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

Louise Cook (LB)    
PRU Headteacher, Central Hub

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 not present

School members

Julie Plumstead (JP)    
Nursery Headteacher, Tarnerland Nursery

Local authority attendees

Deb Austin (DA)
Interim Executive Director, Families, Children and Learning

Councillor Hannah Clare (HC)
Chair Children, Young People and Skills Committee

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

Rhianedd Hughes (RH)
Head of SEN Statutory Services

Vicky Jenkins (VJ)
Childcare Strategy Manager

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

Sarah Booker-Lewis
Brighton and Hove News

Robert Hardy
Governor Hillview Special School

Lizzie Hughes
Student

Helena Thomas
Greater Brighton Metropolitan College (GBMC)

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 welcomed all, in particular Councillor HC, and Robert Hardy, a Special Schools Governor attending as an observer due to a vacancy for Special Schools Governor Representative having arisen.  
There were no apologies.
 

2. Minutes of last meeting (7 December 2020) and matters arising

2.1

Accuracy

Item 10.5 to be amended to say “JPa’s setting did not access a discretionary grant.” 

2.2

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

2.3

Matters Arising

2.3 - JL confirmed that the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for the Connected Hub had been completed.  LC explained that she had not received it and was advised that it had been signed off but had not yet been circulated. 

Action:  RBa

2.4

3.1 - The minutes of the last meeting of the Schools Block Working Group have been circulated.  There was nothing further to add that is not covered in other agenda items. 

2.5

8.8 - JL will check with Richard Barker whether more detailed information on pupil number forecasts has been circulated.

Action:  JL, RBa

2.6

11 - A date for review of Terms of Reference (ToR) has been set for February, and the reviewed ToRs will be brought before the meeting in March. 
 

3. Schools Block Working Group (SBWG) Update

3.1

In AH’s absence, DJ summarised the last meeting, which took place on 13 January.  Notes from the meeting will be circulated.

Action:  RA

3.2

Richard Barker was present at the meeting to clarify the situation around Free School Meals (FSM).  

3.3

Catch-up Funding and reimbursement of costs mean that there will be significant amounts of money carried over into the next financial year, which will have to be spent in certain areas.  The group requested that other teams looking at schools’ budgets are aware that these apparent underspends are in fact earmarked to be spent for specific purposes.

3.4

Clarification will be provided from the Finance Team as to what costs can be claimed. 
 

4. General Fund Budget Report

This was discussed after agenda item 6

4.1

NM took the forum through his paper, giving headline information on the council’s draft General Fund proposals for 2021/22.  The paper also outlined savings proposals for Families, Children and Learning for 2021/22, which are detailed in the appendix. 

4.2

The council had originally planned for a three-year budget plan, but due to the government only issuing a one-year Spending Review, budget proposals brought before the relevant committees will only be for one year.  This is disappointing as the local government would like to plan with a degree of certainty.  

4.3

The Spending Review when announced indicated an increase in the council’s budget.  However, looking at the details of it, it has become obvious that most of the increase is through local taxation, requiring councils to raise Council Tax by the maximum allowable.  

4.4

Similar to most Local Authorities (LAs), social care costs outstrip funding.  An increase in costs of 20% is anticipated for next year.  All LAs need a long-term solution for social care.

4.5

The Spending Review did provide some extra resources for social care, ie £8m worth of Covid one off funding and further funding for rough sleepers.  However, there is still a £19m gap, requiring an enormous savings programme, which is not deliverable in the current climate.  The Covid funding and funding for rough sleepers has therefore been used to reduce the budget gap, still leaving £10m of savings to be made to balance the budget.  This is further outlined in appendix 1 of NM’s paper (£2.2m savings for Families, Children and Learning).  

4.6

Should it become necessary to resort to Council Reserves, a plan would have to be in place to repay within 3-5 years.  The biggest savings are across social care, as this sector has a larger budget and it is therefore possible to use systems effectively. 

4.7

In summary, the LA’s finances remain in a challenging position, and longer term information is awaited.   Proposals for savings for Families, Children and Learning were referred to in appendix 2, and questions were invited.   

4.8

RB asked what the impact is on respite services for Special Schools.  DA advised there is no impact, as this service continues to be funded within the council’s general fund budget.

4.9

PF pointed out that the reference in NM’s paper to the government’s increase in the education budget over three years includes some double counting.  The figure is around £7bn rather than £14bn. The apparent overall increases in schools’ budgets next year are also mainly due to the Teachers’ Pay Grant and Pension Grant being incorporated into the budget.  
The Chair thanked NM for his report. 
 

5. Dedicated Schools’ Grant (DSG) 2021/22

5.1

LH summarised her paper, outlining her recommendations for the forum to note and agree:

  • Note updated DSG of £199.741m for 2021/22
  • Confirm agreement of de-delegation of insurance for both the Primary and Secondary Phase, following receipt of final figures
  • Agree Growth Fund of £0.337m
  • Note items previously agreed within Central Services Schools Block (CSSB) of £1.298m and agree central retention of new funding of £0.129m added in recognition of the pension grants for centrally employed teachers. 

5.2

AB asked for confirmation that the de-delegation includes academy recoupment.  LH confirmed that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will recoup funding for academies in line with budgets calculated within the Schools Block.  This is further detailed in the table under item 7.2 of the paper.  

5.3

Forum members noted/agreed as outlined under point 5.1. 
 

6. Schools Block 2021/22

6.1

SW took the Forum through his report which was an update on papers discussed at the last meeting, now reflecting the most recent census information.  

6.2

The biggest headline is an increase in schools’ budgets, though a significant component of this is the transfer of grants into the budget.  The real cash increase is around £4m to £5m.  

6.3

The minimum funding per pupil factor was introduced last year, and SW highlighted its impact.  22 schools are now benefitting from this mechanism at a cost of nearly £2.5m, so it has become a significant component.  

6.4

The LA has prepared and circulated a Proforma for the DfE, and once notification has been received that it is compliant, schools’ budgets will be issued.  

6.5

RB asked whether there is a measure to evaluate how successfully funding for pupils with SEND in mainstream school meets the needs of the children.  SW explained that the funding is not directly to support outcomes, but to ensure that schools with high proportions of children with SEND, who are not recognised anywhere else within the funding allocations, receive sufficient funds for their provision.  

6.6

It was requested that in future the local adaption of the funding formula should be presented against the national formula as a benchmark.  SW explained that this is not currently known for 2021/22.  Comparisons are not only made against the national formula but also against other LAs to get as wide a comparison as possible.  A detailed analysis is best given in the Autumn term.  Local priorities are still allowed in the formula, for example deprivation. 

Action:  SW

6.7

It was clarified that the Premises percentage (2.34% in 2021/22) relates to rates, PFI and split sites and does not include the lump sum.

6.8

DJ fed back from the SBWG and explained that the LA has worked on moving towards the national formula but has also considered the different groups of schools, ensuring that none are adversely affected.  Schools are also monitored and supported in terms of spending and support they may need if there is a big change because of the new formula.  

6.9

Forum members asked if there had been any discussion around monitoring the financial position of one form entry schools.  This was confirmed, but two form entry schools with falling rolls are also a focus, thus considering all lowest funded schools.

6.10

SW added that a link had also been made between one form entry schools and the disproportionate impact pupils with SEND have on these.  This has been recognised by allocating a sum from the High Needs Block to them.  One form entry schools are still receiving a higher lump sum against the national formula. 

6.11

The question was raised whether there is a forecasting model for staffing, which assesses staffing levels and pupil contact ratio.  SW confirmed that the LA’s budget planning spreadsheet incorporates such details.  The information on different schools is thus gathered and then explored at the SBWG to ascertain where schools are relative to each other.  

6.12

Some schools’ budgets will increase considerably this year, and the Finance team is working closely with them to ensure that appropriate decisions are made, and plans are in place for spending the surplus.  

6.13

Forum members confirmed that they had noted the content of the paper. 
 

7. High Needs Block 2021/22

7.1

SW and RH took forum members through the paper and highlighted that the High Needs Block (HNB) sees an increase of £2.9m, bringing it up to £30.8m.  Whilst this now includes Teachers’ Pay and Pension Grants for Special Schools, it still leaves a £2.5m cash increase. This new funding will be required to meet existing service pressures and will also allow the LA to continue to plan new initiatives or extend specialist provision.  

7.2

The LA met with Special schools in the Autumn term to discuss demand on place provision in order to support the annual commissioning process.  Meetings will also be held with the Central Hub to discuss commissioning arrangements for the PRU.  

7.3

RH explained that the reason behind the larger number of high band places being proposed in Special Schools is the growth in complexity of need and high number of children coming from Early Years settings into hubs.  

7.4

RB welcomed the increase in funding but would also welcome more clarity around the details of future plans and how schools would be involved.  The LA recognises the impact of high needs on the maintained schools’ budgets and has been developing a strategy around sufficiency of SEND provision and services, which will be used to plan how the funding will be used effectively.  All Special Schools’ Headteachers will be involved. 

7.5

Forum members noted the content of the report and thanked SW and RH for their contribution.  A full breakdown of proposals for the High Needs Block will be given at the June meeting.  
 

8. Early Years Block 2021/22

8.1

CP and VJ summarised the paper, explaining that the DfE has announced an increase of 6p per hour for three and four year olds, and 8p per hour for two year olds, bringing Brighton & Hove’s rates to £4.59 for three and four year olds, and to £5.36 for two year olds.  

8.2

95% of the funding for three and four year olds will be passed through to providers, and the whole increase will be passed on for two year olds.  

8.3

In 2020/21 a new formula had been agreed for three and four year olds which was intended to benefit children in the most disadvantaged areas.  The impact of this can only be assessed when census data has been received.  If sufficient funding is available, more of the increase can be passed on to providers.  A paper with more details will be brought to the March forum meeting, following consultation with the Early Years Funding Group.

8.4

In addition to the information provided in the paper, the forum was also advised of a Covid related issue facing nurseries at the moment.  Usually Early Years funding for this term and next is based on a headcount of all children attending.  Due to Covid, in some settings numbers were restricted to Key Worker and vulnerable children, to be consistent with wider guidance for schools.  However, the government expects all Early Years settings to be open.  It had been hoped that funding would be based on the number of children on roll, but the government has now confirmed that it would be based on attendance, ie children not attending where attendance has been restricted would not be funded.  This has potentially significant funding implications for the Early Years Block and individual settings.  The impact is currently being assessed.  

8.5

DJ as a Headteacher of a school with a nursery expressed his dismay over this, also sharing the concern of other Headteachers.  

8.6

Councillor HC explained that she and Councillor John Allcock have written a letter to the government, and a council press release has also gone out.   Caroline Lucas MP has been asked to raise the matter in parliament, hoping that the issue will be covered nationally.  The forum will be kept updated.  

8.6

All forum members agreed that they fully support the position the council is taking on this issue. 

8.7

The question was raised whether Brighton and Hove is still suffering because of the low area cost adjustment, meaning that local funding is lower than in comparative Authorities.  This was confirmed; the national formula has not changed.  

8.8

In response to the question whether there had been any further lobbying activity around that, the forum was advised that a different approach had been considered but came to a stop because of work around Covid.  However, whilst the LA may go back to that, the only way to change would be a change to the formula, which the government believes is correct.  Brighton and Hove is at a disadvantage because of the formula itself, and not because of any inconsistency in its application.  

8.9

The forum noted the position on the Early Years budget, and the Chair thanked VJ and CP for their report and update.  
 

9. Any other business

The Chair explained that the meeting in March will take place this year as scheduled, as there are a number of items due for discussion.  These include the Early Years update and the review of the ToRs, outlining how the forum’s business is conducted.  Bearing in mind how quickly things change during the current pandemic, it is possible that there will also be other issues up for discussion.   

Next Meeting

  • Monday 15 March 2021, 4pm to 6pm