Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum
Wednesday, 12th December, 2018 10.00 am

Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN. View directions

Contact: Luciane Bowker,  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist

Items
No. Item

13.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted from Sylvia Allen, Ali Brown, Maggie Calagham, Paul O’Neill, Jonathan Peck, Gail Prewett and Marion Standing.

14.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 116 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 17 October 2018.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 17 October 2018 were confirmed as a correct record, subject to the change below, and signed by the Chairman.

 

Janet Perry asked that the sentence stating that ‘academies paid much reduced business rates in relation to maintained schools’ be deleted.  The Chairman stated that the sentence was not inaccurate but agreed to have it deleted.

15.

Matters Arising

Minutes:

School Admissions Benchmarking

Jim Leviers, Interim Assistant Director for Education asked Schools Forum if there was funding available to commission this piece of work.

 

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

 

·           Schools Forum had been asking for benchmarking for the last two years in order to understand how the service provided by the Local Authority compared, financially, with other local authorities;

·           Jim Leviers asked Schools Forum to consider how important this piece of work was and if members wished to invest in commissioning it;

·           Paul Miller stated that the school admissions service cost approximately £450k, however it was not known how this compared with other local authorities;

·           In response to a question Coral Miller stated that the budget for school admissions had reduced from previous years;

·           It was not clear how this piece of work would be funded and if it was worth spending the necessary money to carry out the work.

 

Paul Doherty, Assistant Director for Education stated that he would look into undertaking the benchmarking exercise with resources from within his department.  He stated that the volume of school admissions work was variable, and that mid-year school admissions created a lot of work.  He stated that he would update Schools Forum at the next meeting.

 

Members noted that with the new houses around the Borough there had been an increase in the number of mid-year school admissions.

 

High Needs Block

It was reported that a High Needs Block Task and Finish Group had now been set up and that this would be discussed later in the Agenda.

 

Catering contract

Lynne Samuel, Senior Finance Specialist, People Services explained that the schools catering contract was operated as a traded service, therefore individual schools had the option on whether to buy in or not, as such any retender would not fall under the criteria set out in the Schools Forum powers and responsibilities guidance published by the Department for Education (DfE).

 

Lynn Samuel stated that there was no agreed rate per meal, therefore it was unclear where the quoted 12p was derived from.

 

Lynn Samuel stated that the Council funded the maintenance and upkeep of kitchens for schools who bought in to the contract through the management charge levied for the service and an element of non-ring-fenced capital funds.  The supplier operated a profit share (rebate) with the Council based on the overall performance of the contract each year.  This was completely independent of the management fee paid by schools.  The level of rebate received from the contract in the last financial period did not exceed the investment made by the Council under the current contract.

 

Lynne Samuel stated that as with the catering contract, both Broadband and ICT operated as a traded service where schools made individual decisions to buy in or not.

 

Lynne Samuel stated that the briefing note would be circulated with the minutes and she offered to speak to any school who had bought into the contract who wished further clarifications.

 

Corrina Gillard  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

Catering contract and Broadband & ICT pdf icon PDF 54 KB

16.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

Julia Mead, School Business Manager at St Sebastian’s CE Primary declared a personal interest on the Growth Fund item, on the basis that theKeys Academy Trust had submitted a bid for the new Shinfield West School.

 

Derren Gray, Headteacher at the Piggott School declared a personal interest in relation to the Draft 2019-20 Schools Block Budget item, on the basis that his school was an all-through school.

17.

2018/19 High Needs Block Update

To receive and consider a report containing an unpdate on the 2018/19 High Needs Block financial position.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jim Leviers presented the 2018/19 High Needs Block (HNB) update.  He stated that the anticipated overspend in the HNB was likely to increase rather than decrease in the future, and he pointed out that there was no immediate solution to the current situation. 

 

Jim Leviers informed that in Wokingham there were:

 

·           867 young people with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) whose needs varied, of which 750 had significant needs;

·           Of these 867 young people, 340 were placed in special schools;

·           Of the 340 pupils in special schools, 133 were placed outside of the Borough in specialist places (this number had gone up every year).

 

Jim Leviers stated that the number of young people coming into the system was increasing and the Local Authority had failed to address the anticipated increase in demand. 

 

Jim Leviers stated that this was a national issue and that many other local authorities faced similar challenges in relation to HNB deficit.  There had been a national increase in the production of EHCP of 35% since the introduction of the Families Act 2014.  The national HNB deficit would exceed 250 million this year.  The government had indicated that they would be looking to address this deficit, however they were asking Local Authorities to provide details of plans to tackle the issues.

 

Jim Leviers stated that there was an indication that the home to school transport budget in Wokingham would be overspent by £600k by the end of this financial year.

 

Jim Leviers stated that some ideas had already been identified by senior officers to start to address the HNB deficit, mainly around increasing the number of specialist places within the Borough. 

 

It had been proposed that Addington School be expanded by approximately 50 places.  However, this was time lagged and the impact of the expansion would not be seen until the 2020 financial year.

 

Foundry College, although not specialising in High Needs, had a number of High Needs pupils, therefore the Local Authority was also proposing to expand Foundry College by approximately 30-40 places.  This was pending  planning application and refurbishment works, and would impact on the 2020 financial year.

 

Jim Leviers stated that another issue in relation to local provision was that Northern House School, which had converted to academy status 18 months ago, had recently undergone an Ofsted inspection and the resulting report was very damming.  This represented a challenge for the Local Authority and a huge problem for the children and education in Wokingham. 

 

Jim Leviers reported that out of the 72 places available in Northern House, Wokingham used approximately 30 places at any one time.  Removing these children would potentially cost 2-3 million, therefore, given the current financial situation, it was not viable.  As a consequence of that, a decision had been made at senior level not to place any new children in the Northern House School until such a time as the Local Authority was satisfied that the children would be safe there.

 

Jim Leviers stated that the Regional Schools  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.

18.

Revenue Monitoring report pdf icon PDF 136 KB

To receive and consider a report outlining the schools current finacial position.

Minutes:

Coral Miller presented the 2018/19 Schools Revenue Monitoring report which was set out in Agenda pages 16-19.

 

Coral Miller stated that as of 31 October 2018, an overspend of £2,432 million was anticipated in the DSG, this worked out at 1.78% of the total Budget, of which £2.3 million related to the HNB.

 

Coral Miller stated that Appendix A contained a summary of the 18/19 School Revenue Monitoring Report and Appendix B contained a detailed breakdown of 18/19 revenue monitoring.

 

In response to a question, Lynne Samuel confirmed that £125k deficit from the centrally retained block was in relation to licences, this was as a result of clarification from the DfE as to which block the licences should relate to.  It was confirmed that the Central Block was for every child, including those at academies.

 

Some members felt that academies were not aware that the Central Block was for every child.

 

Carol Cammiss asked members to report directly to herself or to Paul Doherty if the communication between schools and the Council needed improving.

 

RESOLVED That the report be noted.

19.

18-19 Contingency Breakdown pdf icon PDF 82 KB

To receive and consider the 18/19 Contingency Breakdown report.

Minutes:

Coral Miller presented the 18/19 Contingency Breakdown report which was set out in agenda pages 21-24.

 

Coral Miller stated the report contained information about how the contingencies fund was being spent.  This fund was available, if needed, to maintained schools only.

 

Coral Miller stated that there had been two claims approved in this financial year.  Further to the previous report to Schools Forum, a claim had been approved for a school which had had a business rate adjustment which was unexpected by the school of approximately £51k.  This school had already lost a significant number of pupils from 2017/18 which resulted in a significant reduction in its budget for 2018/19.  The Local Authority decided that this was an exceptional situation and agreed to fund it for one year only.

 

In response to a question Coral Miller stated that this money would be recovered next year. 

 

Coral Miller stated that there was £81k in the contingencies fund not yet committed.

 

In response to another question Coral Miller stated that she had not received further proposals from schools to convert to academy status this year, therefore, even if the schools that had benefited from this fund now, applied to convert, it would not affect this financial year.

 

RESOLVED That the report be noted.

20.

Growth Fund Update and 2019/20 Request from Schools Block Budget pdf icon PDF 103 KB

To receive and consider a report containing the Growth Fund update and 2019/20 request from Schools Block Budget.

Minutes:

Piers Brunning, Senior Specialist (People and Place), Strategy and Commissioning presented the Growth Fund Update and 2019/20 request from Schools Block Budget report which was set out in agenda pages 25-29.

 

Piers Brunning stated that the Local Authority had a statutory duty to provide school places for the residents in the Borough.  He explained that there was a conflict of interest in the national arrangements, in that Schools Forum did not have direct responsibility for the provision of school places, however it was responsible for agreeing the Growth Fund Budget.  He stated that without the Growth Fund agreement it was not possible for the Local Authority to plan the increase in additional capacity in the Borough.

 

Piers Brunning stated that, despite a reduction in birth rates, one of the pressures that were identified was in relation to primary school places, due to the exceptional rate of new house building in the Borough. 

 

Piers Brunning stated that the new developments were concentrated in certain areas of the Borough.

 

Piers Brunning stated that the Shinfield West School could have opened in temporary accommodation in 2016, however due to publicity around that time, around 30 children that could have been placed at Shinfield West were placed at other schools.  Last year all the school places in local schools in the Shinfield area were filled, and the Local Authority was in need of a new school in that area.

 

Piers Brunning stated that a few years ago there had been a shortage of school places in the Earley area, with children at the time having to be diverted out of the area.  The political view was that it was not acceptable to have to send children to schools out of their area of residence.

 

Piers Brunning informed that there was no data as to who moved into new houses, however the new houses that were being built were family homes, therefore there was an expectation that the demand for school places would increase.  He stated that GP registration information was not a reliable source of data, as people sometimes did not register their family with a new GP.

 

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

 

·           Members asked if Piers Brunning had taken into account the fact that people were living longer and were having fewer children;

·           Piers stated that he had taken that into account and pointed out that there was a significant cost to school transport if children had to be transported to a school far away from their residence;

·           Members asked if there had been a consideration of the impact of building new schools to existing schools;

·           Piers Brunning stated that there had been a consultation on the plans for new schools;

·           In response to a question Piers Brunning stated that academy schools were their own admission authorities and therefore could set their own admission numbers;

·           Piers Stated that the current legal advice was that schools were not obliged to carry on with their Published Admission Number (PAN)  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Draft 2019-20 Schools Block Budget pdf icon PDF 207 KB

To receive and consider the Draft 2019/20 Schools Block Budget report.

Minutes:

The Chairman explained that the report contained options for the 2019/20 School Block Budget which had been reviewed by the Task and Finish Group.  There would be a further opportunity to look at the model just before its submission to the DfE in January 2019.

 

Coral Miller stated that the Task and Finish Group had looked at various options.  The first option was to keep the Funding Formula the same, with small adjustments, mainly around Minimum Per Pupil Funding which was £3,500 for primary school and £4,800 for secondary school.  She stated that most local authorities were using this option.

 

Coral Miller stated that another option was to go straight to the New Funding Formula (NFF), however it was felt that option allocated too much money for deprivation areas, and Wokingham was not a deprivation area according to the DfE.

 

Coral Miller stated that it was not certain when the NFF would come into effect, and that there was an extension of another year.

 

Coral Miller stated that the Task and Finish Group was recommending the adoption of option 1, which was described in detail on page 33 of the agenda.  Option 1 protected schools with a minimum funding guarantee per pupil, this option was recommended until there was more clarity around the proposed NFF, and was consistent with the funding approach applied in 2018/19.

 

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

 

·           The Chairman explained that an issue had been identified in relation to the guidance given by the DfE to calculate the funding for all-through schools.  Instead of using the number of primary children times £3,500 and the number of secondary children times £4,800, the DfE was using an average of £4,000 per pupil, and this disadvantaged schools with a larger number of secondary school pupils in relation to the number of primary school pupils.  This presented a challenged for the only all-through school in the Borough which had approximately 10 secondary pupils to 2 primary pupils.  There was a process called ‘disapplication’ in which Schools Forum could instruct Coral Miller to apply to the DfE asking for this rule not to be used in this case.  If the DfE did not agree to this disapplication and Schools Forum decided to tweak the model, every school would incur in a reduction in its funding;

·           Coral Miller tabled a paper containing a model based on the ‘fairer’ calculation of £3,500 per primary pupil and £4,800 per secondary pupil, which was dependent on applying for disapplication and the DfE agreeing to the disapplication;

·           The Chairman reiterated that if the DfE did not agree to the disapplication the reallocated money would have to be found from the Schools Block Budget;

·           Coral Miller informed that she had contacted the DfE and they said that in order to apply for disapplication the Local Authority would have to demonstrate the impact on other schools, the rational for the proposal and carry out a consultation with affected schools; also, it was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

2019-20 Proposed De-delegation budget pdf icon PDF 206 KB

To receive and consider the 2019/20 Proposed De-delegation Budget report.

Minutes:

This item was deferred to the next meeting.

23.

Effectiveness of Schools Forum

To discuss the effictiviness of Schools Forum using the self-assessment tool.

Minutes:

This item was deferred to the next meeting.

24.

Induction for New Members

To consider the introduction of an induction pack for new members to Schools Forum.

Minutes:

This item was deferred to the next meeting.

25.

Forward Programme pdf icon PDF 48 KB

To consider the Forums work programme for the remainder of the academic year.

Minutes:

This item was deferred to the next meeting.