Agenda item

Dedicated Schools Grant 2020/21

Minutes:

The Head of Education Strategy and Development presented the detail of the report which identified that the funding position for 2020/2021 represented an increase in the total Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) of £27.6m (6.1%) from the current 2019/20 DSG.

 

The Head of Education Strategy and Development informed the Forum that after taking into account the previously agreed growth fund of £1.5m, the funds remaining in the schools block settlement were enough to allow each formula factor rate and the minimum funding levels to be implemented 100% at the National Funding Formula (NFF) level and for the minimum funding guarantee (MFG) to be set at +1.84%.

 

The Forum noted that this was in line with the factor rates that were reported at the indicative budget stage at the 14 November 2019 Forum meeting; the only change being to use the updated census data numbers which produced the summary formula and which were included in the report at Annex A.

 

It was explained that this left a balance of £0.882m in the 2020/21 schools block. The Local Authority (LA) proposal was that this balance be used as a one off contribution towards the high needs block. It was for the Schools Forum to agree, or not, to this proposal. However, it was noted that if the Schools Forum did not agree to the proposal the DfE would adjudicate.

 

The Forum was informed that the LA proposal was broken down into three parts; that the balance on the schools block to be used by the High Needs block as follows:-

Ø  Support for management of attendance - £43,000,

Ø  Additional capacity for the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) - £16,000,

Ø  Use £0.823m to partially offset the costs of the 1 in 40.

 

For information the Schools Forum had received an additional report discussing attendance and the additional MASH capacity and the Head of Service for the MASH was in attendance to engage with members with regard to the MASH.

The modelling exercises and discussions that had been undertaken by officers were explained to enable members to understand the factors underlying the LA proposal.

 

Forum members engaged in a robust debate to test the principles underlying this proposal, what alternative options had been considered, and whether this would be the most effective use of this money. The Director of Education, Head of Education Strategy and Development, the Finance Manager – Schools Strategy and Capital and the Finance Business Partner Strategic Finance responded to the many questions from Forum members.

 

The main points of the discussion were: -

Ø  That the outcome from the modelling demonstrated that there was not a way of apportioning the £0.882m balance in the schools block such that all schools would receive an equal amount. If allocated it would result in some schools being on the National Funding Formula and others above it;

Ø  Concern from forum members that using this money in this way undermined the national argument that High Needs were under funded;

Ø  That if this money was allocated through the funding formula a number of schools would not receive any money;

Ø  That the DfE was clear that only the NFF factors could be used; local funding formulas or one off allocations of funding were not allowed;

Ø  That the forum had previously agreed that the LA should allocate funding to match the NFF as far as was possible and that was what the proposed formula would do;

Ø  That  the forum needed to carefully consider the relationship between the schools and high needs funding blocks in its decision making as they were intrinsically linked;

Ø  That it was difficult to support any proposal that took money away from the schools block;

Ø  That the current funding of the 1 in 40 from High Needs block was a direct transfer of High Needs funding to the schools block and the £0.882m transfer would partially support this;

Ø  Members acknowledged the significant pressures on the high needs block;

Ø  Members recognised that pupils with high levels of need needed support;

Ø  That some schools, both primary and secondary, were disproportionately affected by the number of high need pupils on their roll(s);

Ø  That utilising some of the surplus amount to support the MASH and attendance work to the benefit of all schools was a positive option.

 

Following a robust and challenging debate, acknowledging that the LA put forward this proposal in good faith to support the High Needs block and therefore vulnerable pupils, and that the alternative options put forward by some Forum members were not viable, the Schools Forum agreed to recommend that the balance on the schools block could be moved to the High Needs block to be used as a one-off contribution in 2020/21 as follows:

Ø  Support for management of attendance - £43,000

Ø  Additional capacity for MASH - £16,000.

Ø  Use £0.823m to partially offset the costs of the 1 in 40.

 

It was noted that a consultation process on options going forward for High Needs would be required later this year; this would necessitate difficult discussions.

 

The Forum was informed that the Central Schools Services Block (CSSB) included funding for on-going responsibilities of Local Authorities for the statutory duties that they hold for both maintained schools and academies. The allocation was based on a formula using pupil numbers (90%), free school meals (Ever 6, 10%) with an area cost adjustment applied. The indicative rate per pupil for 2020/21 was £31.94 and there has been an increase of £20,123 related to the net increase in pupil numbers.

 

It was explained that these funds covered the following costs:-

 

Central School Services Block

£M

Copyright licences

0.493

Schools Forum

0.127

Admissions Coordination

0.750

Centrally Retained Duties

1.209

TOTAL

2.579

 

It was noted that the cost of copyright licences reflected the 2020/21 charge; there was no change to Schools Forum and Admissions and the balance was adjusted against centrally retained duties.

 

The Schools Forum agreed to recommend the allocation of the central school’s services block as set out above.

 

The Schools Forum agreed to recommend that the council agree the school funding formula for 2020/2021 as set out in Annex A of the report.

 

Supporting documents: