Members

Members present

School members

Robert Hardy (RH) (Chair)
Special Schools Governor, Hill Park Special School

Patricia Wood (PW) 
Primary Governor, Coombe Road Primary School

Diana Boyd (DB)
Primary Governor, Elm Grove Primary School

Chris Taylor (CT)
Primary Headteacher, Patcham Infant School

Rachel Kershaw (RK)
Primary Headteacher, St Margaret’s CoE Primary School

Damien Jordan (DJ)
Primary Headteacher, Fairlight Primary School

Linda Newman (LN)
Secondary Governor, Longhill High School

Claire Jarman (CJ)
Secondary Headteacher, Cardinal Newman Catholic School

Rachel Burstow (RBu)
Special Schools Headteacher, Hill Park Special School

Julie Plumstead (JP)
Nursery Headteacher, Tarnerland Nursery

Kate Schofield (KS)
PRU Headteacher, Central Hub

Academies members

Aaron Barnard (AB)
Aldridge Education Trust

Non-school members

Helena Thomas (HT)
Early Years PVI
Kipling Lions Pre-School

Jan Paine (JP)
Early Years PVI, Kipling Lions Pre-school

Jon Gilbert (JG)
Diocese of Chichester (Anglican)

Sarah Clayton (SC)
Diocese of Arundel and Brighton (Catholic)

Liz Ritson (LR)
Teachers’ Union, NEU

Local authority attendees

Richard Barker (RBa)
Head of School Organisation

Georgina Clarke-Green (GCG)
Assistant Director – Health, SEN and Disabilities

James Hengeveld (JH)
Head of Finance, Planning and Reporting

Louise Hoten (LH)
Head of Finance, Children’s Services

Jo Lyons (JL)
Assistant Director Families and Schools

Steve Williams (SW)
Principal Accountant, Children’s Services

Ashley Seymour-Williams (ASW)
Senior Advisor Education Partnerships

Ken Simpson
Head of HR, Strategy

Mark Storey (MS)
Head of Education Standards and Achievement

Other attendees

Viv Warren
Early Years observer

Jo Viner
GMB representative observer

Apologies

School members

Belle Howard (BH)
Primary Governor, St Margarets CoE Primary School

Matt Hillier (MH)
Secondary Headteacher, Dorothy Stringer School

Mel Fane (MF)
Secondary Governor, Cardinal Newman Catholic School

 

Ruth Ali
Clerk to the forum

1. Welcome and apologies

RH introduced himself as the new chair to the forum and asked all present to introduce themselves.  

Items for any other business to be stated 

None.

2. Minutes of last meeting (17 January 2022) and matters arising

2.1 

Accuracy 

The minutes were agreed as a true record.  

Matters arising 

2.2 

Min 2.2:  The chair and clerk will liaise regarding the outstanding action from the December meeting which was subsequently covered in the meeting under item 3.  

2.3 

Min 5.6:  Update on School Improvement Grant is an agenda item at this meeting.  

2.4 

Min 9.8: A response to the DfE regarding Early Years funding has been shared with the forum.  Members who cannot recall receiving it were asked to contact the clerk.

3. Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) Outturn report 2021/22

3.1 

SW introduced his report and explained that this relates to LA maintained schools only.  He highlighted the following points from the more detailed analysis in the paper: 

3.2 

Overall, schools’ balances have increased, although the position is variable across phases and individual schools.  For the first time, nursery and special schools have a net overspend.  In total, there is an £8m underspend, and 15 out of 62 schools finished the year with an overspend.   

3.3 

12 schools have balances above the threshold stipulated by the government.  The LA will write to each school ascertaining the reasons for why these balances exist and will feed that information back to the forum in October. A school by school breakdown is contained in appendix 3.1.   

Questions and comments were invited. 

3.4 

AB explained that he wished to comment, not in his role as Academies Member but as governor at a Primary School which carries a high underspend and asked whether the LA could confirm to schools any earlier whether any adjustments will be made, as the uncertainty whether any underspend would be clawed back had held the school back in making spending decisions.  RBa advised the forum that the LA has now introduced a nine months’ check providing reassurance on schools’ balances and spending plans.  The LA will communicate with the schools carrying surplus balances before the end of term.  He recognised that this is later than usual and appreciated that governing boards might find it limiting, but historically schools have always been able to provide satisfactory reassurance concerning their underspends. He confirmed that a quicker response will be provided to schools this year, to ensure schools are not held up from spending their surplus.  AB appreciated this response.   

3.5 

The question was raised whether any of the changes in balances came as a surprise and were not known by month 10.  The LA would have been aware of changes in most cases, but it is possible that some came as surprise at year end. The overall picture is mixed and complex often due to the timing of grants and other payments, but the LA is currently focussed on working with those schools who potentially require a licensed deficit in 2022/23. 

3.6 

HT asked why some underspends are quite significant, as underspends are as great a risk as overspends in that money is not going in the right direction, and whether the forum can support this.  SW explained that the threshold has been set by the government, and underspends are followed up with schools automatically through set processes.  The LA receives year end forecasts from schools regularly throughout the year, and the final position has been healthier than what has been reported throughout the year.  Schools have received additional funding from the government; some schools therefore carry as yet unspent Covid grant, and some are holding partnership money on behalf of other schools.  Another reason for a surplus is unspent Pupil Premium or Sports Premium funding, for which schools are accountable per academic year.  Proper scrutiny and good diligence is therefore all that is required at the moment.  RBa highlighted that what could be seen as good fiscal management needs to be balanced with the need to use funding for the pupils currently attending the school.  Once the LA has identified the purpose for which schools have earmarked funds, an update will be given in October.  The forum could then see equal rigour exercised by the LA in relation to schools carrying surpluses and those having a deficit. Some forum members felt this was fair, but it was also highlighted that clarification was needed as to what powers the LA has relating to that information.   

3.7 

LN spoke from the perspective of a school that had for several years been in continuing deficit and now unexpectedly finds itself at the opposite end.  This was due to the inability to recruit staff, a situation which still continues.  LN therefore asked for some caution in applying the same rigour.   

3.8 

AB suggested that schools’ academic outcomes should also be taken into account.   

3.9 

LR reiterated the difficulty to recruit and retain TAs at the moment; this situation impacts on teacher workload and a school’s ability to deliver what the students need.  One of the difficulties in recruiting and retaining support staff is salary related, and LR asked whether more work could be done on that.  

3.10 

JL offered reassurance that the discussions of council officers from the various departments, when challenging the balances, will be conducted in a partnership approach.  The LA will want to hear about the plans of the individual schools, to see that the money is used to ensure the children’s needs are met and the young people have the best education possible.  

3.11 

HT confirmed that the college sector feels the same challenges around recruitment and asked where this will be addressed.  The chair explained that, although this is not the remit of the forum, it would be good to know how the LA discusses recruitment and retention.  JL confirmed that this is a significant issue for the city and beyond.  The LA is looking at all areas of the workforce and wants to engage schools in that process.  It may be that the LA will look at a recruitment campaign.  Schools were reminded of the need to work together as education providers.  

3.12 

SW advised the forum of the power of LAs, as stipulated in the Scheme for Financing Schools, to deduct money from schools with surplus balances and outlined the conditions under which this can be done, recognising it is a contentious process.   

3.13The forum noted the level of school balances and the carry forward on the central DSG.

4. Dedicated Schools Grant 2022/23 Update

4.1 

LH summarised her paper and highlighted that, since the last report, adjustments to the High Needs Block (HNB) have been made, ie the high needs supplementary grant has been incorporated within the core High Needs Block.  This is purely presentational, and the adjustment does not result in an increase in the funding.   

4.2 

There has been a £24,000 reduction in the HNB due to an increase in the deduction made by the government due to additional high needs places to be funded directly by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.   

4.3 

The forum noted the updated DSG as outlined in the paper. 

4.4 

The chair asked forum members to cascade this information to their networks. 

5. High Needs Block (HNB) 2022/23

5.1 

GCG outlined the purpose of her report, ie to update the forum on the composition and distribution of the HNB within the DSG for 2022/23 and highlighted the four areas of pressure due to large increases.  These relate to the education agency budget for provision in independent non-maintained schools, the mainstream school top-up and linked budgets, the LA’s commissioning of additional high-cost specialist places across Brighton and Hove special schools, and the ongoing impact of responsibility to provide education for young people with SEND up to the age of 25.   

5.2 

Questions were invited. 

RH asked GCG to put the seemingly modest increase in numbers placed in non-maintained special schools in context with the fees charged by these schools.  GCG explained that the fees depend on how specialist the places are, the average cost is likely to be in the region of  £40,000 per year. 

5.3 

AB enquired whether the £453,000 allocated to the Virtual School is in addition to student funding or including.  It was confirmed this is additional.  A breakdown of how other additional funding, including information whether any should be coming to academy schools, was requested.  Originally, the forum had asked for a report on Pupil Premium funding and how retained funding is used, but a detailed report was not available for this meeting.  SW confirmed that a paper from Education & Skills (Mark Storey) would be brought to the October meeting and explained that the funding rationale would not differ from mainstream maintained schools.   

5.4 

RK asked if there are any plans to allocate some of the other £334,000 HNB funding not yet allocated elsewhere to commissioning extra Educational Psychologists (EPs), as there is a significant backlog.  GCG explained that the problem is not around funding but around recruiting EPs.  There is sufficient funding to increase the provision of two full time EPs (additional council general fund has been allocated for 2022/23), but it is difficult to recruit. The LA is looking at employing Assistant EPs to free up EP time.   

5.5 

Forum members asked how the pressures on the HNB compare to other LAs and were advised that Brighton and Hove is doing relatively well in comparison.  SW explained that the HNB is balanced despite the challenges.  Additional funding provides the opportunity to address pressures which otherwise would have led to an overspend.  

5.6 

The forum noted the big spend on placements and asked what the money would be used on if less was spent on placements.  GCG explained that she is hoping to significantly reduce the number of children placed outside Brighton and Hove, so that investment in the city can be increased.   

5.7 

The forum noted the distribution of the HNB across service areas for 2022/23.  

6. DfE Response to 2021 School Funding Consultation

6.1 

SW introduced his paper which captured the DfE’s response to the School Funding Consultation Document “Completing the reforms to the National Funding Formula (NFF)” published in March.  This meeting was the first opportunity to feed this back to the forum.   

6.2 

The indication is that the government intends to move all schools to the direct NFF, confirming a gradual transition.  For central functions LAs will continue to have flexibilities to de-delegate funding for maintained schools. Potentially all school funding could be moved to the academic, rather than financial, year, but not at this stage. 

6.3 

Plans to legislate for the introduction of the direct NFF were published in May. This was followed by another consultation paper providing more details about the introduction of the NFF.  Timescales are given for the first time, but these are not very specific. 

6.4 

Another focus of the next stage of the consultation will be more detailed proposals around the growth and premises factors.  The LA’s response will be shared with the forum by email.   

6.5 

Comments were invited.  

The forum indicated their willingness to contribute to the consultation, should the LA welcome this. 

7. Low Pay Proposals – Implications for Schools - HR and Finance update

7.1 

KS presented the first part of this item and shared a PowerPoint presentation which covered the following points: 

  • Background and context:  Expected increases in National Living Wage and Real Living Wage and estimates of hourly rate from April 2023 and 2024, uncertainty around NJC pay awards for 2022 onwards, especially regarding the bottom of the pay spine, rising inflation/cost of living, labour supply difficulties, with schools reporting issues recruiting to lower grades. Local government pay has to be amended drastically to accommodate rising national significant increases.  
  • School Feedback – January 2022:  This followed engagement with Headteachers on initial proposals.  Headteachers felt that retaining differentials is important between MDSA roles, higher TA roles and supervisory relationships.  Increases in lower grades would assist with recruitment, and pay has not kept pace with other sectors.  There was a clear message of support for fair pay for school staff, but a concern that the financial settlement from the government does not allow for these increases.   
  • Impacted staff in schools:  Headcount and Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for each grade. 
  • Current proposals and impact on pay:  Current grades and proposed grades were compared side by side.     
  • Estimated costs of options:  Schools have a large number of staff at scales 1 to 3.  Before national pay awards are applied, the total cost to all schools (from April 2022) is £1.7m.  Average costs by school type were also shared, though, being average, this masks the extremes.  It is intended to provide detailed information for each school.  The estimate includes assumptions around National Insurance and pensions and is based on staffing and scale points from April, however, this is constantly subject to change.  Previously the council had committed to funding all back pay from January to April, with each school responsible for this financial year.   
  • Timescales and process: JH took the forum through this part of the presentation: 
    •  June 2022 – feedback from schools and other parties 
    • Schools forum briefing 20 June 2022 
    • Policy and Resources Committee make final decision on 7 July 2022 
    • Implementation September 2022 
    • Backdating to 1 January 2022.  

7.3 

The chair asked for the PowerPoint presentation to be shared with forum members, via the clerk.   

7.4 

AB asked whether the pay proposal and back pay is only in relation to this proposal or also for national scale points, ie if it does not apply to the national scale points, how these would impact on this proposal.  He also asked what other LAs do, as BHCC is not unique as a living wage employer experiencing a clash in pay scales.  KS explained that back pay was in relation to this proposal only.  National scale points will not be backdated further than April.  Other LAs provide a mixed picture in that some are using spinal points which BHCC has deleted, and some are not a living wage employer.  Some have local pay scales, not NJC.  KS is not aware of any other LAs doing the same as BHCC currently, but as the national minimum wage is rising significantly, all LAs must lift their bottom rates.   

7.5 

AB asked whether, if national negotiations present a significant increase, BHCC could run the risk of inflated pay compared to other LAs, and affordability becomes an issue.  KS explained that waiting is an option, but the LA is committed to addressing the current crisis, although options for action are limited at the moment, as it is not known what effect this will have across the whole pay range.  However, budgeting beyond a 2% increase is recommended.    

7.6 

It was recognised that, the LA being a Real Living Wage employer, it is hard to argue with the principle, but there are significant implications for individual schools, especially for the 25% of schools in deficit.  The proposal would also be putting additional pressure on others who would be put into a deficit as a result.   

7.7 

DJ highlighted that schools want to know what their costs are.  He echoed the challenge of struggling to recruit, and that the cost of living in Brighton is different from other areas.  As this has an impact on children, he asked councillors to recognise that their decisions can impact on current pressures, also on staff new to living in this area and the recruitment of staff.    

7.8 

In response to the question whether schools had been asked to put aside a budget for this, JH explained that a pre-warning had been given earlier on, although this proposal is considerably different as it is covering a wider group of staff.  It may be that the council can offer support to individual schools depending upon their unique circumstances, and a response from the government on the wider pay issue is also still outstanding.   

7.9 

It was highlighted that the more challenging children a school has, the more staff are on the affected pay scales, and the less money such a school has anyway.  It is therefore appreciated that the council will cover the back pay.   

7.10 

RBu explained that Special Schools are in a position of being unable to recruit staff and therefore have to recruit agency staff who are not as able to support the pupils well and cost more.  This is therefore a major threat to the budget.  

7.11 

The chair requested that schools should be enabled to see the implications for themselves as early as possible and thanked KS and JH for their presentation.  The clerk was asked to forward the slides as soon as she receives them.

8. School Improvement Grant Update

8.1 

MS explained that his report followed on from discussions at the last meeting in January, where a detailed report on processes and criteria for the distribution of the School Improvement Grant was requested.  This was to cover also how schools are involved in decision making and governance, as it relates to de-delegated funds.  

8.2 

The consultation process was outlined; a meeting with partnership chairs took place at which it was agreed that a stakeholder group would be created involving secondary, primary and faith schools which would review the spending plans. 

8.3 

The chair thanked MS for the explanation of the process and asked what would happen if there is more demand for funding under one criterion than the other.  MS confirmed that this was also discussed with the stakeholder groups, and it was agreed that there is flexibility in how funding is allocated. 

9. Any Other Business 

9.1 

The chair advised the forum of the resignation of the clerk and thanked her for the support she has given.   

9.2 

He extended apologies to governor representatives for not being able to arrange a governors’ pre-meet. 

Next Meeting: Monday 10 October 2022