School Forum Minutes – 20 January 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; Simon Uttley – Head Teacher of Blessed Hugh Faringdon; Karen Edwards – Head Teacher of The Heights; Annal Nayyar – Finance Director of Baylis Trust (Reading Girls); Tonia Crossman – Head Teacher of Emmer Green; Symon Cooke – Head Teacher of The Avenue; 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

Dani Hall – Co-Chair of the Federation between Oxford Road Community School & Wilson School; Jane Brown – Business Manager of Churchend; Rachel Cave – Head Teacher of Highdown; John Salberg – Principal of The Wren School; Deborah Glassbrook – Director of Children’s Social Care

In attendance

Nicola Panel – Schools & DSG Business Partner; Clare Warren – School Support Lead; Steven Davies – Strategic Finance Business Partner; Sue Imbriano – Director of Education; Gill Dunlop – Pupil & School Service Manager; Ann McDonnell – Business Manager of Blessed Hugh Faringdon; Corinne Dishington – Service Manager Under 5s; Vanessa Hurdle – minute taker.

Item 1 – Welcome and apologies – Chair

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Nicola Panel read out the protocol for the virtual meeting and confirmed that votes would be required from eligible members for the following items:

5 – School Formula Options

6 – Growth Fund Allocation

7 – De-delegations

8 – Central & Early Years Retained Budgets

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

Item 2 – Minutes of the meeting held on 9 December 2021 – Chair

Minutes were agreed as an accurate record of the meeting from 9 December 2021. 

Matters arising:

  • Membership – Richard needed to confirm with Jo Budge that she wished to remain a member of the Schools’ Forum. Jo has confirmed that she does wish to remain a member.

Item 3 – Schools’ Forum membership update – Chair

Richard noted that quite a few members of the Forum are now reaching 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

Both Justine and Annal confirmed that they are happy to remain as members of the Forum. Richard will contact the rest of the members above for confirmation.

Aside from this, the Schools’ Forum remains at full membership.

Item 4 – DSG Budget Settlement for 2022/23 – Strategic Finance Business Partner

Steve Davies presented.

The LA received notification of its allocation on 17 December. Funding has increased by £5.6m. £2.8m of this is due to the Government increasing the rates, but a further £2.1m of this is due to pupil numbers increasing, mainly in the secondary sector.

The Schools block now has funding of £108m, which is an increase of 4.7%. This includes extra growth funding of just under £1m.

The allocation to the High Needs block has increased by £2.2m. Based on this a revised Deficit Recovery Plan will be brought to the Schools’ Forum in March to show the position going forward.

There is an increase in the Early Years funding rates, but it will be a case of Reading losing money as pupil numbers have decreased over the last couple of years.

Reading will also receive a Supplementary Funding Grant of just under £2.8m. Appendix 3 shows the estimated Supplementary funding allocations per school. This funding is over and above what the schools were expected to receive. Attention was drawn to the National Insurance increase that take place from April 2022. The DfE has been asked if there will be a separate grant for this and they have confirmed that there will be. No details have been provided as yet. It is hoped that the Supplementary Funding will not be seen as the grant to cover the NI increase.

Item 5 – Final school funding formula for 2022/23 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

Nicola Panel presented.

A vote is required for this item.

The final Schools Block funding has now been confirmed as £108.4m, with £0.9m of this to be used for growth funding. Part of the funding will be used for Green Park(£154k), with the remaining £779k to be used for bulge classes and other expansions.

After the transfer of funds to the High Needs block and deducting the growth funding, £107m will be available to allocate to primary and secondary schools through the funding formula. This is an increase of £4.7m compared to 2021/22. Of this £2.1m is due to an increase in pupil numbers, with the remaining £2.5m being real increases in a per pupil funding level.

Since receiving the allocations, it is now clear that it is not possible to 100% mirror the National Formula Funding (NFF) due to affordability. Two proposals for the funding formula are as follows:

Option 1 – All factors at the NFF rate (excluding lump sum), including the Area Cost Adjustment (ACA) for Reading. A lump sum of £105k and the Minimum Funding Guarantee at 1.75%.

Option 2 – All factors at the NFF rate (excluding lump sum), including the Area Cost Adjustment (ACA) for Reading reduced by 0.6%. A lump sum of £116,595 and the Minimum Funding Guarantee at 1.75%.

Nicola highlighted that there were some errors in the calculations:

Appendix 1, Page 30 – Overall change is 2.76% for primary schools and 6.77% for secondary schools

Overall change per pupil – 2.43% primary and 2.95% secondary

This is the same error for option 2 on page 32 – Overall change is 2.96% for primary schools and 6.77% for secondary schools

Overall change per pupil – 2.62% primary and 2.69% secondary

It was clarified that the calculations per school were correct, but that it was just the percentages that were incorrect.

Richard confirmed that the vote made by the Schools’ Forum would be an indication of what the Forum would like, but it remains up to BFfC as to which option they use. BFfC favours option 1.

10 members voted for Option 1

Items 6 – Growth Fund 2022/23 – Strategic Finance Business Partner

Steve Davies presented.

The Growth Fund allocation for 2022/23 is £933k. There is also a potential carry forward of £1.1m. This is higher than what was reported in 2021 due to bulge classes being factored in for September 2021, which did not materialise.

£154k of the £2m Growth Fund will be used for Green Park. The Schools’ Forum needs to approve the transfer of the £154k from the Growth Fund into the Formula. Steve confirmed that all members had the right to vote on this issue.

9 members voted for £154k to be transferred from the Growth Fund into the Formula

For 2022/23, Reading also has a commitment for bulge classes amounting to £551k. It may be a case that this commitment is not required. This will confirmed at the Schools’ Forum in the Autumn Term.

Appendix 1 details the Growth Fund for the period 21/22 to 24/25. The majority of the Growth Fund will be required in future years due to the new school, The River Academy, which should be established from September 2023. A carry forward has been factored in for the Academy, but it may be a case that there is enough funding to pay for the Academy. It has been estimated that £600k from the Growth Fund element will be required to pay for the Academy. This should then leave a surplus of £476k at the end of 24/25 in the Growth Fund reserve.

Steve wished to make the Forum aware that the Growth Fund could be used for schools with falling rolls. There was a falling rolls procedure that was previously established when there was an increase in numbers in the primary sector, but a decrease for secondary schools. Schools had to show that their numbers were likely to increase within three years. If numbers had fallen by more than 30 in year 7, then schools could apply to the Falling Rolls Fund.

Primary schools have never applied for this fund, but it was believed that it would be possible for them to do so. The Forum was asked if they would like BFfC to look into this situation further on behalf of the primary schools, as there are several primary schools now in this position. BFfC will clarify if it would be possible for primary schools to apply under the national criteria. A paper will be brought to the March Schools’ Forum confirming findings, and if possible, which schools will benefit from the funding.

Justine McMinn explained her school’s situation. The school was expanded some time ago, but has never been full. The school has irregular-sized year groups and a small year 6. However, the 22/23 budget will be based on the October 21 figures, but the school now has 31 more pupils since the census date. The funding for these extra pupils will be put into the 23/24 budget but that does not help in September 22 when extra classes will be needed as well as extra staff.

Steve explained that pupils who join schools after the October census can be included using the mobility factor and this provides some additional funding.

11 members voted yes to BFfC looking into the falling rolls issue

Item 7 – De-delegations 2022/23 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

Nicola Panel presented

Richard explained that a vote was required for this item. He hoped that just one vote per member could be given, rather than per service.

Nicola confirmed that the four de-delegations are:

  • Behaviour Support
  • Union Duties
  • School Improvement
  • General Duties

The de-delegations only apply to maintained schools. Table 1 sets out the current year rates plus the proposed changes for 2022/23, with some increasing and others decreasing. Some may decrease due to the fact that there are more pupils.

Sue Imbriano wished to make members aware that as per the Consultation that came out at the end of 2021 from the DfE on the School Improvement, Brokering and Monitoring Grant, the outcome has now been received. It will be reduced by 50% from April 2022, and will be phased out completely the following year. Sue, therefore, felt that going forward conversations will need to be held on School Improvement and what it will look like in the future.

12 members voted yes to the proposals for all 4 de-delegations

Item 8 – Central and Early Years retained budgets for 2022/23 – Strategic Finance Business Partner

Steve Davies presented

Overall the Central block has reduced slightly. The Central block is split into two areas. One is the core central block, which is based on pupil numbers and a rate. This area of the block has increased by £54k due to the rise in pupil numbers.

The second part of the block relates to historic commitments and is given as a lump sum. However, for the last three years, the amount has been reduced by 20%. This has resulted in a loss of £87k. Table 2 shows how this shortfall will be managed. Aside from the Copyright Licences, the Schools’ Forum has to agree all the other changes.

13 members agreed to all elements of the Central Block budget

The Early Years block is normally presented at the March Forum, together with the High Needs block. This will still happen, but the central elements of the Early Years block need to be approved prior to the March meeting.

The proposed increases mainly related to Payroll and the Early Years’ Team.

12 members approved the increases to the Early Years’ budget for 22/23

Item 9 – Agenda items for next meeting

The next meeting will be held on 10 March 2022 at 5pm as a virtual meeting

  • DSG budget monitoring month 11 21/22
  • Agree high needs budget for 2022/23
  • Agree early years budget for 2022/23
  • Agree Schools’ Forum dates for 2022/23
  • Review of falling rolls fund

Item 10 – Any other business

There was no other business. The meeting finished at 5.37pm.

Summary of actions outstanding

SF date and item number: 20/1/22 – 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

Responsible person: Richard Rolfe