Draft school forum minutes – 14 October 2021

Members Present

Nikki McVeigh – Head Teacher of Christ the King; Peter Kayes – Governor at the Ridgeway; Richard Rolfe – Governor at Micklands (Chair); Dani Hall – Co-Chair of the Federation between Oxford Road Community School & Wilson School; Jo Budge – Executive Head Teacher of Reading Early Years Schools Federation; Simon Uttley – Head Teacher of Blessed Hugh Faringdon; Rachel Cave – Head Teacher of Highdown; Symon Cooke – Head Teacher of The Avenue; Lee Smith – Head Teacher of Holy Brook; Karen Edwards – Head Teacher of The Heights; Annal Nayyar – Finance Director of Baylis Trust (Reading Girls); Jane Brown – Business Manager of Churchend; Isabelle Sandy – Business Manager of Kendrick; Claire Brown – Business Manager of Prospect School (substitute); Cathy Woodcock – Finance Director of Reading; Mark Hester – Business Manager of Cranbury College; Andy Johnson – Head Teacher of Maiden Erlegh School in Reading; Julia Cottee – Governor at Reading Early Years Schools Federation; Alison McNamara – NEU.

In attendance

Steph Heaps – Schools & DSG Business Partner; Clare Warren – School Support Lead; Steven Davies – Strategic Finance Business Partner; Deborah Glassbrook – Director of Children’s Social Care; Gill Dunlop – Pupil & School Service Manager; Siobhan Egan – Service Manager IT & Data Intelligence; Corinne Dishington – Service Manager Under 5s; Vanessa Hurdle – minute taker.

Agenda numberItemNotes
1 Welcome and apologies – Chair The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.   Steph Heaps read out the protocol for the virtual meeting and confirmed that members would not be required to vote during the meeting. Recording of the meeting commenced. The recording will be retained until the minutes have been approved.    
2 Minutes of the meeting held on 24 June 2021 – Chair  Minutes were agreed as an accurate record of the meeting from 24 June 2021.    Matters arising: Membership – Discussed under Item 3.      
3 Schools’ Forum Membership Update – Chair   Richard confirmed that the Forum remains at full membership, although two positions still need to be clarified – Karen Edwards from The Heights Primary and Ita McGullion, Manager of Kennet Day Nursery.   Karen messaged to say that she was happy to remain a member. Richard will chase this matter up with Ita.    
4   DSG Budget Strategy for 2022/23 – Schools/DSG Business Partner   Steph Heaps presented.   Schools Forum to note that there has been an update on the funding that has been announced so far for 2022/23 budget as well as the timetable for budget planning.   In July 2021 an update was received, which confirmed primary and secondary units of funding. The overall allocation will be based on the October 21 census.   Table 1 shows the funding that is currently received by Reading for the Schools, Central and High Needs Blocks. A comparison is shown using the new funding values if pupil numbers remain the same. No update will be given on the Early Years Block until late November/December.   The Schools Block is set to receive an increase of £2.7m, which is 2.6%. Reading currently mirrors the National Funding Formula for 2021/22 and it is hoped to do the same in 2022/23. The growth factor is not yet known and won’t be known until the October 21 census data has been finalised. This will be notified in the December 21 allocation. It is believed that this funding plus the carry forward from the current year will be enough to meet next year’s growth requirements.   The Central Block – Steph confirmed that she had made an error in the table and that the actual funding against pupil numbers should read £772k, and not £722k. This is actually an increase of 5.56% and not a decrease of 1.2%. Overall in the Central Block, there is, however, a reduction by ESFA due to historic commitments of 20%. This means that savings will still need to be found in this block.   High Needs Block – There is no change to the current funding formula. Additional funding in 2022/23 will be allocated through the formula and all LAs will receive a minimum of 8%. Reading is expected to receive this, which will equate to £1.9mil.   Specific Considerations for budget setting 2022/23 – The main decision that needs to be considered, and which will go out to consultation, is whether the transfer from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block will continue. The maximum allowed in the regulations is 0.5% and this is what Reading is currently doing in 21/22. For 21/22 this amount is £484k, and is likely to increase to £526k for 22/23. This money is meant specifically for the Inclusion Fund and is additional funding for those schools with a disproportionate number of pupils with EHCPs. The consultation on this is due to be sent to schools next week.   Insurance Update regarding the Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA) – The Scheme of Finance for Schools was amended to allow for the de-delegation of this. This means that if the Schools Forum agreed then all primary and secondary schools would be signed up without a choice. Currently only 10 schools out of 34 or 29%, have chosen to sign up to the RPA. The Insurance SLA will be continued to be offered to schools in 2022/23. There is a three-month notice period if schools do wish to leave RBC’s Insurance service and the deadline for this is 31 December 2021.   The Insurance Team has also advised that if schools are considering moving to the RPA and have contract work scheduled, they need to seek advice from both the Insurance Team and the Legal Team as the RPA scheme does not currently meet with what the current insurance market provides in terms of cover for building works. Schools should contact Derek Crisp on this matter as soon as possible.   Timetable for Setting 2022/23 budget – Table 2 shows the current plan for the year. The main point to note is that the consultation that will be sent out next week will be due back by 12 November.    
5 Initial proposals for school funding formula for 2022/23 – Schools/DSG Business Partner Steph Heaps presented.   Steph confirmed that although the item mentions decision, no formal decision is required for this item. It is just intended to gauge feedback on the approach being used and it will be sent out to all schools, together with the Consultation.   We are now into the fifth year of the move towards the National Formula Funding. There is still no confirmation as to when the final implementation will occur. When the move is made to the full National Formula Funding approach, a decision will have to be taken on how local issues, such as growth funding and the transfer between the blocks, should be dealt with.   Table 1 – This shows the total estimate for 2022/23. This is currently using the October 2020 figures, but will be updated. The Schools Block is set to receive a £2.7m increase. There is no change to the National Formula factors and all these details can be found in appendix 1. However, there are updates to the national values that are used. A comparison to previous years can be found in appendix 2.   Section 4 – School Formula for 2022/23 – 4.2 shows the actual value changes: 3% increase to basic entitlement£10k to the maximum sparsity values (not applicable to Reading)2% increase to Free School Meals2% minimum funding guarantee on pupil led funding above 21/22 baselineMinimum funding per pupil for primary to increase to £4,180 and to £5,415 for secondary pupils   As the LA, it is still Reading’s responsibility to set the formula by choosing the factors to apply and the values to use permitting they are in line with the regulations. These are detailed in appendix 1.   Appendix 2 – This shows the actual values. Reading was able to set the formula for 2021/22 very close to the National Formula. The only difference being the lump sum, which was adjusted and was just 1% below the national value. It is hoped that the same can be done for 2022/23.   Appendix 3b – This shows three models that have been drafted. Model 1 equates to the current financial year, with the lump sum kept at the 21/22 rate of £116k. This model shows a shortfall of £509k. When compared to this time last year, the model was showing a shortfall of £232k. The census data can affect the funding as it is not just based on the number of pupils, but other factors such as deprivation.   The intention is to be as close to the National Formula Funding as possible and to mirror all of the factors, including the area cost adjustment. It is expected that the lump sum will be used as the balancing figure. Reading welcomes schools’ comments on this approach. It may be a question that all of the rates are reduced by a percentage as shown in Model 2, which is the only model that is shown to be affordable. Model 3, which mirrors all of the formula factors including the area cost adjustment, shows a shortfall of £800K.   The actual funding that Reading will receive will not be known until December so the figures in the three models could change, but it is the approach that needs to be considered and the aim to mirror the National Funding Formula as closely as possible. No formal consultation is required, but all schools will be made aware of the different approaches that are under-consideration. There will, however, be a Consultation regarding the transfer from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block. This is due to be sent out next week. Currently the statistical neighbouring average is being used for the Inclusion Fund, but this is not looking as if it will be affordable. The results from the Consultation will be discussed at the December meeting.   Steph confirmed that the Consultation will be sent to both Head Teachers and Business Managers.    
6 DSG Budget Monitoring for 2021/22 – Month 6 including update to Deficit Recovery Plan – School Support Lead Steph Heaps presented.   The only update is the change in the allocation to the High Needs Block. There has been a reduction of £18k, which is due to the import/export adjustment for those pupils, which are placed in and out of the borough. No further adjustments are expected to the High Needs Block.   There would usually be an update to the Early Years funding at this time of year, but due to the way that the funding for this financial year is being done on a termly basis, no update for this area will be seen until November.   Table 2 – This summarizes the current budget per block. The variances shown are the position as at the end of September 2021. The deficit forecast for the end of the financial year has decreased to £1.168m, compared to the revised budget of £2.371m. This is a movement of £1.2m and how this is made up is listed below Table 2.   Although the £1.2m reduction looks good, a lot of the items have been ring-fenced. The majority of this reduction is made up of £1.074m growth fund, which will be ring-fenced for future years. The reason for this large underspend is due to the fact that no bulge classes were required in September 2021. Bulge classes are forecast for September 2022, so the underspend will be carried forward to then. It may also be required for the growth fund in the Central Block for 2022/23.   A current surplus of £86k is forecast for Early Years from the brought forward contingency of £154k. This financial year looks very different for Early Years as funding is being done on actual numbers per census per term as opposed to the usual method. Normally it would be 5/12 of January 21 census and 7/12 of January 2022, but this year it is being done on May census, October census and January census. At the December meeting, the position should be clearer, as the funding for both the summer and the autumn terms should be known.   The Central Block is showing a small variance of a £7k underspend due to contributions to the Block.   The High Needs Block – As at September 2021, there are 1,531 EHCPs, which is an increase of 91 since January 2021. Table 4 details the increase per year in the number of EHCPs as at each January. The top-up budget forms 83% of the High Needs spend. £17.4m is the top-up budget. The current number of EHCPs is actually 52 places less than what was forecast. However, the average cost of placements has increased from £13.5k to just over £14k. This means that Reading is, therefore, near to budget, but this does not take into account any uplift to top-up rates.   There was an external review and Schools Forum was told that if nothing came of this, then schools would receive an uplift to their current top-up rates from September 2021. This is what is now being proposed and will be brought to the December meeting. It has not been brought to today’s meeting due to the fact that there is no Director of Education in post and that there are a number of external factors which need to be considered, such as the National Insurance increase. It had also been decided to await the outcome of the Government’s SEND review. However, after recent discussions with the DfE it looks as if the outcome of the SEND review won’t be until some point next year. With regards to the increase to National Insurance, the Government has advised that there will be funding to cover the increase. It is expected that it will be given as a grant as it is too late to be incorporated into a formula.   Deficit Recovery Plan 2021/22 – It has been assumed that there will be an 8% increase next year and a 5% increase the following year. It also assumes that £484k will continue to be transferred from the Schools’ Block to the High Needs Block and that all the centrally retained costs in the High Needs Block will remain static. An average uplift for top-ups will be 2%. The number of top-ups continue to increase at the current rate, but it is not known at what type of provisions. The current forecast of the number of pupils in special and mainstream schools has actually been less than was predicted, whilst there has been an increase of pupils in independent and non-maintained special schools.   It is estimated that by 2024/25, the planned deficit will be £202k, meaning that the deficit may be paid in full by the end of 2024/25. This is, however, dependent on the number of EHCPs, the number of local provisions in place and the cost of these provisions. This could also be affected by the outcome of the SEND review. This forecast will, however, be presented to the DfE in November and feedback from this meeting will be given at the December Schools’ Forum.   Isabelle Sandy asked what the implications were for recovery now that the Director of Education has left. Steph confirmed that she would be in touch with the new Director of Education once they have started. However, Steph confirmed that it is the pupils’ needs that drive the recovery plan, rather than the financial aspect.    
7 Agenda items for next meeting The next meeting will be held on 9 December 2021 at 5pm as a virtual meeting.   DSG budget overview for 2022/23Final proposals for school funding formula for 2022/23Agree growth fund for 2022/23Budget monitoring for 2021/22 month 8Maintained schools’ outturn 2021/22Top up funding  
8 Any other business December Agenda Item – Steph said that she had been contacted by Commissioning, which is working on a project to review the Children and Young People Integrated Therapies and that they would like to present a report at the December Schools’ Forum meeting to give an update to all schools.   Director of Education – Deborah Glassbrook confirmed that the overall responsibility for the DSG Recovery Plan sits with her as the Executive Director of Children’s Services. She has been meeting with Steph to discuss the issues and is very aware of how important it is to continue to drive the Recovery Plan with the DfE.   Sue Imbriano will start on 15 October as the Interim Director of Education. She is very experienced and knowledgeable, having previously been a Director of Children’s Services in her own right. She will be working one day a week until November and then three days per week after that.   The advert for a permanent Director of Education has gone out. It is hoped that interviews will be at the end of November, with someone starting as soon as possible.   Isabelle questioned why there had been a number of Directors of Education in recent years. Deborah confirmed that there is no underlying reason at Reading as to why people are moving on. She also confirmed that she currently has no plans to leave.   Simon Uttley wished to know if key people would be on the interview panel for the new Director of Education. Deborah confirmed that there will be a stakeholder panel. She also confirmed that the Job Description has not changed from the previous time that the role went out to advert.   Future Meetings – Richard clarified that hybrid meetings can now be held in the Council Chambers. Going forward if there is a face-to-face meeting, people must still be offered the opportunity to join the meeting virtually as well. The December meeting could, therefore, be offered in this way. However, Richard wished to know, if the meeting was offered as both in person and virtually, if people would actually attend in person or continue to join on-line. Richard would prefer to hold face-to-face meetings as there is better discourse at these types of meetings. From the responses that were given, Richard confirmed that the December meeting will continue to be virtual   De-Delegation – Julia Cottee was expecting this item to be on today’s agenda and queried why it wasn’t. Richard confirmed that this would be looked into.   Julia also brought up the issue of schools still paying by cheques, rather than BACs. She wondered what needed to be done for all schools to pay by BACs only. Steve Davies confirmed that it is up to schools to make their own decision on this issue. The LA/School Support can only offer advice.   The meeting finished at 17.59.     

Summary of Actions Outstanding

SF Date & Item no. Action Required Responsible Person
14/10/21 – Item 3 Membership – Ita McGullion to remain a member. Richard Rolfe