38.1 Stewart King, Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills, presented the detailed report which outlined the government announcements on school funding and the resulting approach to the funding formula for mainstream schools in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
38.2 The Forum was informed that as a consequence of the announcements the Schools Block for Gloucestershire would increase by 1.94% for 2018/19 and a further 1.08% for 2019/20. The introduction of a minimum per-pupil element had had a major impact on the outcome of the NFF for Gloucestershire secondary schools, particularly those with low levels of additional needs. The Forum noted that all schools would gain from the 0.5% uplift in the baseline. Members of the Forum felt strongly however that whilst schools would see an increase to their budgets, in real terms, this would not cover the increasing costs for schools.
38.3 The Forum considered Annex A to the report which showed a comparison between the 2017/18 baseline funding and the NFF for each school in Gloucestershire. Annex B to the report showed a comparison between the current Gloucestershire and the revised NFF. The Forum noted that there were still significant differences between the two formulas; a key one being that the basic amount per-pupil was still lower in the NFF despite the uplift in the revised NFF.
38.4 The Finance Manager, Schools Strategy and Capital, informed the Forum that for 2018/19 and 2019/20, as expected, the funding allocation would comprise of the NFF allocation for each school aggregated to local authority level. He tabled a copy of a spreadsheet which set out the DfE Schools Block Totals in each local authority in England; (For Information: A copy has been uploaded to the Council’s website and will be included in the signed copy of the Minute Book).
38.5 The Finance Manager informed the Forum that officers across the local authorities had concerns about the Authority Proforma Tool (APT) which must be used to submit the formula to the DfE. Currently the tool did not include the capping and floor mechanisms used by the DfE to calculate the NFF and used different methods for certain calculations such as the minimum pupil funding. Numerous local authorities had asked the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) if they would provide a copy of the APT that they could use that replicated the NFF but they had been told this would not be possible and the ESFA confirmed that local authorities would not be able to replicate the NFF when they allocated funds to schools . He explained that as a consequence of this they would not be able to deliver a formula for Gloucestershire schools that, as proposed by the Forum, closely replicated the NFF.
38.6 A question was raised on whether a request could be made for a mechanism, to be included within the formula, to reallocate the total figure obtained through the capping of school budgets, back to schools, via an increase to the basic per-pupil allocation. In response, the Finance Manager explained that in theory, it would be possible to put in a disapplication for this. However, if the capped figure was put back in, then this would result in it being allocated back to the schools which had had their budgets capped, as otherwise this would need to involve two different funding rates within the formula. It was highly likely this would not be allowed; he emphasised that the main expectation was that the local authority used the ESFA’s issued APT and the calculation and allocation methods within it to allocate funds to schools.
38.7 The Forum acknowledged that the proposed National Funding Formula did not represent what had been campaigned for. However, the Forum agreed that as the full implementation of the NFF was forthcoming it would be prudent to commence the adjustment towards it as rapidly as possible. The Forum therefore agreed that the school funding formula for 2018/19 should be calculated using the following methodology:
Ø Set the centrally retained budget for growth at exactly the same figure the DfE has included within the Schools Block for 2018/19 based on historic funding.
Ø Ensure all schools receive a minimum 0.5% per pupil increase in 2018-19 compared to their baselines.This will be done by setting the MFG at plus 0.5%. NB this approach will need DfE approval.
Ø Apply the DfE minimum per pupil rates quoted for 2018/19 at £3,300 Primary and £4,600 Secondary.
Ø Apply all the NFF factors and data provided by the DfE (e.g. include the Sparsity factor and for Deprivation use the current FSM, FSM6 and all the IDACI measures).
Ø Set the cap at a level that exactly equals the MFG cost.
Ø Set the factor allocation rates in proportion to the NFF rates quoted by the DfE, but all scaled by the same percentage to equal the school block funding remaining available for delegation. This will be less than, 100%.
Ø Complete the APT provided by the ESFA to calculate the final allocations to schools.
38.8 Officers emphasised that the High Needs budget was under huge pressure. The latest forecast was for an overspend of around £800,000 in 2017/18. The Forum considered whether a transfer from the Schools Block to off-set the overspend, should be made. It was noted that the ability for movement between blocks under the NFF would cease from 2020/21. The Forum was therefore in support of no transfer being made for 2018/19. Members acknowledged that it could only be a one-off transfer and that school budgets were under great pressure too. As a result, members felt that the focus should continue to be on working with schools on new approaches to identifying and meeting additional needs.
38.9 The Forum considered the proposals for de-delegations. Andrew Steward, the Forum’s Trade Union Representative, presented the report on Local Authority Teaching Union Facilities 2017. He was accompanied by Sarah Murphy (NUT / NEU).
38.10 Mr Steward emphasised the importance of the de-delegation for union facilities, explaining that the funding allowed teaching unions to provide Gloucestershire schools access to effective statutory and collective consultation, bargaining and individual representation from trained and accredited local teaching union officials. School leaders and managers also had access to a valuable resource in the resolution of workplace issues and disputes. The funding paid for the availability of county representatives to respond to schools’ issues. He commented that he hoped the Forum would continue to support the unions through this de-delegation.
38.11 In response to a question, Mr Steward clarified that academies choose whether to procure the union facilities service, and the focus was on ensuring that they did, to avoid any ramifications for academies of not doing so.
38.12 The Forum noted the breakdown of how facilities time was spent in 2016-17 by NUT, ATL and NAS, trade unions
38.13 The Forum’s maintained schools’ representatives (by sector) agreed de-delegation at the per pupil rates shown in the report for:
Ø In-year increases in pupil numbers – primary.
Ø Targeted intervention – primary.
Ø Union facilities – primary.
Ø Local authorities’ statutory duties for maintained schools.
38.14 In response to a question, the Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills confirmed that he fully expected de-delegation to continue for the next two years, and also after full implementation of the NFF in 2020/21.
38.15 The Forum agreed that the policy for primary pupil number increases between October Census dates above thresholds, should remain unchanged.
38.16 It was reported that the Central Schools Services Block comprised funding for ongoing responsibilities to fund local authorities for the statutory duties that they held for both maintained school and academies. It was comprised of four budgets: Copyright License charge; co-ordination of admissions; Schools Forum costs, and centrally retained duties. For 2018/19 onwards, the central funding would be allocated to local authorities based on a national average rate. Officers reported that Gloucestershire would lose approximately £100,000 (4%) by the end of 2019/20 as a result.
38.17 The Forum was informed of the timetable of key events from now up until the submission of the formula to the DfE on 19 January 2018. It was reported that full consultation would be undertaken with schools in November and this would include evening briefing meetings on dates to be arranged. The Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills agreed to consult with Chris Widden, Chair of Gloucestershire Governors’ Association (GGA) , outside of the meeting, to discuss how the GGA could assist with the consultation.
ACTION: Stewart King.