Agenda item

School Funding 2024/25

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 NFF level, without the need for MFG and MPPFL adjustments.  The government was continuing with its plan to implement the hard NFF; once implemented there would be no opportunity for any local decision making on the formula, instead decisions would be made on a national basis.

 

4.8      One Forum member referred to the increase to the Schools Block in 2024/25 of just 1.8%, and emphasised that this would not be sustainable given the cost pressures that schools were facing, particularly around pay increases to staff.  He questioned what was taking place nationally to highlight this issue.  In response, the Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the Collaboration Group (the Group’s members were from a number of organisations including teaching unions, the County Councils Network, the Society of County Treasurers, and the f40) had been working on identifying the additional funding needed to remove the real term cuts to schools and to stabilise the funding within the system.  The Collaboration Group and the f40 had been waiting for the publication of the Autumn Statement as they had anticipated an additional funding allocation to be announced, similar to the announcements made in the previous two years.  He expected there would now be a mobilisation of those groups to analyse the 2024/25 figures in order to obtain a clear picture to counter the DfE’s view that the uplift and the Teachers Pay and Pension Grant were sufficient to meet the inflationary pressures and that schools were not facing real term cuts. 

 

4.9      In response to a question, the Head of Education Strategy and Development clarified that schools would still receive the full allocation of the Teachers Pay and Pension Grant for 2024/25.  However, the funding from this grant was significantly lower than what schools had received in the previous two years through the additional Supplementary Grant in 2022/23 and the Mainstream Schools Additional Grant in 2023/24.

 

4.10    The Forum noted the revised NFF rates following the October 2023 update from the DfE, and the revised top-slice of the Schools block for the Growth Fund of £0.931M. 

 

4.11    The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that the response to the local authority’s funding consultation was poor, with just two respondents which did not provide a reliable basis for feedback.  There were three areas on which the local authority consulted:

Ø   De-delegated funding (LA maintained schools only)

Ø   Notional SEND funding formula (all schools)

Ø   Targeted SEND funding for all schools (currently the 1:30 formula).

 

4.12    Within the funding consultation the local authority was not considering or recommending any changes to the funding levels de-delegated from maintained schools.  The only change recommended by the local authority was an adjustment to how the de-delegation for local authority statutory duties was used; in effect pivoting it to support school improvement services, following the removal of the Local Authority School Improvement Monitoring and Brokering Grant.  The de-delegation proposals in the report reflected this change, with all other de-delegations remaining the same for 2024/25.

 

4.13    Sarah Murphy, Trade Union representative, referred to her previous report which detailed the breakdown of the type of casework undertaken over the period August 2022 - September 2023, and she provided an update on the casework that had been undertaken since 1 September 2023, on behalf of the NEU members.  Approximately 100 cases had been received with 41% of those cases coming from primary schools.  The casework covered a range of issues including capability, grievance, support plans and disciplinaries.  Members were informed that the de-delegated amount for union facilities (at £3.05 per pupil) paid for the release time salaries of three elected county union representatives.

 

4.14    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   Union facilities – primary

Ø   Targeted intervention (primary)

Ø   Targeted intervention (secondary)

 

4.15    Following the poor response to the funding consultation the local authority did not feel it was appropriate to recommend any changes to the Notional SEND formula for 2024/25.  At present, every local authority was responsible for setting their own notional SEND formula.  The current formula in Gloucestershire is: 2.5% of the basic entitlement; and the full low prior attainment allocation.  The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the local authority would carry out further modelling work on the formula factors and would bring it back to the Forum again for review in June 2024.

 

4.16    In response to a question, it was explained that the Notional SEND formula local allocation equated to 8.3% of 2023/24 Schools block funding compared to 10.8% national median.  The formula factors and the way it was allocated would neither increase nor decrease school funding in any way.  

 

4.17    The Forum agreed that the Notional SEND formula should remain unchanged for 2024/25. 

 

4.18    The Head of Education Strategy and Development reported that the local authority would now be moving forward with changes to the way in which targeted SEND funding (currently the 1 in 30 model) would be allocated in 2024/25.  A meeting of the School’s Forum High Needs Working Group would be arranged in due course to take this forward and develop a model for approval by the Schools Forum. 

ACTION: Head of Education Strategy and Development/Clerk.

 

4.19    A Forum member representing secondary headteachers strongly emphasised that as schools were legally required to provide support to pupils with additional needs as detailed in their EHCP, it was critical that the funding followed the children and that it was not lost within the system.  He suggested that any savings made due to changes to the targeted support model could still lead to an increase in High Needs spend as there could be a rise in permanent exclusions in mainstream schools.  It was important that this message was conveyed.

 

4.10    In response, the Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the way in which the current proxy factors within the NFF around additional needs worked, meant that schools with a high proportion of pupils with additional needs, were not receiving an equitable level of funding.  The current 1 in 30 model was a local model, implemented to provide additional funding for those schools with more complex cohorts.  There was no intention to reduce the level of funding by making changes to the targeted support model, the focus of the review would be on how to ensure that it was being used in a way which would support schools effectively and would be sustainable in the long-term.  He acknowledged, however, that there would be a reduction in the availability of the funding to schools.  He made the point that the working group would look at all the issues raised in more detail.

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