24.1 Philip Haslett, Head of Education Strategy and Development, gave a presentation on School Funding for 2022/23. The Forum considered the implications of government indicative announcements on school funding for 2022/23, and the proposed funding formula method to use for Gloucestershire’s schools and academies.
24.2 The Forum received the 2022/23 indicative Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) block summary. The percentage increases were broadly in-line with those from 2020/21 to 2021/22 (excluding the increase in 2021/22 that related to teachers pay and pensions funding moving into the DSG).
24.3 The Forum considered the proposed Growth Fund allocation of £1.3M for 2022/23. In response to a question, Neil Egles Finance Manager Schools Strategy and Capital, explained that the Growth Fund was topsliced from the Schools block DSG to provide funding for new classes required as a result of a shortage of basic need places. It would usually fund one additional class for a school in the current financial year; from the following year onwards the pupils would form part of the number on roll and the census count, meaning they would be funded through the normal method of the funding formula. The Growth Fund also covered funding for the start up costs of new schools. No funding was required for new schools in 2022/23, which was why £0.2M less was needed than the figure for 2021/22.
24.4 A Forum member raised a concern that there should be more transparency and consultation with schools regarding the allocation of growth funding to meet the need for additional places, particularly how an area as a whole caters for the need. He suggested that Gloucestershire’s headteachers associations would be useful forums in which the discussions could take. The Head of Education Strategy and Development agreed to look at this issue and provide Forum members with information on how the process operated and the funding was allocated.
ACTION: Head of Education Strategy and Development.
24.5 In response to a question, Neil Egles the Finance Manager Schools Strategy and Capital, clarified that the Growth Fund (topsliced from the Schools block) was used for mainstream schools only. Funding for special schools came from the High Needs block, and places were commissioned and funded at the point of need.
24.6 The Forum agreed a top-slice for growth of £1.3M for 2022/23, subject to being updated for any change in the basic need Age Weighted Pupil Unit rates for 2022/23 when those were finalised in January 2022.
24.7 The Head of Education Strategy and Development presented the changes and clarifications to the National Funding Formula (NFF) for 2022/23, as detailed in the report. The Forum noted that:
Ø There would be 3% increases to the factors for basic entitlement, deprivation allocations based on free school meals at any time in the last 6 years (FSM6) and on income deprivation affecting children index (IDACI); lower prior attainment (LPA), English as an additional language (EAL) and the lump sum.
Ø A 2% increase to Minimum Per Pupil Levels and Free School Meals (FSM).
Ø FSM6 – update on the October 2021 census to bring it more up to date and in line with other NFF factors.
Ø Mobility – would be based on the actual entry date rather than the census (which did not take place due to Covid-19).
Ø Rates – The DfE were centralising the business rates payment system for schools, so that the ESFA would pay billing authorities directly on behalf of state funded schools from 2022/23.
Ø Sparsity - £10,000 increase primary and £5,000 increase secondary to the maximum amount a school could receive for the sparsity factor. Primaries were now eligible for up to a maximum of £55,000 and secondaries up to £80,000.
Ø The Minimum Per Pupil Funding would increase by 2% to primary: £4,265 and secondary: £5,525.
Ø The Funding Floor/Minimum Funding Guarantee in the NFF remained at 2% to ensure that every school was allocated at least 2% more funding per pupil.
24.8 Based on initial calculations (subject to census update) the LA’s assumption was that it could fully fund the NFF, and that there would be a small surplus estimated at £520,000.
24.9 In response to a question, Neil Egles, Finance Manager, Schools Strategy and Capital, clarified how the 1 in 40 rule was calculated. He explained that the number of pupils on roll was divided by 40, that figure was then the maximum number of pupils with high needs that a school would pay the sum of £6,000 for. For each high needs pupils over that number, a school would receive the top-up funding and the sum of £6,000. He added that the 1 in 40 rule was a local funding decision - some but not all LAs had the provision, or had variations to it, to support schools which attracted a high number of children with additional needs. The LA had previously operated a 1 in 75 rule, meaning that schools would have received more funding for pupils with High Needs. However, the decision to reduce to 1-40 was taken due to affordability given the significant pressure on the High Needs budget.
24.10 In response to a question, the Head of Education Strategy and Development, explained that the LA had no plans to propose a move back to the 1 in 75 rule. The reality was that there was simply not enough High Needs funding from central government to do that. Also, there remained a concern that model supported a culture in which some schools were seen by parents as more inclusive and would often state a preference for the school during the EHCP process. He reported that moving into the future and given the pressures on the High Needs budget, there may be questions about whether the LA could continue to fund the 1 in 40 rule. The recommendation for 2022/23 was that the surplus in the Schools block, be transferred to the High Needs block to support the 1 in 40 rule, however, that was not sustainable in the longer term. He recognised that some schools would be significantly impacted by any change to the 1 in 40 rule and therefore long-term conservations would be needed with school representatives around any proposed changes.
24.11 A member expressed concern that the change from the 1 in 75 to the 1 in 40 rule had taken away funding and support for pupils with SEND. He suggested that there needed to be conversations around what the current provision consisted of and what the value for money was in terms of meeting the needs of children with SEND. Questions needed to be answered on whether the funding was being used efficiently and effectively to keep within budget, before any further reductions were made which would affect the special needs provision for pupils. The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that 90% of the High Needs block funding was allocated to schools. He proposed that due to the complexities around the High Needs funding system, and the rising levels of need coupled with a High Needs budget under significant pressure, it would be helpful for members to get together outside of a Forum meeting to go through all of the issues in more detail. It was therefore agreed that a High Needs workshop meeting would be arranged for Forum members. Representatives from the ESFA and the DfE would be invited to attend the session.
ACTION: Head of Education Strategy and Development/Clerk to the Schools Forum.
24.12 Members of the Forum were concerned about the funding inequity involving schools which attracted a disproportionate number of children with additional needs. Whilst members acknowledged that the 1 in 40 rule aimed to help counter some of those funding inequities by compensating schools with a high number of children with high needs, the issue was not accounted for in the NFF. The Forum recognised the importance of the work of the F40 Group in continuing the campaign for schools to receive a fairer deal - a minimum per pupil funding amount, plus funding for children with additional needs, as part of the NFF.
24.13 Having considered the NFF factor rates as outlined in the report, the Forum agreed that the basis on which the formula would be allocated for 2022/23, would match the NFF method as closely as possible and to utilise any surplus remaining in the Schools block to support the 1 in 40 model.
24.14 The Forum considered the proposals for de-delegations. Sarah Murphy, Trade Union representative, presented the report on Local Authority Teaching Union Facilities 2021. She explained that the total amount of £105,000 de-delegated for union facilities paid for the salaries of four elected county union representatives. She emphasised the importance of the de-delegation provision for union facilities, explaining that it allowed all primary local authority maintained schools to meet all statutory and procedural entitlements to union representation. The Trade Union representative drew the Forum’s attention to the section of her report which summarised how the facilities time was spent in 2020/21 by NEU and NASUWT. She explained that without this service, primary schools would individually be responsible for meeting all statutory obligations from their own budget, and therefore it was felt strongly that the de-delegation of funding was the most cost effective way of ensuring that the statutory duties were covered. She concluded her presentation by stating that she strongly hoped that the Forum members eligible to vote would approve the ongoing de-delegation of union facilities for primary schools.
24.15 In response to a question, the Trade Union representative explained that the fees teachers paid for union membership, paid for the central workings of the union, including the legal aspects. However, the fees did not pay for the local based case workers - this was covered through the facilities funding. If there was no LA’s union facilities service funded either through de-delegation or by schools on an individual basis, then all casework would be handled at the regional offices. Consequently, schools in the counties would lose the expertise of individual caseworkers who knew the background story of schools and had developed relationships with teachers.
24.16 In response to a question, the Head of Education Strategy and Development, explained that the de-delegation for union facilities was for primary maintained schools only. Secondary schools usually had the expertise and capacity within their own staff members to undertake the casework and statutory functions. The Trade Union representation confirmed that some secondary academies were buying into the service.
24.17 In response to a question, the Trade Union representative explained that the Forum had previously received information on the de-delegation amounts for union facilities, in other comparable authorities – some were paying higher de-delegation amounts than Gloucestershire, and others less. Gloucestershire was around mid-range. The Head of Education Strategy emphasised that the de-delegation of funds for union facilities for primary maintained schools was the most efficient way financially to cover that need.
24.18 The Forum’s maintained schools’ representatives present at the meeting (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 authority statutory duties (primary and secondary).
24.19 The Forum noted that it would make its final recommendations on the funding formula at its meeting on 13 January 2022, ahead of the submission of the final formula to the DfE.
24.20 The Forum considered the LA’s draft response to the DfE’s consultation on reforms to the NFF. The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the core messages in the LA’s draft response to the consultation were: the need for an equitable approach for all schools; implementing consistency and alignment only where it would add value particularly where there would be significant work involved in doing so; and ultimately a decisive timeline that moved the issue forward resulting in all schools being funded through the ‘hard’ NFF.
24.21 He explained that a meeting of the F40 was taking place on 20 September 2021, during which the F40’s response to the consultation would be considered and then published once finalised. The LA would be holding a webinar on 22September 2021 for all Gloucestershire’s schools to consider the LA’s draft response. It was agreed that all Forum members would be sent an invite to the event.
ACTION: Clerk to the Schools Forum.
24.22 The Forum was informed that once finalised Gloucestershire’s response would be shared with all schools via the HeadsUp bulletin. There would be a follow-up DfE consultation once responses to the questions had been considered.