Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum - Wednesday, 22nd February, 2017 9.30 am

Venue: Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN

Contact: Luciane Bowker,  Senior Democratic Services Officer

No. Item



To receive any apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were submitted from John Ogden, Brian Prebble, Ginny Rhodes, Maggie Seagrove and James Taylor.


Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 173 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 18 January 2017.


The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 18 January 2017 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Clarifications requested at the previous meeting


Page 6 – what services maintained schools received from Early Years that academies did not

Derren Gray, Piggott Headteacher confirmed that he had received the information from Alison Pugh, Early Years Team Manager.


Page 7 – contingencies breakdown

Hawa Bedwa, Schools Finance Manager explained that due to transaction changes received in the morning, the document containing the breakdown that she had intended to circulate to Forum was irrelevant as the position had now changed.  Hawa proposed to update the document and circulate it with the minutes, Forum accepted this proposal.


The Chairman stated that as contingencies represented large amounts of money, the Forum would like to receive regular reports going forward.


Hawa stated that in relation to the 340K de-delegated items, a number of transactions had been identified to date totalling 222K, making the difference unspent 117K, however there were transactions still to be posted because the system had not been available to use.  It was possible that once all adjustments were taken into account there would be an underspent of 84K, it was anticipated that this would be fully spent by year end.


Hawa informed the items related to:


·           music for Looked After Children (LAC) £9.3K

·           school funding for additional pupils £19K

·           safeguarding for children £25K


As there was uncertainty over the figures for music for LAC Hawa stated she would double check and report back to Forum. 


Subsequently Hawa informed that the music for LAC amounted to £7K.  The contingencies breakdown is attached to the minutes.


Hawa was confident that from April, with the new system, the figures would be worked out from actuals and therefore would be more accurate.


In response to a question, Hawa explained that safeguarding related to a subscription to the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB).  Hawa stated that this had been agreed by Schools Forum in the past.  John Bayes, Vice-Chairman confirmed that to be the case.


Hawa stated that the bulk of the spent was £163K approximately and consisted of a variance on business rates. The cost had changed considerably and therefore had to be considered under contingencies. Janet Perry, Holt School Business Manager stated that she believed this related to council tax and questioned if this should have been budgeted for.  Hawa explained that this had been budgeted for; however the rates were received late, so there was variance in the rates.  John Bayes believed this related to uniform business rates and he understood this money was recouped from the government; therefore it did not make any difference to Schools Forum.  After discussions, the Chairman asked for further clarification on the following:


·           whether this money was recouped or not

·           whether this should be budgeted for

·           what to do if there were changes during the year, and

·           what to do with any differences


Hawa agreed to investigate and report back with more details, including a full breakdown of contingencies, to be circulated with the minutes.


Page 7 – Detailed analysis for all costs for 2018/19

The Chairman stated that a detailed analysis  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

De-delegated Contingencies Breakdown pdf icon PDF 112 KB

The de-delegated contingencies breakdown analysis is attached to the minutes.



Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


There were no declarations of interest submitted.


Budget Monitoring pdf icon PDF 432 KB

To receive and consider a report containing details of the schools current financial position.

Additional documents:


The Forum received the Budget Monitoring report which was set out in agenda pages 13-22 and was presented by Hawa Bedwa, Schools Finance Manager. 


Hawa reported that the overall trajectory of the budget was of an increase in surplus.  However, the net forecast position was likely to change significantly once all transactions were taken into account.  The reason for the delay was that there had been some issues in implementing the new system. 


Hawa stated that the summary position showed a consistent spend from last quarter reports, and the variances indicated were comparatively low.  The surplus had increased from £552K to £559K, with all the expenditure and income now static.  Hawa was confident it was possible to achieve the projected £552K surplus.


Hawa informed Schools Forum that it had been difficult to produce the reports in time due to limited staff resources and delays in receiving schools returns.  She pointed out that returns were often late, incomplete and inaccurate.  Hawa urged headteachers and governors to emphasize to schools the importance of submitting school returns accurately and on time, and also to respond to queries in a timely manner. 


Janet Perry asked what information exactly was required from schools that was preventing the production of the report.  Hawa explained that the schools control codes needed to be placed against school forecasts to find out what the actuals were.  John Bayes pointed out that it was also important to have the census reports returned.


Carole Simpson stated that sometimes the returns were not signed because of difficulties in coordinating governors meetings in time for the deadline for the submission.  It was agreed that headteachers and governors should be advised to timetable governors’ meetings in time for schools returns.


After much discussion, it was agreed that Hawa would advise bursars to work together with her to find a solution to the issue of returning submissions in a timely manner.


During the discussion of the item the following points were made:


·           John Bayes noticed that the Variance column was calculated from the June forecast, and not as Variances from the Budget.  The Chairman suggested dropping the June figures from the report;

·           The Chairman suggested adding the figures for the next year’s budget to the report;

·           Derren Gray, Piggott Headteacher made the following points:

o   If there was a carry forward at year end 2017/18 of a surplus of £559K, what would happen to this surplus (or any deficits) when the formula changed in 2018/19?

o   It was predicted that next year’s budget would have a significant deficit; Forum asked who would be making a decision to address it?  Hawa stated that she would have to consult with Senior Management on this issue and report back;

o   The first draft of the new national funding formula suggested that Local Authorities would retain an element of Growth Fund matched to previous year’s spend.  Therefore it might be advantageous to increase the planned size of the Growth Fund for next year, if this was to be matched  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.


SEN Alert pdf icon PDF 71 KB

To receive and consider a report outlining the current financial position in relation to the Special Educational Needs provision.


The Forum considered the SEN (Special Educational Needs) Alert report which was set out in agenda page 23.  Alan Stubbersfield explained that the report indicated what new placements were likely to take place in the next year.  Alan went through the figures in the report.


The following comments were made during the discussion of the item:


·           The Chairman noted that this budget was overspent by 25%; he welcomed the increased transparency but was concerned that there was little control over such a large amount of money;

·           Alan stated that the figures in the report did not significantly affect this year’s budget, as the placements were to take place next year;

·           Hawa stated that a cost review analyses showed a reduced spend.  She would be able to report back to Forum once the position was finalised;

·           Hawa stated that there was ongoing work with other Local Authorities to try and find the best way forward;

·           Alan recalled the discussions about Out of Borough placements and reminded members of the Forum that this service was ‘needs led’ and legal requirements had to be met.  Other Local Authorities faced similar pressures at national level, due to increased needs;

·           Alan stated that a zero based budget exercise had been undertaken where each individual placement had been looked at.  This exercise was almost complete and he felt there was now a much tighter grip on understanding the budget and the nature of needs;

·           Alan stated that using the resource spaces within Wokingham schools would save a lot of money.  He mentioned the new resource in St Crispins.  Alan suggested that Forum undertook a review of funding of schools with resource spaces; he believed that making use of these spaces would help to contain costs.




1)     The report be noted;


2)     A review of funding of schools with resource spaces be brought to Schools Forum for consideration.


Apprenticeship Levy pdf icon PDF 69 KB

To consider a report giving details of the impact on schools and the methodology of implementation.

Additional documents:


Alan Stubbersfield presented the apprenticeship levy report which was set out in agenda pages 25- 36.  Alan explained that Billy Webster, Head of Support Services had produced a substantive report on apprenticeship levy. 


Alan stated that the report provided a summary of the Apprenticeship Levy position for maintained and voluntary controlled schools budgets.  It created an account to which the government added 10%, this account was available for apprenticeship training. 


Alan drew attention to recommendation 3 in the report: The Council will need to determine a mechanism for providing access to levy from connected organisations (schools).  It was recommended that the Council set up a working group to consider the options and optimal solution in conjunction with schools.


The following comments were made during the discussion of the item:


·           The Chairman stated that Schools Forum should take part in this working group;

·           Alan stated that information about this would be available in the schools’ newsletter;

·           Kerrie Clifford, Ambleside Centre Headteacher stated that more apprenticeships could be offered if the levy was accessible to 19 year olds.  At the moment the funding was available for younger people only;

·           John Bayes asked who would decide in the event of requests for funding being greater than the funds available.  Alan believed this would be decided by the task and finish group, however it was ultimately a Local Authority decision as the Council was the employer;

·           Helen Ball, Polehampton Infant Headteacher asked Alan to include the FAQs with the newsletter to schools as it was a very useful paper;

·           Forum discussed the best to way to send representatives to the working group and decided that having representatives from each cluster would be a good way to ensure a robust level of engagement.




1)     Schools Forum would send one representative from each cluster to the working group;


2)     The FAQs would be circulated with the schools’ newsletter.


Review of Schools Forum Membership pdf icon PDF 296 KB

To receive and consider a report a report reviewing the Schools Forum membership arrangements.


The Forum considered the report reviewing Schools Forum membership which was set out in agenda pages 37-42.  Alan Stubbersfield, Interim Head of Learning and Achievement presented the report.


Alan stated that the membership was last reviewed in 2015, therefore it was time to review it again, in line with the new pupil population statistics.  The Local Authority was required to secure that primary, secondary and academy schools’ representation was broadly proportionate, having regard to the number of pupils registered at them.


Alan pointed out that the Forum had to comply with the membership requirements set out in the Schools Forum regulations.  The regulations stipulated the following statutory representation:


·           Academies                     at least

·           Schools/academies      at least 2/3 in relation to non-schools members

·           Maintained schools      at least 1 head; at least 1 secondary; at least 1 governors

·           Special schools             at least 1

·           Nursery schools                        at least 1

·           PRUs                              at least 1

·           14-19 partnership         at least 1

·           Early Years providers   at least 1


Alan stated that the tables contained in the report on the distribution of pupil population did not show a significant change in percentages, therefore representation could remain as it was at the moment.  However, there may be a need to review this arrangement in the future if more schools became primary academies.


Alan asked Forum to consider the following points before agreeing on its membership:


·           There were 11 primary school members with 10 votes;

·           There was a vacancy for a secondary academy member;

·           There were two PRU members with one vote;

·           The last time Schools Forum membership was discussed that there had been a desire to move to a smaller number of Members;

·           Early years had two representatives with one vote;

·           There was an option to have a Local Authority member (Matt Marsden had in the past been a member of Schools Forum, however the regulations stated that no finance officer should be a member);

·           Consideration of the need for the Roman Catholic Diocese vacancy, given the fact that this post had been vacant for a long time and that there were only two Catholic schools in the borough.


Alan explained that it was important to consider that Schools Forum may not exist in two to three years’ time.  In view of this fact, it may be sensible to continue with the current membership model and to retain the expertise of the present members.   


Alan was of the opinion that Early Years should be entitled to two members and two votes, due to the fact that they represented a large number of children.


After careful consideration the Forum was in agreement with the proposals.




1)     There would be 11 primary members with 10 votes;


2)     There would be two PRU members with 1 vote;


3)     There would be two Early Years members with two votes;


4)     There would be one member from the Local Authority, this would be the Head of Learning and Achievement;


5)     The Roman Catholic Diocese member would remain;


6)     The overall numbers would remain the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.


Forward Programme pdf icon PDF 6 KB

To consider the Forum’s work programme for the remainder of the academic year.


The Forum considered and noted the Forward Programme of work and dates of future meetings as set out on Agenda page 43.


It was noted that some items had been on the forward plan for some time.  Forum recognised that the service was under a lot of pressure and it may be necessary to prioritise the order of items.


After a brief discussion Forum decided that the Five Year Plan should be dropped from the forward plan as Schools Forum would probably not exist in five years’ time.


The following items were agreed:


29 March

·           Revenue Monitoring

·           Pupil movement and lagged/double funding

·           Review of SEN funding / High Needs Block

·           Contingencies breakdown

·           Pupil Growth

·           Review of resource spaces

·           Feedback on meeting in Westminster by Brian Prebble, Rivermead Primary Headteacher


24 May

·           Foundry College

·           Revenue Monitoring

·           Final 2017/18 Budget

·           Implication of new funding formula

·           SEN funding and High Needs Block


The Chairman announced that this was Alan Stubbersfield last meeting with Schools Forum.  The Chairman thanked Alan for his contribution, his attention to detail and all the support he provided to the Forum over the years. 


The next meeting would be held at Charvil Piggott Primary School on 29 March 2017 at 9.30.