Members

Members present

School members

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

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

Linda Newman (LN)
Secondary Governor, Longhill High School

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

Matt Hillier (MH)
Secondary Headteacher, Dorothy Stringer School

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

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

Academies members

Aaron Barnard (AB)
Aldridge Education Trust

Non-school members

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

Members apologies

School members

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

Julie Plumstead (JP)
Nursery Headteacher, Tarnerland Nursery

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

Non-school members

Helena Thomas (HT)
16 to 19 Provision, GBMC

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

Jane Moodey (JM)
Accountant, Children’s Services

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

Other attendees

Ruth Ali
Clerk to the forum

Sarah Booker-Lewis
Brighton & Hove News

1. Welcome and apologies

1.1

The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.  Apologies were received as listed above.

1.2

The forum was advised that the consultation on changes to the School Improvement Grant would not be an agenda item until the January meeting, but that an update can be given under Any Other Business, if desired. 

The need to elect a new chair and vice chair in the first half of next year will also be discussed.

2. Minutes of last meeting (11 October 2021) and matters arising

2.1 - Accuracy

The minutes were agreed as a true record.

2.2 - Matters arising

Min 2.3: High Needs Presentation is an agenda item at this meeting.

2.3

Min 4.2: RBa explained that discussions are still to be held as to whether there is any flexibility around timescales for feeding back to schools with surpluses over the permitted limit about whether any money would be taken back. 

The Chair asked that the forum should be updated on this at the March meeting, if this takes place. If not, members were asked to take the matter up individually with RBa.

2.4

Min 9: It was confirmed that the terms of reference circulated and agreed at the last meeting are the final version. They are also published on the forum web page.

3. Any updates from Phase Groups

3.1

Forum members were reminded that this agenda item has been added to provide liaison points for the forum, following the disbandment of the Schools Block Working Group. Headteachers were asked to feed back by phase.

3.2

Primary Headteachers: Not present at this meeting.

3.3

Secondary Headteachers: MH reported from a meeting with Secondary Headteachers that all were happy that delegated funds would be taken back from schools that were able to do so. This was confirmed by CJ. 

3.4

Representative Headteachers from other groups: Not present at this meeting.

4. High Needs Block presentation (from matters arising)

4.1

GCG gave a PowerPoint presentation which outlined:

The context of pressures on the High Needs Block and significant cost drivers

The council is now responsible for young people with additional needs up to the age of 25, but this increased responsibility came without appropriate additional funding.

There has been an increase of 27% in the take up of state funded special school places, and 61% in the take up of independent school places in the last five years, which indicates that the LA is unable to keep up with demand.

Increased complexity in terms of the numbers of agencies involved.

The number of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) has increased by 92 % since 2015. This is comparable with the national picture.

The national position is that most LAs are overspending their High Needs Block allocation. In this situation, LAs may be required to draw up financial recovery plans and submit these to the DfE. More funding has been announced for future years and it is hoped that the government’s long-promised SEND review, now due in early 2022, will result in clearer guidance on priorities. 

In terms of allocation of top up funding for pupils in mainstream schools, the LA has more than doubled the amounts paid in the last six years. The numbers of top ups for the highest band have also increased.

There has been an increase in demand for independent and non-maintained school places linked to social care; Covid has impacted on families and increased pressures. This caused a breakdown of care places. Some placements come at a cost of £5,000 per week.

There is a growing need for SEMH and ASC placements, with ASC being a particular pressure at the moment. This is more challenging in terms of inclusion.

The increase in EHCPs for post-16 students has been particularly significant.

Linear projections estimate that the number of pupils with an EHCP in maintained schools will increase further in coming years.

Models of provision under consideration for development over the next 5 years were outlined:

  • Specialist ASC/SEMH resource base provision in mainstream primary schools in the east, west and central areas of the city
  • Specialist ASC/SEMH resource base provision in mainstream secondary schools
  • Special school satellite ASC/MLD provision on a primary and secondary mainstream school site

Capital and revenue funding; it is acknowledged that increases are required going forward. More detail on long-term revenue funding is awaited, but a further increase in the High Needs Block has been announced for next year.

The Chancellor’s recent budget statement gave recognition of the pressure on schools supporting children with SEND and the aim to create more specialist placements.

There will be funding for a number of specialist placements next financial year for ASC and schools will be invited to submit an expression of interest to host a resource base. However, it is only good or outstanding schools who will be able to express an interest because of the government’s criteria to access the capital funding. 

The DfE’s SEND review will be published as a Green Paper in 2022; this should give more direction.

4.2

Questions were invited:

OS recognised the pressures the LA is under. He suggested that the projections going forward looked like a linear model, based on current growth, and asked whether causes for growth had been considered, as at some point this will be affected by the reduction in pupil numbers.

In reply, GCG explained that the analysis was done by a PhD student who had built a sophisticated model taking into account the conversion rate of SEND support to EHCPs as well as qualitative work undertaken by the BHISS teams, and how the decrease in the population affects the forecasts.

While it is not perfect, GCG believes that the forecast is as close as can be achieved. Figures may also be affected by new children coming into the city or those who may leave, as well as hidden children.

A working group will co-produce models going forward, and while these are just linear figures, all these factors will be included when the LA presents on actual places.

4.3

MH asked whether the additional funding due to come from DfE is ring-fenced. He also explained that his school is struggling to support children with EHCPs, as TAs are the lowest paid, and with pay increases negotiated by the unions he is concerned that additional funding may be consumed by increased staffing costs.

SW explained that the High Needs Block is part of the wider Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). Although this year’s HNB is currently in deficit, there will be a focus in trying to reduce the predicted overspend between now and the end of the financial year.

It is also anticipated that there will be another significant increase in the HNB allocation from government for 2022 to 2023 but there are a number of competing demands in terms of where this funding will be allocated.

The second part of the question relating to support staff costs will be discussed in more detail at the January Forum.

4.4

AB highlighted that students with EHCPs require individual support, with much of the costs borne by the schools.

Two of the local academies – BACA and Moulsecoomb – have high numbers of EHCPs, and this takes funding out of the core budget. With an increase in complex needs, catering for them in mainstream schools is becoming unworkable.

He asked:

  • why the LA lacks sufficient local provision and is therefore sending pupils outside the LA
  • whether in retrospect this should have been addressed sooner
  • how quickly something can be put in place

GCG highlighted that schools should think about the amount of one-to-one provision they are putting in place for students with EHCPs.

The concept of Individual Needs Assistants is not something GCG has come across in other authorities. Wherever possible, TAs should be present, but not with the students all of the time.

This should be made clear in EHCP’s so that schools do not feel they have to ensure such provision; students’ independence should also be increased, as this is backed up by research.

When new provision is put in place, those who need one to one support will have that increase in funding, as funding for those places will be more than what is provided at the moment. If placed correctly, the pressure on the core budget should therefore diminish.

The reason for being behind is partly due to Covid, in other words, because of Covid it has not been possible to address this earlier.

GCG started her post in 2019, and the first task she took on was the SEND strategy. She wants to spend time on collating proper evidence and anticipates that it should not be much longer until there is provision on the ground and a significant uplift in school places is seen in the next 3 years. 

4.5

OS noted that currently parents of children with EHCPs have discretion to choose a school for their child and asked whether, with the proposed Resource Bases, the funding will follow the child and the practitioner choice or school.

GCG explained that funding will be place based; she anticipates this to be geographical and believes that there should be sufficient choice. 

4.6

In response to the question whether funding will depend on the school, forum members were advised that it is not a matter of funding but of provision, in other words, the appropriateness of a placement determined through the EHCP.

4.7

RH thanked GCG for her helpful presentation and asked whether the slides could be shared with forum members.

He asked how many places outside the LA have been made available jointly with care or only care, as opposed to school places only.

GCG confirmed that she has this data, explaining that there are at least 5 or 6 which have been deemed necessary following placement breakdowns.

4.8

It was agreed that the slides would be shared and published on the forum web page.

4.9

Forum members asked whether there is a process for agreeing specialist placements in mainstream schools, as governors are unclear about the process taking place for deciding which schools would be selected for specialist units.

GCG explained that in the new year there will ASC and SEMH Working Groups, and mainstream schools will be represented there, as will parents, carers and health staff. These meetings will decide on the types of models, based on research.

Once the models are agreed, the specification for each profile of need will be worked on, in other words, environment, admissions, funding and so on. This information will then go out to all schools for expression of interest.

Schools should set out how they will meet the criteria, and the LA will then identify which schools meet the criteria and look at the geographical spread. If more expressions of interest are received than required, there will be a panel conducting an interview process. 

4.10

RH asked whether the invitation to bid would go out to all schools, or only to those with an Ofsted judgment of good or outstanding.

The invitation would go only to good or outstanding schools as capital funding from the DfE can only be accessed if the school is good or outstanding.

4.11

JL explained that there are very few “Requires Improvement” schools in Brighton & Hove, and those that are in that category at the moment are expected to be good shortly, so they would not be ruled out, should they receive the revised Ofsted judgment within the timescale.

5. Scheme for financing schools update

5.1

SW explained that the scheme for financing schools gives an overview of the financial arrangements the LA has with its maintained schools. This is aligned to the DfE’s model scheme. Any changes must be approved by the schools forum.

5.2

A minor change is proposed to section 2.1.4; this is to do with the requirement for annual checks of stocks and stores and arrangements for writing off any deficiencies.

The audit team suggested that current wording is too strict, and it is therefore proposed that schools can agree write-offs in consultation with Schools Finance up to £2,500, and approval of the Chief Finance Officer in excess of that. 

5.3

Approved:

The forum approved the proposed new wording to section 2.1.4 of the scheme for financing schools (Independent checks of stocks and stores).

6. Services to schools 2022 to 2023

6.1

RBa explained that the LA provides an annual report on proposals for the next financial year which gives an indication of likely uplifts to services. All likely rises are due to an increase in staffing costs, and around half of the services offered will have to have an uplift. 

6.2

The LA continues to work on ensuring that BEEM is a useful one stop shop for all services.

6.3

Feedback was invited; there were no further questions or comments.

7. Any other business

7.1

Forum members asked whether the DfE has yet provided feedback from the consultation on changes to the School Improvement Grant. There has not been any yet.

7.2

The DfE’s plan is to remove the school monitoring grant, currently provided to LA’s outside the DSG, and that expenditure by LA’s on monitoring and school improvement in maintained schools should come from the Schools Block after agreement in Schools Forums to de-delegation.

This has been discussed at various levels, and a survey has gone out to Headteachers. Once feedback has been collated, further discussions will be held at the next Schools Forum meeting.

Meanwhile, the forum should note the position and expect a proposal to come to the January meeting.

7.3

RH asked whether it would be helpful to those drafting the report to have indications from forum members about topics they would like to see covered in the report, and any questions they would like to see addressed, for example in relation to governance. This was welcomed. 

7.4

It was also suggested that governors should be brought into the discussion. 

JL will check with the Ashley Seymour-Williams, Senior Advisor to Education Partnerships, who is having dialogues with different groups, whether this could also be done for governors. 

7.5

SW highlighted that normally by January, all decisions on de-delegation would have been taken. A late decision will therefore have an impact on issuing budgets to schools.

In order to minimise delays, he intends to bring 2 example budgets to the forum meeting; one including de-delegation for school improvement and one assuming de-delegation is not agreed.

This is because once the meeting has taken place, the funding plan will have to be submitted immediately to the DfE for approval.

It is expected that school budgets would be going out in late January/early February, hopefully without any undue delay.

7.6

PF advised forum members that his term of office as Primary School Governor representative is expiring in February, and he will not stand for re-election. He will speak with the LA about the process of finding a new chair and vice chair.

Next meeting

Monday 17 January 2022, 4pm to 6pm.