School Forum Minutes – 16 June 2022

Members present

Justine McMinn – Head Teacher of EP Collier; Peter Kayes – Governor at the Ridgeway; Richard Rolfe – Governor at Micklands (Chair); Jo Budge – Executive Head Teacher of Reading Early Years Schools Federation; Nikki McVeigh – Head Teacher of Christ The King; Karen Edwards – Head Teacher of The Heights; John Salberg – Principal of The Wren School; Annal Nayyar – Finance Director of Baylis Trust (Reading Girls); Dani Hall – Co-Chair of the Federation between Oxford Road Community School & Wilson School; Isabelle Sandy – Business Manager of Kendrick; Cathy Woodcock – Finance Director of Reading School; Ita McGullion – Manager of Kennet Day Nursery ; M Grantham – Deputy Head Teacher of Highdown (substitute for R Cave); Alison McNamara – NEU.

Apologies

In attendance

Clare Warren – School Support Lead; Steven Davies – Strategic Finance Business Partner; Brian Grady – Director of Education; Kit Lam – Executive Director of Finance & Resources; Gill Dunlop – Pupil & School Service Manager; Siobhan Egan – Performance & Data Intelligence Service Manager; Corinne Dishington – Service Manager Under 5s; Hester Collicutt – SEND Team Manager; Vanessa Hurdle – minute taker.

Item 1 – Welcome and apologies – Chair

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Brian Grady introduced himself as the new Director of Education and said that he was happy to have joined Reading.

Steve Davies read out the protocol for the virtual meeting and confirmed that votes would be required for the following items:

3 – Schools’ Forum Constitution (all members)

7 – Falling Rolls (primary & secondary members only)

8 – Scheme for Financing Schools (all members)

Recording of the meeting commenced. The recording will be retained until the minutes have been approved.

Steve mentioned that Kit Lam, the new Executive Director of Finance & Resources was observing the meeting.

Item 2 – Schools’ Forum Membership Update – including confirmation of representation – Chair

Richard noted that quite a few members of the Forum have now reached the end of their term of office. These are:

Robert Howell – Alfred Sutton Primary

Justine McMinn – EP Collier Primary

Tonia Crossman – Emmer Green Primary

Isabelle Sandy – Kendrick School

David Littlemore – Kings Academy Prospect

Rachel Cave – Highdown School

Annal Nayyar – Reading Girls

It needs to be established whether these Heads/Business Managers wish to continue. Richard explained that he had emailed all of the above earlier that day for confirmation on their continuing membership for a further three years.

Peter Kayes announced that this would be his last Schools’ Forum, meaning that from September there will be a vacancy for a maintained Primary Governor. Richard confirmed that he would make this vacancy known to Governor Services plus the RGA in order to recruit a replacement member.

Richard thanked Peter for his many years of hard work as a Governor and as a member of the Forum.

Item 3 – Schools’ Forum Constitution/Terms of Reference for 22/23 – Strategic Finance Business Partner

A vote from all members is required for this item.

Members need to agree the Constitution for 22/23. Steve confirmed that there were no changes from the previous year’s constitution. The balance between maintained primaries and secondary academies has been retained, with the membership percentages reflecting the educational establishment make-up within Reading.

As no changes were proposed or issues raised, it was deemed that the Constitution was formally accepted for 22/23.

Item 4 – DSG Outturn 21/22 – Strategic Finance Business Partner

Steve Davies presented.

The DSG deficit has increased by £808k over 21/22, meaning that it has increased from £1.3m to £2.2m. This is due to an overspend in the High Needs Block, which for 21/22 stood at £1.3m, with the majority of this relating to top-up funding. A big factor is the fact that the number of EHCPs is increasing at a significant rate and these EHCPs are for pupils in mainstream schools, requiring more funding in the mainstream schools.

This all comes through the SEN Strategy Group and now means that the plans that were in place regarding the DSG deficit will have to be revised. Steve and Brian Grady will work together to find a replacement Deficit Recovery Plan, and will probably need to have discussions with the DfE and may even need to ask the DfE for help. For this year, the DfE has invited 55 LAs to take up their support. Reading is in Group 2 for this.

This all means that next year’s budget will be under a great deal of pressure and a great deal of consideration will need to be made in bringing the DSG back on track. There is £1m in the Growth Fund, which is ring-fenced and can be made available for future use. There is also some funding left in Early Years. This has been committed to the increase in the hourly rates. Early Years currently appears to be on a sustainable path as numbers on roll increase.

Justine McMinn made the point that for the number of pupils in mainstream schools, who are receiving additional top-ups, the cost is lower than if they were in Special Schools. However, the amount that has been agreed to fund these places is not enough. Brian agreed that the top-ups within mainstream schools is meeting a difficult amount of need. An SEN Strategy update and a revised Deficit Recovery Plan will be brought to the next Schools’ Forum.

Item 5 – Maintained School Balances 21/22 and  Budgets 2022/23 – School Support Lead

Clare Warren presented.

The Maintained Schools’ balances ended the year at £3m. This is just slightly lower than where they were at the end of the previous year. The year ended with eight schools in deficit, with balances now totalling £1.4m. These eight schools are required to submit a Licensed Deficit Application to the Director of Education. The School Support Team will work together with the Director of Education and these schools on the next steps going forward.

It should be noted that the impact of covid has had an effect on the School balances, especially in the early part of the financial year and particularly in the Early Years sector.

The balances for 22/23 are budgeted to decrease by £2.5m to £0.5m. This was based on the data in March for admissions. Further information is now known on admissions, plus the fact that the Recovery Premium has been extended for the next two academic years. This means that there will be additional funding available to schools but they are ring-fenced grants. Richard concluded that deficits are a growing concern, particularly in the Primary Sector. This is mainly due to the low numbers on roll – Discussed in Item 7.

Item 6 – DSG Budget and Deficit Recovery Plan – Strategic Finance Business Partner

Steve Davies presented

Table 1 shows the DSG Allocation for Reading. The figures will change if any schools convert to an Academy during the year. The figures include the import/export adjustments, as Reading sends quite a lot of pupils out of borough. Money is taken off of Reading’s budget to pay to West Berkshire, to schools such as Brookfields Special School.

Table 2 – There has been some movement. In January 22, the Schools’ Forum approved the transfer of £484k from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block to fund those schools with a higher number of pupils with EHCPs than the average.

The figures for the Early Years Block have now been calculated using the January 22 Census figures. The original allocation was based on January 21’s figures. Using the more recent figure has increased the Early Years Block by just over £1.1m. If numbers continue to increase in this area, then it is hoped that there will be a surplus, which will hopefully be used to increase the hourly rate in 23/24.

High Needs Block – The Government supplied Supplementary Grant Funding for the High Needs Block, which amounted to an extra £1m for Reading. Due to the High Needs block overspending by £1.3m, this £1m has now been put into the budget. Inflation – There is currently no news on how the inflation crisis/element of the budget will be dealt with. However, it is still intended that the bandings within the High Needs Block will be increased by a percentage. This will be reported on at the October Forum.

Item 7 – Falling Rolls Fund – Strategic Finance Business Partner

Steve Davies presented

A vote from primary and secondary members is required for this item.

Members were referred to approximately 10 years ago when the numbers on roll were declining in secondary schools. At that time, the Falling Rolls Fund was used by Reading Girls’ School. A school could use the fund, if their numbers were low for a particular year, but it was known that numbers would eventually start to rise. This meant that the school would not be required to make any redundancies.

The situation has now changed and it’s the Primary Schools which are seeing a decrease in numbers. The suggestion is to introduce a Falling Rolls Fund to help these schools, following the same criteria that were used for secondary schools, such as:

  • School needs to be rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
  • School will not make redundancies if granted the funding
  • Evidence of what the numbers are likely to be in 3-5 years is required.
  • Decrease should be at least 5% for two years running

If schools meet this criteria, then 75% of the ‘missing’ pupil amount will be funded up to a maximum of £100k. The criteria have come from Hampshire, which has been cited as a model.

Appendix 2 details the current situation for Reading’s schools. Currently, Caversham Park Primary is the only school in a position to qualify for the funding and would receive it this year. Schools that are highlighted in green could potentially need the funding in 23/24.

It was felt that the criteria should remain as proposed and not altered in any way, so that more schools could be included to receive funding. As there is £1m Growth Funding, it is planned that £200k should be ring-fenced to be used for the Falling Rolls Funding. This will then be reviewed in March 23 to see if any further schools required funding.

Richard queried where the 5% threshold had come from. It is from the Hampshire Model but it was confirmed that this percentage could be amended if required.

Jo Budge agreed that it was a good idea to support schools to ensure that they did not lose good staff, but wondered if the Falling Rolls Fund could be applied to Nursery Schools, especially as their numbers are lower at the beginning of the academic year and this is the time when staff need to be retained.

Steve confirmed that currently the funding is only available for primary and secondary schools. As far as is known, no other authority has funded Early Years in this way. Primary and Secondary schools only have the October Census date, whilst Nurseries have three census dates. However, it was felt that the situation for Nurseries could be reviewed.

Brian stressed that now he is in post policy-related questions should be addressed to him. Places in maintained Nursery Schools is a big priority and is currently being looked at by Brian, Kit Lam and Vicky Rhodes, Director for Early Help. A report will be brought to the Schools Forum on this matter.

The complexities that primary schools are facing is also being reviewed, such as falling rolls and high mobility. It is expected that papers on these issues and others will be presented at future School Forums.

Nikki McVeigh asked if any work would be done to predict the numbers on roll in the future. Brian confirmed that this is being looked at.

Richard wondered why only one school currently meets the Falling Rolls Funding criteria and queried if other schools could actually qualify for support. Brian stated that the Forum had the discretion to ask that schools are reviewed on a case by case basis.

It was agreed that the there should be a double vote: a) to approve the Falling Rolls Fund in principle and b) to also give BFfC the discretion to look at schools in particular need and fund those schools if required.

12 members voted and all approved both the Falling Roll Policy and the giving of discretion to BFfC to review schools in need of further help.

Item 8 – Update to Scheme for Financing Schools – School Support Lead

Clare Warren presented

A vote is required from all members

The Forum is required to review the Scheme of Financing for Schools annually. A draft of the document was attached to the agenda.

The DfE requires that reference to the Salix Loan Scheme is removed as this has now closed. The values in the Schools’ Financial Value Standard have also been updated as well as the submission date. The Standard also includes a new item, which is the Related-Party Transactions Reporting. These are the only changes.

12 members voted and all approved the Scheme for 22/23

Item 9 – Agenda Items for Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on 13 October 2022 at 5pm as a virtual meeting

  • DSG budget setting strategy 2023/24
  • Budget monitoring 2022/23 month 6

Item 10 – Any Other Business

There were no other items, except to say farewell to Peter. The meeting finished at 5.50pm.

Summary of actions outstanding

SF date and item number: 16/06/22 – Item 3
Action required:
Membership – Do the following wish to remain members?

Robert Howell – Alfred Sutton Primary
Tonia Crossman – Emmer Green Primary
David Littlemore – Kings Academy Prospect
Rachel Cave – Highdown School Isabelle Sandy – Kendrick School

Also with Peter Kayes’ resignation a new Maintained Primary Governor to be recruited.
Responsible person: Richard Rolfe

SF date and item number: 16/06/22 – Item 4
Action required:
Update on SEN Strategy and revised Deficity Recovery Plan
Responsible person: Brian Grady/Steve Davies

SF date: 16/06/22
Action required:
Maintained Nursery School Places
Responsible person: Brian Grady

SF date: 16/06/22
Action required: Suggestions for future School Forym papers
Responsible person: All members