Agenda and draft minutes

Schools Forum - Thursday 21st March 2024 2:00pm

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

Contact: Simon Humble  Email: simon.humble@staffordshire.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

35.

Declarations of Interest

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made on this occasion.

 

36.

Minutes of the meeting held on 18 January 2024 pdf icon PDF 200 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on the 18 January 2024, be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

 

37.

Matters arising

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Steve Barr highlighted that, as agreed at the last Schools Forum meeting, a letter had been 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 Local Authority’s disapplication request had been made on this occasion. Forum members were reminded that a response had been received and circulated to them separately on the 19 February 24.

 

38.

Decisions taken by the Chairman under delegated powers

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was confirmed that no decisions had been taken by the Chair, under delegated powers, since the last meeting.

 

39.

Resignation of Chair following July meeting

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Richard Redgate announced that he would be retiring as the Chair of the Forum following the July meeting.

 

He welcomed the opportunity for any members who were interested in taking over the role of Chair, and wanted further information, to contact him to discuss the position and what it involved. This offer was echoed by the Vice-Chair and Assistant Director for Education Strategy and Improvement.

 

40.

Notices of Concern and Licensed Deficit Agreements pdf icon PDF 134 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was confirmed that no new Notice of Concerns had been issued or withdrawn.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.

 

It was proposed that at future meetings the Notices of Concern and Licensed Deficit Agreements would remain an agenda item, but that any future “no return reports” would be provided verbally rather than through a written report.

 

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

 

b. That it be agreed that any future “no return reports” be provided verbally.

 

41.

Schools Budget Update pdf icon PDF 100 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Schools Forum received an update from the Director of Children and Families relating to the Schools Budget for 2024-25.

 

Central Provisions

 

The Forum was reminded that the Growth Funding was allocated to the local authority on a formula basis. The allocation for 2024-25 was £3.3m, and the funding had been used to fund growth above the census in the National Funding Formula (NFF). The remaining funding would be held centrally to meet commitments under the infant class size and exceptional growth fund policies. The amount retained centrally was £2.6m. Any underspend would be transferred to the DSG reserve as per the deficit management plan.

 

At the November Schools Forum meeting, maintained schools approved a levy per pupil for Education Functions of £57.87. Due to a change in the number on roll at maintained schools, the Forum was informed that the final levy for 2023-24 had been set slightly higher at £57.93 per pupil.

 

Individual School Budgets

 

The Individual Schools’ Budget represented the largest part of the funding for the majority of schools. Formula Budgets were based on the NFF as approved by Schools Forum. The NFF included a minimum per pupil funding level. For 2024-25 the minimum funding levels per pupil were £4,610 for primary, £5,771 for Key Stage 3 and £6,331 for Key Stage 4. The budget also included a Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG) of +0.5% per pupil from the 2023-24 baseline. A summary of School Budgets for 2024-25 had been included in Appendix 1 to the report. Within the NFF, the core funding factors had been increased by 1.4% and free school meals funding rates had increased by 1.6%. To ensure the NFF remained affordable within the Schools Block DSG allocation, gains had been capped at 1.25%.

 

The Forum was reminded that the request to transfer 0.5% of Schools Block DSG funding to High Needs had been approved by the Secretary of State, and £3.2m had been transferred.

 

Early Years Funding

 

The government’s 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 their child was 9 months old continuously through their early years to the start of school removing the barriers to work. The introduction of this entitlement would be rolled out in stages on a phased basis.

 

The Council consulted with Early Years providers on the additional entitlements in November/December 2023, and the results of the consultation alongside the proposed funding formulae were presented to Schools Forum in January 2024. A workshop was held on the 30 January 2024 with the Early Years Reference Group. The discussions held during the workshop, and subsequent response from the Early Years Reference Group, were considered alongside the final proposals.

 

For 2024-25, Staffordshire County Council (SCC) had been awarded a national funding rate of £5.47 per hour for 3 & 4-year-olds, £7.66 per hour for 2-year-olds, and £10.40 per hour for under 2-year-olds.

 

The Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) had increased by 6p, from  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.

42.

High Needs Block pdf icon PDF 491 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

The Forum heard that the forecast outturn for the 2023/24 HNB was a £21m overspend (c £1m higher than the position last reported at Q3). Demand had continued to exceed capacity. Demand was up by 55% from five years ago with almost 7,700 Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) in place, an increase of 500 per annum. This had impacted all areas, specifically the independent sector where numbers were reported as above 650.

 

At the end of the last financial year the DSG reserve went into deficit by c£14.2m and it was reported that this would deepen to more than £30m given the expected overspend in 2023/24. Additional Government funding next year would see SCC’s High Needs Budget increase to £132.4m; an increase of £5.4m (c.4%) compared with 2023/24 and in line with previous forecasts. The HNB budget for 2024/25 would also be supplemented by a further 0.5% transfer from the Schools Block (c.£3.2m) approved by the Secretary of State, bringing the total to £135.6m. The funding rise would be insufficient to close the funding gap and it was likely that a further overspend would arise in 2024/25, and it was highlighted that the Local Authority would continue to lobby the Government for additional funding for the sector. Importantly, it was noted that none of the funding increase would be used to repay historical deficits.

 

For 2024-25 the Council would hold funding rates for all state funded special schools, on a like for like basis, in line with the Government set Minimum Funding Guarantee of 0.0%. However, a further additional payment would be made to PRUs and Special Schools, equivalent to 3.4% of 2023-24 grant funding, calculated at current place numbers, in recognition of increasing costs. As in previous years Special Schools and PRUs would continue to receive the separate Teacher’s Pay additional Grant. The allocations from the DfE were still to be confirmed.

 

The new Education Banding Tool (EBT) had been implemented in April 2022. During Summer 2023 the decision was made to suspend it. SCC, whilst still committed to the EBT, had identified that further work was required to give assurance that the dataset was robust before any safe budget modelling to support a future decision on the reinstatement of the EBT. It was therefore envisaged that any reintroduction of the EBT would not take place before April 2025. SCC would continue to keep schools informed of further progress.

 

It was highlighted by Steve Barr that Schools and School Leaders would rather they were meaningfully and properly consulted prior to the reintroduction of the EBT, even if it meant a further delay to the proposed reintroduction date. The Assistant Director for Education Strategy and Improvement stated that SCC intended to re-engage with schools in the summer term of 2024. It was noted that the process would not be allowed to drift toward the higher banding levels again, and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.

43.

Update relating to the Accelerated Progress Plan and Strategy for Special Provision pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Schools Forum received a report from the Director of Children and Families providing an update to the Accelerated Progress Plan and Strategy for Special Provision.

 

Accelerated Progress Plan (APP)

 

Progress on the APP continued in line with the projected timescales and outputs. After a successful 18-month review, the Local Authority was hosting Department of Education, NHS England and partners for the 24month review of the APP on 8 May 2024. A 3rd APP was being drafted with a view to reinforcing the current SEND improvements.

 

Strategy for Special Provision (SSP)

 

The SSP comprised of two main elements, the Special Schools Project and the development of Staffordshire Enhanced District Inclusion Support (SEDIS).

Special Schools Project

 

In Spring of 2023, the Local Authority approached maintained and academy special schools to explore options for the development of special school capacity in line with the detailed gap analysis for SEND needs. Eighteen proposals were received. Of these, 11 did not meet viability/feasibility or gap analysis criteria. Seven projects were progressed to stage 2, with one already commissioned and in development.

 

 

SEDIS

 

The Local Authority had received 21 expressions of interest (EOI) from groups of schools to develop SEDIS teams. Of these, nine met criteria for further consideration at stage 2 of the selection process. Interviews of these potential providers took place on the 7th and 14th March 2024, with the successful SEDIS teams being moved to the implementation and capital project support phase in April and May 2024. SEDIS teams would commence service delivery as a rolling start in September 2024.

 

Enhanced Assess Plan Do Review (EAPDR)

 

As of 4 March 2024, 90 requests for EAPDR had been considered. Of these, 67 had fulfilled the criteria and Educational Psychologists had been allocated to provide enhanced support at the ‘plan and review stage’ of the process. Where EAPDR had not been agreed, officers had provided schools and SEND and Inclusion Hubs detailed feedback regarding their applications. Over March and April 2024, SCC officers, Health clinicians and a number of SENCos would be visiting districts to hold solutions sessions with settings to support their work prior to requesting EAPDR. District SEND and Inclusion Hubs would provide a detailed analysis of patterns and trends of EAPDR applications in the summer term of 2024.

 

A request was made by Kevin Allbutt that information be provided at future Schools Forum meetings that provided evidence to show whether the interventions were having the desired effect. It was suggested that this would give the Forum a gauge as to how effective the EADPR had been at streamlining the service.

 

Resolved: a. that the update relating to the Accelerated Progress Plan and Strategy for Special Provision be noted.

 

b. that additional evidence be provided at future Schools Forum meetings to show whether the interventions were having the desired effect.

 

44.

Update on wraparound childcare process - Early Years entitlement pdf icon PDF 221 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Schools Forum received a report from the Director of Children and Families providing an update on the wraparound childcare process - Early Years entitlement.

 

The report answered a number of questions that had been raised at previous meetings.

 

Sufficiency of Provision

 

Members were informed that the market development and sufficiency teams had completed work to ensure our statutory duty to ensure sufficient childcare places continued to be met. Activities had included:

 

·       Detailed analysis to predict the supply and demand of childcare places, including analysis of data provided by DfE alongside local intelligence.

·       Recent detained sufficiency survey data analysed to identify areas where additional places may be required.

·       Action plans implemented to identify key needs and opportunities.

·       Monthly sufficiency meetings held to identify priorities and key areas of work.

·       Bespoke support offered to providers to support sustainability, expansion or consideration of a range of delivery models.

 

Capital Funding

 

It was noted that the criteria and process for allocation of capital funding was still to be confirmed. This information would be shared with providers when it was made available in line with DfE timescales. A more detailed report would be available in June 2024, and it was agreed that this would be brought to the July Schools Forum.

 

Risk to future provision - Ofsted

 

In response to a query highlighting the future risk to providers receiving a poor Ofsted rating, it was stated that the information had been detailed in the newly published statutory guidance. The process that Local Authorities must follow if a setting was graded as either “Requires Improvement” or “Inadequate” was clearly outlined. This would be referenced in the provider agreement which SCC would distribute to providers in March 2024. Philip Siddell noted the information in the statutory guidance, but suggested that it didn’t go far enough to explain the steps the Local Authority would need to take to cope with issues that would occur if providers were forced to close. It was confirmed that SCC would continue to support Early Years providers via the Early Years Reference Group.

 

Philip Siddell highlighted the disparity between the impact of an OFSTED inspection on a Private, Voluntary and Independent Early Years provider and a school which provides an Early Years offer. It was agreed that Philip Siddell would talk with the Chair of the Forum to make a representation through the Schools Forum, highlighting the disparity.

 

Funded v Free provision

 

It was noted that the previous report had a mix of the terms ‘Funded’ and ‘Free’ provision. It was asked that SCC ensure that all documentation referred to it as ‘Funded’ provision? In response it was highlighted that the terminology used within SCC would be ‘funded’ and not ‘free’, unless quoting directly from a Department for Education document where the term would be referenced by the source.

 

Steve Barr asked if SCC could publicise that funded did not mean free. It was agreed that a discussion would take place with the Early Years team to see how this could  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.

45.

Work programme and dates of next meetings pdf icon PDF 84 KB

·       Thursday 11 July 2024 – via Teams

 

·       Thursday 14 November 2024 – in person meeting to be held at the County Buildings, Stafford. This meeting was originally arranged for the 7 October 2024, but has been moved for operational purposes.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Work Programme – additional items

 

Additional evidence provided at future Forum meetings to show whether the Accelerated Progress Plan and Strategy for Special Provision interventions were having the desired effect, and to provide a gauge that demonstrated how effective the EADPR had been at streamlining the service.

 

The Chair asked that information relating to the APP, particularly focussing on the different funding streams that were being used to fund the initiative be added to the July meeting. This would include information relating to the SEND Capital Grant and how it was supporting funding streams.

 

A report relating to the criteria and process for allocation of capital funding in relation to the wraparound childcare process be brought to the July Schools Forum.

 

The election of the Chair be added to the July meeting work programme.

 

The Forum was informed that an item relating to the School Management Information System (SMIS) had been added to the July work programme. This item related to the current SMIS which was approaching the final contract break point in March 2025. SCC Procurement team was undertaking some research on the current contract and alternative options that were available on the market. An options paper would be brought to the July Schools Forum meeting which would provide information that members would be asked to consider, ahead of the final decision being made at the Schools Forum meeting held in November 2025.

 

Dates of next meetings

 

The dates and locations of the next meetings were confirmed as:

 

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

     Thursday, 14 November 2024, 2:00pm – in person meeting to be held at the County Buildings, Stafford.</AI11> It was highlighted that this meeting had originally been arranged for the 17 October 2024, but had been moved for operational purposes.<TRAILER_SECTION>