Agenda and minutes

Gloucestershire Schools Forum - Wednesday 22 November 2023 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Shire Hall, Gloucester

Contact: Joanne Bolton - 01452 324197 

Items
No. Item

1.

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.

2.

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 Monday 20 November 2023, 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.

3.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 136 KB

To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 14 September 2023 and note actions.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 14 September 2023 were approved as a correct record.

4.

School Funding 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 532 KB

Minutes:

4.1      The Head of Education Strategy and Development gave a presentation on

the implications of government indicative announcements on school funding for 2024/25.

 

4.2      The Forum was informed that the DfE first published the 2024/25 National Funding Formula (NFF) and indicative 2024/25 Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) in July 2023.  However, following the discovery of a technical error made by the DfE’s officials during the initial calculations in relation to pupil numbers, an update was made to the schools NFF in October 2023.  This error meant that nationally the overall cost of the schools NFF was underestimated, and incorrect factor values were published in July 2023.  The report before the Forum contained the new, corrected, factor values.  The DfE’s correction to the Schools block 2024/25 indicative DSG was a reduction of £4.345M.

 

4.3      The Forum considered the revised 2024/25 indicative DSG block summary.  The Schools block (indicative) allocation had increased by 1.8%, 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 DSG allocation of 2%.  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 explained that in the last two years there had been adjustments following increases to education spending announced through the Autumn Statement, which had been delivered through additional grants.  The Autumn Statement 2023 had only recently been announced but it looked like there would be no further increases to school funding. Consequently, it appeared that subject to changes based on the October census in relation to pupil numbers, the indicative DSG figures represented the final allocation for 2024/24.

 

4.5      He informed the Forum that this was concerning as the uplift to the Schools block DSG allocation in 2023/24 was a 6.8% increase.  He also pointed out that, similarly, the uplift to the High Needs block allocation of 3.4% in 2024/25 (£3.169M) was significantly lower than the increase in 2023/24 of £8.782M (10.4%).

 

4.6      The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that the impact of the DfE’s adjustments to the DSG following the error, meant that the Minimum Per Pupil Funding Level (MPPFL) had reduced by approximately 1%.  Based on the revised allocations, the estimated difference for a 300 place primary school would be around £13,500 less than the figures presented to the Forum in September, and the estimated difference for a 900 place secondary school would be around £49,500 less. 

 

4.7      He informed members that in 2024/25 there would be 28 less primary schools on the Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG) and 3 less primary schools on the MPPFL; there was no movement in the number of secondary schools.  Overall, this represented a move towards all schools being at the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Early Years (To Follow) pdf icon PDF 145 KB

Minutes:

5.1      Roz Nelson, Forum member representing Early Years, presented a report which provided a summary of the changes and challenges for the Early Years sector, following the announcements on the Early Years and Childcare Reforms in the Government's Spring Budget 2023.  She emphasised that final details were still awaited and therefore it was difficult for providers to make any plans for staffing and provision.

 

5.2      The Forum was informed that the expansion of the funded childcare offer would be rolled out in stages over the period Autumn 2023-September 2026 (as outlined in the report accompanying the agenda). 

 

5.3      The Early Years representative reported that at the introduction of the new entitlements from 2024 to 2025, the average funding rate for local authorities for under 2-year-olds would be around £11 per hour.  This was the amount the local authority received.  Local authorities were permitted to retain up to 5%, therefore the hourly rate passed to providers was significantly lower.  The hourly rate differed across local authorities; the Gloucestershire rate was typically slightly lower than the national average.  The majority of the 5% that was retained by GCC was contributed to the C&FC contract value, that currently did not deliver any Early Years services.  In addition, if 80% of additionally eligible parents choose to take up the offer, in Gloucestershire up to 5000 additional childcare places could be needed.  The sector was already reporting significant staff recruitment and retention challenges, forcing many to close some of their rooms and in some cases the whole provision.  Also, there were concerns around the potential impact on the quality of Early Years provision given that providers continued to be clear that the funding attached to entitlements does not meet actual costs.

 

5.4      Members were informed that a consultation had been undertaken with the sector to establish how many settings anticipated they would offer a full or partial expanded offer and what support they would need from the local authority to achieve this.  Around 50% said they anticipated they would consider expanding their offer, but all said they were unable to commit to this until further information and funding rates had been provided by the DfE.

 

5.5      It was reported that the Early Years DSG funding rates received by GCC and paid to Early Years providers remained below the national average.  Low funding rates in the sector, along with increased service delivery costs, was the primary factor in the surge in the number of settings closing across the county and the country.  In addition, the announced uplift was unlikely to cover the minimum wage for staff.

5.6      The Government was proceeding with changing staff: child ratios from 1:4 to 1:5 for two-year-olds in England to align with Scotland and bring the UK in line with other countries.  The Early Years sector was concerned that this plan risked compromising the children’s quality of education and the care that children received potentially putting their basic safety and wellbeing in jeopardy.  It would potentially add further pressure  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

High Needs pdf icon PDF 289 KB

Minutes:

6.1      The Head of Education Strategy and Development presented a report which provided an update on the High Needs financial forecast for 2023/24, the current numbers of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), plus the planning of specialist sufficiency and DfE – SEND and Alternative Provision Change reforms.

 

6.2      He reported that there had been a further rise of £1.56M in forecast spend.  The key variations to note were a £1.5M increase in spend on independent placements, increased pressure on Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) and special school bespoke packages, and small increases in secondary mainstream top-ups and specialist centres.

 

6.3      Members were informed that the local authority would be undertaking a detailed review of the forecast of independent placements and would update more fully at the January Schools Forum meeting when the position was clear.

 

6.4      In response to a question, the Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that independent special schools in the county were monitored by the local authority’s Specialist Commissioning Team, so they received regular reviews and the quality of provision was good.  However, the local authority was committed to making sure that there was sufficient capacity within the county’s special schools to reduce the reliance on the independent sector.  Nationally, independent special schools were a critical element of the infrastructure within the SEND system and there would always be a need for some independent schools within the system. 

 

6.5      In response to a question, it was agreed that the Forum would be provided with a breakdown of the number of children, by age range, attending independent special schools.

ACTION:Head of Education Strategy and Development.

 

6.6      The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported since the last Forum meeting in September the number of EHCPs supported in Gloucestershire had risen by 108 to 5,734 and 32.9 per 1000 0–24-year-olds.  The data showed that the significant majority of new plans were issued prior to the age of 10 and that the volume of EHCP’s in the system was peaking between the ages of 11 and 14.   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.

 

6.7      It was reported that the local authority was working on the assumption that in the next few years the number of EHCPs at statutory school age would start to level off.  This would mean that the increased need for specialist placements should also start to settle. 

 

6.8      The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that Gloucestershire’s High Needs block allocation was the 10th lowest per pupil in the country.  This clearly demonstrated that Gloucestershire did not receive an equitable level of High Needs funding.  The High Needs block deficit had grown by £29M over the past two financial years (£9M in 2022/23 and £15.2M in 23/24).  He pointed out that whilst the High Needs block was under significant pressure, school budgets were also under increasing pressure, which presented a challenging  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

F40 Update

Minutes:

7.1      The Head of Education Strategy and Development gave an update on the recent activities of the f40 Group.  He reported that over the last few months the priority had been informing manifesto’s ahead of a General Election.

 

7.2      The f40 Group was asking for:

 

Schools:

Ø   Fast-track the implementation of the NFF to address inequity.

Ø   Move SEND proxy factors above the MPPL.

SEND:

Ø   £4.6b cash investment.

Ø   Review of the High Needs funding formula.

Ø   Increased capital funding and pause of the free school programme.

 

Activities of the f40 Group:

Ø   Letter to chancellor signed by 37 MPs.

Ø   Briefings for MPs in Westminster.

Ø   Meeting with David Johnston,

Ø   Meeting with Bridget Phillipson.

Ø   Re-launch of Collaboration Group with CCN, LGA and Unions.

Ø   Seeking SEND debate on the house floor.

 

7.3      As Deputy Chair of the f40 Group, the Head of Education Strategy and Development commented that he would be keen to hear from Forum members if they felt there were any issues not being given the profile they should be in the f40 Group’s publications that were circulated to the Forum.

 

7.4      In response to a question, the Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the f40 Group would be looking at the issue of how the timing of the additional grants, and the periods for which they were supposed to support schools, fitted with the cost pressures that schools were facing.  He would also look at whether it would be possible (given the short timescale involved), to provide information at the next Forum meeting on the impact of this at school level, giving an example of a primary and secondary school.

ACTION: Head of Education Strategy and Development.

8.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting of Gloucestershire Schools Forum will take place at 2:00pm on Thursday 11 January 2024.  The meeting will be held in the Council Chamber of Shire Hall.

Minutes:

The next meeting of Gloucestershire Schools Forum will take place at 2:00pm on Thursday 11th January 2024.  The meeting will be held in-person in the Council Chamber, Shire Hall.