reasonable, acknowledging the pressures.  Councillor Barnard added that the timescales were needed to ensure that commissioning and resourcing work in parallel. 


The Forum felt that a small group of people could make more rapid progress, and that those people already on the Sub Group should be allowed to finish the job rather than introducing new people.  It was agreed that the current Sub Group would be best placed to support with this project.  The Chair suggested liaising with Jenny Baker for a more detailed discussion and to agree timescales. 


Paul Clark brought to the Forum’s attention the Department for Education (DfE) funding consultation which was published on 8 July.  The 30 September deadline to the consultation meant there would be time for further reflection on this at the next meeting of the Forum. 


Paul Clark explained that the DfE intended to expand further the current policy objective of maximising a standard, national approach to education funding with the aim of removing the current flexibilities in the Education Funding Framework that local authorities could use.  This would remove some powers and controls from the authorities and Schools Forums. 


Any changes would take effect from financial year 2023-24 meaning there will be no changes to the existing Funding Framework for at least 1 more financial year.


A key objective would be a requirement for LAs to mirror the National Funding Formula (NFF).  The consultation indicated this could still be work in progress after 2025-26.  With the Council already mirroring the NFF, no immediate to medium term significant impact was expected.


A second consultation would follow once results to this one had been evaluated.  A number of other, linked, more specific consultations would also need to take place on the following areas if the changes the DfE was proposing to make were to be effectively managed:


          Premises funding in NFF e.g.  split sites, rentals, PFI, rates

          Central school services i.e.  statutory duties, de-delegation and traded services

          Supporting effective SEND provision – linked to the wider government review on SEND

          Future role of Schools Forums


Additionally, the SEND government reform paper was expected to link into some parts of the funding reforms which meant further changes may emerge once that was published.  The DfE was also considering moving to academic year budgets for maintained schools.  Further detail would be reported to the Forum in September.


Action: Paul Clark

Supporting documents: