Venue: Remote Meeting
Contact: Joanne Bolton - 01452 324197
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.
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No public questions had been received.
To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 13 January 2022 and note actions.
The minutes of the previous meeting held on 13 January 2022 were approved as a correct record.
14.1 Phil Haslett, Head of Education Strategy and Development, presented a report which set out the Early Years context in Gloucestershire, the proposed use of the Early Years Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) block for 2022/23 including the retained amount and the options for how best to use the surplus.
14.2 He reported that the Early Years block for 2022/23 was announced by the DfE in December 2021 and totalled £34.897 million. The allocated hourly rate for 2022/23 was an increase of 21p per hour for two-year-olds to £5.65 per hour and 17p per hour for three and four-year-olds to £4.61 per hour. In January 2022 the Schools Forum approved the proposal that the increases were added to the hourly rate passed to providers for both 2-year-olds and 3 and 4-year-olds. It was also agreed at the January meeting that there would be a consultation with Early Years providers on a number of options (set out in Section 4 of the report) in respect of the Early Years’ formula including deprivation payments for 3 and 4-year-olds.
14.3 It was confirmed that the Early Years Forum had agreed to implement Option 1 for the distribution of the additional allocated increase of 17p per hour for 3 and 4-year-olds. This had been communicated to the Early Years sector and would be applied from April 2022.
14.4 The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that the fragility of the Early Years infrastructure had been further impacted by the national pandemic and this continued to present challenges in relation to the sufficiency of places and quality of early education and childcare both locally and nationally. An interim sufficiency assessment completed by the local authority in January 2022 had highlighted emerging sufficiency concerns in the Stroud and Dursley areas of the county and also highlighted the continued risks to provider sustainability due to a combination of cost and funding pressures. He explained that the investment to support Early Years & Childcare sufficiency (£250k) would enable the local authority to continue its work with providers at risk of closure and maintain its duty to have a sufficient provision of good quality childcare available across the county.
14.5 The Forum received details on the proposal to commission a 12-month pilot of Early Years Specialist Assessment Provision for early years children with special educational needs. Members were informed that due to the current pressure on the specialist places in the county, access to assessment provision was challenging. The aim of the pilot was to determine whether by putting in place Early Years Specialist Assessment Provision, this would help to alleviate pressure and ensure children with special needs received support and assessment within the Early Years sector at the right time, avoiding any delays.
14.6 The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that the possibility of transferring the underspend from the Early Years block to offset overspends in other parts of the DSG was considered. However, given that Early Years funding was low in Gloucestershire creating viability and ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
15.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development presented the report which set out the options and a preferred solution to the funding pressures created by the removal of the School Improvement Monitoring & Brokering Grant. Members noted that on 9th December 2021 the local authority held a briefing meeting with key stakeholders, including maintained schools headteachers and chairs of the headteachers associations. The focus of the session was to explore the issues created by the DfE consultation and potential solutions to the proposed loss of funding.
15.2 He reported that in early January 2022, the DfE’s consultation response was published, confirming that the grant would be removed over the next two financial years. A 50% reduction in 2022/23 and full removal in 2023/24. This would result in a loss of circa £360,000 in 2022/23 and £720,000 in 2023/24. A further meeting was held with the heads associations and representatives of maintained schools on 2nd March 2022, during which the local authority shared and discussed the report which set out the proposals on how, in the short-term, the loss of funding could be addressed in the most effective and equitable way.
15.3 The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the first option the local authority considered was to use de-delegation from maintained schools to recoup the lost funding. This was suggested by the DfE in the consultation. However, de-delegation has to operate on a per-pupil basis rather than a whole-school budget top-slice. The regulations also stated that it must be applied equally to all maintained schools. As a result, all maintained schools in Gloucestershire would pay the same amount at a rate of approximately £9 per pupil. It was recognised that school improvement was a whole school activity and as such, a per-pupil funding was a difficult approach to apply equitably for all schools.
15.4 The second option the local authority considered was to bridge the funding gap using a combination of de-delegated balances, the Central Services block, and a reduction in intervention funding that the Local Authority could offer to schools.
15.5 It was reported that de-delegated balances were forecast to carry a surplus at the end of the financial year. The proposal was for £100k of the surplus to be used to support the loss of the grant. This would leave very little contingency in the budget; however, it was a budget that was consistently underspent.
15.6 The Head of Education Strategy and Development informed members that a reduction in the school improvement intervention budget may limit the local authority’s ability to provide additional funding to maintained schools that need intervention or school improvement support. This may mean that the local authority would no longer be in a position to provide funding to schools with a budget surplus, instead the local authority would need to focus the provision of funding to support schools that had a deficit budget position or were close to a deficit position. He stressed that it would not reduce the ... view the full minutes text for item 15.
16.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development, informed members that he had been appointed to the role of Deputy Chair of the f40 Executive Group. He explained that the priorities for the f40 Group were fair funding, sufficiency of funding, SEND and High Needs, capital funding and Early Years.
16.2 He presented a graph which showed the variation in funding of the gross Dedicated Schools Grant Allocation per mainstream pupil by local authority (December 2021). He pointed out that it showed a significant variation in funding between local authorities particularly to those located in London, which received a much higher allocation. The f40 group represented a group of the lowest funded education authorities in England. The key purpose of the f40 Group was to influence change in the way the government allocated funding to local authorities and schools, with a focus on removing the current inequities.
16.3 He reported that in terms of recent activity, the f40 Group held its annual conference for all local authority members, to gather views on the core issues ahead of a DfE briefing meeting with the Funding Policy Team. The f40 Group held a briefing for MPs on 21 March 2022, this also focussed on those specific funding issues within the education system, highlighting the key areas of concern. A letter had been drafted to the Chancellor from f40 MPs urging him to level up education funding and to provide more funding, including for SEND. He agreed to circulate to the Forum, the letter to the Chancellor, and the documents that were used at the MP’s briefing.
ACTION: Head of Education Strategy and Development.
16.4 Members were informed that the core focus of the f40 Group continued to be the campaign for equity in the National Funding Formula. In addition, following the recent publication of the Government’s SEND review, the f40 Group would be increasing its focus and working closely with the Government on High Needs funding.
16.5 The Head of Education Strategy and Development urged members to contact him direct if they felt that there was a particular funding issue that was not already being addressed.
Date of next meeting
The next meeting of the Schools Forum will take place at 2:00pm on Thursday 16 June 2022.
The Forum noted that the next meeting of the Schools Forum would take place on 16 June 2022 at 2:00pm.