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To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 17 September 2020 and note actions.
The minutes of the previous meeting held on 17 September 2020 were approved as a correct record.
64.1 Philip Haslett, the Head of Education Strategy and Development gave a presentation on the funding and support available to the school system during the Covid-19 pandemic. (For Information: A copy of the presentation slides covering each agenda item has been uploaded to the Council’s website.)
64.2 He reported that following submissions to the DfE in July 2020, the total amount of Covid-19 exceptional costs successfully claimed by maintained schools in Gloucestershire, against the standard three criteria, was £441,059. A further £228,689 had since been received and paid to 63 maintained schools - those schools had claimed for other costs not within the three standard categories, or had submitted a claim above their limit for the total of the three standard categories, which had since been approved for payment. The Forum noted that the ESFA had confirmed that it was making final assessments of the claims for other costs, for which it received a large number of claims in a wide range of categories. The ESFA was expected to inform schools of the outcome of this process by the end of November 2020.
64.3 The Forum noted that the ESFA and the DfE had made it clear that they did not expect there to be a further round of funding to support exceptional costs. This decision had caused concern for school leaders, local authorities, unions and education funding groups. The local authority was aiming to build a complete picture of the on-going exceptional costs to Gloucestershire’s schools, and the criticalness of schools continuing to track Covid-19 related costs was emphasised. Forum members were urged to convey this message to their colleagues and encourage the reporting of the exceptional costs to the local authority’s finance team.
64.4 The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the evidence from schools would help to create a clear picture of the on-going impact and would be used to support the F40 campaign for a further round of exceptional cost funding, moving into term 2. It was reported that to date, the finance team had received 50 responses from schools. The responses showed that those 50 schools had incurred collectively £385,119 of additional costs as a result of Covid-19, this was solely in relation to term 1. Pressures were expected to rise during term 2 as the tightened national restrictions commenced The Forum noted the latest letter from the F40 to the DfE which provided a detailed account of the Covid-19 related funding pressures in schools. It was reported that the F40 was due to meet with the DfE funding team to discuss the issues in detail.
64.5 The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that the priority areas for local Covid-19 funding and support were: Transition Chat - this project focused on supporting Year 11 students who were at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training); support to children and young people who, on return to school were struggling to access education and were at risk of exclusion; school ... view the full minutes text for item 64.
65.1 Sarah Hylton, Early Years Service Manager, presented the report which detailed the options for the use of the carried forward Early Years underspend, to support sufficiency following the increased risks on the Early Years provider market due to the impact of Covid-19.
65.2 The Early Years Service Manager explained that the fragility of the Early Years infrastructure had always presented a challenge to the sufficiency and quality of early education and childcare both locally and nationally, and that had now been further impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
65.3 It was reported that 260 responses had been received to a survey, circulated to all 702 Early Years providers, covering a number of areas to help gain an understanding of the impact of the pandemic. The information was collated to identify Early Years provision that reported cash flow and income/expenditure deficit as their primary concern. A through analysis was undertaken, together with further consultation with some providers to identify those settings at the highest risk of closure due to financial losses. In total, 36 settings had been identified as being at risk of closure with the potential loss of over 800 childcare places, -12 of those settings would potentially cause significant sufficiency challenges if childcare places could not be maintained through some means.
65.4 The Early Years Service manager explained that the local authority had considered how best to support those settings most at risk of closure, being mindful that if one of those settings was to close then it would have a knock-on effect across the whole sector – those settings that were at low risk of closure, could become high risk. She outlined to the Forum the options for the use of the carried forward Early Years underspend to support sufficiency.
65.5 The Forum recognised the importance of children having the best possible start in life, and that being able to access good quality, local early years provision was critical, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and therefore maintaining a good cross section of Early Years provision in the county was crucial.
65.6 Amanda Horniman, Early Years representative, made reference to the Covid-19 emergency fund for schools, and pointed out that there was no similar funding available for Early Years providers to claim for loss of income and additional costs incurred due to Covid-19. She emphasised that for some Early Years providers with a high percentage of private fee paying children, the wider impact of the pandemic on employment patterns meant that parents were choosing to keep their children at home, meaning that settings were experiencing financial losses and struggling to stay open.
65.7 Having considered the options, Forum members were in support of the carried forward Early Years underspend being used to support sufficiency following the increased risks on the Early Years provider market due to the impact of Covid-19. It was acknowledged however that further analysis of the business models and budgets, of each individual setting in financial difficulty, was needed to ensure that the settings ... view the full minutes text for item 65.
66.1 Philip Haslett, Head of Education Strategy and Development presented a report, which provided an update on the financial forecast for the 2020/21 High Needs budget, and an update on the progress of the Joint Additional Need and High Needs Transformation Programme.
66.2 He reported that there had been a number of significant movements in the reporting period, this was primarily due to the transition work that took place in September and a subsequent reworking of the mainstream and special school forecasts.
66.3 The Head of Education Strategy and Development drew the Forum’s attention to the key reasons for the movements, which were detailed in the report. He explained that overall, the forecast had moved closer to the original budget set in June. During the last period it was forecast a £306,700 underspend against budget. This period had seen that reduce to forecast underspend against budget of £173,700. He advised however that this should be treated with a degree of caution, as the special schools had been commissioned to capacity, and increases were now being seen in the independent special schools element of the High Needs Block, due to a number of complex, high cost, joint funded placements.
66.4 The Forum was informed that the key driver of the overspend continued to be the number of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) in the system, which had continued to rise as forecast. As at 1 October 2020 there were 4,185 active EHCPs, which was a rise of 103 since August 2020. There had also been an increase of 28% in the number of requests for EHCPs, in the most recent reporting period, (in comparison to the same period the previous year). He warned members that increases in this area would add more pressure to the High Needs budget.
66.5 A member questioned whether action was being taken by the local authority to improve on the timescales involved with the processing of an EHCP. She explained that in her personal experience there were significant delays from the point of a child needing an EHCP, to issuing, and at the stage of every annual review thereafter. In response, the Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the emerging data related specifically to new requests for EHCPs, and that the number of requests being processed within the statutory timescales (taking no more than 20 weeks from the date of the request until the plan was issued), was generally high and above the levels of other comparator local authorities. It was noted that the local authority would be reviewing the data to determine whether the rise was a consequence of the impact of Covid-19, and if so, whether more efficient solutions could provide support to children struggling to transition back to school, as opposed to locking into long-term statutory plans.
66.6 The Forum noted that officers would also be looking to determine whether the impact of Covid-19 was a factor in the significant rise in the number of permanent exclusions. Since the ... view the full minutes text for item 66.