Members present

School members

Peter Freeman (Chair)    
Primary Governor, Coombe Road Primary School

Oli Sharpe (OS)    
Primary Governor, Middle Street Primary School

Tad Matus (TM)
Primary Governor, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School

Damien Jordan (DJ)    
Primary Headteacher, Fairlight Primary School

Chris Taylor (CT)    
Primary Headteacher, Patcham Infant School

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

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

Linda Newman (LN)    
Secondary Governor, Longhill High School

Ashley Harrold (AH) (Vice Chair)    
Secondary Headteacher, Blatchington Mill School

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

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

Julie Plumstead (JP)    
Nursery Headteacher, Tarnerland Nursery

Academies members

Aaron Barnard (AB)    
Aldridge Education Trust

Non-school members

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

Paul Shellard    (PS)        
Teachers’ Union, NEU

Mandy Watson (MW)        
Diocese of Chichester (Anglican)

Members apologies

School members

Louise Cook (LB)    
PRU Headteacher, Central Hub

Members not present

School members

Rob Arbery (RAr)
Special Schools Governor

Non-school members

Martyn Howe (MH)
16-19 Provision, MET 

Local authority attendees

Richard Barker (RBa)        
Head of School Organisation

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

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

Jo Lyons (JL)            
Assistant Director Families and Schools

Nigel Manvell (NM)
Deputy Chief Finance Officer 

Caroline Parker (CP)
Head of Early Years    

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

Other attendees

Ruth Ali (RA)          
 Clerk to the Forum

Lou Adams (Lad)
Fizzy Fish Nursery – Prospective PVI Representative

Sarah Bennett-Leyh (SBL)
Childminder - Prospective PVI Representative

Sarah Booker-Lewis
Brighton and Hove News

Jan Paine (JPa)
Kipling Lions Pre-School – Prospective PVI Representative

Viv Warren (VW)        
Observer - Early Years, Tarnerland Nursery

1. Welcome and apologies

Items for any other business to be stated

no other items were requested

1.1

The chair, PF, welcomed everyone, especially Claire Jarman as new Secondary Schools Headteacher Representative.  

1.2

Apologies were received from Louise Cook, PRU Headteacher.
 

2. Minutes of last meeting (12 October 2020) and matters arising

2.1

Accuracy:
Item 5.5 to be amended to say:
“….. claims.  Tarnerland was eligible for the furlough scheme but even with this support, with the effects of income loss from parents’ fees the nursery is in a deficit budget.  Members thanked ….”

2.2 

Subject to this amendment, the minutes were agreed as a true record.  

Matters arising:    

2.3

2.4 – Service Level Agreement (SLA) for the Connected Hub:  The proposed SLA has been agreed but needs to be formatted and circulated.  This will be completed by January.   

  • Action:  RB

2.4

4.8 – Overall picture of schools’ finances:  Agenda item at this meeting. 

2.5

5.4 and 8.8 – Y7 catchup funding:  SW circulated an email confirming that the DfE had withdrawn this funding for this year, as schools have instead received Covid catchup funding.  
 

3. Minutes of the last Schools Block Working Group (SBWG) meeting

3.1

AH explained that the minutes are still in draft format.  When finalised, they will be circulated to all and questions invited.  

  • Action:  AH/RA

Most items relate to items on the agenda, and SBWG discussions will be referred to as relevant.  

3.2

Items discussed were Covid 19 and costs, Term Time Only (TTO) update, budgets, long term sick and maternity, TSS facilities, HR Policy update.  

3.3

AH updated the forum on discussions held between Headteachers following the last Schools Forum meeting in connection with de-delegation arrangements.   The outcome is now listed as an appendix to the minutes of the last forum meeting.
 

4. Term Time Only (TTO) back pay

4.1

This item was discussed after agenda item 6.   NM attended for this part of the meeting.  

4.2

NM reported that the council’s Policy and Resources Committee had received the Targeted Budget Management (TBM) Report at their last meeting.  Prior to that, there had been discussions around potential options how the council may support schools with TTO back pay obligations.  However, the TBM report showed that there is no room for manoeuvre, as the council is facing service pressures in social care and homelessness, coupled with one off Covid costs and collection fund losses.  

4.3

However, the overall cost of the back pay due has reduced from an estimated £3.8m to £3.3m. The Council will maintain its cash offer which improves the position for schools - instead of an equal 50/50 split between council and schools, this will now be 57% council, 43% schools.  Schools may benefit somewhat from the government’s funding announcement as well as the public sector pay freeze, but NM recognised that this is not a satisfactory answer.

4.4

AH raised a question of procedure and asked by what mechanism the LA is permitted to charge a school and remove money from the journal, as the Schools Forum has not agreed to this de-delegation.  NM explained that the Schools Forum is a consultative forum.  The key question initially was whether it was legally permissible to charge, and the LA was confident that this is the case.  The council is supporting schools by contributing more than half the cost, and what remains is the legal charge on school budgets.  This was confirmed by reference to the Scheme for Financing Schools which states that the LA is able to charge schools for salary costs. 

4.5

Forum members continued to express their dissatisfaction with the mechanism that has been applied and stated that they would have preferred to have had some input into this discussion.  They were dissatisfied that they had not had any involvement in the pre-settlement process, yet are left with a bill for the next 10 years, using funds that they would otherwise use to support children in their schools.  

4.6

The chair confirmed that views had been exchanged between Headteacher and governor colleagues who all agreed that, after past legal errors made by the council, the council should have stepped up and paid the bill.  However, the forum should accept that it is within the council’s power to charge.  
Forum members asked when and how schools will be informed.  Whilst some schools have already asked about their individual liability and this has been communicated to them, the expectation is that confirmation will be sent to all schools prior to Christmas for the sum they should include in their budget for 2021/22.  

4.7

DJ asked for a response from councillors, as Headteachers have not had the opportunity to share their views with them and get a response directly from them.  Headteachers would like to know how councillors came to the decision to divert money from school budgets.  

4.8

The chair suggested that it may be appropriate to ask NM to write a letter to school leaders explaining their decision.  NM confirmed that councillors know the strong views of Headteachers, but they also know the dire financial position of the council.  However, he will take the request back to councillors.  

  • Action:  NM

4.9

AH asked for reassurance that there are no similar negotiations going on at the moment which may become an issue in the future and that, in such a case, Headteachers should be consulted and contribute to the discussions.  NM confirmed that he is not aware of any particular negotiations going on at the moment.  

4.10

The chair thanked NM for his update.
 

5. 2020/21 Schools Projected Outturn

5.1

SW outlined the purpose of his report, explaining that he had been asked by the Forum to put together a forecast position for all schools.  

5.2

Net balances held by schools are forecast to decrease from £4.3m at 30 March 2020 to £3.1m at the end of this financial year, a reduction in nursery and primary school balances particularly notable.  

5.3

Total estimated costs attributable to Covid so far are £3.5m.  The same table also gives an indication of what has been reclaimed by schools at the end of the summer term - £610,000 has been received back into the LA.  Further information from the Department for Education (DfE) is expected with regard to “other costs”, though these have generally been rejected. 

5.4

SW asked forum members to be cautious and to understand that school balances are volatile at this stage as schools tend to err on the side of caution this time of year when presenting their budgets.  However, the impact of Covid on school finances is very clear. 

5.5

Forum members asked whether the reasons why “other claims” were generally rejected are known.  Schools made claims individually, and responses came back to schools which appear to be generic replies from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

5.6

SW explained that the government had announced at the end of the previous week that there is a new window open for school claims for COVID-related costs between now and Christmas, but with new and restrictive conditions.  
Members asked whether the same rules apply as previously, ie that costs should initially paid from existing reserves, before making a claim.  It was confirmed that it is still the expectation that schools will use their balances, but schools were encouraged to access this offer as proactively as possible.  
 

6. Covid-19 Discussion

6.1

RB summarised his report and gave an update on the local situation.  The government has made available a Covid Winter Grant, of which £865,000 was allocated to Brighton and Hove.  The Policy and Resources Committee agreed to make £25 supermarket vouchers available per week per child, for the two weeks of the Christmas holiday and one week February half term.  This is £10 higher than the Government arrangement from the summer holidays and the initial proposal from officers that was presented to the committee.  

6.2

The process of working with the voucher distribution scheme is expected to start w/b 7 December, so that all vouchers are distributed before the end of term.  The LA is in conversation with colleges, as the scheme extends to Sixth Form too, and is also coordinating with nurseries.    

6.3

Forum members asked where the extra money for the vouchers is coming from, as they are £10 higher than proposed, and were reassured that the funding is still within the grant allocation and within the provisions of the grant.   
 

7. DSG 2020/21 – updated allocation from DfE

LH reminded forum members that she had reported to the October meeting a £110,000 reduction in the High Needs Block.  The LA had challenged this, and £42,000 had been returned to the High Needs Block by the government.  This funding will be re-allocated to the budget for high needs pupils in Further Education colleges.   

8. DSG 2021/22 - update / discussion

8.1

SW provided an update on the paper presented at the October meeting.  
Provisional allocations for 2021/22 are expected to be confirmed mid-December, reflecting data from the October census. 

8.2

De-delegation was discussed at the October meeting, with Primary Schools having made a decision at the meeting, and Secondary Schools having discussed and finalised their decision outside, after the last meeting (recorded in appendix to the minutes of the last meeting).   SW pointed out a discrepancy in the paper between point 2.4 and 4.1 – 2.4 should read £0.405m for secondary phase de-delegation.  

8.3

Points to note in advance of the October census are

  • A reduction in total pupil numbers of 175 in the October census, which will cause a reduction in funding of £1m for next year.  
  • An increase in Free Schools Meals (FSM) children, which is driven by Covid.  Additional funding will be delivered to the Schools Block, but due to the time lag, this will not be received until 2022-23.

8.4

SW took the forum through the timetable, point 3.5 of his paper.

8.5

AH explained further the steps taken between the secondary schools’ headteachers to approve the Secondary Phase de-delegation.  Following discussion and further research around staff costs, such as union duties, jury service or suspension, secondary headteachers voted and approved the proposal at an estimated cost of £405,000 for the Secondary Phase, including £50,000 staff costs, as per appendix to the minutes of the last meeting. There were no other points to report from the SBWG in connection with this item.  

8.6

RBa explained that the LA is currently consulting on admissions arrangements for 2022/23.  As part of the planning, the LA estimates from GP returns that there will be an estimated 744 surplus Primary School places in 2024, up from 636 predicted last year.  Whilst this figure is not necessarily accurate, it is clear that the number of surplus primary places will continue to rise.  Census data shows a reduction in pupil numbers, as larger year groups are leaving and younger year groups are smaller, which will also result in fewer pupils going into secondary schools later.  

8.7

Forum members asked for a more detailed breakdown and were advised that in primary schools Y6 will increase by 153 pupils, but from Y5 down all year groups will decrease. Secondary numbers are increasing in all year groups, except Y11 and Y7.  

8.8

AH asked if any of the rises in secondary pupils are caused by children joining from out of the local area. The forecasts are based on children in the B&H catchment areas.  More detailed information will be circulated. The majority of children will still be from within the city.  

  • Action: RBa

8.9

The chair summarised that primary school headteachers and governors should note that numbers continue to decrease across the city.  

8.10

SW added that he had attended a meeting with DfE members after the announcement of a pay freeze, as there had been a concern that this could cause a review of funding, but there is no indication of this.  The funding increases expected next year should be seen against minimal pay awards, giving significant headroom for budget increases against other direct cost pressures.  
 

9. Services to Schools

9.1

RBa took forum members through the paper, explaining that it highlights potential uplifts in costs, subject to the dynamics of each service.  Some costs are unavoidable, and where possible the council continues to keep increases in costs to a minimum; some services see no uplift.   

9.2

Forum members asked if the announcement of the pay freeze could affect the figures.  RBa explained that some parts of the paper were written before the announcement and some after.  As the council begins the process of finalising its budget, a movement in figures is possible, and one of the factors to take account of is the pay freeze.  

9.3

RBa highlighted the situation of the Long-Term Sick and Maternity/Paternity cover.  Charges increased considerably last year as the council was addressing a long-term deficit and the cost from the previous year’s operation.  Most schools agreed to meet these charges, but a few opted out. If there is less demand for this service it is anticipated that at the end of the financial year there will be a small deficit which would initiate discussion around whether the scheme should be closed.  

9.4

Four schools have already withdrawn from the service, with two more to follow in March.  There is concern that the burden and charges will increase if the scheme is provided to a smaller number of schools, resulting in the need to resolve a deficit.  It may therefore not be a scheme that the council is able to continue to run without ongoing risk.  Views of the forum were invited.  

9.5

AH explained that the SBWG did not go into any details in their discussions as they did not have relevant figures to hand.  

9.6

Forum members asked how many schools would have to leave before the scheme becomes unviable.  RBa explained that this does not necessarily depend on the number of schools, but also on the type of school, ie whether it is a net contributor or a net beneficiary; the size of the school also being a factor.  He is currently exploring what the marketplace holds as other options for schools.  

9.7

In response to the question whether a suite of options will be offered to schools, or whether schools will be advised to find their own options, RBa clarified that the LA is unlikely to provide a suite of options.  Instead, schools would be advised to find options in the open market.  

9.8

The chair summarised that the plans for Services to Schools had been noted, and that forum members will be expecting  reductions in some of the quoted prices, as the LA is working through government funding announcements, though recognising that reductions are not guaranteed in every service.   
 

10. Early Years Free Entitlement – Autumn Term 2020 Funding Arrangements

10.1

The chair explained that, since the last Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) Sector representative’s resignation no new representative had been appointed.  Three interested potential candidates are in attendance at this meeting and will be invited to comment on this item.  

10.2

CP summarised her paper, explaining that the purpose of the report is to inform and consult the forum about plans to pay compensation payments to early years providers who claimed a lower number of early years free entitlement (EYFE) hours this autumn term compared to autumn 2019, in light of coronavirus.  She clarified that the forum is being consulted, but the decision is made by the LA.  

10.3

The intention is to compensate 100% for two year olds throughout.  However, distinctions are made for three and four year olds.  The expectation had been that there would be an overall drop, but in reality some providers had more children attending, whilst others had fewer, and insufficient funds were available to pay 100% to all providers.  It is therefore proposed to pay maintained schools 100%, taking into account the challenges to school budgets, whereas PVI providers and council nurseries would be compensated at 60%.  The same percentage rate would be applied to childminders on an individual application.  

10.4

PF asked whether the prior decision had been that funds for compensation would only be taken from the Early Years Block budget, and not from anywhere else in the system.  CP confirmed this, as she recognised the pressure on other areas, such as the High Needs Block and the council’s general fund.  

10.5

The chair invited PVI attendees to comment.  

SBL explained that, as a childminder, she had more children than last year and was able to provide childcare when schools were closed.  She thanked the Early Years finance team for their help to everyone.

JPa’s setting was not able to access a discretionary grant.  Due to their location in the grounds of a school, they were not able to get a rebate nor qualified for furlough.  

LAd asked how the 60% figure was arrived at and whether it took account of attendance in the summer term.   CP explained that the 60% was based on the amount of available funding in the Early Years Block.   During the summer, all providers were paid as if all registered children were attending. 

10.6

The chair thanked CP for her report.  PVI attendees were invited to inform Vicky Jenkins if they wished to be considered as the PVI representative on the Schools Forum.
 

11. Any Other Business

  • SBWG Terms of Reference
  • Schools Forum Terms of Reference

The clerk explained that both Terms of Reference had not been reviewed for a number of years.

 It was agreed that AH, RB and PF would review them during the first part of the new year and bring recommendations to the forum.  

  • Action:  AH, RB, PF

 

Next Meeting

  • Monday 18th January 2021, 4pm to 6pm