Agenda and minutes

Gloucestershire Schools Forum - Thursday 17 June 2021 2.00 pm

Venue: REMOTE MEETING

Contact: Joanne Bolton - 01452 324197 

Items
No. Item

10.

Election of the Schools Forum Chair

To elect the Chair of the Schools Forum for a two year term of office.

Minutes:

Andrew Harris, Community representative, was duly elected as the Schools Forum Chair for a two year term of office.

11.

Election of the Vice Chair

To elect the Vice Chair of the Schools Forum for a two year term of office.

Minutes:

Peter Nolan, primary school governor (maintained), was duly elected as the Schools Forum Vice-Chair for a two year term of office.

12.

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. 

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

13.

Public Questions

To receive any public questions.

 

Questions can be asked on the day or sent to the Clerk before the

meeting. If you would like to ask a question on the day of the meeting, please contact the Clerk Joanne Bolton (email: joanne.bolton@gloucestershire.gov.uk) (Tel: 01452 324197), by 10:00am on Tuesday 12 June 2021, so that arrangements can be made as the meeting is being held remotely via video conferencing.

 

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

Minutes:

No public questions had been received.

14.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 113 KB

To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 14 January 2021 and note actions.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

14.1    The minutes of the previous meeting held on 14 January 2021, were approved as a correct record.

 

14.2    The Forum noted the progress against the actions from the previous meeting as outlined in the Action Sheet.  The following points were raised:

 

14.2.1The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that the local authority did not capture or hold information on the implementation of the 1 September 2020 pay award, in Gloucestershire’s schools and academies.  However, feedback received from the Human Resources team in Education was that broadly schools had been operating in line with the national recommendations.

 

14.2.2The Forum noted that a full review of the data around the recent rise in the number of requests for Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) was ongoing.  The results would be brought to a future Forum meeting.

 

14.2.3The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that work was ongoing to understand the context as to why some local authorities had no High Needs block deficit or a low deficit position.  The Local Authority will be meeting with representatives of local authorities in the South West, during the summer and early autumn to understand this issue in more detail.

15.

2020/21 Outturn and Maintained School Balances pdf icon PDF 299 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

15.1    The Head of Education Strategy and Development gave a presentation on the 2020/21 Outturn and Maintained School Balances.  The Forum was informed that the 2020/21 in-year Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) outturn position was an overspend of £3.480M resulting in a cumulative overspend of £11.892M, representing 2.48% of the 2020/21 gross DSG budget. There was a £0.750M Schools Block net underspend consisting of three elements: an underspend of £0.283M on the growth fund used to fund new schools and increases in basic need places; an in-year under spend of £0.292M on the de-delegated budgets that related to maintained schools only; and funds remaining after the closure of Saint Dominic’s Catholic School, Stroud.

 

15.2    He reported that there was also a surplus of £0.497M at the end of last year relating to dedelegated balances that was part of the net £8.412M deficit balance brought forward bringing the dedelegated surplus element of the DSG up to £0.789M. Although there was an overall net £11.892M DSG deficit being carried forward to 2021/22, that contained surplus commitments relating to the £0.789M maintained schools dedelegated budgets and an Early Years DSG surplus of £0.989M.

 

15.3    The Forum was informed that Early Years finished with a £0.989M under-spend in 2020/21. The under-spend related to lower than expected payments for nursery education and the delayed use of project funding due to COVID-19. The carry forward would be used to cover the time lag in any adjustments in funding due to revised activity levels following the January and May census and continue with the planned projects.

 

15.4    The Forum noted that the outturn position for the High Needs Block at the end of 2020/21 was a deficit of £5.119M. 

 

15.5    The Forum agreed that the DSG deficit balance at the end of 2020/21 be earmarked, as shown in the report and carried forward to 2021/22.

 

15.6    A member raised a concern that the EHCP process was stalling in Gloucestershire’s schools due to a lack of educational psychologist provision - without the EHCPs in place schools were unable to receive the associated funding to support the child. The Director of Children’s Services explained that there was a national shortage of educational psychologists and therefore their recruitment and retention was challenging.  The local authority was undertaking the initiative ‘grow our own’ in an aim to stabilise the workforce, thereby replicating the approach developed for retaining social workers.  The approach had been very successful in reducing the reliance on agency social workers. Engaging private educational psychologists as part of the framework was also being considered. The workflows from schools had  increased disproportionately over the last three years with requests for EHCPs growing by an extra 300-350 requests each year which was  unsustainable.  Therefore the issue was not just related to the availability of educational psychologists which remained largely the same but also to the growing demand for EHCPs put forward by schools. The Forum noted this as an area of concern, and it was acknowledged that whilst the local authority did  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

16.

High Needs pdf icon PDF 583 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

16.1    The Head of Education Strategy and Development set out the proposed budget for 2021/22 and the forecast budget position for the following 2 years.  In-year a deficit budget of £5.449M was set for High Needs to reflect a realistic position considering growth trends and activity demands on special school and independent provision and top up budgets. At year end the outturn was £330k below that budget resulting in a final overspend of £5,119,200.  He explained that the local authority’s three-year plan showed the in-year overspend reducing to £1,794,574 in 2022/23 and a surplus of £419,563 in 2023/24.  Officers were confident that a slowing down in the use of higher cost specialist placements, the impact of early intervention work and the continued rise in funding would generate the improved position.

 

16.2    The Head of Education Strategy and Development advised the Forum that increasing top-up funding at this stage would put the High Needs budget recovery at risk.   A decision to increase all top-up funding by 2% would result in a cumulative total cost over the three years of around £4M.

 

16.3    Special school representatives on the Forum strongly emphasised the point that the financial situation in special schools had become untenable. They reported that top-up values had increased slightly once since they were set in 2013, however the complexity of pupils in the schools had risen hugely in that time resulting in the need for increased staff:pupil ratios due to complex medical issues and extreme challenging behaviour, all resulting in increased costs and pressure on staff. Representatives of mainstream schools also echoed those concerns – stressing just how much financial pressure schools that had high levels of children with SEND were under.   Whilst there was recognition and understanding of the local authority’s plan to drive down the deficit and achieve a balanced High Needs budget, there was strong support for this not to be at the expense of freezing top-up funding. Members acknowledged that would add even more pressure on the already stretched budgets of special schools and inclusive mainstream schools. Without sufficient funding schools would not be able to meet the increasingly complex needs of children coming into the system. 

 

16.4    A Forum member referred to the local authority’s three-year forecast for the High Needs budget, and suggested that in order to understand the dire financial pressures schools were under, consideration should also be given to the three-year plans for individual schools. In response, the Head of Education and Strategy explained that this was a collective deficit within the Dedicated Schools Grant. Whilst the local authority had oversight of the High Needs Block, all funding was allocated to education institutions. He added that whilst ultimately the decision to freeze top-ups values rested with the local authority, the view of the Forum was crucial in providing an understanding how it would affect schools. However, this had to be balanced against the overall funding picture of a significant High Needs Block deficit.

 

16.5    A special school representative suggested that a similar  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

DSG Early Years Block 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 316 KB

Minutes:

17.1    The Forum received an update on the use of the Early Years block in 2021/22 and considered a proposal

to fund cross border requests for free entitlement from parents in Gloucestershire using Welsh settings.

 

17.2    The Forum agreed the use of the Early Years block as set out in the report. 

 

17.3    The Forum was informed that currently parents living in Gloucestershire could not claim the extended child care offer of 30 hours in a Welsh setting.  This primarily affected 3-4 years olds, with a loss of around 20 hours funding for those opting to use welsh settings.  There was no clear mechanism in place to address the issue, resulting in a lack of equity.

 

17.4    The Forum noted that there were 76 early years childcare settings in England within 10 miles of the Gloucestershire border and 72 Welsh settings within 10 miles of the Gloucestershire border. On average, the local authority received 2 queries per month from parents wanting to use a Welsh setting to access the full entitlement.  Potential costs based on an estimated 2 out of county childcare requests per month claiming for a 2-year period would be £148k.

 

17.5    The Forum agreed to the use of the Early Years block to fund cross boarder requests based on the set criteria as set out in the report.

18.

Annual Review of the Gloucestershire Schools Forum Constitution pdf icon PDF 308 KB

Minutes:

18.1    The Forum received a report which detailed the proposed amendments to the Constitution and the options for holding future Forum meetings.

 

18.2    The Forum agreed the proposed amendments to the Schools Forum Constitution to reflect that The School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2021 amended The Schools Forums (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 to make permanent provisions to enable schools forum meetings to be held remotely.

 

18.3    The Forum considered the options for holding future Forum meetings and it was agreed that the September 2021 Forum meeting would be held remotely, and in recognition of the value of holding some of the Forum meetings as physical in person meetings, the November 2021 meeting would likely be held in Shire Hall (dependant on national announcements regarding the easing of COVID-19 restrictions).  The options for holding Forum meetings next year, including hybrid meetings, would be considered at a later date.

19.

F40 and Covid-19 Update

Minutes:

19.1    The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that a £1.4 billion package of support from government had been announced, consisting of: 

 

Ø    £1 billion investment to transform the availability and approach to tuition in every school and college over the next three years, making sure when teachers identified a disadvantaged child in need of support as a result of the pandemic, extra support was available.  He commented that the local authority would be sending out information to schools on how they could access and make use of that funding.

Ø    £153M would provide the opportunity for evidence-based professional development for early years practitioners, including through new programmes focusing on key areas such as speech and language development for the youngest children.

Ø    £253M would expand existing teacher training and development to give 500,000 school teachers the opportunity to access world-leading training appropriate for whatever point they were at in their career, from new teachers to headteachers

 

19.2    The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that he had attended the f40 Executive Group meeting on 14 June 2021.  The priorities of the group remained focussed on the delivery of a fair National Funding Formula (NFF), and the group had been meeting with the DfE Funding Team to work on that.   It was expected that consultation with local authorities on the roll out of the hard NFF would take place in 2021.  He explained that it was important to note that the roll out of the hard NFF was not expected to have a huge impact on the way the funding system worked in Gloucestershire, as the local formula already aligned closely with the proposed hard NFF.

20.

Schools Forum Meeting Dates in 2022

To note the future meeting dates:

 

2021

Thursday 16 September at 2:00pm

Thursday 11 November at 2:00pm:

 

2022

Thursday 13 January at 2:00pm

Thursday 16 June at 2:00pm

Thursday 15 September at 2:00pm

Thursday 10 November at 2:00pm

Minutes:

The Forum noted the future meeting dates:    

 

2021

Thursday 16 September at 2:00pm

Thursday 11 November at 2:00pm


2022

Thursday 13 January at 2:00pm

Thursday 16 June at 2:00pm

Thursday 15 September at 2:00pm

Thursday 10 November at 2:00pm