Agenda and minutes

Gloucestershire Schools Forum - Thursday 12 January 2023 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Contact: Joanne Bolton - 01452 324197 

No. Item


Declarations of Interest

Members of the Forum must declare an interest in any agenda item where the outcome may give them a direct pecuniary advantage or avoid a disadvantage.  A form is available at the back of the meeting room.


No declarations of interest were made.


Public Questions

To receive any public questions.  Questions can be asked on the day or sent to the Clerk before the meeting.  A written answer will be provided if questions are received 3 clear working days before the date of the meeting.  The Chair will advise timescale for any questions asked on the day of the meeting or received less than 3 working days before the meeting.


No public questions had been received.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 126 KB

To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 10 November 2022 and note actions.

Additional documents:


3.1      The minutes of the previous meeting held on 10 November 2022, were approved as a correct record.


3.2      Members noted progress against the actions, as detailed in the Action Sheet.


Gloucestershire County Council Budget Consultation 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 743 KB

Additional documents:


4.1      The Finance Business Partner gave an overview of the County Council budget proposals and provided details on the specific budget information relating to Children and Families.  (For information: a copy of the presentation sides covering each agenda item has been uploaded to the Council’s website.)


4.2      A Forum member questioned whether the local authority had received external advice on how the significant overspend variances could be prevented in future years, particularly in regard to safeguarding staff costs (£3.2M).  In response, the Finance Business Partner explained that there were challenges in attracting and retaining social workers in Gloucestershire, this was also a national issue.  The local authority had received external advice on its recruitment and retention plans for social workers. In addition, a successful social work academy model had been developed.  The aim of the academy was to attract, train, and develop a local workforce. 


4.3      The Forum was informed that final approval of the budget would be considered at the Cabinet meeting on 25 January 2023 and at the Full Council meeting on 15 February 2023.


4.4      The Forum noted the report.


De-delegated Funding: Targeted Intervention pdf icon PDF 211 KB


5.1      The Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion provided an update on next steps regarding de-delegation of targeted school intervention funding for local authority maintained schools.


5.2      He explained that the report prepared for the November Forum was attached at Annex A to the report for reference. The report provided detail of how the funding was used and the impact that it had in supporting local authority maintained schools that were at risk, either educationally or financially. 


5.3      The Forum agreed, at its previous meeting on 10 November 2022, to delay the decision on de-delegated funding so that further clarification on the funding could be provided to the Gloucestershire Association of Primary Headteachers (GAPH).  Following the last Forum meeting, the Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion met with GAPH representatives and it was agreed to progress de-delegation rates as recommended for 2023/24; to undertake a full review of de-delegation in the spring term; and to develop a stronger working relationship between the school Improvement team and GAPH.


5.4      Sarah Murphy, Forum member representing Trade Unions, indicated that she would be willing to attend a future meeting of GAPH, to provide information on how the de-delegated funding for union facilities time was used.


5.5      Forum members representing primary maintained schools, who were present at the meeting, approved de-delegation at the per pupil rate (£9.27) for targeted intervention for primary maintained schools.


Dedicated Schools Grant 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 506 KB


6.1      The Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion presented the report on the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) for 2023/24.


6.2      He reported that the 2023/24 DSG announced on 19th December 2022 totalled £589.344M.  This included an extra £3.676M in the High Needs block that was on top of the indicative High Needs total in September. An additional Mainstream Schools Additional Grant (MSAG) was also announced of £18.998M, giving total funding of £604.666M.  This represented an increase in funding of £41.247M (7.3%) from the current 2022/23 DSG and supplementary grant total.  After taking into account the previously agreed growth fund of £1.0M, the funds allocated in the DSG Schools block settlement were just enough to allow each formula factor rate and the minimum funding levels to be implemented 100% at the NFF level and for the MFG to be set at the same +0.5% level as the funding floor within the NFF.


6.3      This left a £0.092M balance in the 2023/24 Schools block.  The local authority was proposing that this be used to provide a contribution towards the High Needs targeted funding model (currently the 1 in 40 model).  He emphasised that there had been a steady decline over the past few years in the amount of funding remaining and contributing to the High Needs model, from £0.882M 3 years ago.  If the trend continued there were concerns that it may not be possible to 100% fund the NFF in future years and officers were aware of some local authorities where they had indicated they would be unable to 100% fund the NFF for their schools in 2023/24.


6.4      The Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion reported that there had been significant increases in pupils with Free School Meals (FSMs) and English as an Additional Language (EAL).  The mainstream pupil unit totals used by the DfE to allocate the final DSG were set in the summer and therefore before the census increases.  The increase in FSMs can be attributed to the current wider economic situation and for EAL to a significant number of children from Ukraine coming to the county.  The local authority, and the f40 group, were seeking clarification from the DfE about the plans to take account of these new funding pressures.


6.5      It was reported that the £15.322M (3.5%) additional funding for mainstream schools would be received as a separate grant (MSAG).  This grant would be provided separately to the DSG budget allocations, in a similar way to how the supplementary grant was provided in 2022/23, and like that grant would be rolled into the DSG in the following year.


6.6      The Forum was informed that for Early Years, the funding announcements on 19th December 2022 included an increase in the hourly funding rates by 26p for three and four year olds and 8p for two year olds.  In addition to this increase there was an increase of £61,808 to the Disability Access Fund and an increase of £11,083 for Pupil Premium, giving an overall increase to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Early Years Funding 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 180 KB


7.1      The Head of Early Years presented a report which set out the Early Years context in Gloucestershire, the proposed distribution of the hourly rate increases for 2023/24, and provided options for how the carried forward balances could be best used.


7.2      The Head of Early Years explained that the proposal was for the entire hourly rate increase to be passed through to providers and for a consultation to be undertaken with providers on a number of options in respect of the Early Years formula, including deprivation payments for 3 and 4-year-olds. 


7.3      The local authority’s recommendation to pass the entire hourly rate increase to providers, rather than to retain an element of funding for central services, was due to the last two years being particularly challenging for the sector.  The sector had been significantly affected by the long-term impact of the Covid pandemic.  The difficulties surrounding the introduction of the 30 hours funded childcare offer from government, and staffing and business sustainability, had all increased in recent times. 


7.4      It was evident from recent discussions with providers that even with the increase in hourly rates passed through for distribution, there would still be a number of settings with significant budget deficits due to increases in overheads and staff wages.


7.5      It was reported that the rising costs and the low hourly childcare rate had led to nurseries struggling to ensure long term sustainability.  This was resulting in an increase in the number of settings closing or reporting that they were at risk of closure.  This was a national issue affecting all local authorities.


7.6      In response to a question, the Head of Early Years explained that the Early Years Alliance, a national body representing the sector, undertakes lobbying and campaigning work on key areas of concern, including the level of hourly funding rates. 


7.7      One member requested information on the number of settings closing in Gloucestershire.  She pointed out that the rise in the number of private settings closing, was increasing the pressure on budgets of primary maintained schools with school nurseries attached, as demand for places grew without sufficient funding to meet need.  She was concerned that this may develop into a significant issue, and suggested it may need to be identified by the f40 group as an area of focus within its campaign work.


7.8      The Head of Early Years explained that the Gloucestershire Childcare Sufficiency Duty report, published on the Council’s website, contained information on the number of settings in the county and the closures between the period June 2021 – June 2022.  An interim sufficiency report which would detail this information for the period between June 2022 and December 2022 was due to be published at the end of January 2023.  Web-links to the reports would be circulated to members.

ACTION: Head of Early Years.


7.9      Members were informed that the recent sufficiency assessment had identified that whilst the number of providers in the county was reducing, the number of places was increasing.  There was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


High Needs pdf icon PDF 1 MB


8.1      The Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion presented a report which provided an update on the 2022/23 High Needs financial forecast, the current growth trends in Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP), and the options for use of the additional £3.676M High Needs DSG for 2023/24.


8.2      The Forum was informed that the pressure on the High Needs budget had continued to increase.  Since the November Forum meeting, which reported the September 2022 forecast, there had been a number of further adjustments to the forecast for the year.  The net result of those adjustments was a further increase in expenditure of £1.597M, resulting in an in-year deficit of £8.5M.  


8.3      There had been a number of movements in the reporting period, but the most significant factor was the increase in mainstream funding forecasts.  This was caused by a continued and extensive rise in EHCPs, which was significantly more than forecast.  At 30th November 2022, 235 new plans had been issued in this academic year (3 months), which compared to 162 in the same period in the 2021/22 academic year.  At current rates, the number of new plans issued could exceed 900 this academic year.


8.4      Members were informed that the continued increase in the requests for EHCPs had placed significant pressure on the casework team that managed the process, resulting in delays to issuing and resourcing plans.  As a result, the local authority had agreed that funding for delayed plans would be backdated to the statutory deadline (20 weeks).  The cost of doing this was £381k.


8.5      Whilst new benchmarking data was awaited, the latest data set showed that the number of pupils with EHCPs in the county was still lower than the national average.  Information on the new data would be circuited to Forum members once published. 

            ACTION: Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion.


8.6      In response to a question, the Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion explained that there had been a steady increase in the requests for EHCP assessments from parents and carers over the course of the past few years.  He commented that the cultural change in trend regarding the source of EHCP requests could be linked to the 2014 reforms to the SEND system which placed more emphasis on parental engagement.  He agreed to provide members with the latest data on the source of EHCPs requests in the county.

            ACTION: Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion.


8.7      The Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion outlined the proposals for the implementation of the common banding system.  He explained that the funding levels for the banding system now needed to be agreed ahead of the new financial year.  The implementation of a common banding system was neither to increase nor reduce spend in High Needs.  The aim was to develop a better structured and consistent system across the county, replicating existing funding levels through a banded funding model.


8.8      In response to a question, it was clarified that the severn bands would be used across both  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Schools Forum Workplan 2023 pdf icon PDF 168 KB


Members noted the workplan for 2023.


Schools Forum Elections 2023 pdf icon PDF 146 KB


The Clerk to the Forum presented a report which outlined the plans for the Schools Forum Elections 2023.


Members noted the report.


Date of next meeting

The next meeting of Gloucestershire Schools Forum will take place at 2:00pm on Thursday 15 June 2023.


Members noted that the next meeting would take place at 2:00pm on 15 June 2023.