Venue: Council Chamber - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions
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. A form is available at the back of the meeting room.
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. 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.
To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 12 July 2023 and note actions.
3.1 The minutes of the previous meeting held on 12 July 2023, were approved as a correct record.
3.2 In response to a question, the clerk explained that whilst the current plan was to continue with alternate in-person Forum meetings, as some members found remote meetings more convenient, this would be kept under review.
4.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development gave a presentation on School Funding for 2024/25. The Forum considered the implications of government indicative announcements on school funding for 2024/25, and the proposed funding formula method to use for Gloucestershire’s schools and academies.
4.2 The Forum noted that the Schools block (indicative) allocation had increased by 2.8%, the High Needs block allocation had increased by 3.4%, the Central School Services block by 3.9%, and the Early Years block had not yet been updated by the DfE so was currently showing at 0% change, resulting in an overall forecast increase to the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) allocation of 2.7%.
4.3 The final DSG position would be presented at the 11th January 2024 Schools Forum meeting after being updated for the final DSG and revised pupil data due to be announced in December 2023.
4.4 The Head of Education Strategy and Development presented the changes and clarifications to the National Funding Formula (NFF) for 2024/25. The Forum noted that:
Ø The Mainstream Schools Additional Grant had been rolled into the NFF.
Ø The NFF core factors (such as basic per-pupil funding, and the lump sum that all schools attract) would increase by 2.4%.
Ø The national formula for split-site funding had been implemented for 2024/25 and would increase funding.
Ø The funding floor was set at 0.5%.
Ø The Minimum Per Pupil Level (MPPL) increased to £4,655 for primary and £6,050 for secondary schools.
4.5 The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the changes to the NFF were broadly comparable to the position at this stage last year, except for deprivation factors which had attracted smaller increases for 2024/25.
4.6 The DfE had announced additional grant funding for schools’ teachers’ pay costs. This totalled £4.6M for the Mainstream Schools Allocation and the Special and Alternative Provision allocation was £0.4M. The additional funding would be paid as a separate grant in 2023/24 (covering September 2023 to March 2024) and in 2024/25 (covering the whole year) and would be on top of the NFF in both 2023/24 and 2024/25.
4.7 He explained that there was still currently no definitive date by when all schools funding would be provided via a direct NFF, however the DfE had previously stated this would be no later than 2027/28. In Gloucestershire, the NFF was already being mirrored as closely as possible so the local authority and School Forum’s role in the distribution of school funding remained unchanged for 2024/25.
4.8 In response to a question, it was explained that the funding floor would only affect schools which had received no increase in funding for 2024/25, after all allocations had been made. It ensured that those schools’ allocations would increase by a minimum percentage every year compared to the baseline. If the funding floor was set at 0% instead of 0.5%, those schools would receive no increase in funding from the previous year. Local authorities applied the funding floor through the Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG); ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
5.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development provided an update on the High Needs financial forecast for 2024/25. He explained that at the Schools Forum meeting in July 2023, a forecast deficit budget was set at £12.819M. In early forecasts there has been some movement in expenditure in a number of budget lines. The key variances were:
Ø Special school top-up funding and special school bespoke packages - £230k & £290k due to increase in complexity of need in special schools.
Ø Alternative Provision – Glos Hospital Education - £179k due to increased referrals and opening of a new school.
Ø Education other than at school - £200k due to increased demand.
5.3 It was reported that the number of children supported by a EHCP was continuing to rise, predominantly through requests for new plans for children aged 0-10. The latest dataset included updated national and statistical neighbour comparator data for January 2023. This showed that despite the continued growth, Gloucestershire still had proportionally less EHCPs per 1000 than both comparators and the rate of growth had also been slower. Locally the rate of growth between January 2022 and January 2023 was 2.5 per 1000, compared to 2.6 nationally and 3.5 per 1000 for statistical neighbours. Therefore, Gloucestershire was not an outlier in terms of the level of need coming through the system and was in line with what was happening nationally. The current trend was in line with the assumptions that underpinned the budget forecast. At this stage, variance in expenditure was predominantly driven by the cost of placements, rather than a further change in EHCP growth.
5.4 The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the local authority had now completed the final stage of the Delivering Better Value (DBV) in SEND Programme grant application. As part of the final stage of assurance, the DfE had asked the local authority to review 5 areas where they believed there was potential for further mitigation that could have an impact on the 5-year plan. The local authority had submitted the outcome of this review to the DfE; it was hoped that the local authority would receive the grant funding within the next few weeks. The 5-year financial model and the DSG management plan would be presented to the Forum at the November 2023 meeting.
5.5 He reported that none of the mitigations identified were able to fully address the rising deficit that was accumulating. The local authority in its engagement with the DfE would continue to make it clear that locally there were deep concerns about the in-equity of funding.
5.6 In response to a question, the Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that internal conversations had taken place regarding the expansion of mainstream school resource base provision for children with additional needs. This was ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
6.1 Gareth Vine, Joint Head of Service for Education Planning & Infrastructure, presented a report on Education Capital. The Forum noted the revised annual budget for the 2024/25 Schools capital programme was £14.170M. The financial year spend as at the end of July 2023 was £2.609M.
6.2 The Forum received an update on the key specialist development activities that were underway in order to meet the growing demand for special school places. The Forum noted that:
Ø The Sladewood Primary Special School, in Stroud, a new 60-place special school for primary aged children with Moderate and Additional Learning Difficulties opened its doors at the start of this term.
Ø Following the unsuccessful free school bids seeking 400 additional places, plans were in place to use capital funding to deliver a 200-place special school. It would be built on land owned by the County Council, which was allocated for education purposes, at Wheatridge East in Abbeydale in Gloucester. Subject to planning approval, it was planned for the new school to open in 2026. The local authority would shortly be launching a competition to identity a suitably experienced Academy Trust to run the new school.
Ø The new 20 place primary Social, Emotional and Mental Health provision at the Heart of the Forest Community Special School, was due to be handed over at the end of September 2023.
6.3 In the mainstream sector, the new primary school - Greenacres Primary Academy located in Bishop’s Cleeve, would be part of the Gloucestershire Learning Alliance MAT and was required to meet the additional growth in the area from September 2025. The plans for the new school, Greenacres Primary Academy, were delayed due to a deferral of the decision on the planning application over concerns regarding parent parking and access issues.
6.4 The Forum was informed that as part of the local authority’s annual School Capacity return to the DfE, which collected information on the demand and supply of mainstream school places, the local authority was required to include data relating to the demand and supply for special school places in Gloucestershire. It was therefore anticipated that the local authority would secure further basic need capital in the future to deliver additional special school places.
6.5 The impact of the global economic downturn was continuing to increase supply chain costs of some key materials on projects of up to 40%. This was having an impact on the cost of schemes which the local authority was seeking to address with schools and contractors and assess the need for mitigation measures to ensure continuity of school provision.
6.6 In response to a question, the Joint Head of Service for Education Planning & Infrastructure, explained that officers had been evaluating all local authority maintained schools which fell within the criteria for potentially having Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC). Approximately 4-5 schools had been identified as needing a more detailed survey undertaken, and these were being managed by GCC’s Asset Management and Property Services surveyors working with the schools to arrange ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
7.1 The Head of Education Strategy and Development gave an update on the recent activities of the f40 Group. He reported that on 12th September 2023 the f40 Group had met with the DfE’s funding policy teams and apprised them of all the current issues around school funding. Later that day the f40 Group presented a cross-party briefing to MPs in Westminster. The briefing was well attended by both MPs and researchers and was focussed on the crisis in SEND and the unfairness of education funding.
7.2 He explained that there was an opportunity for headteachers to become involved in future meetings of the f40 Group. He emphasised that it would be of great value to have additional Gloucestershire representation at the meetings specifically in regard to providing a school’s perspective on the key funding issues.
Date of next meeting
The next meeting of the Schools Forum will take place at 2:00pm on Thursday 9 November 2023. The meeting will be held remotely.
The next meeting of Gloucestershire Schools Forum will take place at 2:00pm on Thursday 9th November 2023. The meeting will be held remotely via Microsoft Teams.