Members

Members present

School members

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

Belle Howard (BH)
Primary Governor, St Margaret’s CoE Primary School

Oli Sharpe (OS)
Primary Governor, Middle Street Primary 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 (CJ)
Secondary Headteacher, Cardinal Newman Catholic School

Julie Plumstead (JP)
Nursery Headteacher, Tarnerland Nursery

Robert Hardy (RH)
Special Schools Governor, Hillview Special School

Academies Members

Aaron Barnard (AB)
Aldridge Education Trust

Non-school Members

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

Jon Gilbert (JG)
Diocese of Chichester (Anglican)

Paul Shellard (PS)
Teachers’ Union, NEU

Members apologies

School members

Damien Jordan (DJ)
Primary Headteacher, Fairlight Primary School

Chris Taylor (CT)
Primary Headteacher, Patcham Infant School

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

Louise Cook (LC)
Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) Headteacher, Central Hub

LA 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

Vicky Jenkins (VJ)
Childcare Strategy Manager

Jane Moodey (JM)
Accountant, Children’s Services

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

LA Apologies

Jo Lyons (JL)
Assistant Director Families and Schools

Other Attendees

Ruth Ali
Clerk to the Forum

Sarah Booker-Lewis
Brighton and Hove News

Viv Warren
Observer - Early Years, Tarnerland Nursery

Sara Hinchcliffe
Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (member of the public)

1. Welcome and apologies

Items for any other business to be stated

1.1

The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced new members. No items for any other business were stated; detailed discussion on item 7 (Terms of Reference review) would be postponed to the next meeting.

2. Minutes of last meeting (18 January 2021) and matters arising

2.1

Accuracy:

The minutes were agreed as a true record.

2.2

Matters Arising:

2.3: The Service Level Agreement (SLA) for the Connected Hub was circulated, but members were under the impression that it would still need to be officially formalised. RBa will finalise this by the end of term. An exercise for pupil number forecasting is just being launched, and no further action on this is required.

2.3

3.1: Schools Block Working Group (SBWG) minutes have been circulated.

2.4

6.6: Presentation of the local adaption of the funding formula against the benchmark of the national formula and detailed analysis of comparisons are both actions for the Autumn term

3. Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) Outturn report 2020/21

Papers circulated:

  • School and DSG outturn report 2020/21
  • 3.1 School balances 2020/21 summary

3.1

SW took forum members through his paper. He highlighted the overall 2020/21 year-end position within the DSG and explained that the appendix lists balances on a school-by-school basis. The level of school balances shown at the end of the financial year (£6.9m) has increased but may be artificially high, due to the timing of grant funding received, and because some schools are holding partnership balances. It is estimated that the true figure for the increase on the previous year is around £1.5m rather than the nominal £2.5m.

3.2

There are still a number of schools with either an overspend, or an underspend of less than £10,000. The LA is contacting schools above their relevant threshold for balances held (5% for secondary schools and 8% for primary schools) to ask for more details of their spending plans for their carryforward. A summary of responses will be brought to the October meeting.

3.3

The Central DSG year-end position showed a net underspend of £0.746m. This is a slight increase on the figure of £0.703m at the end of the previous financial year. SW highlighted that a large part of the EYB underspend will be required this financial year to cover a retrospective clawback by the Department for Education (DfE) and a shortfall due to the reduction in the number of children recorded in the Early Years census in January 2021.

3.4

The question was raised whether the LA will specifically follow up schools which have had a substantial carryforward above the threshold for a number of years. The LA follows this up every year and is seeing this as a greater challenge as a large number of schools are in a challenging financial position. It is therefore necessary to understand schools’ positions before making future decisions. RBa explained that two years ago, schools had been advised to be cautious in their spending; now communications from Headteachers and Governing Boards have referenced previous spending plans being put back due to Covid; this is being followed up closely this year.

3.5

OS commented that he would have expected Covid to have put greater pressure on more schools and asked why schools are not in a worse position. SW explained that grant funding was received at the end of the financial year and coincided with the school closure, so schools had limited opportunity for spending and deferred plans to the new financial year. Schools members were invited to comment more on that. Overall, Covid presented significant challenges in terms of school finance, but also provided opportunities for potential savings during the time of closure. Members are interested to see how the LA compares with national data, once this becomes available.

3.6

AB reported savings on energy at the Aldridge Education Trust due to school closures. LN explained that the school where she serves as a governor has a significant balance, which is welcome. This is due to spending plans having been interrupted by pressures of dealing with the pandemic, and due to the receipt of some unexpected funding.

3.7

SW explained that his report represents the position for LA maintained schools; local academies are funded by DfE through the same formula, but any balances they or their MAT may hold are not included in this report.

3.8

Forum members noted the level of school balances as detailed in the report as well as the carryforward of £0.746m on the central DSG.

4. Dedicated Schools Grant 2021/22 Update

Papers circulated:

  • Dedicated Schools Grant 2021/22 Update

4.1

LH updated the forum on the latest DfE adjustments to the DSG allocation for 2021/22, tables showing a summary of the 2021/22 DSG allocation published by the DfE in March 2021.

4.2

Since her last report, the HNB has been reduced by £72k due to an increase in the number of high needs post-16 places being directly funded by the DfE rather than through the LA.

Questions were invited; none were raised.

4.3

Forum members noted the updated gross DSG for 2021/22 of £199.669m (before Academy recoupment of £17.726m)

5. High Needs Block 2021/22

Papers circulated:

  • High Needs Block 2021/22
  • 5.1 Breakdown of allocation of HNB

5.1

GCG took forum members through her report and explained that as the LA is responsible for the HNB allocation, the forum is provided with a paper every June giving details of the distribution.

5.2

The LA is now responsible for provision for high needs pupils and students up to 25 years old, which creates its own pressures. These pressures are recognised by the DfE, and increases in funding have come through – this year funding amounts to £30.764m. It is uncertain whether this will go far enough, as both the LA and schools are facing significant pressures this year due to higher demand. The LA is still intending to work closely with schools for better provision. Questions were invited.

5.3

OS commented that it is hard to judge total sums of money independent of the trends of underlying need, as it is difficult to contextualise the overall figure. GCG explained that she is currently looking at data of children and young people coming into the system in order to evaluate the demand for the next five to 10 years, for every profile of need. This data, with associated funding, will be gathered and transferred into an easily understandable format. GCG agreed to give a presentation on the pressures and implications for HNB going forward at the December meeting.

5.4

Money has been set aside for Autistic Spectrum (ASC) and Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) provision in Primary schools, but the pandemic prevented these from being set up. Providers have been identified, and Primary provision will hopefully be set up in Spring 2022, followed by Secondary in September 2022. Secondary schools will be asked for expressions of interest, and forum members were assured that funding is available for that.

5.5

The question was raised whether £619,300 funding for the SEND team means adding capacity. This was confirmed, as the number of pupils with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) has risen. The LA is looking how more staff can be provided to meet their statutory duty.

5.6

RH pointed out that the Resource Bases in mainstream schools do not list the ASC unit at West Blatchington Primary School, as funding for that has been tied into Hill Park, and requested that the next report should make this clearer, for the benefit of those who are not as familiar with Special Provision. GCG confirmed that this would be included in the next report.

5.7

The Chair asked which post-16 institutions apart from the three colleges receive High Needs funding. SW explained that 10 different providers are being commissioned for whom High Needs funding is provided. The level of top up funding is set locally, and individual top ups will be the same as per the usual process, in conversation between the SEN team and individual colleges.

5.8

RH suggested that it would be helpful to know the breakdown of post 16 provision for the 85 children and young people placed in independent schools (increase from 65). GCG will provide this, but also explained that one of the factors of the rise in independent placements is because of the care aspect. Although we can often meet the educational needs in the city, Covid has placed a lot of additional pressure on families with children who have complex SEN needs and therefore there has been an increase in the number of these children coming into care. The consequence is that placements outside of the city had to be found for these young people, and their package has to include education which is funded through the HNB.

5.9

Forum members noted the distribution of the HNB across service areas for 2021/22.

6. Early Years Block 2021/22 Update

Papers circulated:

  • Early Years Block 2021/22 Update ·
  • 6.1 Early Years Timetable

6.1

SW explained that the purpose of his paper is to update the forum on more details from the government in relation to Early Years funding. There had been concerns over the last six months, due to funding being based on the January census, which was at a low point due to Covid which saw council nurseries closed and significant drop of numbers in the independent sector.

6.2

It is estimated that £300,000 will be required to fund the clawback; there is a protection mechanism in place but Brighton and Hove falls just outside of that. Furthermore, the DfE is changing the funding for LAs; this is normally based on the January census, but for the Summer and Autumn terms the census of that term will be used. As each census takes place very early in a term, numbers are at their lowest, resulting in a potential negative impact on the early years block budget.

6.3

In the longer term, the DfE suggests they will revert to the usual funding mechanisms, but meanwhile the LA will feel the impact of the temporary mechanism. Forum members asked whether Early Years providers on the forum have been consulted on this. SW explained that this is a matter of regulations, and not for consultation, but the LA will keep in contact with providers. In terms of overall affordability, it has been possible to increase the basic hourly rate. It was highlighted that Brighton and Hove is one of the lowest funded areas in England in terms of Early Years funding.

6.4

VJ explained further that Early Years funding is a complicated picture, and she continues to be aware of the difficulty of funding for Early Years providers which she will highlight to the DfE.

6.5

The question was raised whether this is having an impact on the willingness of settings to provide an Early Years education. It was reported that there had been some closures, but also some new providers. Capacity is therefore not currently a concern, but providers are looking at ways to make up the shortfall between their needs and government funding, impacting on the fees and other charges met by parents.

6.6

Forum members asked to be provided with the numbers of children who have been supported through this funding and were advised that the LA has to fund all eligible two- to four-year-olds, but that there had been a drop in numbers.

6.7

Further clarification was sought on the paper, and forum members were advised that the EYB is part of the central DSG block. As discussed in item 3 there was an underspend of £600,000, and the LA is now seeking to identify how to allocate the funding this year. The first challenge is the clawback on EYB which is expected to be around £300,000, and a potential financial shortfall due to the census timing of £70,000.

6.8

Forum members noted the financial year end position of the 2020/21 EYB and potential pressures, and financial risk associated with changes in the DfE guidance in calculating EYB funding for 2021/22.

6.9

Approval by email of the Early Years paper circulated in March was also noted.

7. Schools Forum Terms of Reference

7.1

RBa explained that it had been the intention to present a revised version of the forum Terms of Refence (Tor); review had become necessary when the Schools Block Working Group (SBWG) dissolved itself and a different mechanism needed to be included in the ToR in terms of how the forum relates to groups at primary and secondary level as well as other groups.

7.2

New text has been drafted but has not been finalised. Representation and balance in terms of pupil numbers will also be communicated to forum members to evidence that the membership numbers accurately represent numbers of pupils.

7.3

The draft will be circulated by email in time for discussion at the next meeting in October.

7.4

Forum members are keen to see the reviewed ToR as this will allow them to have a good understanding of the decision-making powers of the forum. The Chair explained that these powers are limited by DfE guidance.

8. Any Other Business

8.1

The Chair asked RBa to give an indication of the allocation of DSG if Moulsecoomb Primary School converts to academy status in September. RBa explained that whilst the preferred sponsor is known, there is no confirmed date of transfer, although the start of the academic year would be a relevant date.

8.2

It is therefore unknown at what point there would be an impact on the DSG. The budget position of Moulsecoomb Primary School at the point of closure will be left with the LA and will be in deficit. The LA considers this a wider issue than the impact on the DSG and has been discussing the matter corporately in the council.

8.3

The Chair recalled that the consensus of forum members previously had been that there should not be a claim for the deficit at closure on the DSG.

Next Meeting:

Monday 11 October 2021, 4pm-6pm

The Meeting closed at 5pm