Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum - Thursday 18th January 2024 2:00pm

Venue: Meeting to be conducted using Microsoft Teams. View directions

Contact: Simon Humble  Email:


No. Item


Declarations of Interest

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There were no declarations of interest made on this occasion.



Minutes of the meeting held on 09 November 2023 pdf icon PDF 199 KB

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Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on the 09 November 2023, be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.



Matters arising

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Update to Minute 5 of the 13 July 2023 meeting, relating to the Membership Update and Meeting Attendance Review.


During the discussion of this item it had been highlighted that Judy Wyman had been unwell for some time and had had to spend time in hospital. A get-well card had been sent to Judy by the Chair of the Forum, and it was reported that Judy had been discharged from Hospital before Christmas and was on the road to recovery.


Update to Minute 23 of the 09 November 2023 meeting relating to the High Needs Block Update and 0.5% Funding Switch Request.


The Forum was informed that following the decision of Schools Forum Members to not support the 0.5% transfer request from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block, the Local Authority (LA) had submitted a disapplication request to the Secretary of State through the Education and Skills Funding Agency, to make a final decision on the application to make this switch. On Friday 12 January 2024 the LA had been notified that the application had been successful.


In response to a question from Steve Barr asking if the notification received had highlighted why the decision had been made, it was confirmed that the notification had only stated that the request had been granted. It was agreed that a letter would be sent to the Secretary of State, through the Education and Skills Funding Agency, to request additional information that explained why the decision to support the LA’s disapplication request had been made on this occasion.


Post meeting note

Following the meeting the members of the Forum were contacted and asked to provide the Chair with any specific information they wished to be included in the letter to the Secretary of State. Steve Barr asked for the following questions to be included:


  • As in previous years, Staffordshire Schools Forum rejected the LA's request to move 0.5% from the schools block to high needs in November.  Schools Forum has never agreed to this request in the past, and the SoS/minister has always supported that decision.
  • The letter dated 12th January 2024 does not explain satisfactorily why the response this year has been different and Schools Forum members would appreciate some detail on the rationale behind that decision.
  • The letter refers to the LA's "detailed management plan" and acknowledges that Schools Forum did not approve the request, but there has been no request from ESFA/DfE to Schools Forum to submit the reasons behind Forum's rejection of the LA's proposal.  It seems unjust to base a decision on a detailed submission by one party, whilst simply noting the result of a vote by the other party, without exploring the arguments behind this vote.
  • The point that Schools Forum are "supportive of the broader actions of the management plan" is irrelevant.  Members gave this careful consideration before coming to their decision and they are the ones with local knowledge.  There is no direct link between the two issues.


Resolved: That a letter  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.


Decisions taken by the Chairman under delegated powers pdf icon PDF 67 KB

Schools Forum review of numbers January 2024

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Members were reminded that, as per the resolution of Minute 18 - Termly Membership Review and Constitution Update, of the Schools Forum Meeting held on the 09 November 2023, it was agreed that future reviews of the Schools Forum membership numbers would be brought to Schools Forum meetings for note.


The Forum was reminded that the membership of the Schools Forum was reviewed within the first two weeks of a new term starting in September, January, and April, to confirm that the proportions of school representatives remained broadly comparable to the pupil numbers in each of the represented categories. The results of the January review were included within the agenda and presented for note by Forum members.


Resolved: That the January review of the Schools Forum Membership be noted.



Notices of Concern and Licensed Deficit Agreements pdf icon PDF 136 KB

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It was confirmed that no new Notices of Concern had been issued or withdrawn.


The Entrust Schools Finance team continued to work with all schools who had an existing Notice of Concern or Licensed Deficit agreement.


Resolved: That the Notices of Concern and Licensed Deficit Agreements to schools be noted.



Update to the Staffordshire Scheme for Financing Schools & Procurement Regulations pdf icon PDF 132 KB

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The Schools Forum received a report from the Director of Children and Families regarding an update to the Staffordshire Scheme for Financing of Schools (SSFS).


The Forum heard that the SSFS, Financial Regulations and Procurement Regulations had been reviewed and the following updates had been made:


  • A number of sections had been amended to ensure they referred to the correct Director within the Local Authority.


  • The list of reasons a Notice of Concern (NoC) would be issued had been amended. The first bullet point would read:
    • “When years two and three of the school’s published multiyear modeller indicate the school cannot operate within their in-year funding, and reserves are not sustainable”.


  • Two bullet points stating why a NoC should be issued had been removed, these were:
    • “Revenue Deficits where there is no recovery plan,
    • Failure to set an in year balanced budget by 31st May”.


  • Further detail had been provided that stated the actions the authority would take when a governing body failed to comply with a NoC. This would read:
    • “Where a governing body fails to comply with the Notice of Concern, the authority may issue a warning notice to a school, as set out in the ‘Schools causing concern statutory guidance for local authorities and regional directors’. When a school does then not comply with their warning notice, it will become eligible for intervention within the meaning of Part 4 of the Education and Inspections 2006 Act. In this situation, there are a number of statutory powers the local authority may use, these include:
      • the power to require the governing body to enter into arrangements,
      • the power to appoint additional governors,
      • the power to appoint an interim executive board (IEB),
      • the power to suspend the delegated budget”.


In response to a concern raised by Steve Swatton regarding the amendment relating to the reason a NoC may be issued, specifically in relation to the multiyear modeller that would be applied to years two and three, it was confirmed that the purpose of the amendment was to allow Entrust to be able to identify schools with an issue so that support be provided sooner. It was highlighted that taking action in Year 1 was almost too late, therefore the amendment would mean that additional time would be made available to allow schools to make appropriate changes that would support them to get out of the deficit.


In response to a query from Vicki Lewis asking whether the removal of the two bullet points relating to why a NoC would be issued was an acknowledgement that a lot of schools would start to find themselves in this position, it was clarified that this was a change in the assessment mechanism so it remained consistent with the rest of the Scheme for Financing Schools and the Staffordshire Regulations. It was also explained that any school that found themselves in difficulty, or with a deficit, would need to implement a licensed deficit plan instead of a NoC. As long as a recovery  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.


Verbal update on School Budgets 2024/2025

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A verbal update was given that related to the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) allocations that were received by the LA on the 19 December 2023 and covered the Schools Block, Central Block and the Early Years Block. The 2024/2025 budget update for the High Needs Block was covered in the High Needs Block report.


Schools Block


It was reported that the Schools Block allocation (excluding growth funding) had increased by 2.34% from 2023/24. This included the Mainstream Additional Grant (MSAG) which had been added to the schools block in 2023/24 and rolled in to the schools block for 2024/25.


The growth funding allocation was £3.3m which was as estimated and reported to the Schools Forum at the November 2023 meeting. It was also noted that no funding had been received for falling rolls, which was as anticipated.

As had already been announced earlier in the meeting, on Friday 12 January 2024, confirmation had been received that the Secretary of State had approved the 0.5% funding switch, which would result in c.£3.2m being transferred from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block.


It was confirmed that the School budgets would again be set using the National Funding Formula (NFF). The Core factors within the NFF had increased by 1.4%, and Staffordshire County Council (SCC) would still be able to set the Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG) at the maximum permissible level of 0.5%. This meant that all schools would see a minimum per pupil increase of 0.5% compared to 2023/24.


Affordability would be managed through the per pupil gains cap. Final figures were still being calculated but it was estimated the cap would be c1.25%.


In response to a question from Steve Barr asking if it would be possible to provide the Schools Forum with a figure that would demonstrate the impact the switch would have on the budget of an average sized primary school and a medium sized secondary school, it was confirmed that this information wasn’t available at that time, but would be made available to Schools in the future.


Central Block


The historical commitments allocation had reduced by 20% and was reported as £1.045m. This would be used to fund prudential borrowing costs of £924k and the underspend of £121k would contribute to the DSG deficit, as approved at Schools Forum held in November 2023.


The ongoing commitments allocation was £4.3m. This would be used to fund the retained duties, also approved at the Schools Forum meeting held in November 2023. The underspend of £181k would be transferred to the DSG deficit.


Early Years Block


Members were informed that, in 2024/25, the Government intended to invest an additional £400m funding for the early years entitlements budgets, including uplifts for the existing entitlements and funding to reflect cost pressures from national living wage and pay and pensions.


For SCC rates received from Government had been increased as follows:



High Needs Block including Deficit Management Plan pdf icon PDF 543 KB

Additional documents:


The Schools Forum received a report from the Director of Children and Families relating to the High Needs Block (HNB).


Members heard that the forecast outturn for the 2023/24 High Needs Block was £20m overspend which saw no increase on the Quarter 2 forecast overspend. Key variances were reported as:


  • an overspend of c £11m against the school ‘top up’ budgets including, most significantly, a rise in the number of children with EHCP/AEN support in Mainstream Schools and Academies leading to a £4.2m overspend, and an overspend of £5.3m in special schools and academies due to the combined impact of increasing demand, complexity and costs.


  • an overspend of c £6.9m in Independent Special Schools with numbers reported as being in excess of 600 pupils, which is double the number reported four years ago.


It was highlighted that the financial position had been negatively impacted by increased costs that were created as a result of the introduction of the Education Banding Tool (EBT). The Schools Forum was reminded that, following the planned review of the EBT during Summer 2023, the decision had been made to suspend the use of the EBT as a mechanism to calculate the top-up funding for Staffordshire pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) from 1 August 2023. It was reiterated that SCC remained committed to the EBT and was currently undertaking a remodelling of both mainstream and specialist band values to ensure the quality assurance steps were in place, with the intention of reinstating the EBT with the assurance that all issues experienced had been resolved. SCC would continue to keep schools informed of progress with the aim of an education provider consultation being undertaken prior to an agreed re-launch of the EBT.


As a result of the on-going overspend in the HNB the DSG reserve had been fully depleted and at the end of 2022/23 there had been an accumulated deficit of c£14.2m. Given the latest forecast overspend in 2023/24 of £20m the deficit was likely to increase over the year and, after the transfer of anticipated surpluses from Growth Fund and Central Block, was forecast to be over £30m in deficit at the end of the current year. It was highlighted that, left unaddressed, the funding gap for the HNB would increase going forward to at least £40m over budget by 2027/28. This would see the overall accumulated DSG deficit increase to between £150m and £225m by the end of 2027/28.


The Forum was reminded of the Deficit Management Plan, and a number of updates were provided. Most notably:


  • Creating an inclusive system where more of our children are educated and supported in our mainstream schools, reducing the reliance on more expensive independent provision.


  • Reviewing existing policy, non-statutory provision and considering alternative delivery and funding options. The Council continued to work up options for the provision of residential educational provision (c £1.8m p.a.). This was a complex issue that would take time. It had therefore been agreed that existing contracts would be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.


2 year old and under - funding consultation pdf icon PDF 339 KB

Additional documents:


The Schools Forum received a report from the Director of Children and Families relating to the 2-year-old-and-under Funding Consultation. The report was necessary to comply with the government’s requirements for LAs to consult with early years providers, maintained nurseries and Schools Forum on elements of the early years funding formula for the new entitlements.


The Forum was informed that the 2023 Spring Budget announced additional funding for the existing early years entitlements for working parents, by extending the 30 hours free childcare offer from the point that their child was 9 months old, continuously through their early years to the start of school, thus removing the barriers to work for many parents. This was a government phased introduction which would commence in April.


It was noted that the government also extended eligibility for the early years pupil premium (EYPP) and the disability access fund (DAF) to all children accessing the entitlements from 2024-25, to provide support for disadvantaged children in the younger age groups. The government had proposed the funding formula for the new entitlements’ cohort to follow the shape of the existing 3- and 4-year-olds formula. Although the new formula would follow the same structure as the existing 3 and 4-year-old formula, the Government were taking a different approach to deprivation in the additional needs factor. It was using a combination of free school meals data and a measure based on the income deprivation affecting children index, to reflect the different levels of deprivation across the country.


The Forum heard that LAs must plan to pass through at least 95% of their funding entitlements to Early Year providers. The 95% pass through included budget lines such as:

  • base rate funding for all providers
  • supplements for all providers, including deprivation.
  • the funding paid directly to providers from the special educational needs inclusion fund (SENIF)
  • contingency funding


The Government had stipulated that the prescribed listed optional funding ‘supplements’ that were available for 3 & 4-year-olds should also be made available to      2-year-olds and under, but it was highlighted that adoption of any of the optional ‘Funding Supplements’ would reduce the Base Rate.


On 29 November 2023, the DfE announced that the deprivation supplement would also be an optional requirement with respect to funding for 2-year-olds and under, which was a change to their consultation position, where it was stated that the deprivation supplement would be mandatory.


The initial consultation was set to take place between 13 November and the 8 December 2023. Following the announcement by the DfE regarding the deprivation funding supplement, a supplementary question was sent out on the 6 December 2023 to early years providers to gain views on adopting the deprivation as an optional funding supplement. The deadline for responses to the supplementary question was the 15 December 2023.


The results of Staffordshire County Council’s consultation with Early Years (EY) settings were included in Appendix A of the report. 217 Early Years Providers provided a response.


Most notable responses included:


     52% (114 providers) agreed the contingency amount  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.


Work programme and dates of next meetings pdf icon PDF 86 KB

·         Thursday 21 March 2024 – via Teams


·         Thursday 11 July 2024 – via Teams


·         Thursday 17 October 2024 – in person meeting to be held at the County Buildings, Stafford.

Additional documents:


It was requested by the Chair that the update relating to the Accelerated Progress Plan and Strategy for Special Provision (including information relating to the Special School work and SEDIS model) be included on the agenda of the March Schools Forum meeting.


It was noted that the agenda item relating to the Wraparound childcare update included on the forward plan for the March 2024 Schools Forum meeting, suggested that the item would be discussed ‘if required’. It was noted that minute 16 of the 9 November 2023 Schools Forum meeting stated that, “wraparound childcare process would be added to the work programme and an update would be provided at the Schools Forum meeting taking place in March 2024”. It was requested that this item be included on the agenda of the March meeting as agreed.


It was also requested that a High Needs Block Deficit Management Group meeting be scheduled to take place in either the Spring or Summer term.


Dates of next meetings


     Thursday, 21 March 2024, 2:00pm – via Teams.

     Thursday, 11 July 2024, 2:00pm – via Teams.

     Thursday, 17 October 2024, 2:00pm – in person meeting to be held at the County Buildings, Stafford.


Resolved: That: a. the dates and locations of the next meetings be noted.

b. an update relating to the Accelerated Progress Plan and Strategy for Special Provision (including information relating to the Special School work and SEDIS model) be included on the agenda of the March Schools Forum meeting.

c. an update relating to the wraparound childcare provision, and the management of the capital fund grant be added to the work programme, with an update being provided at the Schools Forum meeting taking place in March 2024.

d. a High Needs Block Deficit Management Group meeting be scheduled to take place in either the Spring or Summer term.