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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

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies and Changes of Membership

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

Minutes:

Apologies were received from the following Forum members: Aileen Bates (SEN Governor representative), Giles Pugh (Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education representative), Charlotte Corfield (Observer – Wiltshire College – Nikki Barnett in place of Charlotte Corfield) Matt Sambrook (Consultant Headteacher) and Cllr Pauline Church (Cabinet Member).

 

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

 

There were no changes to the membership.

2.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting

To approve as a correct record and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 12 December 2019 (copy attached).

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 12 December 2019 were approved as a correct record subject to the following amendment –

 

Minute number 66 on page 9 of the Agenda - the third paragraph down to indicate that a low level of response was received to the consultation by inserting the following on the first line after The consultation responses “(which were low – 9 respondents)”.

 

Resolved:

 

That the Chairman sign the minutes of the meeting of Schools Forum held on 12 December 2019 subject to the agreed change above being made.

3.

Chairman's Announcements

To receive any announcements from the Chair.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded the Forum that although the meeting was not being webcast, it was a public meeting that anyone could attend.  The Chairman asked if any members of the press were present – there were no members of the press present.

 

The Chairman reported that it was his intention that there be a short adjournment after the Officers had presented all of the reports to the Forum to allow them to canvass colleagues before the Forum would then go on to make the necessary decisions.  This was agreed by the Forum members.

4.

Declaration of Interests

To note any declarations of interests.

Minutes:

There were no interests declared.

5.

Updates from Working Groups

The Forum will be asked to note the updates from the following meetings:

 

·       Early Years Reference Group – 6 January 2020

·       Joint meeting of the School Funding Working Group and SEN Working Group – 7 January 2020.

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

The Forum noted the update received by way of the minutes of the meeting of the Early Years Reference Group meeting held on 6 January 2020.  The Chair of the Working Group (John Proctor) highlighted to the Forum that a mid-year review of the hourly rates would be carried out once budget allocations are released later in the year to consider if a change to rates is affordable.

 

The Forum noted the update received by way of the minutes of the meeting of the School Funding and SEN working group held on 7 January 2020.  The Chairman confirmed that the joint working group had also met immediately prior to the Schools Forum meeting to look at the options that had been prepared by Officers.

 

On page 19 of the Agenda, on the third line up from the bottom the word “greed” should be amended to read “agreed”.

 

There were no questions raised.

 

Resolved:

 

That Schools Forum note the minutes of the Early Years Reference group meeting held on 6 January 2020 and the joint meeting of the School Funding and SEN working group held on 7 January 2020. 

6.

Dedicated Schools Budget - Budget Monitoring 2019-20

The report of Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) seeks to present the budget monitoring information against the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) for the financial year 2019-20 as at 30th November 2019.

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) referred to the budget monitoring report as at 30 November 2019 that was circulated with the Agenda. 

 

Marie highlighted the following:

 

·       That there was a forecast underspend of £0.210m on the school’s block budgets.   There was a forecast overspend on the early years budget this year because the budgeted numbers of FTE’s has been exceeded by take up of parents.  The 30 hours of free childcare is only open for working parents – this is good for children but not for the budget.  It was hoped that we play catch up and the funding will increase.  The forecast overspend is £1.036m.  The 2018/19 adjustment based on the January 2018 census data was a reduction of £0.359m;

 

·       High Needs budgets are projected to overspend by £6,494m with the biggest areas of overspend being Independent Special School (ISS) packages, Named Pupil Allowance (NPA) and alternative provision.  The funding isn’t at the required level to meet the growing demand in Wiltshire.  There has been a significant increase in demand since the last report (27 FTE new NPA’s, 19 FTE new special school top ups, 4 FTE new ISS places and 3FTE additional SEN education other than at school);

 

·       The numbers of EHCPs requested has not slowed and it is forecast that 3,970 children in Wiltshire will have one by 31 March 2020;

 

·       A lot of work has been done to look at what can be done with the High Needs budget pressures including the High Needs Block Working Group, an independent external review commissioned through ISOS, and re-organisation and alignment of Council services; this is being followed up by the joint working party, starting February 2020.

 

·       There is a small but favourable forecast variance of £6k on central school’s services block;

 

·       Of concern is that the forecast overspends would take the DSG reserve into a deficit position of £9.580m.  With effect from 2018/19 the DfE changed the regulations as there were lots of schools in deficit, under which Local Authorities have to explain their plans for bring the DSG account back into balance.  Last year we were just under the 1% but in June this year we will be required to submit a recovery plan, this will not pose a problem as we do have a recovery plan under discussion; and

 

·       In the Autumn of 2019 the DfE carried out consultation on changing the conditions and regulations applying to the DSG.  The Government had intended to make a decision on the proposed changes in time to inform the setting of the LA budgets for 2020/21 but the outcome is still awaited – it is assumed that the December 2019 general election may have delayed things.  Marie had met with the Cabinet Member (Cllr Pauline Church) to ask her to speak to MP Michelle Donelan to chase for a response.

 

A Forum Member asked when the Local Authority’s 2020/21 budget submission was (21 January 2020) and expressed disappointment that the DfE expect us to set  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

School Budget Setting 2020-21

To consider the budget for 2020/21.

 

The following update reports provide details on the overall funding settlement on each of the funding blocks, the decisions will be made after consideration of all the update papers via the decision matrix.

7a

Schools Revenue Funding 2020-21 - Funding Settlement and Budget Setting Process

The report of Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) seeks to update the Forum on the schools revenue funding settlement and the budget setting process for 2020-21.  It also outlines the funding settlement announced on 19 December 2019 and the impact on school budgets arising from the settlement.

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) referred to the report which should update Schools Forum on the revenue funding settlement and the budget setting process for 2020/21.  Grant highlighted the following:

 

·       The DfE had issued the revenue funding settlement for schools on 19 December 2019.  In the Autumn of 2019 the Government announced a pledge to boost schools and high needs funding which a cash increase of £14.5 billion over 3 years.  This was in addition to a further £700m for high needs funding nationally in 2020/21, a grant for the teacher’s pension scheme contributions for the next 3 years until 2022/23.  The Teacher’s pay award grant would continue for the 2020/21 year;

 

·       The DfE have continued to allocate funding based on the National Funding Formula (NFF) which should see all schools benefitting from the additional funding and we hope to hear soon about further grants, including Pupil Premium funding rates;

 

·       The provisional Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) allocation for Wiltshire Council was £374.503 million which was an increase of £22,857 million from 2019/20.  This increase reflects the impact of the increase to the school’s block funding for the NFF and also incorporates the additional funding being pledged by the Government;

 

·       Wiltshire has experienced pupil growth increases, with just under 64,000 pupils being funded.  Schools block is calculated based on NFF figures published in October 2019 and they calculated primary and secondary units of funding which show an increase of 5.99% (primary) and 4.22% (secondary).  Included within the school’s block funding of £293.142 million is £2.604 million allocated for growth; 

 

·       The £2.479 million for central school’s block includes funding for agreed historic commitments;

 

·       The high needs block is based on the NFF of which a proportion is based upon historic spend and as we had previously been low on the historic spend we continue to receive low funding for this element of the NFF;

 

·       The early years block reflects hourly rates for 2020/21 and it should be noted that the early years block will be updated during the 2020/21 financial year to reflect the January 2020 and January 2021 early years census data;

 

·       The funding regulations do allow for a transfer of funding between the school’s block and other blocks within the DSG.  Local Authorities have the flexibility to move up to 0.5%.  Anything higher would require approval from the Secretary of State (SoS) through a disapplication request, which has been applied for.  We should hear about this request in early February.  In 2019/20 the SoS approved our request for a transfer of £2.2 million (0.8%);

 

A Forum Member asked for details of the amount of the disapplication request made.  Grant reported that this request was made in November (before the funding allocation was announced) was for an approval to transfer up to 1.58% between school’s block and high needs block.

 

·       Following the removal of the Education Services Grant in August 2017, a School Improvement Monitoring and Brokering Grant was introduced.  Funding was set for 3 years from  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7a

7b

DSG Budget - Schools Block Update 2020-21 (Delegated Budget)

The report of Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) seeks to update the Forum on issues relating to the schools delegated budget for 2020-21 and the decisions that will need to be made as part of the budget setting process.

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) referred to the report which sought to update Schools Forum on issues relating to the schools delegated budget for 2020/21 and the decisions that would need to be made as part of the budget setting process.  Grant highlighted the following:

 

·       The DfE had allocated £293.142 million to Wiltshire which included funding of £2.604 million for the growth fund, based on the new growth fund formula;

 

·       Cabinet approved the funding formula for 2019/20 which confirmed that Wiltshire would move as close to the NFF as possible.  Modelling work has been carried out to calculate individual school budgets based on the agreed formula and this has found that the formula is fully affordable, subject to possible transfers out of the school’s block;

 

·       Where we have been unable to afford to fully fund schools based upon the NFF, FSM6 has always been the funding factor that we have compromised on;

 

·       Growth funding allocations – The DfE changed their methodology for allocating growth funding and in 2019/20 growth has been larger than expected. There is no expectation from the DfE that we spend the £2.604 on growth – it forms part of the overall schools’ block funding;

 

·       At the Forum meeting in December 2019 the criteria for allocating growth funding was agreed and we are compliant with the condition of the DfE’s funding regulations;

 

·       There are no plans to open any new schools in the 2020/21 year.  Historically the growth fund has supported new schools with diseconomy costs for the first 7 years or until the school is full.  We are still awaiting the numbers for the basic need class expansion from colleagues in the School places team.  Infant class sizes increases have been confirmed for 2019/20 with 5 schools being funded through this factor; and

 

·       A national methodology for mobility factor funding has been introduced and Wiltshire has received funding through the NFF for mobility, however the application of the factor remains optional and to be determined by Schools Forum.  Examples were given of how mobility would be funded if this were to be introduced in Wiltshire.

 

A Forum Member asked if the mobility factor would apply to Special Schools – Grant confirmed that that it would not apply to Special Schools.  Grant reported that the Wiltshire decision had been not to fund mobility previously.

 

Resolved:

 

That Schools Forum note the report and make the required decisions detailed in paragraphs 26 to 29 on page 37 of the Agenda to the schools delegated budget for 2020/21 later in the meeting when all information had been received.

7c

Dedicated Schools Grant - Early Years Block Update 2020-21

The report of Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) seeks to update the Forum on issues related to the early years block for 2020-21 and the decisions that will need to be made as part of the budget setting process for 2020-21. The operational guidance for the early years block confirms that Schools Forums must be consulted on changes to local early years funding formulae, including agreeing central spend, although the final decision rests with the local authority.

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) referred to the report which sought to update the Forum on issues related to the Early Years block for 2020/21 and the decisions that would need to be made as part of the budget setting process.  Marie highlighted the following:

 

·       The £0.08p per child per hour minimum increase for 2020/21 has been included in the provisional early years block settlement which is £26.884 million.  The allocations are based on the January 2019 census but will be updated during the 2020/21 year, however this is unhelpful for our planning;

 

·       The Authority is able to top slice some of the 3 and 4-year-old funding to support early years settings.  No changes are proposed to the hourly rates for deprivation and rurality;

 

·       The numbers of 2-year olds is forecast at 908, when we have been funded for 770, so that exceeded the budget level and that is where the budget pressures come from.  In light of the ongoing high needs block funding pressures it is unlikely that Schools Forum will be able to allocate any of the high needs block funding to support early years expenditure;

 

·       The Authority must pass on the Disability Access Fund (DAF) funding to support providers in making reasonable adjustments to their settings or helping with building capacity (a one-off payment of £615); and

 

·       Appendix 1 attached to the report was early years block modelling with option 1 showing the hourly rate at £4.20 with no uplift based on the grounds of in affordability (with the possibility of a review in the Autumn of 2020 to see if there could be an increase to providers then. 

 

An Early Years representative reminded the group that whilst Schools receive grants for the increases to Teachers pay and pension contributions, this does not happen in the early years sector.  There would be an increase on the National Minimum Wage from April of 6% and many premises would face an increase in business rates.

 

Marie reported to the Forum that the proposal to adopt option 1 (hourly rate of £4.20ppph) was reluctantly supported by the Early Years Reference Group.  It had not been an easy discussion, but the reality was that any more wasn’t affordable but that a review in the Autumn was supported.

 

Resolved:

 

That Schools Forum:

 

1)    Note the update on the early years block and retain the current rate of 3 and 4-year-old funding at £4.20 per hour on the grounds of affordability.  It was further agreed that following the DfE updated funding allocations in the Autumn of 2020 that this would be reviewed and if affordable, increased at that point.

 

2)    The early years block to fully fund the Early Years Inclusion Fund at the current level.  If any significant increase in DfE funding be notified, this fund should be increased accordingly during the financial year, to a maximum of 95% pass through to providers.

 

7d

High Need Block Funding Update 2020-21

The report of Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) seeks to update Schools Forum on issues related to the high needs block for 2020-21 and the decisions that will need to be made as part of the budget setting process for 2020-21.  Appendix 1 to the report (detailed modelling) is to follow.  At the meeting there will be an update/presentation from Officers on behalf of the Director for Education & Skills.

 

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) referred to her report which should update Schools Forum on issues related to the high needs block and the decisions that would need to be made as part of the budget setting process for 2020-21.  Marie highlighted the following:

 

·       The funding settlement for the high needs block is £51.996 million which has been calculated according to the new NFF for high needs.  The DfE have promised us that there will be a review of the high needs block funding formula for 2021/22.  Wiltshire’s high needs funding remains insufficient, and the figure above has an additional £4.441 million (Wiltshire’s share of the additional £680 million, with £100 million held centrally for adjustments announced by the Government in August 2019);

 

·       The estimate of the additional pressure to meet the current spend levels is £6.5 million with a further allowance of £0.5 million included for 2019/20.  It is hoped that this will not be needed but there could be moves/costly placements in this time.  The is also the pressures of the estimated cost increase of EHCPs, estimated contract inflation, pay inflation for SEN teams, and an increase in Special School and Resource Base Planned Places for 2019/20;

 

·       Also included in the cost pressures is a possible contribution of £1.5 million towards the DSG deficit reserve so that the Authority can work towards having an £8 million deficit down from £9.5 million.  This totals a total cost pressure for 2020/21 of £14.400 million.  The estimate assumes that the Special Schools Places etc remain at that level; and

 

·       A suggestion was that to balance the budget consideration is given to transferring £5.767m from schools block, but this was modelled through and it is not affordable.  To balance the budget, it is recommended that there is a transfer from the central block to the high needs block as previous years, of £0.185m there is a transfer of schools funding to the high needs block, at a level to be discussed in the decision making part of the meeting and £1.6 million be transferred from the DfE estimated growth fund which is surplus to estimated growth for 2020/21 into the Schools Block.

 

Helean Hughes (Director of Education and Skills) referred to her presentation (updated version attached as Appendix 1)   Helean highlighted the following:

 

·       The EHCP growth year on year and that the overspend is increasing;

 

·       The journey so far and what had been put in place to work to reduce the high needs block pressures;

 

·       That the SEN teams moved to Education and Skills in January 2020 which will ensure more alignment to early years, school effectiveness and employment and skills.  A new SEND Inclusion Strategy was due to be signed off in March 2020.  The SEND Board had been re-established which would ensure local oversight within a multi-agency board;

 

·       Additional Specialist School places were planned with a £33 million commitment from the Local Authority together with additional resource bases and school expansions;

 

·       There was a Strategic Financial  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7d

Appendix 1 to Minutes - Revised High Needs Update/Presentation

Supporting documents:

7e

Central Schools Services Block Update 2020-21

The report of Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) seeks to update the Forum on issues relating to the Central Schools Services Block (CSSB) budget for 2020-21 and the decisions that will need to be made as part of the budget setting process.

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) referred to the report which sought to update schools forum on issues relating to the central schools block budget for 2020/21 and the decisions that would need to be made as part of the budget setting process.  Marie highlighted the following:

 

·                   The funding settlement for the central schools services block is £2.480 million to which funding for agreed historic commitments is then added.  The DfE indicated that funding for historic commitments would reduce and as part of this Wiltshire’s funding has been reduced by £115k for 2020/21;

 

·                   Schools Forum had previously considered the change in DfE legislation round the parity of service to all schools in respect of admission appeals.  The authority must charge the same rate to everyone or not make a charge at all.  It is not affordable for there to be no charge and the cost of an Admission Appeal has been costed to £939 per appeal.  Schools had indicated that they would be more comfortable with a cost of £300 per appeal. Officers were suggesting that they top slice (£70,290) from the Schools block to prop up the additional cost of appeals although it was anticipated that Academy colleagues would not be in favour of that as the like that as they have their own arrangements for admission appeals.  If the £70k transfer was to be approved this would mean £70k less to add into high needs block, but it was an option.  This would impact on the more popular schools.  The decision would be to take it out of central schools block or not support the transfer as a subsidy to bring the cost of appeal down to £300 per appeal;

 

·                   Sections A and B on page 57 of the Agenda would require approval on a line by line basis later in the meeting.  A 2% pay inflation had been included where there were costs which included salaries and the proposal to consider a transfer from the Schools Block to create the Admission Appeals subsidy would also be considered that that point;

 

·                   In relation to Section C – historic commitments – there was sufficient proof from the previous Schools Forum minutes that the funding and reporting of historic commitments extended at least as far as 2018/19;

 

·                   The Authority would need to think about the DfE’s intention to reduce historic funding over time.  It was proposed that the funding for LAC Personal Education Plans (reduced to £103k in 2018/19) continue to be funded at the same level.  It was proposed that the Child Protection in Schools Adviser be increased to £56k as the preference is to keep the Safeguarding team in schools; and

 

·                   The total historic commitment has been reduced by the DfE from £574k to £459k.  Schools Forum will need to agree the amount that is retained.  If the proposed budget is accepted by the Forum this would mean that £185k of unallocated monies in the central services schools block could be transferred to fund the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7e

7f

School Budget Decisions 2020-21

The Forum will be asked to consider the Schools Budgets for 2020-21 and make relevant decisions using the decisions matrix (which will be circulated at the meeting).

Minutes:

Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) reported that agreement was required from the Forum to set the overall Schools Budget at the level of the DSG Settlement of £374,503,029.

 

Resolved:

 

1.    That Schools Forum agree to set the overall Schools Budget at the level of the DSG Settlement – namely £374,503,029.

 

Grant then shared some PowerPoint slides with the Forum which gave details of the position and options to be considered if the growth fund was to be set at £1 million or £2.6 million.   If the growth fund was set at £2.6 million it would give £1.7 million of headroom and would represent 0.59% of the allocation of Schools Block funding.  If we only allocated £1 million that would create a Schools Block reserve which Schools Forum could determine how it could be used. 

 

Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) reported that there was concern that if the consultation from the DfE resulted in the removal of DSG overspent deficit reserve from future years funding, if Schools Forum opted not to transfer funds and / or 2020-21, this could increase school funding to a level which might not be sustained in the future as the DfE would update the legislation and remove future local flexibility and schools might commit to spending they could not afford in future years.

 

Officers gave examples of the monetary amounts of the possible % transfers between blocks.  The Forum were reminded that the DfE allow a transfer of up to 0.5%.  The Authority had already made a disapplication request to the Secretary of State and the request would have more weight if it was supported by the Schools Forum.

 

Officers highlighted the range of options but wanted to ensure that the Forum were aware that a reduction in funding rates would have a compensating impact on Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG) and the Minimum Per Pupil Funding Levels (MPPFL).  If the Forum agreed to not fund Mobility this would release £571,828 but after MFG and PPPFL it would make £345,186 available for transfer.  Also funding FSM6 at 75% would release £1.673 million but after MFG and MPPFL would be £1.017 million available for transfer.

 

The Chairman reported that he felt the Forum would need to transfer from the Schools Block to the High Needs block but because the DfE had not yet issued their guidance we don’t know yet if they might top slice this block in the future.

 

The Forum debated the options presented and it was noted that there was agreement that the Mobility factor NOT be funded.  This enabled the discussions to move on to consideration of option (applying all NFF values, setting growth fund at £2.6 million and no funding of Mobility factor).  This Option would also include a transfer of £2.065 million to the high needs block.

 

The growth fund set at the DfE level would be higher than the required estimate by an estimated £1.6m which means the underspend would offset in year overspends elsewhere  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7f

Appendix 2 to Minutes - Completed Decision Matrix

Supporting documents:

8.

Confirmation of Dates for Future Meetings

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

 

26 March 2020

11 June 2020

15 October 2020

10 December 2020.

Minutes:

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

 

26 March 2020

11 June 2020

15 October 2020

10 December 2020.

9.

Urgent Items

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

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

 

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