Draft School Forum Minutes 15 October 2020

Present

Jo Budge – Executive Head Teacher of Reading Early Years Schools Federation; Julia Cottee, Governor at Reading Early Years Schools Federation; Justine McMinn – Head Teacher of E P Collier; Cathy Doberska – Head Teacher of English Martyrs; Tonia Crossman – Head Teacher of Emmer Green; Peter Kayes – Governor at the Ridgeway (Chair); Richard Rolfe – Governor at Micklands; Dani Hall, Co-Chair of the Federation between Oxford Road Community School & Wilson School; Sarah Bernto – Head Teacher of St Annes; Simon Uttley – Head Teacher of Blessed Hugh Faringdon; Karen Edwards – Head Teacher of The Heights; Richard Pearse – Head Teacher of Church End; Isabelle Sandy – Business Manager of Kendrick; Claire Brown – Business Manager of Prospect School; Annal Nayyar – Finance Director of Bayliss Trust (Reading Girls); Andrew Johnson – Head of Maiden Erlegh (Reading); John Salberg – Principal of The Wren; Lee Smith – Head Teacher of Holy Brook; Symon Cooke – Head Teacher of The Avenue; Mandy Wilton – Head Teacher of Cranbury; Alison McNamara -NEU.

Apologies

Robert Howell – Head Teacher of Alfred Sutton; Rachel Cave – Head Teacher of Highdown; Louise Baker – Principal of JMA; Ita McGullian – Manager of Kennet Day Nursery; Charlotte Morgan – Reading College; Deborah Glassbrook – Director of Children’s Services, Deborah Hunter – Head of SEND.

In attendance

Cllr Ashley Pearce – Lead Member for Education; Jean Read – Head of Caversham Nursery; Ann McDonnell – Business Manager of Blessed Hugh Faringdon; Kate Reynolds – Director of Education & Research; Claire White – Schools & DSG Business Partner; Karina Ajayi – Head of Commissionning, Contracts & Procurement; Corinne Dishington – Service Manager Under 5s; Clare Warren – School Support Lead; Steven Davies – Strategic Business Partner; Siobhan Egan – Service Manager IT & Data Intelligence; Stephanie Heaps – Observing; Vanessa Hurdle – minute taker.

Agenda

Item 1 – Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and confirmed that he would be standing down.

Claire White read out the protocol for the virtual meeting. Recording of the meeting commenced. The recording will be retained until the minutes have been typed up.

Apologies were noted.

Item 2 – Election of Chair

Peter Kayes confirmed that he was the longest standing member of the Schools’ Forum, having been a member for 13 years, with much of that time as Chair. He now felt that it was time for someone else to take over.

Peter asked if there were any nominations for the post of Chair. Richard Rolfe, Vice Chair, was happy to take on the role in the short-term. As no further nominations were offered, it was agreed that Richard would take on this role. Isabelle Sandy seconded this proposal. This was agreed by 17 members.

Peter handed over to Richard to appoint a Vice-Chair to take on Richard’s vacant post. In the absence of any nominations, Peter confirmed that he was willing to fulfil this role for a temporary period. Richard nominated Peter as Vice Chair. This was seconded by Isabelle. This was agreed by 17 members.

It was agreed that Peter would continue as Chair for the rest of the meeting.

Item 3 – Minutes of the meeting held on 2 July 2020

Minutes were agreed as an accurate record of the meeting from the 2 July 2020. Agreed by 17 members.

Matters arising:

  • Academy Membership – The Academies had still not confirmed who their fifth secondary school member would be. Isabelle will email Ashley Robson, Head of Reading School, the following day to see if he is still interested in becoming a member of the Forum again. The fifth member will be confirmed by the next meeting of the Forum.
  • RPA membership by VA Schools – It had been queried whether VA schools would need diocese approval to sign up to the RPA. Claire White confirmed that this is the case. She will be raising it at the next Regional meeting with the DfE, which will be held in November 2020, to discover with any other Local Authorities how they have dealt with this issue with respect to de-delegating this service. If de-delegation is not offered for RPA next year then it will not be an issue for the Forum.

Item 4 – Schools’ Forum Membership Update – including confirmation of representation – Chair

Peter confirmed that the Forum had a full membership list, apart from the name of the fifth Academy Secondary member.

Charlotte Morgan has replaced Ben Sims as the FE College representative.

Item 5 – DSG Budget Setting for 2021/22 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

An announcement was made in July ’20 of the DSG settlement for 2021/22. The extra funding that was confirmed as part of a three-year settlement has now been confirmed for year two. There were concerns that due to COVID the settlement would not be as much as had been promised, but this has proved not to be the case. Nothing has been confirmed about Early Years. The settlement that they received last year was just for one year.

Table 1 shows the increases as if Reading had the same pupil numbers. The Schools Block is showing a significant increase because £4.3m has been added for the teachers’ pay and pension grant. The actual increase is £3m, which is a 3.2% increase.

The Central Block shows a further 20% reduction due to the historic commitments’ element. This is the second year, so brings it to 40%. It can be assumed that the same will happen for the next three years.

The High Needs Block also includes some Pay and Pension Grants. The actual figure for “new” money is £1.9m, which is 8.6%.

The LA remains responsible for allocating funding to schools. However, the intention is still to move to a National Funding Formula and the Government should be sending out a consultation on this in the very near future. There is currently no indication as to when this might happen. The Growth Fund has not been included in the table as this is determined by the October census. It is not known what this funding will be, but it is believed that it will be enough to meet Reading’s demands for 2021/22. A report and a decision on this will be brought to the next meeting of the Schools’ Forum.

There is an additional £1.9m for the High Needs Block. This will support the costs of increasing numbers of children requiring support, cost increases, and the deficit needs to be repaid.

A Government Review is due to take place on the future of high needs funding. It is currently not established what is likely to happen.

Early Years settings received a very small increase for 2020/21. These establishments have been especially hit by COVID-19. It is known that the Nursery School Lump Sum will continue until the end of the academic year.

It should also be noted that the previous teachers’ pay & pensions for Special Schools, PRUS, Nursery Schools and Nursery classes will be included as part of the DSG allocation.

A few decisions will need to be made as part of the budget setting. The first decision will be the transfer of funding between blocks. The blocks are not ring-fenced but Reading largely keeps the funding within each block. There is a restriction of 0.5% of the DSG that can be transferred out of the Schools Block. The maximum amount that can be transferred with the Forums’ approval is £484K. Reading currently transfers £350k. In order to do this, schools are consulted each year on this one-year decision. This will go out to consultation again with the schools and the decision will be made at the next Schools’ Forum. This will pay for the Inclusion Fund for schools with a disproportionate number of pupils with EHCPs.

The RPA Scheme was introduced on 1 April 2020 and offered to maintained schools as an alternative to insurance. Schools had the choice to remain with Reading as their insurance provider or join this scheme. Nine out of Reading’s maintained schools took up this new opportunity. Reading’s Insurance Department will continue to offer this service for 2021/22. Once schools have made their choice for 2021/22, the Insurance Service will then consider whether it will still be viable to continue to offer their service to schools in the future. If the service is withdrawn from April 2022, it may then be the case that all schools will have to go to the RPA.

Top Up Funding bandings are currently being reviewed. The Forum needs to be aware that any changes to bandings must be affordable and within Reading’s allocation.

Question from Isabelle Sandy – The teachers’ pay and pensions grant only took Academies to the end of March 2021, how will the April – August 2021 period be funded? Claire White confirmed that Academies will receive the grants direct from ESFA up until the end of the academic year.

The Report was noted

School Funding Formula for 2021/22 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

The Local Authority is currently still responsible for setting the school formula. However, the move to all primary and secondary schools receiving their budget through the National Formula Funding is still on-going, with 2021/22 being the fourth year of transition.

It is taking a while to move to this ‘hard’ formula partly due to local issues. One of these issues being Business Rates. The Government is looking at how this can be handled nationally.

Table 1 shows the estimated funding available. The High Needs block transfer is not a given and subject to the consultation with schools, but for the purpose of the modelling has been included. It is estimated that there is £101m to allocate out through the formula.

Changes for next year are:

  • The teachers’ pay and pension grants have been included in the funding and will be added into each school’s funding.
  • The Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) has been updated from the 2015 data to the latest data for 2019. The banding structure has been changed to ensure that the amount of funding allocated through this funding remains unchanged. On average it is increasing by 3%.

Nationally, there is a 3% increase to the formula’s key factors, apart from School Meals which is at 2%.

Appendix 2 shows the national funding formula values for 2021/22 alongside recent years.

Appendix 3a shows what the indicative allocation and increase would be using the same pupil numbers and characteristics used in the 2020/21 formula. This shows quite a range of increases. For a lot of the schools, the minimum per pupil funding level is applicable increasing their allocation by more than 6%. Others are around the 3% mark, whilst for smaller schools it may be less than 2%. One of the reasons for the percentage differences are due to the changes in the IDACI data.

Appendices 3b and 3c compare the total funding allocations and the increases in funding for the three models as follows:

Model 1 – is the base model and is comparable with the 2020/21 funding formula. In comparison with the assumed funding level of £101m, there is a shortfall in funding of £232k.

Model 2 – shows the impact of reducing all formula factors by the same percentage to come back to the funding available. The percentage decrease required is 0.5%.

Model 3 – is the national funding formula. It shows a shortfall of £389k.

Many schools receive the same funding under each model because they are on the minimum per pupil funding level. They are therefore automatically on the NFF.

Claire White asked if the Forum wished to use the same method as last year: –

  • To use NFF values including the area cost adjustment (ACA) for all factors except the lump sum which would be at NFF value excluding ACA. The MFG and minimum per pupil funding level would be at the national rates.
  • If there was not enough funding, all factors would be reduced by the same percentage.
  • The lump sum would be the balancing figure.

This report would then go out to all schools for consultation, alongside the consultation on transferring funding from the schools block to the high needs block. Claire would report back to the Forum at the December meeting.

14 members were happy to note the report and agreed with this approach with none against

Item 7 – DSG Budget Monitoring 2020/21 – Month 6 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

There has been an increase of £586K to the current year’s DSG allocation. Unfortunately, this is not as good as it sounds.

The High Needs block funding has been reduced by £78k due to 10 additional pupils in settings in other local authorities – the import-export adjustment. However, this block has also seen an increase of £334k due to conversion of Cranbury College to Academy status, not taking place until 1 August 2020, though this is offset by an increase in expenditure of the same amount so has a nil net impact.

The Early Years block has been updated using the actual January census 2020 figures, increasing the allocation by £330k. The funding split for this year only has been changed. It is normally 5/12 and 7/12 but it will be based 9/12 on the January 2020 census and 3/12 on the January 2021 census. It will help Reading’s position if the Autumn numbers are not greater than those for last January.

The £2.174m deficit budget for the end of the financial year has decreased to £881k. £387k is due to a lower deficit carried forward from last year. Some areas are showing some large underspends, which will all be ring-fenced within their blocks. The High Needs block is showing an overspend of £126k. This is good compared to previous years, with realistic budgets having been set. Previously the high needs overspend has been over £500k at this same time.

The Growth Fund is showing an underspend. This was planned, with the money being carried forward to provide for a new school and new secondary classes.

The Early Years block has seen a lower take up of places due to COVID. If numbers are lower than last Autumn, providers will be funded based on last Autumn’s figures.

The funding for two year olds has now been changed. The entitlement has been extended to include those children, who wouldn’t normally qualify for this funding.

The current forecast in the early years block is £372k underspend being the contingency. We will be able to assess the autumn impact in a few weeks.

Spending within the High Needs block is being contained to the annual DSG allocation. This is not the case for a lot of other Local Authorities.

Table 4 shows the top-up forecast and compares the actual budget with predicted numbers. This is showing an overspend of £82k. There are large variances in some of the provisions. However, overall average placements costs are still below budget. The increases in top-up fees has not been taken into account and will see an increase of £59k, which will increase the overspend to £141k. Other risk areas are the Inclusion Fund which may overspend

DSG Deficit Recovery Plan – All local authorities have to present their recovery plans at the Schools’ Forum. Officers met with the DfE in June 2020, who confirmed that they are happy with the plan. It is currently forecast that 2020/21 will see a year end deficit of £1.9m. It is forecast that the deficit should be repaid in 2022/23 as long as funding continues at the same level and increases more than our top up fee increases.

Peter Kayes noted that Reading must be under the same pressures as other local authorities and that it was good that the situation seemed to be under control.

The report was noted

Item 8 – Review of Provision and Top Up Funding – Head of SEND & Schools/DSG Business Partner

Kate Reynolds explained that as Deb Hunter was not available, she would speak on the review of provision and Item 9 – SEND update in one go. She also mentioned that Deb Hunter will be moving to head up Mental Health in Children so Kate will present in her place from now on.

Top-up rates have not increased in Reading for several years now. Other local authorities have worsened their position by increasing their top up fees when they did not have the funding to do so, so Reading schools have played a large part in keeping the deficit down.

As funding has increased this year, Reading believes that now is the time to review the top up rates and bandings. A review has commenced but, in the meantime, it is proposed that the rates for special schools, resource units and Cranbury College are increased by 5% from 1 September 2020.

For mainstream schools, it is suggested that the rates go up by reference to the hourly rate. This is currently approximately £11 per hour, which is below the average cost for a support assistant at £12 an hour. Reading is proposing to increase this rate to £11.50 an hour. For those pupils in band D, the rate will move from £12.28 per hour to £13.

These proposals will cost an additional £59k compared to the increase that was built into the budget.

Isabelle Sandy asked whether an increase was likely for the following year. Claire White explained that if it was not possible to implement the banding review in time it may be a case of inflating the figures again from September 2021.

16 members agreed the proposal to increase the top-up rates with none against.

Provision – Kate Reynolds

Although the number of pupils in Reading with EHCPs has increased, this increase appears to be plateauing. Reading is trying to ensure that there will be sufficient provision for all pupils, but it has put pressure on both the mainstream schools and the special schools.

Revenue funding – The intention is to offer an increase from September 2020, and then do a bigger review of how the top up fees and the bandings work. All Head Teachers will have been contacted by Deb Hunter and will have completed a questionnaire. The idea is look at provision in mainstream schools and how it is funded.

Capital funding – In order to ensure that there is sufficient provision, a number of processes have been put in place. The Oak Tree Free School for pupils with SEMH and ASC will open from September 2022. This school will offer 75 places for Reading pupils. In the Primary sector, a unit has opened in West Reading at Southcote Primary for pupils with social and communication difficulties. There are currently discussions for a unit to be established in North Reading.

This feeds into the SEND strategy, which finishes in 2022. The next five-year strategy will then cover the period 2023-28. KR feels that the funding that is currently provided does not match what schools are being asked to deliver. The week ending 11 October, 91% of Reading pupils with bands were in Reading schools. This is one of the highest percentages in the country.

The report was noted

Item 9 – SEND Update – Director of Education

The SEND Update was included as part of Kate Reynold’s report on Provision.

Item 10 – Alternative Provision – A Case for Change – Head of Commissioning, Contracts & Procurement

Karina Ajayi explained that the report was being offered as an initial discussion of Alternative Provision in Reading. She reported that the intention is to look at creating a framework for centrally-managed short-term provision. These are usually the services that are commissioned by the SEND Team and which are usually funded by the High Needs block. The aim is to ensure that pupils are offered the best quality provision as well as a wide range of services to meet their needs. This, therefore means that all provision that is currently offered needs to be reviewed.

Since 1 August 2020, Cranbury College has become part of Maiden Erlegh Trust. Karina will be meeting with the Trust on 16 October to look at moving forward.

The report considers possible options. One such option could be a Dynamic Purchasing System, which would enable Providers to register to provide alternative provision as and when needs arise. Brighter Futures for Children would be responsible for ensuring the quality of providers. Another option is to consider a framework model, which is a closed model. Once the review has been undertaken, it would then be opened up to the school community.

The timescale for this Review is from now until the beginning of January/February 2021, with the idea that services could be in place from April 2022.

Mandy Wilton, Head Teacher of Cranbury College, explained that this was the first that she had heard of a Review. She was not happy with some of the wording in the report and how it relates to Cranbury. She felt that Head Teachers should be consulted formally on this issue and that they should be an integral part of the review.

Simon Uttley, Head Teacher of Blessed Hugh Faringdon, was in full agreement that Head Teachers should be fully engaged in the process.

Kate Reynolds suggested that a second paper is brought to the next Forum, which reflects Head Teachers’ views. Andy Johnson backed up Kate’s suggestion and also felt that it was necessary to stick with Option 1 (No change) until the wider consultation had been made. Karina commented that she took the feedback on board.

Item 11 – School Meals Procurement Update – Head of Commissioning, Contracts & Procurement

This report relates to 35 schools and Nurseries. Brighter Futures for Children has re-negotiated an additional year with Chartwells, with a possible one-year extension to this. The contract is at the same price prior to COVID.

An independent review has been made of the market and it is understood that due to COVID some catering firms are trying to establish themselves in this area.

The current strategy has been to procure a provider for four years, with the possibility of a three-year extension. This, however, does provide any flexibility for schools to enter or leave the contract. The proposal is that the terms of the contract should be altered so that it is on a three-year basis, with the option to extend for two years. An alternative proposal is that the contract is awarded to two or three providers. It is also hoped that the fixed price of the school meal can be retained, with adjustments for inflation built into the contract.

Isabelle Sandy said that she welcomed the flexibility that a new contract could offer, but she wondered whether smaller companies would be able to move into this market and to survive. It is not straightforward to offer school meals as they need to have nutritional value for pupils.

Karina confirmed that this may be the opportunity for existing, smaller school meal providers.

Isabelle asked if schools could be involved in the presentations from any potential companies bidding for the contract. Karina confirmed that this would definitely be possible. She will send an email to schools, seeking volunteers to evaluate the submissions. Karen Edwards from the Heights confirmed that as her school is already going through this process, she is happy to share any information that she has.

The report was noted

Item 12 – School Budgets 2020/21 and the impact of COVID-19 – School Support Lead

At the last Schools’ Forum, Clare Warren was asked to feedback on the September out-turns that schools are asked to submit. There is usually a great deal of movement between budgets that are set in March and September. This year there has been an impact on the budgets due to COVID. £1.4m surplus was originally budgeted and has now decreased by £396K to £1.04m. This compares to last year which saw an increase of £596k.

Expenditure has reduced by £548k, whilst income has shown a loss of £944k. The main areas where costs have been reduced are: educational supply costs as schools did not run the activities that they usually do such as summer trips.

There was no demand for agency staff during the summer term.

Occupancy costs showed a reduction as some of the nurseries received rate rebates.

Schools have lost income of £459k on lettings and facility services as well as wraparound care. No additional funding has been made available to schools for these losses. There was an Exceptional Cost Grant, but it was offered on very limited items. Of the schools who had submitted claims eight had been notified that their claims had been successful, which amounted to £39k of additional funding to date. ESFA has now said that they will pay out on the standard elements from the original claims. It was not known when or whether claims for ‘other’ costs would be approved.

Nursery Schools were not able to make a claim for the Exceptional Costs. Nurseries have been impacted very hard by COVID in comparison to other schools. Pupil numbers are not recovering and parents are not purchasing additional sessions and breakfasts.

Julia Cottee also mentioned that nurseries have not received any reduction in their business rates, unlike private nurseries. Kate Reynolds confirmed that the difficult situation that maintained nurseries find themselves in has been raised with the DfE.

The report was noted

Item 13 – Agenda items for next meeting

The next meeting will be held on 3 December 2020 and will be chaired by Richard Rolfe. It is assumed this will also need to be virtual

  • DSG budget overview for 2021/22
  • Final proposal for school funding formula for 2021/22
  • Agree Growth Fund for 2021/22
  • Budget monitoring 2020/21 month 8 (including update on deficit recovery plan)
  • SEND update
  • Top Up funding banding review

Item 14 – Any other business

There were no items of any other business and the meeting finished at 19:00.