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RESOLVED – That, subject to the inclusion of Wendy Whelan in the list of attendees and apologies being recorded for Claire Shaw, the minutes of the Schools Forum meeting held on 4 October 2016 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.
Matters Arising and Decisions taken by the Chairman
The Chairman read out a letter which had been received from the Chairman of the William Salt Library Trust, who were seeking to appoint further trustees as the Trust embarked on a major and ambitious venture to create, in partnership with the County Council, the Staffordshire History Centre. The Trust was contacting the Forum to ask if they could suggest a Headteacher or Head of History who had a particular interest in local history and its promotion in schools. Members were invited to contact the Chairman or Clerk of the Forum should they wish to respond to this request.
In relation to membership of the Forum, a number of members’ terms of office were due to come to an end in May 2017. The Chairman request that they notify himself or the Clerk if they were prepared to carry on for another term of office.
It was not possible to provide an update on the progress over redundancy arrangements, as the timescales had been put back and HR were still in consultation with recognised Trade Unions. Concern was expressed over the impact of this delay on schools’ ability to set their budgets and it was requested that Union representatives emphasise the importance of completing this process.
With regard to the request made at the last meeting for a report on alternative models for devolving the funding for school improvement the Chairman pointed out that this had been included on the Work Programme for today’s meeting. However, it was agreed that this was an unrealistic timescale and that this would be included on the Work Programme for a future meeting.
Report of the Director of Finance
[Craig Morris and Andrew Watterson from Entrust and Stuart Lane from the Strategic Property Team in attendance for this item]
The Chairman informed Forum that since the budget report had been circulated with the papers for the meeting, further guidance had been received from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) on Schools Revenue Funding, which superseded some of the details contained in the original report. A briefing note on the further guidance was tabled for information.
The Schools Forum had oversight of the Schools Budget and was required by the Finance Regulations to annually approve the amounts for particular budget headings within the central expenditure. Guidance issued by the Department for Education (DfE) on the New National Funding Formula had outlined precisely what was permitted as a historical commitment and could therefore be held centrally. In the light of this Forum was being asked to approve delegation of the budgets for Termination of Employment costs and Capital Expenditure from Revenue (CERA), as these were believed to be at greatest risk of clawback from the DfE.
All of the central budget headings were approved. This included:
· Part 1 – Central Services, including the delegation of Termination of Employment Costs and CERA. These services would no longer be funded through DSG central expenditure, but still could be retained centrally as part of the Schools block retention of former ESG duties.
· Part 2 – Central Schools Expenditure.
· Part 3 – Early Years Expenditure.
Stuart Lane from the Property Team outlined the requirements which schools would have to comply with by delegating the CERA budget to schools, in that they would need to provide the property team with assurances that work had been done or services provided, to the appropriate standard.
Up until 2017-18, Education Services Grant (ESG) was made up of two rates that “notionally” funded two different groups of services:
In practice this grant had been treated as a non ring-fenced grant and therefore had not been linked to expenditure.
The recent guidance on Schools Revenue Funding 2017-2018 published by the EFA on 1 December 2016 stated that the general duties rate was ending, with transitional protection until September 2017, and funding previously allocated through the ESG retained duties rate would be transferred into the schools block.
The amount to be retained by the local authority would need to be agreed by the relevant ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities
At their meeting on 4 October 2016 Forum had received an update on the work of Local Support Teams (LSTs) and had noted the contrast in satisfaction levels about their effectiveness between schools in the primary and secondary sectors. Primary schools were far more likely to be satisfied than secondary schools with the impact that that LSTs had on key issues for their students and their families. Consequently Forum had asked for a report for this meeting which would demonstrate progress on proposals for possible solutions to resolve issues highlighted by schools in the secondary sector.
Since the Forum meeting in October discussions had taken place with the Schools and Local Support Partnership Working Group, which was initially set up in Spring 2015 to drive and manage the programme of review by schools of the impact and quality of the work of LSTs with school aged children and their families. The Group had since expanded and re-shaped its terms of reference, acting as an advisory body to Families First for the continued improvement and performance management of LSTs. The purpose of the discussion was to draw out the elements that schools felt best demonstrated the potential for effective “added value” on the part of LSTs, and to begin to shape a framework within which schools in the secondary sector could play a more significant role as local partners in determining the shape of support for children and families in their local areas. Forum were given examples of local pilot projects which were being undertaken across the Districts.
School representatives at the Schools and Local Support Partnership Working Group were keen to highlight the following points:
In relation to the number of cases stepped down to LSTs from statutory social work concern was expressed over the increase in workload for them, and the potential knock on effect on schools.
RESOLVED – That:
a) the progress made by Families First, in partnership with Headteacher representatives, to develop proposals for LSTs to work more effectively with schools in the secondary sector be noted; and
a further update be included on the Work Programme for the Summer 2017 meeting.
Report produced by Entrust on behalf of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities
To reduce the risk of deficit from any phase of sponsored academy, members decided to review the protocol for issuing the notice of concern at an earlier stage in the process. This would protect the dedicated schools grant contingency pot at an earlier stage and therefore reduce the risk of deficits on transfer to sponsored academy.
On consideration of a report in July 2016 members decided that rather than wait for an academy order for academy sponsorship a notice should be issued in the following circumstances:
An objective criteria was therefore required in order to determine when a school may be causing financial concern. The following indicators were currently used to determine the level of concern over a school’s financial situation:
a) More than 50% of reserves used to set the budget.
b) Predicted reserves of less than 5% of the Schools Budget Share, or the amount required to set a balanced budget in the following financial year, whichever is the greatest.
c) Greater than average % spend within the year as detailed in the following table:
It was therefore recommended that where a school was judged to be requiring improvement and at least one of the above criteria is present then a notice of concern would be issued until either Ofsted amend their judgement or the financial concerns are addressed.
Since the last Forum meeting the County Council had issued the following Notices of Concern:
Horton Lodge Community Special Inability to set a Balanced budget
Bird’s Bush Primary Sponsored Directive Academy Order
RESOLVED – That:
a) the updated Notice of Concern Protocol be approved; and
b) the issue of a Notice of Concern to the schools listed above be noted.
Members requested the following additions/amendments to their work programme:
a) that the Membership Review be brought forward to the Spring Term meeting;
b) that the self-assessment toolkit in the EFA Revised Guidance on Schools Forums be included for the Summer Term meeting; and
that a report be brought to the Spring Term meeting on the new finance system which is to replace SAP.
Oral Report of the Director of Finance
The Forum received an oral report on Fairer Funding. There was to be a 14 week consultation on Schools in High Need, and the Early Years Consultation had now ended.
RESOLVED – That the oral report be noted.
Date of next meeting
The next Schools Forum is scheduled for Wednesday 27 March 2017, 2.00 pm, Kingston Centre, Stafford.
RESOLVED – That the next Schools Forum meeting be scheduled for 27 March 2017, 2.00 pm, Kingston Centre, Stafford.