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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Kennet Room - County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, BA14 8JN. View directions

Contact: Lisa Pullin, Tel 01225 713015 or email  committee@wiltshire.gov.uk  Email: lisa.pullin@wiltshire.gov.uk

No. Item


Apologies and Changes of Membership

To note any apologies and changes to the membership of the Forum.


Apologies were received from the following Forum members: Michelle Chilcott (Secondary Academy Rep), Jon Hamp (Special School Academy Rep) and Sue Jiggens (Primary Governor Rep).


Apologies were also received from the following Wiltshire Council Officer - Helen Jones (Director – Commissioning).


The following changes to the membership of the Forum were noted:


Giles Pugh has replaced Nicola Coupe as the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education Rep.


The Chairman welcomed the following to the Forum:


Neil Spurdell (Head of Sheldon School, Chippenham and the new Chair of WASHH.  Neil replaces George Croxford on the Forum). 


Helean Hughes, new Director of Education and Skills for Wiltshire Council.


Minutes of the Previous Meeting

To approve as a correct record and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 11 October 2018(copy attached).

Supporting documents:


The minutes of the previous meeting held on 11 October 2018 we approved as a correct record:




That the Chairman sign the minutes of the meeting of Schools Forum held on 11 October 2018.


Chairman's Announcements

To receive any announcements from the Chair.



The Chairman welcomed all to the Forum and asked all others present to introduce themselves.


The Chairman made the following announcements:


Press attendance at meetings


We are not webcasting this meeting today, however, please be advised that this is a public meeting that anyone can attend - are there any members of the press here today?  NB No members of the press were present at the meeting.


Hard copies of Agendas


As you know, we currently post out paper copies to all Forum members, moving forward, are any members agreeable to receive electronic copies of the Agenda in future which will save printing and postage costs?  Those present at the meeting were asked to indicate on the meeting sign in sheet with an “E” for electronic by their name if they would be happy to receive a pdf version of the Agenda to be emailed to them prior to the meeting.


Declaration of Interests

To note any declarations of interests.


There were no declarations of interest.


Reports from Working Groups

To receive minutes, reports and/or verbal updates from the following working groups:


·      Early Years Reference Group (attached)

·      SEN & Finance Working Group (to follow).

Supporting documents:


The Forum noted the updates received by way of the minutes of the Early Years Reference Group (within Agenda pack) and Schools Funding and SEN Working Group meetings (within Agenda Supplement 1).


Early Years Reference Group


John Proctor reported that he would send out the School Readiness document as agreed at the meeting.


Marie Taylor confirmed that she would be attending the next meeting of the Group on 11 January 2019, after being unable to attend at the meeting on 16 November.  That meeting will have a finance focus.


In relation to childcare sufficiency, it was noted that there were concerns in Malmesbury and Sherston (due to a nursery closure) and the ongoing army rebasing which brought its own complications.  Nurseries are reporting that they cannot afford to stay open, based upon current funding levels and staff recruitment is an issue as there is a shortage of appropriate staff – staff are generally “pinched” from another nursery.


School Funding and SEN Working Group


Grant Davis went through the items discussed at the meeting and reported that most of the items would be picked up later on the Agenda in this meeting.




That Schools Forum note the minutes of the Early Years Reference Group held on 16 November 2018 and the Schools Funding and SEN Working Group held on 19 November 2018.


Virtual School Update

To receive an update from Chris Whitfield (Virtual School Head) or Grant Davis on the Virtual School (report to follow).

Supporting documents:


Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) referred to the report from Chris Whitfield (Virtual School Head) which had been circulated with the Agenda which highlighted what funding the Virtual School receive (£102,800) from the DSG budget and how this is allocated and spent.


The funding received provides full time alternative education for the small number of Looked After Young People who do not have an EHCP or receive education as part of a Care package and cannot manage within a mainstream setting.


Grant explained that the Virtual Schools Head also receives £2,300 pupil premium per child and a good proportion of this is given to the schools to use and some is kept back to use for direct support for pupils who may not be receiving full time education at school or who may need additional support. 


The Virtual Schools Head would like to request that the level of funding continue for 2019/20 when the budget decisions are made at the meeting of Schools Forum in January 2019.


A Forum member confirmed the importance of the allocated monies being spent on the child and was grateful to receive the data and details of spending.




That the update from the Virtual School Head on the funding for the Virtual School be noted.




Budget Monitoring 2018/19

The report of Marie Taylor (Interim Head of Finance – Care) will present the budget monitoring information for the financial year 2018/19 as at October 2018.  Report is to follow.

Supporting documents:


Marie Taylor (Interim Head of Finance for Children’s Services) referred to the budget monitoring report as at 31 October 2018 that was circulated with the Agenda.  Marie highlighted the following:


·       That an overspend of £3.238m was currently projected against the overall schools’ budget, driven mainly by the forecasted overspend on the High Needs Block of £4.1m;


·       An underspend on the Early Years Block was forecasted due the levels of take up for 2-year-old funding (gone up from original forecast) and 3 and 4-year-old funding (numbers predicated are less than actual take up).  Modelling work would be carried out in 2019/20 with plans to look at increasing the hourly rate for funding of 3 and 4 year olds from £4.16 (the current rate) if affordable within the funding block allocation, which would be known later this month;


·       The Post 16 budget was currently forecasting an underspend as a number of extra places were added, but not all have been taken up;


·       The biggest areas of overspend in the High Needs Block are on Independent Special School fees, named pupil allowances and top ups in non-Wiltshire provisions;


·       One of the major drivers of the increased cost is volume and the table on page 26 of the Agenda showed an 11% increase in high needs block expenditure and a 21% increase (556) in EHCP’s;


·       Many other Local Authorities are in the same position with overspends any this may not be about Wiltshire spending money badly, more about the initial levels of funding received from the Government;


·       The High Needs Block Working Group report next addresses what are seen to be the contributory factors and proposals in that report would continue to look for ways of reducing spend as the deficit position could not continue into future years.


Grant Davis referred to research carried out by Worcestershire Council which had tracked the rise in EHCP’s since 2010 and presented the Forum with a graphical representation of the impact.  When the Children and Families Act introduced EHCP’s in 2014 the progressive increase in volume stemmed from this point.  The age-range was increased to cover 0-25 year olds.  Grant reported that Wiltshire are mirroring the national picture and that this was the biggest problem facing DSG budgets.  Wiltshire’s EHCP figure was 3% with the national figure being 2.9%.  In 2014 the rate was 2.4%.


A Forum Member wished for her concern to be noted on the rise in the predicted overspend in between the working group meetings and questioned where the accountability for that was?  Whilst acknowledging that special needs children need the funding, it was of a concern to her that money may have to be taken away from mainstream children who also need funding.


Marie referred the Group to DfE guidance which states that local authorities have overspent their DSG allocations and have found themselves in cumulative DSG deficits.  In these situations, regulations require local authorities to seek approval of Schools Forum to allow them to carry forward the overspend and offset it against  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.


High Needs Block Working Group Update

The report of Marie Taylor (Interim Head of Finance – Care) which is to follow will provide update on the High Needs Block Working Group.

Supporting documents:


Marie Taylor (Interim Head of Finance – Children’s Services) referred to the update report from the High Needs Working Group which was circulated with the Agenda.  Marie highlighted the following:


·       That the working group had met regularly since September 2018 to take action to identify contributing factors and make proposals to reduce the cost pressure on the high needs block.  The monitoring report as at 31 August 2018 identified a £1.2m overspend in the high needs block and this had now risen to £4.125m;


·       Wiltshire’s financial position reflects the national funding position but is heightened by Wiltshire’s position in the funding tables of being the seventh lowest funded local authority in the Country for Education (based upon work undertaken by the F40 Group); and


·       The High Needs Block expenditure has exceeded the Block allocation for a number of years as the table on page 31 of the Agenda showed.  The previous forecast did not take into account the planned starters, transitional moves and increases in EHCPs which took place in the new academic year.


Marie reported that the Working Group had suggested a number of drivers for the financial pressure and these were explained to the Forum.  Marie gave details of what actions have been taken to date as listed within the report.


Marie referred to the appendix 4 results from the schools’ consultation survey.  The responses were at a disappointing level and so further discussions took place at the meeting of Primary Heads Forum on 22 November 2018.


In the consultation survey, schools were asked if they supported a transfer of funding from the School Block to the High Needs Block.  Two Heads supported this and five did not.  Those who did not support a transfer between the two blocks where then asked if they would accept that if this did not take place that all top-up and Named Pupil Allowance funding levels would have to be reduced to keep the High Needs Block within budget.  Three Heads said yes, two said no and one neither agreed or disagreed.  Marie reported that realistically both actions could well need to be carried out to manage the overspend.  


The Heads consultation survey comments were valued and thematically referenced the national funding levels for schools and High Needs Block which was misaligned with the increase in EHCPs and extended age range to 0-25 years, following the introduction of the Children & Families Act 2014.


The Working Group had also come up with a wide ranging selection of transformational change proposals which would need to be examined further by the Director – Families and Children’s Services with regard to risk, equality, financial viability and best value.


A Forum member noted that EHCPs are generally more about health and care plan needs and not primarily education based – could that be a reason for an increase in costs?  For example, do the Health Services make a contribution to someone who needs physiotherapy as part of their EHCP?  How is this challenged?


Judith Westcott (Acting Head  ...  view the full minutes text for item 59.


Special Schools in Wiltshire Update

To receive an update on Special Schools in Wiltshire from Judith Westcott (Acting Head of Commissioning and Joint Planning).


The Forum received an update on Special Schools (presentation attached as Appendix 1 to the Minutes) from Judith Westcott (Acting Head of Commissioning and Joint Planning.  Judith highlighted the following:


·       The full Cabinet papers leading to the decision made on 27 November 2018 in relation to Special School provision in Wiltshire were available on line – click here for link;


·       The vision of the project was to make a £20m investment in Wiltshire’s Special Schools.  It had been identified that there was a need to invest in staffing and not a number of buildings.  It was the intention to create Centres of Excellence in Rowdeford near Devizes and at Exeter House in Salisbury;


·       3000 children and young people in Wiltshire have an EHCP and 500 of these attend a Special School;


·       Officers had been working on this project for 3 years and it was planned that a campus style school would be ready for 2023;


·       Services for the health needs of the young people would be much improved with Virgin Care staff being available every day and other medical professionals on site such as Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists.


·       This would be the best special school provision for all children and young people.




That the Forum note the Special Schools update.

Appendix 1 to Minutes - Special Schools Presentation

Supporting documents:


Forum Updates

The Forum will receive verbal updates from Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) on the following:


·       New Pay Scales for APT&C staff

·       October National Funding Formula meeting.


The Forum received the following verbal updates from Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager).


Bids to the MOD’s Education Support Funding


The Army were rebasing families from Germany to Wiltshire in the summer of 2019 and it was expected that there would be over 1000 children arriving and needing school places.  The Council had made 4 bids to the MOD’s Education Support Fund which has a total budget of £3m.


The results of these bids have now been concluded and requests for bids totalled £10m.  Grant was pleased to report that Wiltshire was to receive over £1m of the £3m available funding as follows:


Bid for £1m             Allocated £750k       To be used to recruit an extra teacher                               in each school.


Bid for £460k           Allocated £340k       For SEN support in schools.


Bid for funding of a post for an additional School Admissions Officer was agreed.


Schools would also put in their own bids for extra funding and now that this funding was confirmed the planning work could commence as soon as possible.  It was felt that the MOD gave us recognition about the impact this re-basing programme will have on Wiltshire.


The Forum noted the work that had gone into submitting the bids for funding and wished to thank all those involved in this process and we pleased with its fruition.


Growth Fund


The authority would ordinarily be approving the criteria for the Growth Fund at this meeting.  Due to clarification being required from the DfE regarding the growth monies in respect of Army Rebasing, the criteria could not be confirmed at this meeting and would need to be confirmed at the next meeting.


Teacher’s Pay Award Grant


Following the notification of the grant to support the teachers’ pay award, it had been identified that some primary schools had received too much money as the children in reception had been double counted.  There was an overpayment and a few schools were impacted by this.  The DfE have confirmed that no recoupment would take place and that for schools that had been under-funded, the correct funding would be distributed before the end of December. 


New Pay Spines for Support Staff


A new pay spine for support staff is scheduled to be introduced from April 2019.  Colleagues in the HR teams are working with the Trade Unions to agree the proposed movement of staff from the old pay spines to the new pay spines.  HR will be releasing guidance to schools before Christmas. 


MOD Army Rebasing


It is confirmed that up to £2.8m has been allocated to Wiltshire for the period from September 2019 to March 2020 to help with the impact of Army Rebasing.  In addition, the DfE will commit funding for the period from April 2020 to August 2020 for Academies as the DfE had agreed that Wiltshire should not be disadvantaged financially following the Army rebasing.  This was to allow for growth of the schools.  This agreement was a milestone point.




That the Forum note all of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 61.


Confirmation of Dates for Future Meetings

To confirm the dates of future meetings, as follows, all to start at 1.30pm:


17 January 2019

28 March 2019

13 June 2019.


The Forum noted that the future meetings would be held on:


17 January 2019

28 March 2019

13 June 2019.


The Forum hoped that a response would have been received from the Secretary of State by the next meeting on 17 January 2019.


Urgent Items

To consider any other items of business, which the Chairman agrees to consider as a matter of urgency.


There were no urgent items.




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