Venue: Charvil Piggott Primary School, Park Lane, Charvil, Reading RG10 9TR
Contact: Luciane Bowker, Senior Democratic Services Officer
To receive any apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was submitted from Amanda Turner, Shinfield Primary Headteacher.
The Chairman welcomed Jane Winterbone, the new Interim Head of Learning and Achievement. Jane introduced herself and gave a brief explanation of her professional background.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 22 February 2017.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Forum held on 22 February 2017 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman, subject to the correction of a typing error on page 8.
The Chairman suggested that the numerous matters arising and outstanding actions be included for consideration in the forward plan. Jane Winterbone agreed to work with colleagues to pick up pending actions, reshape the forward plan and to report back to the Forum.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest submitted.
Draft Year End 2016/17 Closure
To receive and consider a report containing details of the draft year end 2016/17 closure.
The Draft Year End 2016/17 Closure report and Appendixes were tabled at the meeting by Hawa Bedwa, Schools Finance Manager.
Elaine Stewart pointed out that the reports in the Agenda for this meeting were all marked ‘to follow’. In the past Schools Forum had been cancelled when reports were not available prior to the meeting as members did not have enough time to consider them. The Chairman agreed that the reports had not been delivered in a timely manner, but due to the importance of the items to be discussed, he had decided to go ahead with the meeting.
Councillor Dolinski stated that it was unacceptable to elected Members to receive agendas with ‘to follow’ items. He stated that the Executive Member for Finance was aware and concerned about the late delivery of reports to Schools Forum. However, there were a number of critical issues that needed to be discussed with Forum. Councillor Dolinski stated that he was not prepared to accept late reports in the future.
The Chairman adjourned the meeting for five minutes so that Members could read the report.
Hawa apologised for the lateness in delivering the report and explained that this was due to work pressures and not having sufficient resources available to achieve deadlines.
Hawa stated that instead of doing a normal monitoring and providing a forecast, she had reported a snapshot of actuals that were posted to date, so these were projected figures for year-end closure position. Hawa accepted that there had been variations in the reporting of figures and she was undertaking work to make sure there was a consistent trail of movements going forward. In order to do that it was necessary to reconcile systems, forecasts and reports.
Hawa stated that regarding the budget summary, the Budget was as set at the beginning of the year. There were variances to forecast reflected in the actuals to date. The bottom line figure was accurate but it may be necessary to move transactions from one line to another. This seemed to be the result of earlier posting to different lines for different items.
Hawa explained that the initial DSG Budget for income was set at a level lower than the final allocation settlement received; the improvement had been incorporated in the figures reported and was why the actuals seemed higher. These changes had been passed on to schools.
In response to a question Hawa stated that the budget was set based on an indicative settlement. Hawa believed that in the past the final settlement, when published in July each year had not been formally presented to Schools Forum.
In response to a question Hawa stated that the Budget setting followed this pattern: the indicative Budget was set in December; in January the draft Budget was presented to Schools Forum for agreement and submission to DFE/EFA and in July the final settlement was received from DFE. In future Hawa would like to share the final settlement with Schools Forum and explain how variances are ... view the full minutes text for item 41.
To receive a report outlining the details of the Dedicated Schools Grant outturn 2015/16 and EFA return.
Graham Ebers, Director of Corporate Services addressed the Forum and went through the report which was set out in page 17 of the supplementary agenda.
Graham stated that there was a period of time where it was perceived that there was a discrepancy between the 2015/16 school budget allocation and the funding received from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) of circa £1 million. This had created anxiety and concern, which appeared to be validated after a notification from EFA that there were discrepancies in the annual return that had been submitted.
Graham explained that given the imminent issuing of schools budgets for 2017/18, the issue was speedily raised with the Chairman of Schools Forum, so that options could be explored in addressing the perceived over-allocation. A forensic analysis and reconciliation of the schools finances was undertaken, going back to 2014/15, to attain a comprehensive understanding of the financial position.
Graham informed Schools Forum that the perceived over-allocation did not exist: £89.32m grant was allocated and paid by the EFA in 2015/16, and £89.32m was allocated to the Budget. The source of the suspected over-allocation was a note in the Statement of Accounts (year ended 31 March 2016) that incorrectly indicated a total of £90.37m had been allocated to schools budget. Although the declared Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) Schools Forum balance of £2.177m was correct, the note explaining the balance was erroneous. It is the balance figure (level of Reserves), not the note, that becomes a substantive part of the Council’s financial statements.
Graham stated that the EFA has subsequently been notified of the £89.32m and there was now agreement on this figure. It was proposed that future financial statements to Schools Forum include a reconciliation to the latest EFA funding notification for that year.
Graham stated that part of the explanation for the erroneous note was that there had been a lot of staff changes within the finance team. He believed that the lack of continuity had also contributed to this situation arising. There had been three different senior school finance officers in a short period of time, each individual had been very committed, but this had caused problems. The Local Authority was aware that high staff turnover was an issue and that it needed to be addressed.
The Chairman thanked Graham for his attendance at the meeting and invited Members to discuss the item. Some of the points raised during the discussion of the item are listed below:
· Janet Perry stated that over the last two years Schools Forum had been presented with regular large differences in figures. She asked Graham how satisfied he was that he had the right team and resources were in place to address this issue. Graham responded that he was not satisfied at the moment, this was a transitional period. He confirmed that he was aware that papers for Schools Forum were often late and stated that this was not the level of financial support delivered elsewhere in the Council. He believed that more ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
To receive and consider a report regarding pupil movement and lagged/ double funding.
Piers Brunning, Service Manager, Policy, Strategy & Partnerships presented the Pupil Movement and Lagged / Double Funding report which was set out on the supplementary agenda pages 19-24.
Piers explained in great detail the contents of the report and gave various examples to illustrate different possible scenarios.
Piers highlighted the recommendations:
· That Forum agrees to fund primary schools for the additional cost associated with opening a new class until such a time as school formulaic funding is sufficient to make the class sustainable;
· Planned expansion X AWPU (Age Weighted Pupil Unit) X Operational months / 12
· That from 1 April after the expansion of the school the funding should be on the basis of:
o (planned roll – allowance for unfunded places (lesser of 3 or 5% of the planned year group roll) – actual roll ) X AWPU
o That in the event that planned roll numbers do not materialise Officers can agree that funding be based on a new planned roll based on mixed age groups (no more than two age groups within one Key Stage)
Piers recommended that the Local Authority should operate with a reasonable amount of surplus places, in the region of 3-5% because this was the figure the DFE recommended should be used. This was gap funding, the difference between the PAN and the actual number on roll.
During the discussion of the item the following points were made:
· Janet Perry asked for more detailed information on the plan, including proposed numbers, identified pressure areas and the cost and how this was going to be funded. Piers stated that Loddon was one of the schools that was identified for expansion in Year 1. He stated that a mechanism to sustain that expansion had to be found as there was need for additional school places in that area.
· Piers stated that no volunteers had been found for expansion in Years 2 and 4 to date. Part of the problem was the inability to demonstrate to schools a funding mechanism illustrating the viability of the extra spaces;
· The Chairman believed that this was part of the 1.3 million growth fund;
· Jane Winterbone stated that this was a strategic piece of work that needed to be undertaken back in the office, including a case by case scenario to understand the pressures. She strongly believed that a 1% surplus places was not enough, she would prefer a 5% surplus. The overall strategic picture should be shared with Schools Forum, explaining the rational for decisions made;
· Corrina Gillard stated that on occasions School Admissions mistakenly told parents that her school was full when in fact it was not full. She believed that the communication between schools and School Admissions needed improving;
· Elaine Stewart stated that she felt uncomfortable with the idea of sustaining a 5% surplus places in her school. Jane Winterbone clarified that the 5% surplus would be spread across the Borough;
· Jane Winterbone explained that there were additional issues to be considered. For example, free schools had the ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
To receive and consider a report giving details of a review of SEN funding and High Needs Block.
The Forum decided not to discuss this item.
Jane Winterbone stated that the report that was produced for the Forum was of an operational level. She would review the report and re-submit it to Forum at a future meeting.
RESOLVED That a SEN/ High Needs Block report would be re-submitted to Schools Forum containing a strategic perspective as requested.
To receive and consider the contingencies breakdown report.
The contingencies breakdown was considered during the discussion of item 41.
To receive and consider a report outlining pupil growth.
The pupil growth was considered during the discussion of item 43.
Feedback on Meeting in Westminster
To receive a verbal update by Brian Prebble about a meeting in Westminister.
Brian Prebble, Rivermead Primary Headteacher addressed the Forum providing feedback on a school funding meeting which he had attended in Westminster. Included in the supplementary agenda were letters from Nick Gibb, Minister of Education following that meeting.
Brian stated that the following issues were raised at the meeting:
School funding more generally and broader cost-pressures
· Funding disparities in the current system;
· National insurance and pension contributions;
· Staff wages
· The impact of the apprenticeship levy;
· High Needs funding
Teacher recruitment and retention
· Absence of Reading/ Wokingham allowance
· Affordable housing for teachers
· Recruitment of teachers from abroad
Brian stated that in answer to the questions raised at the meeting they were informed that a lot more money had been put in the system. However, it was noted that there were a lot more children, so the additional money did not equate to extra money to schools.
Brian also stated that they were strongly encouraged to respond to the consultation on the new funding formula.
Brian stated that the government made following points at the meeting:
· A lower lump sum would be set for schools;
· A higher AWPU would be set for schools;
· Small schools were not viable financially.
Forum members were interested to know what was considered a small school. It was noted that a school with less than 220 was considered small.
Brian believed that academies were still very high on the government’s agenda, with less involvement of the Local Authority.
Brian informed that there were no answers in regards to the issue of teacher recruitment.
Councillor Dolinski stated that he and Councillor Haitham Taylor, Executive Member for Children Services had a meeting arranged with Nick Gibbs to put pressure regarding the need for increased funding for Wokingham schools. Councillor Dolinski informed the Forum that a letter was being sent to all Headteachers in the Borough to encourage them to write to local MPs regarding this issue.
Councillor Dolinski stated that the last Council meeting had received a motion in support of schools funding.
Councillor Dolinski stated that it was believed that the government would not make any changes to the funding formula at the moment.
1) the feedback on the funding meeting in Westminster be noted;
2) Headteachers are encouraged to write to politicians regarding schools funding.
National Funding Formula Review Working Group
To discuss the creation of a National Funding Formula Review Working Group.
The Chairman asked if Forum members would like to establish a Task and Finish Group to review the proposals for a new National Funding Formula and its implications for Wokingham.
Forum members agreed that it would be good to initiate discussions and the following Members volunteered to take part in the Task and Finish Group:
· Janet Perry
· Derren Gray
· Brian Prebble
· Carol Simpson
The Task and Finish Group would be supported by Hawa Bedwa and Jane Winterbone.
RESOLVED That a Task and Finish Group be established to analyse the implications of the proposed new funding formula for Wokingham schools.
To consider the Forums work programme for the remainder of the academic year.
The Forum asked Jane Winterbone to work with Officers and to allocate items to the forward programme accordingly. The Chairman asked Jane to include SEN/ High Needs Block and other outstanding items / matters arising from previous meetings.
The next meeting on 24 May 2017 would be held at the Council offices in Shute End, Wokingham.