Agenda and draft minutes

Schools Forum
Wednesday, 10th July, 2019 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

52.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted from Maggie Calagham, Ben Godber, Ian Morgan and Lynne Samuel.

53.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 233 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 13 March 2019.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 13 March 2019 were confirmed as a correct record, subject to the correction that Keith McConaghy had been present, and signed by the Chairman.

53.1

Matters Arising

Minutes:

It was confirmed that the deadline for signing the traded services contract had been extended.  However, Carol Simpson stated that schools had not been notified.

54.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

55.

Schools Out-turn report 18/19 pdf icon PDF 364 KB

To receive and consider the final Schools Out-turn 2018/19 report.

Minutes:

Coral Miller, Interim Senior Finance Specialist presented the report.  Coral stated that the 2018/19 in-year Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) outturn position was a net overspend of £1.05m representing 0.76% of the 2018/19 DSG budget.  Given the brought forward deficit balance of £527k from 2017/18, this resulted in an overall DSG deficit balance at the end of 2018/19 of £1.57m, equivalent to 1.14% of the £136.925m 2018/19 DSG.

 

Coral Miller stated that this position put the local authority over the 1% threshold set up by the Department for Education (DfE), and a recovery plan was required.  The majority of the overspend was in the High Needs Block (HNB) which was going to be discussed separately.

 

Coral Miller stated that the HNB had an in-year deficit of £872k against funding of £18.44m (4.7%).  This taken with the brought forward deficit from 2017/18 of £527k put the year end position at a total HNB deficit of £1.399m.

 

Coral Miller stated that forecast figures previously reported to Schools Forum projected a year end deficit of £2.5m, the improvement of £1.1m was largely as a result of a reduction on spend for Independent Special Schools against that which what was anticipated.  This continued to be a key focus area for improvement.

 

Coral Miller stated that there was an overspend in the Central Block due to changes in the treatment of licensing costs that were not identified at the time of Budget setting.  This overspend would be carried forward and would be addressed through ongoing planning to deliver financial sustainability for the Central Block.

 

Coral Miller stated that there was an overspend in staff cover and an underspend in contingencies within the Schools Block.  This was being considered as part of the review of the de-delegated budges for 2020/21 budget setting.

 

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

 

·           Janet Perry pointed out that the staff supply cover budget had been overspent for the last few years and was only available to maintained schools.  She asked why was this budget persistently overspent, why was this element of the de-delegated costs not increased?

·           Coral Miller stated that this was part of the de-delegated money, therefore only costed to maintained schools, and it did not affect the schools’ Block Budget;

·           Paul Miller asked if this difference would be adjusted in future calculations, and Coral confirmed that it would;

·           In response to a question Coral Miller stated that she was not allowed to change the figures in-year once the Budget had been submitted to DfE;

·           Janet Perry was of the opinion that the current system was not working, with many schools converting to academies and a deficit being seen in the de-delegated budget;

·           Some Members stated that the description was misleading and that it should be called additional maternity cover and not staff supply cover;

·           Janet Perry stated that academies had to take insurance for maternity cover;

·           Carol Simpson stated that maintained schools were not able to make a decision.  She had made some  ...  view the full minutes text for item 55.

56.

Revenue Monitoring report pdf icon PDF 154 KB

To receive a report containing the Revenue Monitoring 2019/20 update.

Minutes:

Coral Miller presented the 2019/20 DSG Revenue Monitoring report.  She stated that a cumulative deficit of £4.2m was anticipated for the year, largely due to an overspend in the HNB.  This included a carry forward deficit from 2018/19 of £2.50m.  However, it was hoped that this figure could be improved.

 

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

 

·           Paul Miller stated that it would be useful to include a line indicating the recovery figures from previous years; he also suggested adding a line splitting the maternity cover cost from the supply cover cost to make it clearer;

·           Paul Miller asked that the underspend in contingencies which may be used to cover the overspend in the de-delegated budget be demonstrated in the next report to Forum;

·           Derren Gray asked about the omission of (800) in column E relating ‘Teacher Pay Pension – Grant’.  Coral Miller confirmed that it should have been included;

·           Members were concerned about the errors in the report and asked Officers to use Excel spreadsheets to produce reports.  Coral Miller confirmed that Excel was used.

 

RESOLVED That:

 

1)     The next report to Schools Forum will include the requested additional lines as discussed during the meeting; and

 

2)     The report be noted.

57.

19-20 Contingency Breakdown pdf icon PDF 273 KB

To receive and consider the 19/20 Contingencies Breakdown update.

Minutes:

Coral Miller presented the 2019/20 Contingency Breakdown report.  The report contained an update on how the Council had allocated the de-delegated schools’ contingency budget to date in the current financial year.

 

Coral Miller stated that of the £107,095 provided for in 2019/20, one allocation of £30,000 had been made to a school with exceptional financial pressures due to long term illness of the Headteacher.  The £77k left over was probably going to be used to offset the overspend in staff supply cover.

 

Coral Miller stated that it was very difficult to estimate the figure for staff supply cover as no-one new how many staff were likely to get pregnant.

 

Coral Miller stated the DfE was offering a Schools Resource Management Advisors service for schools in financial difficulties.  They only offered two advisors per local authority.  Coral had already contacted two schools that may like to take the service.  It was possible that the contingencies fund may be used to help these two schools.

 

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

 

·           Karen Edwards asked how much was in the Early Years fund and what was this spent on.  Coral Miller stated that there was around £200k left, the Early Years fund was spent on Growth.  She was waiting for the final figures from the DfE to finalise calculations;

·           In response to a question Coral Miller stated that the figures were based on an estimate of pupil numbers;  the figures would only be confirmed in July;

·           Members felt that it would be beneficial to include the contingency figures for Early Years, separately from the maintained schools reporting in future reports.

 

RESOLVED That:

 

1)     The contingency breakdown report will be split into two reports: one for maintained schools and one for Early Years, as standing items; and

 

2)     The report be noted.

58.

Growth Fund Update pdf icon PDF 145 KB

To receive and consider the Growth Fund update report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Piers Brunning, Senior Specialist (People and Place) Strategy and Commissioning presented the Growth Fund update report.

 

Piers Brunning stated that the overall Growth Fund position had not changed since it was last reported to School Forum.  There was a projected underspend of £270.  The planned programme of spend and contingency budget could both be funded from within the allocated £800k.  However, there had been changes to how the money was being spent.

 

Piers Brunning informed that Shinfield West Primary was not going to open this September, it was planned to open in September 2020. 

 

Piers Brunning stated that Highwood Primary opened a new Year 2 class earlier in the year in response to an acute shortage of Year 2 places.  Beechwood Primary also accelerated their expansion and 15 additional Year 4 places were now available, alleviating some of the pressure.

 

Piers Brunning stated that surplus primary places were scattered around the Borough, however it was preferable to offer local school places to families, as failing do so caused pressures in other areas such as in the school transport budget.

 

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

 

·           Derren Gray asked about the figure of 25 places for Colleton Primary.  Piers Brunning explained that Colleton Primary was in the final phase of its expansion so they would cease to appear in the Growth Fund paper;

·           In response to a question Piers Brunning stated that schools were funded according to the level of expansion;

·           Paul Miller stated that it would be useful to include a ‘variance’ column to show the movement between the budget and the current expected spend;

·           Paul Miller stated that where it said Note: in Appendix A (page 37) with a double asterisk, the sentence was incomplete;

·           Piers Brunning believed that the note referred to Charvill Piggott.  He stated that Charvill Piggott had had the same challenges of any new school, however the mechanism used to establish it was a change of age to the main school;

·           In response to a question, Piers Brunning stated that the Council was working on a new Growth programme.  Two other primary schools were planned to open in 2021, one was Matthews Green and the other was in Arborfield.  The contractor for these two schools went into administration earlier this year and work stopped in those sites.  It was presumed that new contracts would be let, so initial pre-opening grant payments would be required.  It was expected that those schools would open in 2021.  The Council was also considering expanding a local school in Arborfield;

·           Piers Brunning stated that the Council was evaluating the need for extra capacity, it seemed that the number of new house builds was counterbalanced by the lower birth rate, so there was not a huge need for extra capacity for primary schools at the moment.  Also a projection for the need for secondary schools was currently being considered, however he believed no extra capacity was currently needed;

·           Piers stated that the next Growth Fund Budget,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.

59.

Primary and Secondary Schools Roll Projections pdf icon PDF 280 KB

To receive and consider the Primary and Secondary Schools Roll Projections report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Piers Brunning presented the Primary and Secondary Schools Roll Projections report. 

 

Piers Brunning stated that the projections indicated that there were sufficient primary school places to meet needs.  However, the Council’s strategy for new homes, focused on a small number of large scale developments was expected to mean that there would be a mismatch between where children lived and where schools were located.  With the exception of the pressures seen in the Shinfield area (and possibly evidenced by the birth ‘spike’ in Woodley) there was no immediate surge in demand in areas with rapid housing growth.

 

Piers Brunning stated that the lower birth numbers per year after 2012 had been more important than the impact of migration related to the number of new homes built in the Borough.

 

Piers Brunning stated that there could be pressures in the school transport Budget if children had to be allocated to schools not within their designated area.

 

In relation to secondary school placements, although the primary bulge was working its way into the secondary sector, and the projections indicated that demand would outstrip the available places, the growth may not be so great as to create a requirement for a large scale expansion.

 

Piers Brunning stated that Wokingham’s children who lived in the Wokingham Without ward traditionally attended Edgbarrow School.  It was expected that children from Wokingham Without would continue to be able to attend Edgbarrow, despite some large developments currently taking place in Bracknell.

 

Piers Brunning stated that a new primary school would be built in Matthews Green and that discussions had started about the possibility of expanding and re-locating a primary school in Arborfield.

 

In response to a question Piers Brunning stated that there was currently no pressure for sixth form places.  Extra capacity could be created in Bohunt School if needed.  There were ongoing discussions with post 16 education providers, including with colleges.

 

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

 

·           In response to a question Piers Brunning stated that Headteachers would be consulted on any proposals to expand sixth form places; however there was no indication that extra capacity at sixth form was needed;

·           Janet Perry stated that it would be useful to include in the table the number of surplus places in secondary schools and sixth forms, for each school if possible;

·           Janet Perry stated that it was crucial to ensure that sixth forms were financially viable for schools.  She believed that schools would struggle to make their sixth forms viable in the future;

·           Paul Miller asked that this report be shared with all Headteachers.  Carol Cammiss, Director of Children’s Services agreed to present this information at the Headteachers Briefing;

·           Brian Prebble noted that the school admissions process did not seem aligned with the planning of school places.

 

 

RESOLVED That:

 

1)     The report would be circulated to Headteachers for information; and

 

2)     The report be noted.

60.

High Needs Block Update & Recovery Plan

To receive and consider the High Needs Block Update and Recovery Plan report.

Minutes:

Jim Leivers, Interim Assistant Director for Education tabled the High Needs Block (HNB) Update and Recovery Plan, he apologised for the lateness of the report and stated that members could email him questions. 

 

The meeting was adjourned for 10 minutes.

 

Upon reconvening Jim Leviers presented the report.  He stated that the overspend in the HNB had serious long term implications for the Local Authority.  Due to the fact that the deficit on the DSG exceeded 1%, the Local Authority was required to produce a recovery plan which had to be submitted to the DfE.  Wokingham’s position for 2018/19 year end was of a deficit of 1.14%.  Jim Leivers stated that this was a huge challenge for Wokingham, and that the deficit was cumulative. 

 

Jim Leivers stated that the demand for specialist places had increased significantly and the introduction of the 2014 Children’s Act and the requirement to provide high needs education up to 25 years of age had added more pressure for places.  Additionally, the Local Authority had not made provision for additional places for children with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP).

 

Jim Leivers stated that by 2019/20 the deficit would be 3.8m, and the measures that were being put in place to create additional capacity would not be sufficient to tackle and recover this level of deficit.

 

Jim Leivers explained that the Council was allowed to carry forward deficits from grants such as the DSG.  If the Council was to absorb this deficit, this would wipe out the Council’s reserves and put the Council in a very dangerous position.  Senior officers were concerned with the possibility that the government (given the size of the problem nationally) might change the rules around carrying forward this deficit. 

 

Jim Leivers made the following points:

 

·           The expansion of Addington School had been approved and would create 50 additional places, however this would take some time to be completed;

·           Approval had been gained to open a new free school in partnership with other local authorities.  This provision would be for 150 place, of which Wokingham would have 50.  However, the site that Reading had identified for the new school was not approved by the DfE, so now Wokingham was trying to identify a suitable site.  This project would also take some time to complete;

·           The Northern House School was in difficulties and a new Trust was being sought for the school.  There were currently 39 Wokingham children placed at the school.  Once a new Trust took over the school, it was likely that the cost of placements would go up, putting further pressure in the HNB;

·           Negotiations were ongoing with schools about the funding of resource centres in schools;

·           He received daily emails from parents complaining that the service was failing to meet the assessment demands;

·           The Council had put in an additional £250k for SEN staff;

·           Two new SEN managers had been recruited;

·           A recovery plan had been drafted for submission to the DfE.

 

Jim Leivers stated that many local authorities in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 60.

HNB Update and Recovery Plan Report pdf icon PDF 2 MB

61.

Update on 19-20 indicative budgets for High needs and Early years

To receive and consider the report giving an update on indicative budgets for High Needs and Early Years for 2019/20.

Minutes:

This item was deferred to the next meeting.

62.

Changes and Update of Scheme for financing schools pdf icon PDF 150 KB

To receive a report containing details of changes on the scheme for financing schools.

Minutes:

Coral Miller presented the 2019/20 Update of Scheme for Financing Schools report (for maintained schools). 

 

Coral Miller stated that maintained schools Forum Members were asked to approve the changes suggested to the Scheme for Financing Schools, taking note of those directed by the Secretary of State, and approving those subject to local discretion.

 

Coral Miller stated that there were minor changes in the report.  However, one of the main changes was that loans to schools now could only be for capital or investment.  This made it more difficult for the Local Authority to support schools deficits.

 

Upon being put to the vote, the representatives from maintained schools voted in favour of the changes.

 

RESOLVED That the suggested changes to the Scheme for Financing Schools be approved.

63.

Review of Schools Forum Membership

To consider the Schools Forum Membership Review report.

 

This report requires a decision.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Luciane Bowker, Democratic and Electoral Services Specialist presented the Review of Schools Forum Membership report.

 

Paul Miller stated that the report had been produced following a meeting with himself, Brian Prebble and Luciane Bowker.

 

Luciane Bowker stated that the review sought to ensure that the membership continued to fairly represent the schools’ make up in the Borough.  Schools Forum membership was supposed to reflect the types and phases of schools, as well as the number of pupils.  Many schools had converted to academy and this should be reflected in the membership.

 

Luciane Bowker stated that the report proposed a reduced number of members (as described on page 4 of the supplementary agenda report), in recognition of the fact that large groups are more difficult to manage and decisions are more difficult to be made.

 

Some members had not seen the paper, Luciane Bowker explained that this was published as a supplementary agenda item.  Copies of the report were circulated and members decided to carry on with the discussion of the item.

 

Luciane Bowker stated that the report proposed to continue with a non-specified duration of terms of office.  It had been Forum’s decision in the past that it was preferable to retain the expertize of members in the Forum.

 

Luciane Bower informed that the post 16 education provider representative post was now vacant and Schools Forum had to choose a new representative.

 

Luciane Bowker pointed out that the report proposed to eliminate the places for the Catholic and Church of England representatives.  Those representations were discretionary.

 

Luciane Bowker also pointed out that the report proposed to reduce the Early Years representation to 1.

 

Luciane Bowker stated that Schools Forum was a public meeting and that anyone could attend, the change in membership affected only speaking and voting rights.  In response to a question Luciane Bowker stated that the press was allowed to attend Schools Forum meeting.  However, historically the press had never attended.

 

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

 

·           Karen Edwards was concerned with the reduction in the number of Early Years representatives.  She stated that although Kerry Clifford of Ambleside Centre was a Headteacher of a nursery school, she did not represent the private providers sector.  Therefore in her opinion if the Early Years representation was reduced to 1, this should be a Private Voluntary and Independent (PVI) representative;

·           It was not possible to ascertain where Ambleside School should sit in terms of the membership, given that it was partly funded by the Local Authority;

·           Members asked how the places for academies were determined, whether this was per school or per trust.  Paul Miller stated that the places were based on the number of pupils in schools, so the schools could choose who they sent to represent them;

·           Paul Miller pointed out that representations ‘belonged’ to the school and not to individuals.  It was preferable to have a mixture of Headteachers, Governors and Business Mangers. 

 

Schools Forum agreed with the proposal contained in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 63.

64.

Schools Forum Governance Arrangements

To consider the Schools Forum Governance Arrangements report.

 

This report requires a decision.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Luciane Bowker presented the Schools Forum Governance Arrangements report.

 

Luciane Bowker stated that the review followed the Schools Forum self-assessment survey which was carried out earlier in the year.  The survey highlighted some areas for improvement which the report sought to address.  She went through the proposals:

 

·           In relation to training, it was proposed that a training session be introduced, and that this could take place before the first meeting (9am-10am) in the new academic year, in October.  This training would be delivered by the finance officers and would be an opportunity to learn about the mechanics of schools finance;

·           In relation to the link to the website and availability of papers, Luciane Bowker stated that all agendas and papers were available in the Council’s website.  However, this information needed to be better advertised.  She asked members to tell their colleagues about the links;  

·           Some members suggested including the link to the papers in their newsletters;

·           Election of members, Brian Prebble stated that the election for primary representations occurred in clusters, however with the fact that there were now more academy schools in the Borough, this was possibly not the best way to elect members;

·           Paul Miller stated that maintained primaries and secondary schools had a very distinct roles from that of primary and secondary academy schools.  He suggested that Forum agreed initially on the number of representatives, based on the number of pupils per phase, and that the election process be worked out at a later stage.  He suggested that this be discussed at headteachers’ meetings;

·           It was agreed that going forward reports would clearly indicate if they were for voting/noting or information; and if this related to maintained or academy schools;

·           Voting procedure, Members were in favour of continuing with a show of hands were voting was required;

·           In respect of task and finish groups, it was proposed that they would be chaired by a member of Schools Forum who would also report back to Forum. 

 

RESOLVED That:

 

1)     The improvement suggestions contained in the report be adopted; and

 

2)     Headteachers would speak to their groups about the elections process and suggest options.

 

Paul Miller stated that this was Janet Perry’s last meeting.  He wished it to be recorded that Schools Forum had benefited immensely from Janet’s input.  He stated that there was now more transparency as a result of Janet’s contributions.

 

Councillor Graham Howe introduced himself as the new WBC representative to Schools Forum.

 

 

 

65.

Forward Programme pdf icon PDF 18 KB

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

 

This report is for information.

Minutes:

This report was not discussed.