Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum
Thursday, 18th October, 2018 2.00 pm

Venue: Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford. View directions

Contact: Julie Roberts  Email:

No. Item


Election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman


On nominations being requested, Ms Judy Wyman proposed that Mr Steve Barr be elected Chairman for the ensuing year and that Mr Philip Tapp be elected as Vice Chairman for the same period.


There being no other nominations it was:


RESOLVED – That Mr Steve Barr and Mr Philip Tapp be elected as Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively for the ensuing year.



Declarations of Interest


The Chairman, Steve Barr, and Judy Wyman both declared an interest in minute 22, being in receipt of some Union Duties funding.



Minutes of the meeting held on 3 July 2018 pdf icon PDF 133 KB


RESOLVED – That the minutes of the Schools Forum meeting held on 3 July 2018 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.


Matters Arising and Decisions taken by the Chairman


The Chairman reported that there was to be widespread consultation on the Staffordshire Education and Skills Strategy in November 2018, and that Schools Forum was listed as a stakeholder. 


In relation to the Constitution, a considerable amount of work had been done on this, particularly around membership, and a revised version would be brought to a future meeting.  Elections were currently being run by Entrust to fill the current vacancies.


Steve Swatton raised concerns about blanket orders and how these were dealt with under the My Finance system.  It was reported that this issue was to be investigated by the working group which had been established. 




Education Welfare Services Update pdf icon PDF 228 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities


[Karl Hobson, County Manager – Targeted Services in attendance for this item]


In October 2017 Schools Forum had agreed to reduce the funding to the local authority provided Education Welfare Service (EWS) to a statutory “core offer”.  As the council’s EWS offer reduces it was acknowledged that some schools may wish to commission the council to provide enhanced EWS support above the statutory offer.  The council had agreed to circulate potential commissioning options to all schools. 


The current position was that Education Welfare Workers remained within the management structure of the Local Support Teams (LSTs).  Since April 2018 they had implemented the core offer to schools and therefore their presence in schools had significantly reduced.  Whilst the service remained under the management of the LSTs there were some limitations on the transition to the full core offer.  However, it was hoped that within the next year they would transfer to the direct line management of the county manager for targeted education services.  The information reported to Forum therefore covered a period during which this transition took place.


The local authority remained responsible for delivering the statutory requirements for attendance, children missing education and elective home education including:


a)    Reviewing and processing cases for prosecution for irregular attendance.  The Forum received details of the numbers of cases dealt with and the outcomes of these.  They were informed that in relation to children missing out on education a new live platform would be available for schools to enter the details of all students who were on reduced or alternative timetables.  Education Welfare Workers would be contacting schools to ensure that the appropriate and suitable level of education was being offered to students and that it was properly reviewed and progressed.

b)    Issuing penalty notices for: unauthorised leave in term time; persistent absence and lateness; and being in a public place during the first five days of exclusion.

c)    Undertaking police and criminal evidence interviews for section 444 (1A) prosecutions.

d)    Initiating and processing School Attendance Orders for pupils not on a school roll.

e)    Undertaking Parenting Orders and assessments requested by magistrates.

f)     Preparing papers to put before Family Court for an Education Supervision Order and to then manage the order.

g)    Casework for children identified as Children Missing Education.  The Forum received details of the numbers of cases dealt with and the outcomes of these.

h)    Annual register inspections (now maintained schools only).

i)     Child Employment and Licensing, which involved: administration and issuing of work permits and visits to workplaces; administration and issuing of licenses for children to participate in entertainment performances; administration and issuing of licensing chaperones for children in entertainment; and undertaking venue checks for children in entertainment.


The service was now approaching schools with its traded offer.  Following consultation with schools it had been agreed to offer:


a)    Half day attendance clinics to be run in the school; and

b)    A telephone support line which would provide expert advice on attendance issues, what processes to follow and how  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.


High Needs Block 0.5% Transfer pdf icon PDF 225 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities



At their meeting in July 2018 Schools Forum considered a paper indicating options for the recovery of the High Needs Block overspend.  At that time the overspend was in the region of £4.14m, although if demand for special educational needs remained at the same level then this could rise to between £5m and £7m.  This would mean that there would be insufficient money in DSG balances to cover an overspend.  At the meeting members were notified of the likelihood of a request being made for a switch of 0.5% of the Schools’ Block being transferred to the High Needs Block.  Since that time a consultation had taken place with schools seeking their views on such a switch. This consultation had subsequently been extended, with a deadline of 15 October and a paper on the responses was tabled at the meeting.


The increase in demand on the High Needs Block had mainly arisen from a significant increase in a range of areas.  These included:

a)    Additional needs requests.

b)    An increase in pupil numbers requiring EHCPs.

c)    The extension of the age group to 25 for those with EHCPs.

d)    An increase in out of county placements and associated costs.

e)    An increase in Matrix funding for special schools.

f)     Increased numbers of exclusions from mainstream schools.

g)    The funding of increased numbers of pupils out of education.


There were separate proposals for recovery of the High Needs Block overspend.  If the recovery strategy was unsuccessful the DSG balances would be brought into deficit.  The current financial pressures within the County Council meant that there would not be funding available from the local authority once current balances were exhausted.  This was a situation that a majority of local authorities in the in country were facing and there was national pressure on the government to review the allocation of High Needs funding.  Previously, across England in the majority of local authorities, there had been a position where extra requirements for High Needs funding had been transferred from balances of the DSG.  The basis of this decision was that the pupils with the higher needs were pupils of the authorities’ schools and academies and therefore needed the support.  A change in the blocks of the DSG and subsequent pressure on the Schools’ Block had led to the government significantly restricting the ability to make these transfers.  However, the result was that historic funding drawn down from the Schools’ Block was still, in many cases, committed to pupils who remained in the system.  Consequently much of any overspend was not accessible to immediate savings or reallocation.


Schools Forum noted the responses which had been received from 77 schools to the consultation document.  In general, the response was that schools budgets were already overstretched and that a further 0.5% would place them in greater difficulty.  In considering the request to approve the 0.5% switch, members commented that the low response rate to the consultation was not due to apathy but desperation and the belief that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


High Needs Block Recovery 2018-2020 pdf icon PDF 247 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities


At the meeting held on 3 July, Schools Forum received a report indicating options for the recovery of the High Needs Block overspend.  Meetings had taken place with the High Needs Recovery Task Force, the High Needs Recovery Group, the SEND Transformation Group, the Locality Based Working Task and Finish Group and other groups.  The options presented in the July paper were based on the fact that that the overspend should be a priority for recovery. 


The local authority had a strategic vision of increasing the opportunities for districts to have greater management of funding through locality arrangements in order to provide early intervention for need, as well as a consequent reduction in administrative costs, over time, to both schools and the local authority.  These included options to develop Resource Centres and Contact Bases in mainstream schools.  A number of these options were being considered and developed, through the SEND Transformation Programme, in order to prevent later higher cost needs and pupils being referred into statutory processes.


In order to achieve the recovery of the overspend a number of proposals had been examined.  A key component of the decisions had been to avoid any direct impact on pupils receiving support.  A significant number of the expenditure commitments were not statutory requirements and these had been included in the recovery plan.  The savings were outlined as follows:


AEN Funding


Estimated Saving

From September 2018 to end AEN funding for new non EHCP pupil referrals

2018-19 - £23,000

2019-20 - £50,000

2010-21 - £50,000

From September 2018 to reduce AEN allocation for new EHCP pupils by a reduction in hours allocated, term time only appointments or alternative inputs for pupils.

2018-19 – £273,000

2019-20 - £410,000

2020 -21 - £800,000


2018-19 - £296,000

2019-20 - £460,000

2020-21 - £850,000


The removal of funding for non-EHCP pupils will be compensated by the locality funding through the Transformation Project where early intervention and support will be managed by locality panels.


Entrust de-commissioning – already agreed



Decommissioning of SEND Learning Support

2018-19 - £512,000

2019-20 - £879,000


This de-commissioning had now been agreed as from September 2018.






Virtual School



The Headteacher of the Virtual School to be paid from Staffordshire Central Budget. The remainder of the team to be funded from HNB with the potential for a further 10% reduction in team size to match the MTFS savings process.

2019-20- £75,000

Potential for further 10% equates to £40,000


2019-20 - £115,000



Specialist Support Service



To remove Autism Support Service from the High Needs Block

2019-20 - £1,000,000


Work was underway to examine how this service could be funded separately from the High Needs Block through a traded element. This did not include the Autism Resource Centres or work that was identified through an EHCP.


Early Years’ SENCOs



a.    To de-commission the service

2019-20–approx  £1,155,000


It was being explored how funding could be allocated via the locality based system so that there  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Schools Budget 2019-20: De-delegation, Central Expenditure and Education Functions pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Report of the Director of Finance and Resources


The Schools Forum is required by the Finance Regulations to annually approve:

·         Central Expenditure budgets 

·         The amount of funding to be retained centrally to fund services previously funded by the ESG retained duties.   


Maintained school members only are required annually to:

·         Vote on each de-delegated budget heading by phase

·         Approve a levy per pupil to fund duties performed by the Local Authority (LA) and previously funded by the ESG general duties rate.


For 2019-20 the allocations to local authorities would again be made using the National Funding Formula (NFF).  DSG allocations would not be known until December and local authorities needed to submit school budgets to the EFA by 21 January 2019.  This timescale meant decisions on budget areas need to be made at this time to enable schools and services time to plan for their budgets and responsibilities for 2019-20.




Under the national funding arrangements the government wanted schools to have the opportunity to have as much funding and responsibility delegated to them as possible.  Each year the Schools Forum representatives for maintained primary and secondary schools were required to vote on behalf of the schools they represented to determine whether or not a range of costs currently met centrally would transfer to maintained schools for them to manage themselves.  The budget for these costs would transfer to schools on a formula basis.  Academies were not part of these arrangements since these responsibilities and the funding for them were automatically delegated to academies through the EFA use of the local funding formula.


The budget areas de-delegated last year are set out in the table below.  The values were estimated for all primary and secondary schools (ie including academies) to provide the context of values involved.  Actual figures for 2019-20 were not yet known and would be finalised over the next few months as the settlement and school census became available.


Areas proposed for de-delegation for 2019-20


Budget Area


Secondary (including middle)



Insurances (mainly premises related)



Staff costs (Maternity Pay)



Staff costs (Union Duties)



School Specific Contingency



Support for ethnic minority pupils or under-achieving groups



Licences and Subscriptions



Behaviour Support Services



FSM eligibility





Having considered these areas, the voting Forum Members for each phase agreed for these budget areas to be de-delegated for 2019-20.


Central School Services Block


There were some areas of central expenditure which needed to be considered by the Schools Forum and the draft Finance Regulations set out the requirements for approvals/consultation.  It was noted that final regulations had not yet been issued, so in the event that final regulations were different, the content of the budget report may need to change as a result.  Funding in the Central Schools Block was split into Historic Commitments and Ongoing Functions.


Historic Commitments


For historic commitments the following rules applied:

a)    The level of expenditure could not be increased above 2017-18 levels.

b)    The expenditure against these budgets must  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Notices of Concern pdf icon PDF 277 KB

Report produced by Entrust on behalf of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities


Since the last Forum meeting the County Council had issued the following Notices of Concern:


Bridge Short Stay School               Licenced deficit not agreed


Since the last Forum meeting the County Council has withdrawn the following Notices of Concern for the reason given:


Blessed Robert Sutton School      Converted to academy       


RESOLVED – That the issue/withdrawal of Notices of Concern to the schools listed above be noted.  


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 121 KB


Members requested that an update on the implementation of the savings proposals being made to recover the overspend on the High Needs block be brought back to Schools Forum in 2019.


RESOLVED – That this addition to the Work Programme be noted.


Exempt Minutes of the meeting held on 3 July 2018


RESOLVED – That the exempt minutes of the Schools Forum meeting held on 3 July 2018 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.


Date of next meeting

The next Schools Forum is scheduled for Thursday 10 January 2019, at 2.00 pm in the Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford.


RESOLVED – That the next Schools Forum meeting be scheduled for Thursday 10 January at 1.00 pm in the Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford.