Agenda item

Dedicated Schools Budget - High Needs Block Update 2023-24

The report of Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) seeks to update Schools Forum on issues relating to the high needs block for 2023-24 and the decisions that will need to be made as part of the budget setting process for 2023-24.


Marie Taylor (Head of Finance – Children and Education) referred to the revised report and appendices circulated with the Agenda supplement which sought to update Schools Forum on issues relating to the high needs block budget for 2023-24 and the decisions that would need to be made as part of the budget setting process.  Marie highlighted the following:


·                The DfE made late changes to the High Needs block allocation following publication of the Agenda and so the report and appendices were updated and were contained in the Agenda supplement.  The total High Needs allocation for 2023-24 was £70.918 million and a later “additional high needs” allocation of £2.942 million to fund the cost burden of energy, teachers and support staff pay and other cost pressures plus the 3.4% additional grant payable to Special Schools;


·                Whilst this additional funding was welcome it would still not keep pace with our spending but the DfE have recognised the additional pressures on the High Needs block;


·                The recent SEN Review did not indicate that any more money would be forthcoming and it was anticipated that the findings would be published in the summer;


·                The recovery actions of the High Needs Block Working Group continue and Schools Forum monitor these in conjunction with ongoing discussions with the DfE;


·                As part of the Additional High Needs funding, the DfE have allocated £2.942 to Wiltshire.  After calculation of the Special Schools 3.4% increase, it was proposed to hold this grant separately and rather than continuing to reduce the funding gap, these funds could be used to invest in early help and prevention;


·                The Special Schools would receive a total funding uplift of 3.4% in full and it was planned that there would be consultation with Special Schools School Business Managers to check that the placement numbers were correct.  It was not clear from the guidance if this would be baselined or was a one off grant;


·                The current forecast overspend on the School Funding reserve was £34.734 million.    Wiltshire had done their fair share of lobbying and involvement with the F40 group and they would be involved in the DfE’s programme of intervention work - Delivering Better Value programme to start in June 2023;


·                At a recent conference attended it was reported that 75% of LA’s were in deficit or did not have ‘Good’ Ofsted inspection outcomes – the whole country was struggling with the funding of high needs; and


·                Council transformational funding of £1.6 million had been earmarked to support a significant programme of change which would align with the DBV programme to facilitate financial recovery for Wiltshire;


The Salisbury Diocesan representative asked for clarity around the decision to not badge the additional grant against the in year shortfall of £16 million but to elect to invest in early help to aid long term recovery.  Marie Taylor confirmed this was the case.


Resolved: That Schools Forum


1.    Note the pressures on the high needs block for 2023-24 and the potential options to reduce the shortfall against high needs budgets including agreeing a transfer from Schools Block to balance the high needs pressures. 


2.    Note the investment from the local authority’s transformation reserve of £1.6 million.  This would pre-date and align with Delivering Better Value funding from the DfE.


3.    Approve the approach to deploy the additional HNB funding in 2023-24, funding the Special schools minimum funding guarantee and invest in early help, prevention and long term recovery.

Supporting documents: