Draft Schools Forum Minutes 12 March 2020

Present

Jo Budge – Executive Head Teacher of REYS Federation, Julia Cottee – Governor at REYS Federation, Justine McMinn – Head Teacher of E P Collier, Cathy Doberska – Head Teacher of English Martyrs, Sarah Bernto – Head Teacher of St Annes, Peter Kayes – Governor at the Ridgeway (Chair), Richard Rolfe – Governor at Micklands, Dani Hall – Governor at Oxford Road, Karen Edwards – Head Teacher of The Heights, Jane Brown – Business Manager of Churchend School, Isabelle Sandy – Business Manager of Kendrick, Symon Cooke – Head Teacher of The Avenue, Ita McGullion – Manager of Kennet Day Nursery, Mark Hester – Business Manager of Cranbury College,

Apologies

Robert Howell – Head Teacher of Alfred Sutton, Tonia Crossman – Head Teacher of Emmer Green, Simon Utley – Head Teacher of Blessed Hugh Faringdon, David Littlemore – Head Teacher of Prospect, Rachel Cave – Head Teacher of Highdown, Annal Nayyar – Finance Director of Bayliss Trust (Reading Girls), Lee Smith – Head Teacher of Holy Brook, Ali McNamara – NEU, Ben Sims – Reading College.
Kate Reynolds – Director of Education, Steven Davies – Strategic Business Partner.

In attendance

Cllr Ashley Pearce – Lead Member for Education, Claire White – Schools & DSG Business Partner, Corinne Dishington, Under Fives Service Manager, Clare Warren – School Support Lead, Deborah Talbot – Minute Taker.

Agenda

Item 1 – Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting including new members. Introductions were made.

Apologies were noted.

Item 2 – Minutes of the meeting held on January 16, 2020

Minutes were circulated and agreed from 16 January 2020

Matters arising:

  • Actions vacant posts – thanks to all.
  • Clarification of Teacher pay and pension grant for 2021 to all schools circulated

Item 3 – Schools’ Forum Membership Update – confirmation of representation

Actions:

There are no vacancies.

For those new members we elect a chair and a vice chair, and each post is for two years, currently alternating; there should always be a chair while the new person gets elected.

Item 4 – DSG Budget Monitoring 2019/20 Month 11

Claire White Presented

The report highlights the latest budget position for month 11, 19/20. Actual DSG allocation for the current year is the same as previously reported, the only thing to note is that the early years block allocation is based on the early years draft census figures for January 2020 and there will likely be minor amendments. Change in funding will likely be in the region of £20,000 to £30,000

Actual expenditure is noted on page 14, table 2 which sets out the current overspend standing at £2.1m, £480k more than originally estimated. In January there was a higher overspend on top up payments forecast and this estimate has come down significantly. There was an error in our top up formula for one child and during the year we have been forecasting worst case scenario. The table at bottom of page 14 shows the main variances.

Reminder that during the Autumn the Government carried out a consultation which was published in January 2020, which means that from the end of this financial year (2019/2020) DSG deficits must be carried forward and LAs are not liable to fund any part of that deficit. It is no longer the case that LAs must keep reserves in place for this. Schools’ Forum will no longer be required to approve the carry forward of the deficit although the LA will still work closely with the Forum and the arrangements to pay back the deficit.

Reasons for the Early Years Block variances are on page 16 showing a comparison to our original forecast. Numbers of children have gone up requiring over half of our contingency of £700,000 to be used in payments to providers.

High needs block on page 17 (table 3), January 2020 figure of EHCPs still increasing, by 115 since January the previous year. £417,000 over our budget. Table shows where the increases and reductions are, the main increase is other alternative which is mainly temporary placements prior to pupils being placed in the longer-term placements. Overspend of £30,000 on NHS contract as the original budget did not include all academies, that has now been rectified. Inclusion fund for schools with disproportionate number of pupils with EHCPs is likely to be an overspend by £40,000

The impact on the deficit recovery plan is an increase to the overall deficit by £380,000 in year, plus £306,000 funding removed from the underspend in the early years block, taking the total deficit forecast at the end of 2019/20 to £2.477m.
Report is noted for the current situation and current pressures are also noted.

Appendices – a question was raised asking if it is true that the funding for all the DSG blocks includes funding for academies which is then reversed out leaving a net allocation for the maintained schools. We receive a gross DSG allocation, and funding is then top sliced for mainstream academies formula funding and high needs place funding in academies. All other DSG funding includes funding for academies.

Item 5 – Early Years Budget 2020/21 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

Claire White presented the paper outlining the proposal for setting the early year block budget for 2020/21.

The Early Years National Funding Formula (EYNFF) requires all settings whether they are a school or nursery or PVI to be funded on the same basis and at the same funding rate.

Because actual early years block funding is based on future census data, assumptions need to be made in setting the budget. Draft 2020 January census data is being used assuming there will be little variation between 2020 and 2021, and any significant variation will incur a funding adjustment at the end of the year. This year there has been very little difference.

The funding rate universally has gone up by 8p for 2, 3 and 4 year olds, and the Reading rates are now £5.22 for 3 and 4 year olds and 5.82 for 2 year olds. No increase to pupil premium which remains at 53p per hour and disability access fund at £615 per eligible child. Table 1 shows we are estimating £12.6 million funding available. The official notification on the DfE website is still using January 2019 data.

Maintained nursery schools – we will continue to receive the supplementary funding for the full financial year which protects those nursery schools at 2016 rates.
It is estimated that there will be an underspend of £471k carried forward from 2019/20 so total funding we will be receiving will be just over £13.1million.

Due to volatility of funding, there needs to be caution when setting the funding rate for the following year; should the funding be less than we have budgeted for then the only way we could resolve that is to reduce the hourly rate in the following year, and we don’t want to be in that situation. It is therefore prudent to keep back a contingency.

Using the total hours claimed for the previous year, we propose an increase to the hourly rate of 8p and increase 50p on to the deprivation rate to increase this to 97p so £1.50 being received in total for children eligible for the pupil premium. Table 2-page 28 shows the calculation of the budget.

Maintained nursery supplementary funding received will be passed on in full to the nursery schools which is at £1.08 per hour – the total will increase slightly in 2020/21.

A proposal was put forward to replicate what some other local authorities are doing, for example Hampshire, in top slicing the supplementary funding to pay in full the nursery school business rates, with the balance then allocated using a lower hourly rate. An illustration was set out in Table 3, page 29.

Jo Budge asked why were heads not asked initially and feels this was unprofessional. Claire White stated that this is what was requested. This was the only choice in paying for business rates, as the only source of funding was the supplementary funding. It was up to the nursery schools how they would like this fund to be allocated. Jo Budge felt that to use this grant to pay rates is an immoral thing to do and has no impact on the children. A paper was circulated about the scheme from Hampshire, but this is still using the supplementary fund, there is no other source of funding. Their supplementary grant is significantly higher for a lower number of children in nurseries – £1.6 million for 3 schools with 324 children. So they can be more flexible with how it is distributed. DfE guidance say maintained nursery schools can be paid a lump sum from their local Authority, which is how the supplementary funding is being distributed. Jo Budge said it’s frustrating as they are being told two different versions from two different sources. However, all other providers have the same issues with payment of business rates.

There were concerns that this was a change with no consideration, and no one came to talk to the head teachers about it. This was noted and would be considered next time. Decided to stick to the £1.08 supplement and no adjustment for actual business rates. Jo was thanked for sharing concerns, but we do have to adhere to regulations.

Ita Mcgullion asked why we carry over a large amount of funding that is never used. The contingency originated from when the additional 15 hours came in; there was a slow take up from the September, but we were funded on the actual numbers in the following January, so this money has been kept in early years as a contingency. Although ideally when money comes in for one year it should be spent in that year, the unpredictability of the funding does not allow for this. Need to agree an acceptable contingency. Claire White has suggested 2.5% of total estimated funding. Of the predicted carry forward of £471,000, there are still final payments to go through, and £100,000 will be used for deprivation in 2020/21. Proposing a contingency of £366,000 and this will probably decrease once we have the actual carry forward. Slightly higher than 2.5% but there is more to come out.

Need to manage the risk, as we would end up overspending if we have more children to fund than we have had in the previous year. We started off the current year with £702,000 in contingency but half of this has had to be used for provider payments. Money is not being taken away from early years it will stay with them. Corinne Dishington said we do have an idea of our birth rate and the 0-5 population has decreased since 2016. It is envisaged the population will rise again. We do get live birth data, but it depends on take up as well. Corinne explained the methods behind it. It’s complicated and not very robust and very difficult to calculate how the estimate is arrived at. The Actual from last year is used as a base for next year. It was asked what the accuracy and track record is like compared to our estimated figures. Cllr Pearce said it’s quite good and we are in the top 10%. Quite hard as there will be no census in the future.

SEN inclusion fund – there were some issues with the usage of the money and maintained nursery heads and the EP service who maintain the inclusion fund have updated the terms of spend to make sure we are providing the best opportunity for children. A paper was circulated recently where several issues were listed for both sides and comments were invited. It was noted we need to have the best opportunity and to avoid escalation for those children to high cost placements. From April 2020 the fund will remain at £150,000, with £50,000 coming from the high needs block

5% of the block allocation can be retained centrally and budgets will be virtually the same as previous year as set out in paragraph 7.2. This equates to 1.33% .

Comparison rates are set out in Table 4, page 32, and Reading’s 3 & 4 year old rate is much higher than neighbouring authorities. Hampshire hourly rate is £4.06.

EYPP claims for our nursery classes is extremely low so there are probably children that are not being claimed for. Parents have to fill the forms out. Decreased in general so all primary schools are finding the same issue.
Action: to contact early years who will come and sit with them and go through it.

Repot is noted.

The centrally retained early years budget for 2020/21 approved unanimously.

Noted maintained nursery grant will be allocated as per usual method, with no change.

Item 6 – High Needs Budget 2020/21 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

High needs block currently in deficit. We are legally obliged to fund top ups and the numbers of pupils with EHC plans continue to grow. Other issues creating pressures are above inflation increases by external providers – some have been known to implement 20% increase and although there are discussions taking place there is little we can do. Increases have been at a much greater cost than the funding we received in previous years. For 2020/21 we have been given a much larger increase, and the Government is hoping that the funding will help decrease deficits. The LA is responsible for deciding the High needs budget.

High Needs Block funding is increasing by just under £2m to £22.5m, the break down is on page 36 table 1.

The Academy recoupment of place funding takes into account that Phoenix College transferred to an academy on 1st January and assumption is Cranbury will be transferring on the 1st April 2020.

Page 36 section 4 sets out the budget in detail, comparing the 2019/20 budget and forecast, to the proposed budget for 2020/21.

Place funding – 5 additional resource unit places are built in to the budget
Top ups – 90 additional places built in and the way it’s been calculated is set out from page 39, section 7.

Mainstream school increase has been about 15% and we expect that to continue as we want children to be included. In order to be able to support schools with pupils with EHCPs need to look at the banding.

Overall increase in top up rates built into budget at 2%. Do not have any control with out of county. Some LAs do not have a deficit recovery plan and will be able to afford for their schools to have higher increases to their rates.

Updated deficit recovery plan assumptions set out on Page 41 – paragraph 9.4. Assume income to increase at £2m for the following two years, although the government has not yet stated what the split will be between the schools and high needs. Underspend in other blocks will not go to pay off the deficit. Non top up costs will remain static. Number of top up year on year will continue to increase at current rate.

The deficit recovery is shown in table 3 page 42. Forecast for the current year is increase deficit by £233,000 add to b/f from previous year will be a c/f of £2.478m deficit.

Next year a slight surplus of £303,000 is forecast being used to go toward the deficit. Now the overspend in the current year is built into the base, and if the increases to funding continue, the deficit could be paid off in 2022/23.

Concern from schools’ point of view seeing more and more children in first stage with severe communication needs as well as a lot of adult support and how will this keep the figures down. They are year ones and twos and two were excluded this week for their behaviours.

Who oversees the speech and language contracts? it is noted that BFfC has a team that looks after contracts, Corinne Dishington said it is a shared contract with the CCG.

It was mentioned that speech and language is not being shared between the schools. No Whitley schools get any support.

Action Corinne Dishington to find out what’s in the contract.

Noted high needs funding and budget for next year, and the current deficit recovery plan.

Item 7 – SEND Update (presentation) – Head of SEND

Kate Reynolds joined the meeting at 18.24. No report available as Deborah Hunter not in attendance.

Kate Reynolds reiterated that SEND Is important to every member here. It was noted that there were concerns to be raised but did not have the chance to ask questions on this occasion. Health and safety liability is personal not corporate.

Item 8 – School Forum Meetings 2020/21 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

This is a Statutory and public meeting that is required to meet a minimum of 4 times a year. Proposing to have the same number of meeting this coming year.

Proposal approved – scheduled to tie in with budget setting and timings seem to have worked well in the last year. Keep the dates much the same. Thursdays.

Starting at 5.00pm is agreed to continue

Approved

Item 9 – Agenda Items For Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on June 25, 2020 at the Civic Centre Council Chamber.

Agenda items noted.

Item 10 – Any Other Business

Recent fire in Tilehurst – does anybody know what was burning as there were repercussions to the staff and children in some of the schools that were in proximity. Headaches for two days and dizziness and metallic taste also for two days.

Action: Kate Reynolds to speak to the health and safety team.

Back in December’s meeting a discussion took place about the growth fund 3-year plan. Kendrick school want to discuss with BFFC their expansion plans as many of their additional children will be coming from Reading itself – what is the process and how can Kendrick claim for that money for growth funding. Kate Reynolds is in discussions with the head at Kendrick. Claire White clarified that when the growth fund budget is set it states the number of bulge classes in the plan but does not identify specific schools. The funding is available for any school that meets the criteria set by the Schools’ Forum.

Justin McMinn would like it noted that her business manager appreciated the budget information earlier this year and this has really helped.

The meeting closed at 18.36