Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum
Monday, 26th March, 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 16 January 2018 pdf icon PDF 280 KB


RESOLVED – That the minutes of the Schools Forum meeting held on 16 January 2018 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.


Matters arising and Decisions taken by the Chairman


The Chairman reported that he had attended the first meeting of the Staffordshire Education and Skills Strategy 2018-22 Group in February. The second meeting was to be held at the end of April and the Vice-Chairman would be attending this on behalf of the Schools Forum.  In response to a question, officers advised that engagement with Forum would be considered as part of a communications strategy. 


There was a lengthy update in the schools e-bag on “My Finance”, and as part of addressing the issue of making this more effective there was a short survey for schools to complete.


Other follow-up action included:

·       a meeting had been arranged early in April for officers to consider the Constitution; and

·       a message had been included in the schools e-bag containing a link to the Forum webpage and giving dates of meetings up to 2019.


It was suggested that proposals for the NJC Green Book Pay Award Offer for 2019/20 should be included on the Work Programme.


The Chairman informed members that Geoff Crockett, County Manager for Education, was to take early retirement.  He wished to record his appreciation for everything that Geoff had done, in a variety of roles over a number of years in the Education Service.




Schools Budget 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 166 KB

Report of the Director of Finance and Resources


[Jo Galt, Accountant from Finance and Resources, in attendance for this item]


At the 3 October 2017 Forum Members had considered the indicative level of planned central expenditure for 2018-19 and had given approval to the budget provision for a range of areas to enable the local authority to meet the DfE timescale for submitting individual school budgets to ESFA in mid-January.


De-delegated items remained unchanged following the 3 October 2017 vote.  The Forum also considered Central Expenditure Budgets, and Members agreed to delegate the School Improvement Budget of £818,250.  The following tables include the 2017-18 budgeted value, the indicative value discussed at the October meeting and the final value used to set school budgets.


In October the Forum had agreed that the amount included in the Central Schools Block to fund Education Functions (services previously funded by the Education Services Grant (ESG) retained duties rate) be retained centrally for this purpose.  The amount retained for 2018-19 was £1.768m.


Individual schools budgets were the largest part of the funding for the majority of schools.  Formula Budgets were now based on the National Funding Formula (NFF), as approved by Schools Forum in December 2017 and Cabinet in January 2018.  As part of the new arrangements the Schools Block of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) was now ring-fenced.  However, local authorities had limited flexibility to transfer schools funding to other areas, such as High Needs.  These transfers were limited to 0.5% of the Schools Block and could only be made with the agreement of Schools Forum.  Given the current forecast overspend on the High Needs Block it was likely that this transfer of funding would be necessary in 2019-20. 


The NFF included two transitional protections: a minimum per pupil funding level, and 0.5% per pupil uplift, these protections replaced the Minimum Funding Guarantee.  In order to ensure that individual school budgets are affordable within the Schools Block DSG, gains had been capped at 3.05% or 20% of formula gains, whichever was greater.  This ensured that very small schools did not receive very small cash increases.


At the October Schools Forum meeting, Maintained School members agreed to a levy of £52.95 to fund services previously funded by the general duties element of ESC, with the exception of non-statutory education welfare.  This was higher than in 2017-18 due to the transitional grant ending.  The actual levy per pupil for 2018-19 had been set at £48.73.  This was lower than anticipated in October due to a higher number of pupils on roll at maintained schools.


The PVI (Early Years) representative raised a number of questions regarding funding for early years funding, as follows:

a)    At a recent meeting of the National Day Nurseries Association, Staffordshire members had asked why providers were not receiving £4.00 per hour?

b)    Why has the £5.00 rate for 2 year olds not increased in line with increased costs?

c)    In relation to the contingency fund: has any of this been spent; why do we need it; what is it for;  ...  view the full minutes text for item 96.


Update on the High Needs Block Recovery Plan pdf icon PDF 332 KB

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


The Forum was informed of the work which was being undertaken to remove the overspend within the High Needs Block, and of the need for a combined strategic approach with all education providers to meet the financial challenges which this presented. Failure to mitigate the High Needs overspend in 2018-19 would mean that a 0.5% funding switch would be required from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block in 2019-20.  This would amount to £2.4m based on the 2018-19 Direct Schools Grant (DSG) allocation.


A High Needs Recovery Task Force had been convened and had now met 4 times and explored a range of options available for recovery of the High Needs Block overspend.  Discussions had explored the benefits and risks attached to the withdrawal or reduction of a number of areas of funding.  These included options for distribution of the Additional Educational Needs (AEN) funding, reduction in the overspend for out of authority Special School placements and options for addressing the overspend in alternative provision.  Further work would be done on these areas as well as a number of other areas including top-up funding for post-16 independent provision.


The current High Needs forecast overspend was driving a number of discussions around potential options to manage the funding within the financial envelope available.  There were already Transformation Projects taking place to pilot alternative ways of working and it was becoming apparent that there were ideas within these that would link directly with the High Needs Recovery Plan, including the Transformation Prototype in Leek, the new Prototype in South Staffordshire and the planned Early Years Prototype.  The function of the prototypes was to consider a more localised approach to SEND provision leading to early intervention for pupils identified with SEND.  The plan was that, because of the early intervention, there would be less recourse to requests for Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).  No financial modelling had yet taken place to quantify the financial implications of these.  However when this has been done, and the impact evaluated, this may influence future decision making or further conversations around other ideas going forward, such as locality control of additional educational needs funding to reduce the requests for EHCP assessments.  These had grown over the past 3 years from 609 in 2014-15 to 1,052 in 2016-17. 


It was planned that the Prototypes would lead to a reduction in the requests for EHCPs and consequent Special School pressures resulting in the large percentage growth in Special School placements compared to the growth in primary population and the reduction in secondary school population.  A panel had also been introduced to review permanent exclusions, in order to reduce alternative provision costs where demand for places had grown, greater than the growth in primary and secondary.  Discussions were also taking place around reducing costs on independent Special School placements, through a planned joint social care, health and education review panel.  Discussions had also commenced with Staffordshire Maintained and Academy Special Schools to review the funding of Special  ...  view the full minutes text for item 97.


Notices of Concern pdf icon PDF 279 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 Notice of Concern:


Winshill Village Primary and Nursery School      Directive Academy Order


RESOLVED – That the issue of a Notice of Concern to the school above be noted.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 119 KB


Forum members agreed that an item on the NJC Green Book Pay Award offer for 2019/20 should be included on the Work Programme, with a note to say that the date that this will be considered will be confirmed.


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


Date of next meeting

The next Schools Forum is scheduled for Tuesday 3 July 2018, at 2.00 pm at The Kingston Centre, Stafford.


RESOLVED – That the next Schools Forum meeting be scheduled for Tuesday 3 July 2018, at 2.00 pm at the Kingston Centre, Stafford.


My Finance Update

Presentation of the Director of Finance and Resources, which will cover:


·       Financial reporting

·       Support processes

·       Non-order invoicing


[Note by Clerk: Forum was informed that a feedback group had been set up on “My Finance”, and Wendy Keeble invited members to let her have any comments, queries or concerns which she would feed back to the group on their behalf.  Email:]