Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum
Tuesday, 16th January, 2018 2.00 pm

Venue: Kingston Centre, Fairway, Stafford ST16 3TW. View directions

Contact: Julie Roberts  Email:

No. Item


Declarations of Interest


There were none at this meeting.


Minutes of the meeting held on 3 October 2017 pdf icon PDF 407 KB


RESOLVED – That the minutes of the Schools Forum meeting held on 3 October 2017 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.


Matters arising and Decisions taken by the Chairman


In response to the feedback on the questionnaire in the Self-Assessment Toolkit in the EFA’s Revised Guidance on Schools Forum, the following actions had been taken:

·       a link to the four recently updated EFA documents had been included on the website;

·       the category of schools which members represented had been included on their nameplates; and

·       a meeting was being arranged to consider the Constitution.

In relation to contact details of Forum Members being included on the webpage, the Chairman reported that there had been a low response to the request for members’ permission for this in writing.  The Clerk was therefore requested to send out a further email.  The issue of the web page being more clearly signposted would be addressed as part of a wider project to update the County Council website. 


A Cabinet meeting was to take place the day after Forum for political ratification of the National Funding Formula.  Following consultation with schools the consensus had been that they agreed with the Forum’s view and consequently the Chairman had decided to cancel the Extraordinary Meeting of the Forum which had been set up for 12 December 2017.


The Chairman reported that the NJC Green Book Pay Award offer for 2018/19 for support staff had been announced, but not ratified.  This was for an increase of a minimum of 2% over the period 2018/20, with an uplift for those on the lower increments.  There would be a new pay spine in 2019/20, to accommodate changes in the living wage.  A note on this would be included in the Schools E-bag next week.  Tim Moss was requested to contact HR to request clarification on the proposals for the award for 2019/20 for this to be reported to Forum as early as possible. 


In relation to queries raised previously on the de-delegation figures for 2018/19, it was confirmed that both the Primary Support Services figure and the figure for Licences and Subscriptions would remain the same as those stated in the report considered at the previous meeting.


The Chairman informed Forum that he had responded to the EFA consultation regarding the provision of loans for the purpose of redundancy payments, as had the County Council.


Growth Fund 2018-19: Funding of New Schools pdf icon PDF 315 KB

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


[Geoff Crockett, County Manager for Education, in attendance for this item]


In relation to Free Schools, DfE advice on the Free School Presumption stated that “local authorities are expected to work with selected proposers to agree a reasonable and mutually acceptable funding allocation for the local authority to cover pre and post opening costs”.  This was also reflected in the Schools Revenue Funding 2017 Operational Guidance.  On the basis of DfE guidance, advice from the Educations and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and concerns expressed by potential academy sponsors, the current level of Growth Funding for new free schools in Staffordshire was insufficient to support “reasonable” pre and post opening costs until a “school reaches full capacity”. The number of new schools required in Staffordshire over the next five years was thirteen, with a further thirteen needed post 2022.


All new schools opening in Staffordshire would have to be free schools, and there were currently two routes for this to happen:

·       DfE Free School “Wave” route – where applications were administered by the DfE, and where start-up costs were funded by the ESFA for schools that were to open as two Form Entry (FE) or greater.

·       Local Authority Free School Presumption – where the new free schools were needed to meet demand from new housing developments and were less than two FE.  These schools would be established in accordance with Section 6A of the Education Act 2011 and the authority would therefore be expected to provide funding for their pre and post opening revenue start-up costs, at least until 2019/20 when the proposed changes to the National Funding Formula may potentially come into effect.


Brand new schools had a range of revenue start-up costs, of which the main elements were: 


Pre-Opening Start-Up Costs prior to opening, for example the appointment of a head teacher/principal and other key staff for a period prior to opening, so that they can prepare the school to open to pupils; and


Post-Opening Start-Up Costs following the opening, in respect of:

Resources – A brand new school   would need classroom materials and resources.  The cost of building and equipping the new school, including IT and furniture and equipment would be met from the separate capital budget.

Diseconomies of scale and financial viability in the period after opening.  New free schools typically opened with only one year group, for example Reception or Year 7, and the number of year groups would increase annually.  As some cohorts would be empty, the number of funded pupils would be low in the years after opening, whilst the fixed costs of leadership, management, premises, etc. would be a disproportionately high proportion of a school’s budget.  Post-opening funding was therefore necessary to ensure that schools had a sufficient level of revenue funding to ensure viability.

Funding would be payable only for brand new free schools established under Section 6A of the Education Act 2011, where there had been no predecessor schools.


Proposed Pre-Opening Start-Up Costs: Allocation Formula – a one-off allocation of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 86.


Update on Procurement Regulations pdf icon PDF 266 KB

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


[Deborah Fern and Michelle Williams, Entrust, in attendance for this item]


The Procurement Regulations for Schools lays down the detailed regulations and procedures that schools must follow in order to demonstrate proper safeguards and controls for ensuring best value in purchasing decisions and to safeguard the governors and staff of the school when making purchasing decisions.  The scheme was last updated in 2016 and a copy of the current version was available on the Staffordshire Learning Net to be viewed by any interested party.  The Council’s procurement regulations had recently been revised/published, in September 2017.  The limit for obtaining quotations had been increased from £15k to £25k.  Consequently this needed to be matched within the Procurement Regulations for Schools, with amendments to the following Sections:

·       Section E – Your discretion to enter into contracts valued below £25,000 (E1 and E2)

·       Section F – When you must get tenders (F1, F3 and F4)

·       Section G – Full procedure (G1)

·       Section H – Accepting quotations and tenders (H3 and H5)


RESOLVED – That the revised Procurement Regulations for Schools be approved.


Update to the Staffordshire Scheme for Financing of Schools pdf icon PDF 455 KB

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



[Deborah Fern and Michelle Williams, Entrust, in attendance for this item]


Any amendments to the Staffordshire Scheme for Financing Schools (SSFS) require the approval of Schools Forum.  


The SSFS sets out the financial relationship between the authority and each of the maintained schools in Staffordshire.  The scheme was last updated in July 2017.


Section 4.10.2 – The ESFA was currently consulting with schools regarding the provision of loans for the purpose of redundancy payments.  It was likely that this scheme would be withdrawn.  The date of withdrawal would be either 1 April 2018 or the date of publication of the results of the ESFA consultation, whichever was the earliest.


Section 4.9 (a) – Statutory guidelines stated that the maximum length of loan should not exceed three years.  The County Council were proposing a change to the wording to identify the three years as the normal period over which the loan should be paid, with additional years offered at the discretion of the County Council.  It was agreed that any communication with schools would need to be very clear and unambiguous.


The SSFS included, as Annex A, a list of maintained schools to which the SSFS applied.  Over the years schools opened, closed, became academies or changed names.  This list had been updated to reflect the schools maintained by the authority as at 1 September 2017.  It was planned to update this Annex to the SSFS annually from now on.


RESOLVED – That the revised Staffordshire Scheme for Financing Schools be approved.


Notices of Concern pdf icon PDF 329 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:


Holy Rosary Catholic Primary       Directive Academy Order

Chaselea Pru                              Directive Academy Order


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


Dosthill Primary School                01.01.18 Sponsored by Fierte MAT

Perton Middle School                   24.11.17 Licensed Deficit Agreement


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




High Needs Block 2017/18 Projected Outturn pdf icon PDF 279 KB

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


Members considered details of the overspend within the High Needs Service and the need for a combined strategic approach with all education providers to meet the financial challenges.  Failure to mitigate the High Needs overspend would mean that a 0.5% switch would be required from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block in 2019/20.


The financial risk within the High Needs Service had been previously notified to Schools Forum.  The 2016/17 outturn was £2.5m over budget before planned use of reserves.  This had mainly arisen from an increase in numbers and, as a consequence, costs relating to High Needs top-up funding to pupils in both mainstream, known as Additional Education Needs (AEN), and special schools, known as Matrix funding. 


The indicative allocations within the National Funding Formula (NFF) had identified that there would be an additional £2m added into the High Needs Block in 2018/19, rising to an additional £3.8m added in for 2019/20. These figures included the additional allocation as a net importer of SEND pupils in special schools.


The forecast overspend for 2017/18 was estimated to be £4.96m rising to between £4m - £7m based on current trends.  The Direct Schools Grant (DSG) balances currently stood at £8.4m, if these overspends were realised the DSG balances would then be in deficit.  The effect of balances are outlined in the following table:


 DSG Balances – Without High Needs Recovery plan

Scenario 1
High Needs forecast continues to grow at levels seen in 2017/18

Scenario 2
High Needs forecast grows at rates experienced in the last 3 years



1st April 2017 Opening balance



High Needs Overspend



1st April 2018 Opening balance



High Needs Overspend



31st March 2019 Closing balance





A breakdown of the 2017/18 overspend in the High Needs Block is outlined below:



Service Area

Budget 2017/18

Forecast Outturn 2017/18

(Over) / underspend 2017/18





Staffordshire Special Schools and Academies




Staffordshire Pupil Referral Units & District Inclusion Partnerships




Special Units




Staffordshire Mainstream Schools




Pupils in other LA Special & Mainstream Schools & Academies




Early Years Inclusion Fund




Independent Schools Mainstream




Independent Schools Special




Tier 4 Education in Hospital Provision




Top Up Funding - Post 16 Academies and Independent




SEN Support Services

Families First













Grand Total





Some reasons for the forecast overspend were linked to:


a)    The overall population within Staffordshire schools had increased by 1.9%, but the greatest increase is highlighted below within the PRUs and Special Schools, which were funded from the High Needs Block.


Number of Pupils on Roll in the January School Census

Excluding subsidiary registrations

Only includes statutory school age - NCY Reception to year 11

School Type

Jan 2012

Jan 2017

Percentage Increase










171  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90.


Work Programme (2018/19 Programme to be Tabled at the Meeting) pdf icon PDF 128 KB


A copy of the 2018/19 Work Programme was tabled at the meeting.  Forum members agreed that a report should be requested about the NJC Green Book Pay Award offer for 2019/20, as early as possible, and that this should be included on the Work Programme when the timescale was known.


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


Date of next meeting

The next Schools Forum meeting is scheduled for Monday 26 March 2018, at 2.00 pm at the Kingston Centre, Stafford.


Please Note: The Calendar of Meetings has now been agreed, and future meetings are scheduled for the following dates, to be held at 2.00 pm (venues to be confirmed):


·       Tuesday, 3 July 2018

·       Thursday 18 October 2018

·       Thursday 10 January 2019

·       Thursday 28 March 2019





a)    The next Schools Forum meeting be scheduled for Monday 26 March 2018, at 2.00 pm at the Kingston Centre, Stafford; and

b)    The dates of future meetings, as follows, be noted:

·       Tuesday 3 July 2018

·       Thursday 18 October 2018

·       Thursday 10 January 2019

·       Thursday 28 March 2019