Schools’ Forum Meeting Minutes – 14 January 2021

Members present

Justine McMinn – Head Teacher of E P Collier; Cathy Doberska – Head Teacher of English Martyrs; 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; Simon Uttley – Head Teacher of Blessed Hugh Faringdon; Richard Pearse – Principal of Churchend; Isabelle Sandy – Business Manager of Kendrick; Claire Brown – Business Manager of Prospect School (substitute); Marie Belcher – Finance Director of Reading School (Substitute); John Salberg – Principal of The Wren; Symon Cooke – Head Teacher of The Avenue; Mandy Wilton – Head of Cranbury College; Ita McGullion – Manager of Kennet Day Nursery; Alison McNamara – NEU.


Jo Budge – Executive Head Teacher of Reading Early Years Schools Federation; Julia Cottee – Governor at Reading Early Years Schools Federation; Robert Howell – Head Teacher of Alfred Sutton; Tonia Crossman – Head Teacher of Emmer Green; Karen Edwards – Head Teacher of The Heights; Rachel Cave – Head Teacher of Highdown School; Annal Nayyar – Finance Director of Bayliss Trust (Reading Girls); Lee Smith – Head Teacher of Holy Brook; Charlotte Morgan – Reading College.

In attendance

Cllr Ashley Pearce – Lead Member for Education; Ann McDonnell – Business Manager of Blessed Hugh Faringdon; Kate Reynolds – Director of Education & Research; Claire White – Schools & DSG Business Partner; Clare Warren – School Support Lead; Steven Davies – Strategic Business Partner; Siobhan Egan – Service Manager IT & Data Intelligence; Corinne Dishington – Service Manager Under 5s; Steph Heaps – Observer; Vanessa Hurdle – minute taker.


Item 1 – Welcome and apologies – Chair

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Claire White introduced Steph Heaps. Steph is taking over from Claire, though Claire will be staying until the end of April to help Steph learn the role.

Ashley Pearse thanked all school staff for their efforts, especially this month with the return to school followed immediately by another lockdown and the need to deliver on-line lessons within a matter of hours.

Claire White read out the protocol for the virtual meeting and confirmed who was eligible to vote and for which votes. Recording of the meeting commenced. The recording will be retained until the minutes have been approved.

Apologies were noted.

Item 3 – Minutes of the meeting held on 3 December 2020 – Chair

Minutes were agreed as an accurate record of the meeting from the 3 December 2020.

Matters arising:

  • Academy Membership – The Academies have still not named a fifth Secondary school member. Isabelle Sandy confirmed that she has still not heard back from Ashley Robson, Head of Reading School, despite contacting him twice. She will email him again. It was suggested that the observer from Reading School might also wish to mention the vacancy to him. Alternatively, the Secondary Academies could find someone else as their fifth member.
  • Full Costing of Resource Provision – Claire explained that this has not happened. Data has been received from two schools, but she is still waiting for information from other schools. If need be, she will just use the data provided by these two schools and bring a report to the March meeting.

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

Richard re-iterated that the Forum had full membership, apart from the name of the fifth Academy Secondary member.

Item 4 – DSG Budget Overview for 2021/22 including announcements made in December 2020 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

Claire White Presented.

The allocations for the DSG funding for 2021/22 were published by the Government on 17 December 2020. Overall there has been an increase of £10.3m, which is 7.8% and means that the total of the DSG has increased to £142.3m. However, it should be noted that this figure includes the teachers’ pay and pension grants of £4.634m. Without this, the real increase is 4.3%, or £5.673m.

The Schools Block has increased by £7.945m to £103.481m. If the grants and growth fund are excluded, then this is an increase of 4.4% or just over £4m. The key thing to note is that pupil numbers have increased in the secondary sector. On a per pupil level, the real increase is 3.2%.

The Central Schools Block has decreased due to the phasing out of funding for historical commitments.

In the High Needs Block the increase, excluding the additions for grants, is just under £2m, or 8.78%.

In the Early Years Block, the increase is just 6 pence per hour for 3 and 4 year olds, and 8 pence for 2 year olds. If the January 2020 census figures are used, then the increase will be just £0.145m. The Government has still not confirmed which census will be used for this allocation. There is a concern if the January 2021 census is used for funding Summer 2021 as numbers are likely to be much lower now compared to the summer due to the pandemic.

There is no change to the values for the Pupil Premium Grant. This funding will be been based on the October 2020 census, rather than January 2021. No further announcements have been made regarding grants, but it has been confirmed that the Free School Meals Supplementary Grant will not continue after the February 2021 payment.

The second part of the report relates to the requirements for setting the DSG budget for 2021/22.

The school funding formula and Central Schools Services Block budget is discussed in a further report.

Funding for the High Needs Block will be just under £2m. Currently the deficit is estimated to be £2.3m. Most, if not all, of the funding will be needed for increased top-up costs next year. The number of places, plus the costs for out of borough placements continue to rise. Based on current numbers, there would be an increase of £0.845m in 2021/22, and this is without inflation and additional numbers being taken into account.

Additional places also needed to be budgeted for as part of the long-term strategy not to send pupils out of borough. This is expected to cost around £350k but will lead to savings in the long term. There is also likely to be increases to the central budget.

As has previously been stated, there is a great deal of uncertainty with the Early Years Block. It is expected that the full increase will be passed on. It is hoped that it will be possible to bring the proposed budget to the March 2021 meeting.

Ita McGullion queried the Early Years rates being used in Appendix 1. Claire explained that the funding received is on a different basis to how it is paid out. The funding is based on the January census, but is paid out according to actual numbers for each term, so in setting the rate for the year it has to be estimated what the actual number of hours will be. Central costs are also deducted from the available funding, which may be up to 5%. Surpluses and deficits from previous years are also taken into account. There is currently a surplus, which can provide a buffer for when the numbers don’t tie up.

Item 5 – Final School Funding Formula for 2021/22 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

Claire White presented

The final allocation, based on the October 2020 census, was received just before Christmas 2020. After deducting for the growth funding and the transfer to the High Needs block, there is £102.445m to be allocated to primary and secondary schools. This means that all the factors can be increased to the National Formula Funding values including the area cost adjustment except the lump sum which will increase by 1.74%. There was a concern that there may have been a shortfall, but the budget the Government’s decision to freeze Business Rates next year has helped this position.

Appendix 2 shows the allocations per school for 2021/22. Academies need to note that the totals include business rates, which will not be included when they receive their funding from ESFA. When the grants that have been added are excluded, the overall increase for primary schools is 3.4% and for secondary 2.47%. The increases will vary according to whether schools are on the minimum per pupil funding level. These schools may see much larger increases. Those schools on 4% or above previously tended not to receive much funding through the additional funding factors such as deprivation and low prior attainment. The minimum funding guarantee has been built in at 2% increase per pupil. Any schools showing a per pupil increase of less than 2%, this is due to the lump sum, which is excluded from the minimum funding guarantee calculation.

For schools that are showing a reduction to their funding, this is due to lower pupil numbers. Schools would expect to see this decrease.

When the National Funding Formula is eventually introduced, it will not make a big difference to the budgets that schools receive. Similar funding increases are expected to be received next year as this is the second year of a three-year commitment of additional funding to schools.

Item 6 – De-delegation for 2021/22 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

Claire White presented.

The Schools Forum has the responsibility of re-approving the de-delegations annually. There are four services for maintained Primaries and two for maintained Secondaries. Academies and non-mainstream schools are not included in this vote.

The total costs for the four services remain unchanged, but the per pupil amounts will vary according to the number of pupils in the maintained sector.

All 5 maintained primary school members voted yes to continuing with each of the services offered for 2021/22: Behaviour Support at £100.51 per FSM pupil; Union Duties at £4.58 per pupil; School Improvement at £12.47 per pupil; and General Duties at £7.80 per pupil. None against.
The 1 maintained secondary school member voted yes to continue with each of the services offered for 2021/22: School Improvement at £12.47 per pupil; and General Duties at £7.80 per pupil. None against.

Item 7 – Central School Services Block Budget for 2021/22 – Schools/DSG Business Partners

Claire White presented.

The Schools’ Forum is required to approve the budget as set out in table 2.

The funding has decreased to £1.167m as the funding received for historic commitments is going down by 20% per year. This is the second year of this reduction.

A balanced budget has been set by reducing the budget for some of these historic commitments. The Schools Forum has to vote on all the separate items except for Copyright Licences, which remains a local authority decision.

12 members agreed to all the budget lines as set out in Table 2 with none against.

Item 8 – DSG Budget Monitoring 2020/21 – Month 9 – Schools/DSG Business Partner

Claire White presented.

The funding allocation remains the same and has not changed since July. No changes are expected, except for Early Years when it is eventually known how it will be funded for the spring term.

There is also very little change to the overall budget position from what was reported in December 2020. The end of year deficit is still expected to be £1.473m which is £701k reduction from the original deficit.

The table in paragraph 4.3 shows the key variances. The two major underspends – the growth fund and the early years’ contingency – are ringfenced and don’t count against the deficit. There is an overspend in the High Needs block and this counts towards the deficit.

The underspend in the Schools Block is due to the growth fund and is a planned underspend. It is needed going forward and has been ringfenced.

A contingency is needed in the Early Years block due to all the current uncertainty. The contingency stands at just under £200k.

The top up forecast for the High Needs block has not changed very much since the previous report. It is forecast that there will be a spend of £16.003m on top-ups, which is £461k over budget. The bigger variances are in the non-maintained and independent sector. This is currently £374k overspent and has 14 additional placements compared to the budget. The second area showing an increase in costs is Alternative Provision – alternative placements outside of the PRU. These placements tend to be short-term, but the forecast assumes those pupils will remain in the placement until the end of the financial year. Not all of the costs will materialise as pupils move to different placements. It is, therefore, hoped that the current forecast of an overspend of £16.003m will not increase much more than this, and may even decrease.

The current estimate for the Recovery Plan is that the deficit in the High Needs block will increase by £202k. it was originally estimated that the total deficit would be £1.787m. it is now forecast that it will be £2.293m and means that re-payment of the deficit will shift from 2022/23 to 2023/24. It should be noted, however, that further costs will need to built into the budget, which could increase the deficit even more in future years. This position is still good in comparison to other Local Authorities, which are seeing their deficits double within the current financial year.

Item 9 – SEND Update, including review of resource provision funding – Director of Education

Kate Reynolds presented.

Kate asked if the School Forum still required her to report at every meeting, or if a more detailed report should come periodically. A lot of the work that is being done is now feeding into other reports on the agenda.

3.1 Progress to Date – It should be noted that there is a typo here. The narrative states that there are 1,413 pupils with EHCPs, whilst the table shows 1, 464 pupils. The table is correct. Kate was pleased to announce that in both September and December 2020, 100% of EHCPs were issued in the statutory timeframe. This compares to January 2020, when only 47% of EHCPs were issued within the statutory deadline. Thanks were expressed to the SEN team for this achievement.

The report shows the range of projects that are currently in progress:

  • Capital investment – there is investment in schools, together with the expansion of the provision that is available, particularly for ASD and AMH. The new Oak Tree Special School is due to open in September 2022.
  • Social & Communication Difficulties Provision in Primary Schools – This will be in Southcote which has already opened and North Reading.
  • Early Years Provision
  • Secondary Provision
  • Revision of Service Level Agreements with Schools, plus the admissions process. First admissions Panel, in relation to resourced provision, will take place this January.
  • Revenue Funding – Review of the costings of provision to be undertaken.
  • Alternative Provision – The provision needs to be fit for purpose. Mandy Wilton is leading in this area.

The current SEND Strategy will finish in 2022. The strategy will be further reviewed in 2021 and the refresh reported to Schools Forum for consideration. The new process will be Berkshire-wide. A new process for supporting children at a much earlier age will be piloted in 2021. A new Quality Assurance Scheme has also been put into place so that all plans are assessed externally to check that they are clear, fit for purpose and to ensure that the voice of the child is central to the plan.

Item 10 – Agenda items for next meeting

The next meeting will be held on 11 March 2021. This will also need to be virtual.

  • High Needs Block Budget for 2021/22
  • Early Years Block Budget for 2021/22
  • Budget Monitoring 2020/21 month 11 (including update on deficit recovery plan)
  • SEND update and review of top up bandings
  • Update to Scheme for Financing Schools
  • Schools’ Forum meetings 2021/22

Items 11 – Any other business

There were no items of any other business and the meeting finished at 17.55.

Summary of actions outstanding

SF Date and Item numberAction requiredResponsible person
3/12/20 – item 2Academy membership – 5th secondary school representative to be decidedIsabelle Sandy has followed up with Ashley Robson twice and not had a response. She will try again.
3/12/20 – item 8Full costing of all resource provision to be brought to Schools’ Forum in January 2021Claire White. As at January 2021, data from two schools received, others will be chased. To report to Schools’ Forum in March.
3/12/20 – item 8Options Appraisal for all 5 options for future top up funding to be brought to Schools Forum in March 2021Kate Reynolds has engaged Project Manager to lead on this
3/12/20 – item 9Progress report on the AP review to be brought to Schools’ Forum in March 2021Mandy Wilton
Last updated on 21/02/2021