Venue: REMOTE MEETING
Contact: Joanne Bolton - 01452 324197
Election of the Schools Forum Vice Chair
To elect a Vice Chair of the Schools Forum.
Rachel Howie, Gloucester Diocese representative, was duly elected Vice Chair of the Schools Forum (until June 2023).
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.
No declarations of interest were made.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org) (Tel: 01452 324197), by 10:00am on Tuesday 11 January 2022, 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.
No public questions had been received.
To agree the minutes of the previous meeting held on 11 November 2021 and note actions.
Notes of the meeting on the proposed changes to the School Improvement Grant, held on 9 December 2021, attached for information.
4.1 The minutes of the previous meeting held on 11 November 2022, were approved as a correct record.
4.2 The Head of Education Strategy and Development gave an update on the School Improvement Grant changes. He reported that the DfE had now published the consultation response. This confirmed that the grant would reduce by 50% for the financial year 2022/23 and that the grant would end in 2023/24. The local authority held a consultation meeting with a group of stakeholders in December 2021, to discuss the impact of the loss of this grant and to explore the potential solutions to mitigate the loss. He informed members that the notes of the meeting were attached to the Action Sheet. He explained that now the outcome of the consultation had been published, the local authority would be consulting with the group of stakeholders again to work on formulating a proposal for the future funding of school improvement activities. The local authority’s final proposals would be considered at the next Forum meeting on 30 March 2022.
4.3 Following a request at the November Forum meeting, members were provided with a detailed briefing on the pressures and challenges being experienced by the Council’s Home to School Transport Service, and the resulting impact on the budget. Members were advised that whilst decisions on the funding of Home to School Transport were not within the Forum’s areas of responsibility, it was linked to certain areas that were. For example, the rising cost of SEND transport which was in part due to the continuing growth in Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) (30% rise over the last 3 years).
4.4 The Forum noted that many SEN transport routes were being retendered by the Integrated Transport Unit (ITU) through the framework. In light of the current lack of competition (due to economic and pandemic related reasons), this was resulting in significantly higher contract costs (in some cases 2-3 times higher). A member referred to the example outlined in the report which detailed a quote for a 6-mile journey costing £365 a day (£71,000 per academic year), and commented that this did not represent the best use of public funds. A question was asked on whether this was reasonable grounds to decline a specifically named place (rather than local provision), on the basis that it would impact on the provision of the efficient education of others. The Head of Education Strategy and Development acknowledged that due to the current lack of competition, the Council was in effect being forced into a situation where it had to spend a significant amount of public money to cover some of the home to school journeys. He explained that he would need to check the statutory guidance and provide an answer in due course.
ACTION: The Head of Education Strategy and Development
4.5 A member representing Special School Headteachers on the Forum emphasised how difficult it was for the officers in the School Transport Team to manage the logistical challenge of ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
5.1 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.)
5.2 Forum members were reminded that the budget consultation was open until 12:00pm on 21 January 2022 and they could respond individually if they so wished. It was noted that final approval of the budget would be considered at the Cabinet meeting on 26 January 2022 and at the Full Council meeting on 16 February 2022.
5.3 The Forum noted the report.
6.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development presented the report on the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) for 2022/23.
7.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development presented the report on the 2021/22 High Needs forecast and the current growth trends in Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP).
7.2 He reported that since the Schools Forum meeting in September 2021 there had been a further £613,000 increase in forecast expenditure, resulting in a forecast in-year deficit of just over £5.7M. The increased forecast expenditure was being driven by higher than forecast EHCP costs. The growth trend for EHCPs requests had continued to rise throughout the autumn terms. January 2021 to December 2021 saw an increase of 425 plans. The assumption was that that there would be an increase of 450 plans in the full 12-month period – 100 more plans than budgeted for. This had resulted in forecast expenditure for Primary EHCP costs increasing by £230k, Secondary EHCP costs by £120k and the cost of specialist placements by £250k.
7.3 The Forum was informed that the forecast deficit position for 2021/22 of £5.7M was greater than the previous year (£5.4M). The local authority had set out with the aim to see an improved position this year, but the 2% increase in top-up rates, significant increases in support for EHCPs in Post-16 and further education and the increase in initial requests for EHCPs had meant that the LA has been unable to reduce the in-year deficit position.
7.4 A table showing Gloucestershire’s position in comparison to the national picture and that of Gloucestershire’s statistical neighbours was presented. The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that despite the growth Gloucestershire was experiencing, the percentage of the population supported by an EHCP in Gloucestershire was lower in both instances. It was therefore evident that Gloucestershire was not an outlier in terms of the pressures that the SEND service was facing. The local authority therefore wanted to avoid making reactionary local decisions that would negatively affect the quality of provision for children with additional needs, when this was clearly a national issue requiring national reform.
7.5 The Forum noted the draft 5-year plan. The Head of Education Strategy and Development emphasised that refining and being clear on the assumptions regarding EHCP growth would be critical for the local authority to lay out an effective 5-year plan that could bring the High Needs budget back into a balanced in-year position. The Forum agreed that the development of the forecast and the underlying assumptions would be a priority for the High Needs Budget Working Group in the spring term. The local authority planned to test the assumptions contained within the draft 5-year plan with the Group, looking at the impact of the adjustments, before the plan was brought to the Forum meeting in June 2022 for approval.
7.6 The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the local authority had based its forecasting on the premise that the additional funding coming into the High Needs Block over the past three financial years would continue going forward. The DfE had very recently announced that ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
8.1 The Forum received the Workplan for 2022.
8.2 It was noted that the key priorities for the Schools Forum in 2022 were: mainstream funding; Early Years funding; High Needs funding; and a reassessment of the role and impact of the Forum in light of its statutory responsibilities, current priorities in school funding and developments in government guidance.
8.3 The High Needs Budget Working Group which had been established to support the design and implementation of a new approach to funding SEND, would be meeting throughout 2022. The next meeting of the Group was on 7 February 2022.
8.4 The Forum noted the Workplan for 2022.
F40 and Covid-19 Update
9.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development updated the Forum on the work of the F40 Group. He reported that the key priority areas for the F40 Group were: fair funding for all; sufficiency of school funding; SEND funding and the publication of the SEND review; sufficiency of Early Years funding; and accessibility of capital funding. There were a number of upcoming briefing sessions involving the F40 Group, the DfE funding policy team and ministers to talk through those core issues.
9.2 He emphasised the significance of the F40 group in influencing high level decision making; he agreed to keep the Forum up to date on developments and ensure that the views of Gloucestershire Schools Forum were represented at the meetings of the F40.
9.3 The Head of Education and Strategy agreed to circulate the F40’s latest campaign document once it became available.
ACTION: Head of Education Strategy and Development.
Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Schools Forum will take place on Wednesday 30 March 2022 at 2:00pm.
The Forum noted the date of the next meeting – 2:00 pm on Wednesday 30 March 2022.