Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum - Thursday 8 June 2023 1.30 pm

Venue: Online meeting - Via Microsoft Teams

Contact: Lisa Pullin, Tel 01225 713015 or email  Email:


No. Item


Apologies, Substitutions and any Changes of Membership

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


Apologies for absence from Members were received from:


·       Angela Brennan

·       Georgina Keily-Theobald

·       Emma Osmund


Further apologies were noted from:


·       Helean Hughes (Director – Education & Skills)

·       Anthony Fennell (Head of Special School Transformation)

·       Cllr Laura Mayes (Cabinet Member for Children, Education, and Skills)

·       Cllr Jane Davies (Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, SEND, Transition and Inclusion)

·       Cllr Suzanne Wickham (Portfolio Holder for SEND and Inclusion)


The Chair announced the following Membership changes; namely, that Mike Thomas and Helen Carpenter would be taking over from Jon Hamp and Ian Tucker as the WASHH Special School Academy representative and Chair of WASHH – Secondary Academy representative respectively. Furthermore, it was noted that Richard Hanks had been appointed as the Interim Co-Director for Education & Skills and would be working alongside Helean Hughes. The Chair welcomed the new Members and thanked Jon Hamp and Ian Tucker for their contributions while a part of the Schools Forum.



Minutes of the Previous Meeting

To approve as a correct record and sign the minutes of the meeting held 19 January 2023 (copy attached).

Supporting documents:


The minutes of the previous meeting held on 19 January 2023 were presented for consideration.


The Chair noted that Minute Item 10a and 10b seemed to be duplicated, which the Democratic Services Officer confirmed would be rectified. After which, it was:




The Schools Forum approved and signed the minutes of the previous meeting held on 19 January 2023 as a true and correct record.



Chair's Announcements

To receive any announcements from the Chair.



The Chair noted that depending on the length of the meeting, a comfort break may be had at an appropriate time.



Declaration of Interests

To note any declarations of interests.


There were no declarations of interest.



Public Participation

Schools Forum welcomes contributions from members of the public who are able to ask questions or make a statement in relation to the responsibilities and functions of the Forum at each meeting. A maximum of 15 minutes will be allocated to this at the start of each meeting, and each question or statement should last no longer than 3 minutes.   Please register with the Officer named on this agenda, and in accordance with the deadlines below.




Members of the public who wish to submit a statement in relation to an item on this agenda should submit this electronically to the Officer named on the agenda no later than 5pm on Tuesday 6 June 2023 (1 clear working day before the meeting).  Statements must not be defamatory, frivolous, offensive, vexatious, unlawful or otherwise improper. They must not name or identify individual service users, members of staff or members of partner agencies.




Those wishing to ask questions are required to give notice of any such questions to the Officer named on the front of this agenda no later than 5pm on Thursday 1 June 2023 to allow a response to be formulated.  Questions are limited to a maximum of 2 per person/organisation. A response will be given as either a direct oral answer or a written reply. Questions must not require the disclosure of confidential information.  The Chair’s ruling on rejection of a question is final.



There were no questions or statements submitted.



Updates from Working Groups

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



·      Early Years Reference Group – 31 March 2023.

·      Joint meeting of the School Funding Working Group and SEN Working Group – 22 May 2023 – these are to follow as part of an Agenda supplement

Supporting documents:


The Chair raised the update from the last meeting of the Early Years Reference Group held on 31 March 2023, and the update from the last joint meeting of the School Funding Working Group and SEN Working Group held on 22 May 2023. There being no questions or comments on the updates, it was then:




The Schools Forum noted the updates from the last meetings of the Early Years Reference Group and the joint School Funding Working Group and SEN Working Group, held on 31 March 2023 and 22 May 2023 respectively.



Update on FACT (Families and Children Transformation)

Schools Forum will receive an update on the FACT programme from Simon Thomas (FACT Programme Lead).

Supporting documents:


An update on the FACT Programme was delivered by the FACT Programme Lead, Simon Thomas, who highlighted the following:


·       The multi-agency ‘Family Help’ arrangements were introduced, and it was explained that the FACT partnership looked at how to respond to different pressures in the system felt pre and post COVID recovery, and to concentrate their collective energies into a combined approach focussing on the space of early intervention and prevention.

·       The aim of the project and the different workstreams the partnership was engaged in were detailed; namely: family hubs, communications and branding, an online platform, workforce development, a pilot scheme in Westbury and Warminster, and outcomes and evaluation.

·       It was explained that the pilot scheme was created to explore if working together in geographically defined areas in different ways could provide better and more effective early intervention and prevention.

·       Additional funding had been secured to appoint Family Help and Early Help Mental Health Practitioners who would be working directly with families and providing training, support and advice to schools and other organisations. Thus, establishing strong relationships, delivering a quicker response, and easier, smoother, and more accurate operations.

·       Monthly Pilot Operational Group meetings were being conducted to identify challenges, opportunities for development, and key priorities.

·       The emerging priorities for the pilot scheme were then explained: early intervention activity, building parental confidence and competence, improving families’ financial security, awareness of the programme, and accessibility of resources and support.

·       A lot of time and effort had been invested into creating a cohesive brand following feedback that the existing system was relatively confusing, fragmented, and disjointed. Therefore, this umbrella brand would cover all services providing early intervention and prevention, communicating to families, schools, and other relevant organisations that these services were working in tandem to deliver a more collective and connected system across the County. This branding would be utilised through a new logo and straplines and would be linked closely to the development of an online platform which would be the single source of any and all relevant information.

·       The workforce development aspect was briefly covered; in short, ensuring a competent and confident workforce. The practice framework to ensure this cohesion was then displayed.

·       The education related outcomes and measures of success were then detailed, and it was confirmed that officers would be seeking more formal feedback from school colleagues to assess the impact of the project.

·       It was confirmed that the rollout of the project and branding across the whole County was due to launch in Autumn 2023 onwards. Furthermore, feedback from the pilots over the duration of the scheme would be shared to aid in the rollout into other areas as soon as appropriate.


In response to a question, it was confirmed that a paper on the Family Hubs Commissioning would be going to Cabinet in the near future, and an update would be brought back to the Forum after such. It was further confirmed that the Area Boards and Local Youth Networks would have input into the process and that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Dedicated Schools Budget - Budget Monitoring Year End Position for 2022-23

The report of Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) seeks to provide the budget monitoring year end position of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) for the financial year 2022-23 as at 31 March 2023.

Supporting documents:


Marie Taylor, Head of Finance – Children and Education, referred to the report which presented the budget monitoring year end position of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) for the financial year 2022-23 as at 31 March 2023, and highlighted the following:


·       The appendices, particularly Appendix 1, outlined in detail the variance analysis on each of the budgets.

·       Table 1 in the report showed a summary per funding Block and it was noted that all Blocks had underspent bar the High Needs Block (HNB). It was explained that there was a significant underspend in the Early Years Block (EYB) due to the difference between the take-up in comparison to the census funding levels taken from the Department of Education (DfE). However, it was confirmed that the DfE undertake yearly in-year and post-year financial adjustments in the next month or so, therefore the variance would to some degree disappear after the usual post adjustment in the 2023-24 financial year.

·       Table 2 in the report showed the breakdown of Early Years Learners and an overspend in the Inclusion Support Fund, however it was emphasised that this was not necessarily a negative thing, as it was likely a reflection of the benefits of the Fund and demand across the system.

·       It was confirmed that Early Years Officers had been successful in their COMF funding bid to the Director of Public Health for grants for 2022-23. Furthermore, £100k had been ear-marked for the Hardship Fund, but no requests had been received in 2022-23 despite take-up in previous years.

·       The forecasted underspend in Schools Budgets was explained as being due to the School Supply Cover Fund not being used as anticipated, alongside alternative grants being used to fund some of the relevant activity in that area. Thus, helping to offset the overall pressure on the DSG.

·       The High Needs Budget was projected to overspend by £13.499m, however it was stressed that when the level of funding available did not match local needs, no realistic budget could be set at an achievable level. Therefore, Members were reassured that it was not indicative of individual budget issues, but instead that the whole block was under significant pressure.

·       Furthermore, throughout the pandemic, professionals could not assess children and young people in school, thus leading to an inevitable backlog in Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) assessments. Continual increases in assessment requests were noted as leading to assumptions around future plans needing to be constantly adjusted to ensure higher accuracy.

·       It was explained that the major driver for the increased cost was volume, which was explained as being measured in full-time equivalent (FTE) pupils. Table 3 in the report was then referred to, where the percentage of children with an EHCP in Wiltshire had doubled to 12% since the previous financial year, which could be attributed to the impact of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

·       It was noted that the biggest areas of overspend within the High Needs Budget were Independent Special School packages, alternative provision, costs of pupils in non-Wiltshire  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Dedicated Schools Budget - Budget Monitoring 2023-24

Supporting documents:


Marie Taylor, Head of Finance – Children and Education, referred to the report as part of Agenda Supplement 1, which presented the budget monitoring information against the DSG for the financial year 2023-24 including forecasts of expenditure as at 30 April 2023. The following was highlighted:


·       An overspend of £12.623 was currently forecast against the overall Schools Budget, and it was noted that the main driver for the variance was the ongoing pressure on the HNB, as discussed in the previous Agenda Item.

·       Table 1 of the report was then summarised.

·       The Early Years Budget was then discussed, and it was noted that no variance would be forecast on the free entitlement budgets; it was too early in the financial year as the summer adjustments were yet to be released by the DfE. Additionally, the small underspends in both age funding streams as per Table 2 of the report were noted as being aligned with the slight reduction in actual variance in take up and it was anticipated that it would be removed in whole, or part, as a result of the DfE’s post financial year adjustments and if the January 2023 census numbers had fallen.

·       Table 3 of the report was highlighted, and Members were notified of Wiltshire’s huge success with the take up of the 2-year-old Disadvantaged Grant, ranking top compared with both South West Authorities and statistical neighbours for Spring 2023. Officers were anticipating that this would be a contributing factor in children’s progress and attainment in their later academic years; again, linking to early intervention and prevention.

·       Members with informed that in the Central Government Spring Budget, the Chancellor had announced changes to Universal Credit childcare payments, and the expansion of childcare support for working parents to include children from 9 months old up to school age. The specifics and timings of these changes were detailed in the report.

·       Furthermore, it was explained that schools and Local Authorities would be receiving £289m in funding for a ‘pathfinder’ to tackle the barriers to working parents of Primary School age children by increasing the supply of wraparound care and providing financial incentives for those signing up as childminders. However, it was noted that the DfE anticipated that by September 2026, most Primary Schools would have the ability to provide their own before and after school care.

·       No variance forecast was included within the report for Schools Budget as again, it was too early in the financial year as the timings of any census driven payments due to schools was yet to be released.

·       The High Needs Budget was again forecasting significant overspends which was noted as being largely based around the previous year’s forecast, however it did not account for rebanding requests and new plans, as many were yet to be finalised through the system.

·       As mentioned in the previous Agenda Item, the number of children with EHCPs in Wiltshire had risen to 12% within the previous financial year, thus informing the estimates for 2023-24 as per Table  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Update from the High Needs Working Group and Delivering Better Value in SEND Programme

Cate Mullen (Head of SEND and Inclusion) will give a verbal update on behalf of the High Needs Working Group. 


Cate Mullen will also give an update on the and Delivering Better Value in SEND Programme and some guidance summary notes are attached for information.

Supporting documents:


Cate Mullen, Head of SEND and Inclusion, presented an update on behalf of the High Needs Block Working Group alongside further updates on the DBV in SEND Programme, SEND Peer Review, and SEND Ofsted/CQC reports. The following was highlighted:


DBV In SEND Programme


·       The background of the programme was briefly explained, and it was noted that it was split into two different phases; Diagnostic and Implementation, which when combined would take approximately two years. Members were informed that Wiltshire Council’s diagnostic phase would be starting in August 2023, and if all went to plan, officers could submit a grant application by Christmas 2023 and upon approval, would then move into the Implementation phase.

·       Further details of the Diagnostic phase were then given, and it was explained that its aim was to ensure that local HNB Sustainability Plans were informed by a solid evidence base regarding the current and projected HNB expenditure and activity.

·       Through this phase, officers would receive support from financial, practice, and change advisors to:


o   Identify roots causes and underlying cost drivers.

o   Create mitigating solutions and reforms.

o   Assess current capabilities.

o   Facilitate engagement of families and delivery partners.

o   Develop a quality assured HNB Sustainability Management Plan.


·       The funding criteria for the implementation phase was then explained, and it was noted that the Council would need to demonstrate that they:

o   Know the priority changes needed to impact on key HNB sustainability measures.

o   Have worked collaboratively with delivery partners and parents.

o   Have co-produced an aligned mitigation plan.

o   Have identified the necessary resources needed.

o   Have a realistic activity plan to implement high impact changes.

o   Have leadership capacity and necessary governance arrangements in place to successful take implementation plan into next phase.


·       Slides taken directly from the DBV team (and included within the Agenda) were then displayed, with comments from Wiltshire Council officers in the blue boxes included for further information. These slides outlined the specific tranche and wave that the Council were a part of, a roadmap and indicative timeline of the Diagnostic Phase, and an introduction on the Case Reviews aspect.

·       Case Reviews were then explained in more detail; in short, the Council would work together with schools, settings, and others to look at individual case level data for children with SEND, bringing a collective focus on the individual experiences and outcomes for these children and young people.

·       An example Case Review was shown, but it was highlighted that the programme gave the ability for the Council to amend the process depending on areas of focus and what works best and most effectively for officers within Wiltshire.

·       Furthermore, officers would give significant consideration as to how these reviews would work in practice, ensuring that officers were not overloaded and respecting the relevant stakeholders’ availability, while maintaining the appropriate level of time and attention dedicated to each individual case.

·       It was noted that the Case Reviews were scheduled to begin in the second week of September 2023, but due to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.


DfE Consultation - Implementing the Direct National Funding Formula

The report of Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) seeks to provide an update following the Department for Education (DfE consultation with stakeholders regarding their reforms to the National Funding Formula (NFF), which took place between June and September 2022.

Supporting documents:


Members took a comfort break from 14.55pm – 15.05pm.


Grant Davis, Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager, provided an update following the DfE consultation with stakeholders regarding the reforms to the National Funding Formula (NFF), which took place between June and September 2022. The following was highlighted:


·       It was explained that as the Schools Forum had aligned itself with the current NFF, the impact of the new changes on Wiltshire schools were broadly minimal, and that many of these changes would take effect in the 2024-25 academic year.

·       With the aim of creating greater national consistency and convergence towards the NFF, the key areas of the consultation included:


o   Flexibility to transfer funding between Blocks.

o   National approach to calculating “Notional SEN”.

o   Growth and Falling Rolls funding.

o   Split Site and Exceptional Circumstances (rentals) funding.

o   Minimum Funding Guarantee and the Funding Cycle.


·       The outcomes of the consultation, as detailed within the report, and their impacts on Wiltshire schools, were then further explored and briefly noted below.


High Needs


·       Continued flexibility to transfer funding to High Needs Budgets through an application process to the Secretary of State. Further details on how it would work in practice were still being finalised, but upon the announcement, the Schools Forum would be updated at the next appropriate meeting.

·       A national approach to calculating schools’ indicative SEND budgets would be introduced and further consultations on the design and operation of the approach would follow in due course.


Growth and Falling Rolls Funding


·       It was noted that Wiltshire did not have a Falling Rolls Fund, however it had been announced that as part of the transition to a full NFF, establishing and implementing minimum criteria requirements with regard to the delivery of Growth and Falling Rolls Funding before moving to full NFF standards, could be required.

·       Further consultations and information on the changes to the two funding opportunities would follow in due course, at which point officers could begin undertaking more meaningful conversations on the topic.

·       The requirement for schools to be “Good” or “Outstanding” in order to be eligible to receive Falling Rolls funding would be removed.

·       Funding would now be calculated on both a ‘growth’ and ‘significant decline’ in numbers basis from 2024-25.

·       Growth and Falling Rolls Funding would be expanded to allow Local Authorities to fund the revenue costs associated with repurposing school buildings or school places, thus supporting Local Authorities to use surplus space to create further SEND Units or Resource Bases in mainstream schools.

·       Local Authorities would have the ability to retain some local flexibility in the allocation of growth funding to schools.


Split Sites


·       Split Sites Funding would be allocated on the basis of a formula factor made up of a ‘basic eligibility’ element and a ‘distance’ element.

Wiltshire had 6 split site schools, all of which would continue to meet the funding criteria.

·       It was being proposed that approximately 60% of the 2024-25 NFF lump sum was an appropriate amount for the split site allowance. This figure was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.


Planned Local Autumn Consultations (in Principle decisions)

The report of Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) seeks to brief Schools Forum and agree a set of questions to be sent out to all schools in the autumn of 2023 in relation to:


·        Delegation of Central Expenditure 2024-25

·        Funding for Education Function 2024-25

·        Transfer of funding from Schools Block to High Needs Block 2024-25.

Supporting documents:


Grant Davis, Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager, presented the report and relevant appendices with regard to the Annual Schools Consultation. The following was highlighted:


·       There were three areas of focus within the consultations for 2024-25: namely, De-delegation of Central Expenditure, Funding for Education Functions, and Transfer of Funding from the Schools Block to the HNB. Proposed questions for each of the three areas were in the appendices to the report.

·       Background on the De-delegation of Central Expenditure was given, and it was explained that the purpose of the consultation was to get feedback from maintained schools to see whether they would prefer to continue contracting the Local Authority to provide services centrally, or whether they would prefer to have the funding delegated to them directly, and therefore independently commission these services.

·       Further details as to Funding for Education Functions, or School Improvement Functions, were then given and it was explained that Local Authorities had the opportunity to fund improvement services through either de-delegation or on a traded basis, as a result of the reduction to the Local Authority Monitoring and Brokering Grant (LAMB). Therefore, the consultation aimed to determine whether maintained schools would elect to de-delegate this funding from their budgets to support the loss in the LAMB grant.

·       Finally, it was reiterated that the transfer of funding between Blocks could be impacted by the DfE proposed NFF reforms as discussed in the previous Agenda Item, alongside the significant DSG deficit both existing and forecasted. Although the deficit was supported by a recovery plan, the aim of the consultation was to gain feedback from all schools with regard to their opinions surrounding such a transfer. It was stressed that the transfer would only go ahead if it was deemed affordable.

·       Furthermore, a briefing note would be circulated to all schools regarding the work being undertaken as part of the DBV Programme.


Following which, it was:




1)    The Schools Forum approved the consultation questions for maintained schools around delegation and de-delegation of budgets for central services and school improvement within the Schools’ Block (Appendix 1 & 2).


2)    The Schools Forum approved the consultation questions for all schools around setting the 2024-25 Schools Budget (Appendix 3).



Update on the work of the F40 Group

Supporting documents:


Grant Davis, Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager, provided a verbal update on the work of the F40 Group, in which the following was highlighted:


·       The F40 was composed of 43 of the lowest funded Local Authorities in the Country and was created to seek a greater level of fairness and equal opportunities for all children, regardless of where they live, and to remove historical discrepancies locked into how schools are funded.

·       Further aims were to secure the sufficiency of funding for all schools to ensure they all have the same opportunities, and that the impacts felt from challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis, COVID, budget cuts, and recruitment and retention issues would not prejudice the education of children at any school.

·       Throughout 2022-23 the Group had campaigned to influence policy and decision making nationally by engaging with appropriate and relevant Members of Parliament and Central Government departments, through actions such as setting up briefings, engaging in conversations, and tabling questions.

·       Particular areas of focus in their current campaigning were noted as being SEND, Early Years Learners, and Capital Funding. The latter was briefly detailed; in short, there was a national backlog for school maintenance, repairs, and improvements which was being compounded by a lack of funding. This was particularly concerning in respect of the national proposal to be carbon neutral and at net-zero by 2040, which would not be achievable within school settings unless further investments were made to support these changes.


The Chair noted that she found the updates especially useful and was glad to see the work the Group were doing to campaign on Wiltshire’s behalf. Following which, it was:




The Schools Forum noted the update of the work of the F40 Group.



Scheme for Financing Local Authority Maintained Schools

The report of Grant Davis (Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager) seeks to provide Schools Forum with an update required to the Wiltshire Scheme for Financing Maintained Schools.

Supporting documents:


Grant Davis, Schools Strategic Financial Support Manager, provided a brief verbal update on the Scheme for Financing Maintained Schools, where the following was highlighted:


·       It was explained that Local Authorities were required to publish schemes for financing schools, setting out the financial relationship between them and the schools they maintain, and that this needed to updated yearly in line with any DfE revisions.

·       A minor tweak on the income from the sale of assets following the 2023 DfE updated guidance, as per the report, was highlighted.

·       Furthermore, it was noted that another minor change on borrowing by schools was required following the 2022 DfE updated guidance, which would be incorporated into the 2023-24 Wiltshire scheme.

·       Upon the inclusion of the above changes, Wiltshire would be completely compliant with the DfE’s guidance.


Following which, it was:




The Schools Forum noted the updates required to the Scheme for Financing Maintained Schools.



Confirmation of Dates for Future Meetings

To confirm the dates of future meetings, as follows:


5 October 2023

5 December 2023

18 January 2024

14 March 2024.


The date of the next meeting was confirmed as Thursday 5 October 2023 at 1.30pm and was planned to be held online via Microsoft Teams.


Future meeting dates were confirmed as below:


5 December 2023 – 1.30pm

18 January 2024 – 1.30pm

14 March 2024 – 1.30pm



Urgent Items

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


There were no urgent items.