Agenda and draft minutes

Schools Forum - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: Luciane Bowker,  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist


No. Item



To receive any apologies for absence.


An apology for absence was submitted from Amanda Woodfin.  Amanda was substituted during the meeting by Chris Coniam.



Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 296 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 13 October 2021.


The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 13 October 2021 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


The Chairman requested that a table of Matters Arising actions be produced at the end of future minutes for ease.


Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


There were no declarations of interest received.


Matters Arising Update pdf icon PDF 9 KB

To consider the Matters Arising Update.


The Chairman noted that there were no financial matters arising. 


The Chairman went on to comment that it had been agreed that there would be an update on additional funding allocated to Foundry College at the December meeting.  Whilst there was not a specific agenda item on this it was referenced within the budget monitoring report.


It was suggested that it would be helpful for the number of Forum members voting for a particular recommendation, be recorded in the future.


An update on the new funding formula calculation which appeared to favour academies as opposed to maintained schools, had been requested.  Lynne Samuel indicated that this was something which was monitored.  Carol Simpson commented that it related to the Growth Fund and falling rolls in the consultation, which was only being offered to Good and Outstanding academies and not maintained schools.  Lynne Samuels agreed to pick this up.


RESOLVED:  That the matters arising update be noted.


Proposal to Establish a Wokingham Borough Education Partnership pdf icon PDF 294 KB

To consider a proposal to establish a Wokingham Borough Education Partnership.


The Forum received a report regarding a proposal to establish a Wokingham Borough Education Partnership.


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


·       The report explained the rationale and purpose of the intention of establishing an education partnership. 

·       Heather Tomlinson felt that the proposal reflected the voice of school leaders.  She emphasised co-production and collective strategic direction. 

·       Schools Forum had a specific remit around schools’ finance.  Other big strategic issues may be better dealt with by a partnership.

·       The terms of reference had been produced by school leaders and Forum members were invited to comment.

·       Proposed core membership was based on a premise of the election of several members from different groups, such as the Schools Forum, Wokingham Primary Heads Partnership and the Wokingham Secondary Heads Foundation.  The process to secure inclusion of Executive Headteachers from Multi Academy Trusts was still to be determined

·       The Chairman asked about the development of the strategic vision and the partnership’s contribution to this.  Heather Tomlinson indicated that the group would have the remit to commission working groups and to steer priorities and coproduction.

·       Ben Godber asked, in addition to consultation, what decision making the partnership would have.  Heather Tomlinson responded that it was for the group to determine priorities and the outcomes required of working groups.

·       The Forum discussed membership of the partnership.  It was confirmed that Schools Forum would have three members on the partnership.  It was agreed that the Forum would consider its nominees at the next meeting in January.  The Chairman requested that the Forum be informed of the primary and secondary headteacher nominations prior to this meeting.  It was hoped that an initial meeting of the partnership would be held in mid-January.

·       16 Forum members voted in favour of the proposals.




1)    the report and the proposal to identify representation on the Wokingham Borough Education Partnership be noted.


2)    Schools Forum consider and nominate its three members for the Wokingham Borough Education Partnership, at its January meeting.


2021/22 Revenue Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 138 KB

To consider the 2021/22 Revenue Monitoring Report.

Additional documents:


The Forum received the 2021/22 Revenue Monitoring Report.


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


·       Katherine Vernon advised that the in-year deficit was projected at £2.9million down from £3,1million.  This movement related primarily to the Schools Block.  A decrease had been seen against the forecast Growth Fund expenditure for this year. 

·       With regards to the High Needs Block, there was a small net movement of £65,000.

·       Increased expenditure of around £465,000 related to in year academic movements.  There was an increase in funding to Wokingham mainstream schools, Further Education colleges and Independent Non-Maintained Special Schools.

·       The above has been largely offset by the £400,000 for the Foundry which would not be drawn down this year.  Through ongoing discussions with the Foundry, Officers were aware that there remained a significant financial challenge.

·       Katherine Vernon provided an update on contingencies held.

Ø  There had not been any calls on the Schools Block De-delegated contingencies. 

Ø  With regards to the Early Years Provider Reserve Fund, in late November the formal notification of the adjustment for the last financial year had been received.  There was a clawback of £90,000, which was being investigated further.  A meeting would be held with the Early Years Task and Finish Group to discuss this and the rates for the next financial year.

Ø  There had been a reduction in forecast for the Growth Fund.

Ø  Discussions around extra mid phase secondary and primary classes that might be needed from January, continued.  The forecast for those had been reduced to 3 months from 7 months.  Katherine Vernon advised that this was important for the Growth Fund as whatever was left over this year could be carried over to the next year, so less would be needed from the Schools Block to cover the Growth Fund for next year.  For next year £1.8million would be needed for growth, but this would reduce should the £160,000 carry forwards.  £1.6million was estimated as growth fund income into the Schools Block for next financial year.

·       Ian Morgan asked whether the claw back would be taken from reserves.  Katherine Vernon indicated that the claw back would need to be factored in the rates for 2022/23.

·       Katherine Vernon confirmed that the clawback had been unexpected.

·       The Chairman asked what the level of Early Years reserves was.  Katherine Vernon commented that this was being worked on.

·       Lynne Samuel clarified that the clawback referred to the last financial year.  Officers had to consider the impact of the clawback for the last year, look at how this impacted the current year’s position, and how this would impact on recommending funding levels for the following financial year.

·       Officers would confirm the reserve funds for the current financial year.  Ian Morgan commented that he believed it was approximately £200,000.

·       Ian Morgan questioned whether the Early Year allocation would be late.  It was hoped that the hourly income rates for WBC would be available prior to Christmas.

·       The Chairman commented that the profiling of the current High  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.


Update on HNB & SEND Innovation & Improvement Programme pdf icon PDF 547 KB

To consider the update on the HNB and SEND Innovation and Improvement Programme.


Daniel Robinson provided an update on the High Needs Block, and the SEND Innovation and Improvement Programme.


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


·       The Forum was advised that the presentation detailed the work that would be undertaken to try and bring the local authority and area to a break-even position regarding income via the High Needs Block, by 2025/26.  It also detailed the improved performance and outcomes linked to SEND.

·       Daniel Robinson outlined the current position. 

·       Officers had projected that the areas with the highest spend were Social Emotional and Mental Health, Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Severe Learning Disabilities and Speech Language and Communication Needs.  Daniel Robinson highlighted the growth in expenditures, for the different areas, should no changes be made to processes.

·       Approximately 2,300 Education, Health and Care Plans were anticipated by 2025.

·       Daniel Robinson highlighted projected funding against spend up to 2025.  Without mitigation, total spending was projected to be around £57million against funding of £30million, which would take to a current cumulative deficit of £11million to a cumulative deficit of £45million.

·       Work had been divided into three workstreams:

i)                 Systems (in house)

Ø  Panel decisions and paperwork – processes had been in place since April and were working well.

Ø  Complex Case Forum – the forum which made decisions on the out of Borough placements had been in place for the last four decisions and was working well.  It provided a clear audit trail as to why decisions were made.

Ø  SEND – staffing structure had now been defined and permanent staff were being appointed.

Ø  Learning Achievement Partnership – work was being undertaken on the delivery of this and the support of EHCPs.

Ø  Recruitment – it was hoped by summer that at least 75% of the SEN team would be permanent.  The Forum was advised that those interim staff that had been in place for several months would remain during the recruitment of permanent staff to allow a handover.

Ø  Local Offer – the Council was undertaking a strategic review of the local directory including the local offer.  The ability for families to get support and where to access this, was under consideration.

Ø  SEND transport – the SEND transport service had been recommissioned for the year.

·       Inclusion (collaboration):

Ø  Ordinarily available (Schools) – Officers had undertaken 10 visits with Headteachers and SENCOs. 

Ø  Ordinarily available (health) – several meetings had been held with health colleagues.  Daniel Robinson was of the view that the ordinarily available offer from health was current insufficient to support what the Borough needed.  It was not entirely clear what services were available under an EHCP.  Work was being undertaken with health to make this clearer and more robust.

Ø  Element 2 link - £8.8million of this was allocated to schools.  Wokingham was one of the worst funded local authorities with regards to Element 2. 

Ø  Outreach – a fully serviced outreach service was vital.

Ø  SENCOs and Preparing for Adulthood training – the Innovation and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.


Draft 2022/23 Schools Block Budget pdf icon PDF 300 KB

To consider the Draft 2022/23 Schools Block Budget.


Katherine Vernon presented the draft 2022/23 Schools Block Budget.


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


·       The provisional October census data had been received.  There had been an increase of in the region of 750 pupils last year.  Initially modelling had been based on an income of £126million.  This had now increased to £130million.  The Growth factors which were based on the number of pupils from one year to the next had also been updated.

·       Katherine Vernon took the Forum through the results of the consultation with schools.

·       Katherine Vernon highlighted the draft figures that would be sent round to schools for comment.  The £128million referred to, took off the £1.5million which it was recommended would be retained for the Growth Fund next year.  Only schools that had received a drop in pupil numbers of 4% or more compared to last year would receive less funding than last year.

·       The Age Weighted Pupil Unit had increased for all levels and the amount allocated to the minimum per pupil funding level had decreased.  The Minimum Funding Guarantee allocation had reduced compared to last year.

·       Derren Gray thanked Katherine Vernon for the work that she had put into the different models.

·       The Chairman referred to Appendix D of the 2021/22 Revenue Monitoring Report, which detailed the Growth Fund and the figure recommended to be taken out of the Dedicated Schools Grant to allow growth across the Borough.  He questioned how the 2022/23 figures had been reached.  He was informed that for 2021/22 £800,000 had been retained from the Schools Block funding and £475,000 was carried forwards, giving £1.2million available to spend for this year.  Discussions were ongoing around primary contingency and secondary contingency relating to additional classes for January.  Officers highlighted the commitments for new classes of just over £1million for this year.  The difference between what was available and what was to be committed for the year was £260,000.  The Chairman questioned how much of the £1million remained as a contingency and was informed that it was £163,000, which could carry forward should the additional classrooms not come into effect in January.

·       Clarification was sought on the levels of contingency. 

·       Ginny Rhodes thanked Officers for the improved reporting.  She went on to refer to the formula for the Growth Fund and questioned whether the Growth Fund was funded to schools on the number of places that the Local Authority had requested, for example for a bulge class, or on the numbers of pupils that started at the school.  Katherine Vernon confirmed that it was the number requested as this was the number that the School would have had to plan for.  Derren Gray added that work was being undertaken around the best way to forward fund those contingency places.  Of the 240 secondary places in the contingency, 180 were for Year 7.  Last year 101 places were funded but only 67 pupils had taken up the places.  There was disparity between the four secondary schools with regards  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.


Review of De-delegated Services pdf icon PDF 153 KB

To consider the review of de-delgated services.


Lynne Samuel took the Forum through the report regarding the review of the de-delegated services.


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


·       Previously when the Forum had looked at de-delegation for the current financial year, it had committed to a review of the remaining de-delegated items for the 2022/23 budget setting.  The report detailed work undertaken to date.

·       All maintained schools had been contacted and encouraged to be part of the process.  What had started as one group had divided into two smaller groups to look at different de-delegated items.

·       De-delegated items were only an option for maintained mainstream schools.  As the number of schools which academized grew, this number decreased.  This changed the landscape and the ability to de-delegate.

·       Each of the de-delegated services had been reviewed.  The cost of some of them had reduced as the number of maintained schools had reduced.   Others had a more fixed cost regardless of the number of maintained schools.

·       Lynne Samuel highlighted the recommendations which had come out of discussions.

·       De-delegated contingency – no funds had been allocated in this financial year and the £55,000 had been brought forward from last financial year.  There had been no call on it within year to date. 

Ø  It was recommended that the principle of a de-delegated contingency be retained but that no additional funds be de-delegated for the 2022/23 financial year. 

Ø  It was also recommended that an annual review continue to be undertaken to consider whether the balance should be topped up in the case of a draw down. 

Ø  It was recommended that there be a timeframe for discontinuation (2-3 years) linked to the annual review cycle, should there be no call on the funds.

Ø  The Group had recommended that the criteria and process be refreshed to ensure clarity for all maintained schools.

·       With regards to supply cover, it was identified that costs against this were undertaken via the Payroll system.  Some process issues had been identified which would be corrected going forwards.  Forum members were advised that the supply arrangements were more a cost sharing arrangement rather than an insurance policy commissioned on behalf of schools.  Recommendations were as follows:

Ø  That supply cover continued to be delegated for the 2022/23 financial year on a per pupil basis.

Ø  That a rolling 3 year average for maintained schools be considered for setting future year requirements.

·       With regards to licenses and subscriptions, costs associated with one of the systems had broadly been funded 50% through de-delegated and 50% through the Central Schools Services Block.  The Group had recommended that this be removed as a de-delegated offer and the full £150,000 be funded through the Central Schools Service Block for 2022/2023.  The Group also recommended that for 2023/24 onwards, and once the cost base for the new contract was known, any non-statutory costs be considered with relevant areas of Learning Achievement and Partnership, in setting their traded offer to both maintained schools and academies.

·       Support to underperforming Ethnic  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Declining/Growing Rolls - Geography

To discuss possible ways to support schools with falling rolls.


This item was deferred to the Forum’s January meeting.


Schools Forum Forward Plan 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 8 KB

To consider the forward programme.


The Forum considered the forward programme for the remainder of the municipal year.


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


·       The item around declining/growing rolls had been deferred to the January meeting.

·       On behalf of the secondary headteachers, Derren Gray requested that SEN not send consultations which needed a response within the Christmas holiday period.  Ginny Rhodes asked that none be sent out until after the holiday period.  Heather Tomlinson agreed to feed this back.

·       An update on High Needs Block would be brought to the January meeting.  The Early Years budget would be considered at the March meeting.

·       Shirley Austin requested that the numbers for secondary school places could be brought to the Forum as soon as they were available, including the out of Borough numbers, so that these could be considered in relation to the budget.  An item on this was added to the January meeting.


RESOLVED:  That the forward programme be noted.


Matters arising and actions:


·       To include a table of matters arising at the end of future minutes.

·       To record how many Forum members have voted for recommendations in future minutes.

·       Update on new funding formula calculation.

·       Schools Forum to consider and nominate its members for the Wokingham Borough Education Partnership at its January meeting.  The Forum to be informed of the primary and secondary headteacher nominations prior to this.

·       Confirmation of level of Early Years reserves for the current financial year.

·       Resources Base – High Needs Block – Chiltern Way figures to be recorded in a similar way to other schools.

·       Band value for resource spaces to be included in future Revenue Monitoring reports.

·       With regards to the Schools Block Budget should recommendation of disapplication be approved, Officers to bring a report back to Schools Forum discussing how the 0.5% would be spent.

·       The item around declining/growing rolls had been deferred to the January meeting.

·       SEN be requested not to send consultations to secondary headteachers immediately prior to the Christmas holidays.

·       An update on High Needs Block would be brought to the January meeting. 

·       The Early Years budget would be considered at the March meeting.

·       A report on secondary school numbers would be taken to the January Forum meeting.