The current funding framework which replaces Local Management of Schools is set out in the legislative provisions in sections 45-53 of the School Standards and Framework (SSAF) Act 1998.
Under this legislation, local authorities determine for themselves the size of their schools budget and their non-schools education budget – although at a minimum a local authority must appropriate its entire Dedicated Schools Grant to their schools budget. The categories of expenditure which fall within the two budgets are prescribed under regulations made by the Secretary of State, but included within the two, taken together, is all expenditure, direct and indirect, on an authority’s maintained schools except for capital and certain miscellaneous items. Local authorities may centrally retain funding in their schools budget for purposes defined in regulations made by the Secretary of State under s.45A of the Act. The amounts to be retained centrally are decided by the authority concerned, subject to any limits or conditions prescribed by the Secretary of State (including gaining the approval of Schools’ Forum or the Secretary of State in certain instances). The balance of the schools budget left after deduction of centrally retained funds is termed the Individual Schools Budget (ISB). Expenditure items in the non-schools education budget must be retained centrally (although earmarked allocations may be made to schools).
Local authorities must distribute their ISB amongst their maintained schools using a formula which accords with regulations made by the Secretary of State and enables the calculation of a budget share for each maintained school. This budget share is then delegated to the governing body of the school concerned, unless the school is a new school which has not yet received a delegated budget, or the right to a delegated budget has been suspended in accordance with s.51 of the Act. The financial controls within which delegation works are set out in a scheme made by the authority in accordance with s.48 of the Act and regulations made under that section. All proposals to revise the scheme must be approved by the Schools’ Forum, though the authority may apply to the Secretary of State for approval in the event of the forum rejecting a proposal or approving it subject to modifications that are not acceptable to the authority.
Subject to provisions of the scheme, governing bodies of schools may spend budget shares as they think fit for any purposes of their school. They may also spend budget shares on any additional purposes prescribed by the Secretary of State in regulations made under s.50 of the Act. (Section 50 has been amended to provide that amounts spent by a governing body on providing community facilities or services under section 27 of the Education Act 2002 are treated as if they were amounts spent for the purposes of the school).
An authority may suspend a school’s right to a delegated budget if the provisions of the school financing scheme (or rules applied by the scheme) have been substantially or persistently breached, or if the budget share has not been managed satisfactorily. A school’s right to a delegated budget share may also be suspended for other reasons (schedule 17 of the Act).
Each authority is obliged to publish each year a statement setting out details of its planned Schools Budget and other expenditure on children’s services, showing the amounts to be centrally retained and funding delegated to schools. After each financial year the authority must publish a statement showing outturn expenditure. The detailed publication requirements for financial statements are set out in directions issued by the Secretary of State. A copy of each year’s budget and outturn statement should be made easily accessible to all schools.
Regulations also require a local authority to publish their scheme and any revisions to it on a website accessible to the general public, by the date that any revisions come into force, together with a statement that the revised scheme comes into force on that date.
The Scheme is prepared in line with the latest statutory guidance issued by the Department for Education which relates to s.48 of the School Standards and Framework Act, and Schedule 14 to the Act. It sets out the principles underlying the funding of schools, and the basis for the financial relationship between Reading Borough Council and the maintained schools which it funds. The requirements of the scheme relating to financial management and associated issues as detailed throughout this document are binding on both the Authority and on schools.
The institutional coverage of the scheme will be for all community, nursery, voluntary, foundation, community special or foundation special schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) maintained by Reading Borough Council. A current list of the schools to which the scheme applies is provided at annex A (Schools covered by the scheme) of this document. Unless specifically stated otherwise the provisions of this Scheme apply to any nursery school maintained by the Authority. As indicated in s.48 of the Act, new maintained schools opening will also be covered by the scheme. Maintained schools that convert to academy status will cease to be covered by the Scheme. Similarly new Free Schools will not be covered by the Scheme.
A copy of the scheme and any approved revisions will be supplied to the head teacher and to the governing body of each school covered by the scheme and placed on the Authority’s website. This requirement is subject to regulations published by the Secretary of State for Education.
The scheme and any subsequent amendments are subject to the approval of members of Schools’ Forum representing maintained schools. Any subsequent revisions to the scheme will be subject to consultation with the governing body and head teacher of every school maintained by the Authority and then submission to Schools’ Forum for approval. Where Schools’ Forum does not approve them or approves them subject to modifications which are not acceptable to the Authority, the Authority may apply to the Secretary of State for approval.
If the Secretary of State makes directed revisions to schemes after consultation, such revisions become part of the scheme from the date of the direction.
As part of the scheme, the governing body of each school is required to consider and review (at a frequency to be determined by the governing body and agreed with the Director of Education) the extent to which it wishes to delegate its financial powers to the head teacher, and to record its decision (and any revisions) in the minutes of the governing body. Additionally, the Governing Body or a committee of the governing body must approve the first formal annual budget plan of each financial year.
Reading Borough Council is responsible for maintaining the schools covered by the scheme, and this includes the duty of defraying all the expenses of maintaining them (except in the case of a voluntary aided school where some of the expenses are, by statute, payable by the governing body). Part of the way in which the Authority maintains schools is through the funding system put in place under sections 45 to 53 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.