Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum
Wednesday 10 October 2018 6.00 pm

Venue: Q309, Queens Park Community School, Aylestone Avenue, NW6 7BQ. View directions

Contact: Nikolay Manov, Governance Officer  Email:  nikolay.manov@brent.gov.uk; Tel: 0208 937 1348

Items
No. Item

1.

Election of Chair and Vice-Chair

To appoint a Chair and a Vice-Chair of the Schools Forum.

Minutes:

Mike Heiser was nominated to chair the Schools Forum for a two-year term in line with article 2.5.6.2 of the Schools Forum Constitution. Members of the Forum supported his nomination and it was RESOLVED that Mike Heiser be elected Chair of the Schools Forum.

 

Martine Clark was nominated for the position of Vice-Chair of the Schools Forum for a two-year term in line with article 2.5.6.2 of the Schools Forum Constitution. Members of the Forum supported her nomination and it was RESOLVED that Martine Clark be elected Vice-Chair of the Schools Forum.

 

2.

Apologies for Absence and Membership

Ø  To receive apologies for absence

Ø  To welcome Michelle Ginty and John Roche to the Schools Forum

Ø  To note that there are three vacant seats on the Forum:

o   Maintained Primary Head

o   Academy Primary Head

o   Academy Secondary Head

Minutes:

Governors                                                    Michael Maurice  

                                                                        Narinder Nathan

                                                                       

Head Teachers                                           Jayne Jardine

 

Trade Union                                                John Roche

 

 

Members welcomed Michelle Ginty who had been elected to sit on the Schools Forum as a Primary Maintained Head.

 

It was noted that there were three vacancies on the Forum - a Primary Maintained Head; a Secondary Maintained Head; and a Primary Academy Head. 

 

3.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

None.

4.

Deputations (if Any)

Minutes:

None.

5.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 126 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 20 June 2018, be approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

 

6.

Actions arising pdf icon PDF 12 KB

To consider any actions arising from previous meetings.

Minutes:

The Forum examined the Action Log which had been included in the Agenda pack for the meeting and noted that actions 26 and 33 would be considered at the current meeting, while updates on actions 28, 29, 31 and 32 would be provided in December 2018. 

 

7.

Council Budget Proposals

Members will hear a presentation on the Council Budget Proposals. A link to the Agenda for the Cabinet meeting on 15 October is available here.

Minutes:

Gail Tolley introduced the item and reminded members that the last time she had addressed the Schools Forum in relation to Council budget proposals had been in 2015 when she had presented a consultation on the significant budget savings required at the time.[1] She informed the Forum that the budget proposals would be presented to Cabinet on Monday 15 October 2018 to agree to commence a consultation on ways to achieve half of the required £40 million savings over the next two years i.e. there would be additional consultations on further sums.

 

Gail Tolley stressed that no decisions had been made and Lead Members and Strategic Directors had examined every area of the Council’s operation in order to identify potential savings and focused her presentation on proposals which were going to affect children and young people. Members heard that there were 17 children centres in Brent – 14 of them had been commissioned to Barnardo’s and three were run by the Local Authority. Under the ‘Difficult’ Budget Proposals (Appendix B to Draft Budget Proposals 2019/20 – 2020/21 report), the number of children centres would be reduced by 50% and six family hubs would be created. Furthermore, it was noted that there was an intention to close the Challenge House Children’s Centre.[2] As the building was unsuitable, social work staff currently working at the site would be transferred to the Willesden Centre for Health and Care and the Council would dispose of Challenge House.

 

Gail Tolley directed the Forum’s attention to the ‘Most Difficult’ Budget Proposals, which included the closure of all children centres and a reduction of the Connexions service to the statutory minimum as these were funded by the only part of the Children and Young People Department’s budget that was discretionary. However, Gail Tolley emphasised that implementing the ‘Most Difficult’ option could be avoided if the ‘recommended’ proposals were achieved, which on its turn, involved staff reductions and ending Council provision of youth services at Roundwood Youth Centre to allow the site to be transformed to an educational setting with voluntary sector run services.

 

It was noted that that the consultation on the draft budget proposals would start on 15 October 2018 and would continue until 31 January 2019, following which the budget would be set in February 2019. A Member of the Schools Forum commented that the Early Years Service had been included in the budget proposals outlined in the report that would be presented to Cabinet and enquired about the Council’s communication strategy towards Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) providers. Gail Tolley directed the Forum’s attention to Appendix A to the Draft Budget Proposals 2019/20 – 2020/21 report and said that a sum from the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) contribution had been included in the list of ‘Recommended’ savings, subject to approval by the Forum. She added that she had met with Lead Members, backbench Councillors and senior officers across the Council, while Heads of Service had approached both staff and stakeholders and had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Dedicated Schools Grant Schools Budget Forecast - 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 94 KB

The report updates School Forum Members with the Forecast position of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) ‘Schools Budget’ for 2018/19.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Andrew Ward introduced the report which provided an update on the position of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) Schools Budget for 2018/19. He highlighted that the overall forecast as at second quarter of the 2018/19 financial year was that the Schools Budget would break even in 2018/19. There had been a rising pressure on the High Needs provision due to an increase in demand, leading to an overspend of least £2 million on the block. However, underspends on the pupil growth budget were forecast to compensate this overspend, but this would not be confirmed until after December 2018 when final calculations would be made. 

 

Mr Ward informed the Forum that the DSG expenditure budget for 2018/19 was £315 million which had been made up by £312 million of grant income and £3 million of reserves that had been released in consultation with Schools Forum. He explained that one of the reasons for the underspend in the Early Years block in 2017/18 was due to lower take up of the universal 3 and 4 year old entitlement. In addition, there had been changes to the national system of entitlement which had reduced take up in the autumn term. Although, the Early Years Block remained the most self-contained of the four blocks, with 95% of income passed onto providers, officers would review the way it was accounted for.

 

Mr Ward referred to the Central Block of the DSG and reminded members that it funded central services for schools, which included the pension costs for former school employees. In relation to the Schools Block, it was noted that there was little volatility in the net position of the funds allocated to schools (section 7 of the report, pages 14 and 15 of the Agenda pack). However, there could be variations if changes were made to the National Non-Domestic Rates following any revaluations.

 

The Forum heard that the main risk to the DSG Schools Budget was the larger increase in demand for high needs provision – for example, the number of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) was approximately 2,200 compared to 1,650 four years ago, which represented an annual increase of 8% .Furthermore, there had been an increase in the number of post-16 placements and demand for provision for 19-25 year olds was also growing.

 

Mr Ward summarised the key points presented in the paper, pointing out that it was necessary to monitor the position and officers would continue working on securing the best value for money on the DSG. The High Needs Task Group continued to meet and discuss ways to set a balanced budget and the outcome of discussions would be reported back to the Schools Forum. 

 

Members reported that the Early Years Task Group had not met since the previous meeting of the Schools Forum in June 2018 and Brian Grady said that he would review this. In response to concerns that the DSG budget would not be able to meet the teacher pay rise announced in July 2018, Mr  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

2019/20 Funding Announcements and Schools' Budget Position pdf icon PDF 103 KB

The paper informs the Schools Forum about the funding announcements made in the summer of 2018. It then assesses these announcements in light of the financial position of schools and the High Needs block.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Andrew Ward introduced the paper which informed members of the Schools Forum about various funding announcements made in the summer of 2018 and provided an assessment of these announcements, taking into the account the financial position of schools and the High Needs Block. The teacher pay rise had been announced in September 2018 (for details, please see paragraph 5.1 of the report on page 20 of the Agenda pack) and it would be funded by a grant separate to the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) in 2018/19 and 2019/20. It aimed to fund the difference between the confirmed pay rise and the 1% that had been assumed had been budgeted for. Mr Ward said that the Department for Education (DfE) had published the methodology for the Teachers’ Pay grant, but detailed school level allocations had not been made available yet. He reminded members that Brent paid its teachers the inner London rate, but non-teaching members of staff received the outer London one. Estimates for each school for both 2018/19 and 2019/20 were available in the appendices to the report (pages 25-31 of the Agenda pack).  

 

Members of the Schools Forum commented that the teachers’ pay rise might not be sustainable in the long term as many schools were in a difficult financial position and were struggling to meet their needs. Brian Grady explained that a number of factors would be taken into account when setting the Schools Budget - planning would start earlier, consideration whether the existing Task Groups were fit for purpose would be given, and officers would be proactive in putting forward transparent proposals. In relation to a question about the way funding allocations would be made, Mr Ward said that the Council would pass the on the Teachers’ Pay grant to maintained schools and academies would receive it directly from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The 2018/19 allocation had come into force in September 2018 and it had been based on previous allocations in October 2017. A primary governor noted that as funding was not guaranteed after the initial two years, expanding schools with increased number of teachers could be at net loss. Mr Grady acknowledged the points raised by members and said that officers would be available to address specific concerns.

 

Mr Ward directed the Schools Forum’s attention to section six of the report (pages 20 and 21 of the Agenda pack) and pointed out that the revenue funding for schools would continue to be made via the four-block structure of the DSG and this arrangement would continue until 2021. In the Schools Block, there would be an increase in cash terms (rather than in real terms) to funding allocations in 2019/20 accounting for 0.5% per pupil. Local Authorities would continue to set the local schools formulae for distributing the Block, although allocations would be aggregated from school level calculations using the national funding formula - a key change would be related to accounting for differences in Primary and Secondary Pupil growth as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Primary School Place Demand Update pdf icon PDF 118 KB

The report provides an update on the latest projections for primary school places. These will be published in the new School Place Planning strategy 2019-2023, which is being considered by Cabinet in November 2018.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Brian Grady introduced the report which provided an update on the latest projections for primary school places. He said that the Council’s Cabinet would consider the new School Place Planning Strategy 2019-2023 in November 2018. It would outline the projected need for school places in Brent and how this need would be met and it would also set out the objectives and operating principles underpinning the Council’s approach to school organisation. Mr Grady reminded members that a new School Place Planning Strategy was published every four years, following which it was refreshed on an annual basis. He added that the headlines of the new School Place Planning Strategy 2019-2023 had been circulated to Head Teachers and Governors via the Headteachers’ and the Governors’ bulletins respectively.

 

Developing the 2019-2023 strategy had been based on an update of the assessment of need for places across the Borough, which had pointed to reducing Reception intakes and a temporary increase in spare places across Brent (section 4.2 of the report on pages 34 and 35 of the Agenda pack). Mr Grady said that although additional Primary provision had not been forecast, growth would come through Secondary provision which meant that the Borough would need 13 forms of entry for the duration of the 2019-2023 strategy. Furthermore, the opening of a new primary free school, Ark Somerville Free School, would be reviewed as long-term forecasts indicated that there would not be sufficient basic need demand until 2021/22.[1]

 

Members of the Schools Forum noted that they were aware that pupil numbers in primary schools were decreasing. Therefore, it would be sensible for the schools to lower their nominal rolls because if classes were not completely filled, this could cause a budget-related problems. Mr Grady acknowledged this suggestion and said that a couple of schools would be reducing their publicised admission numbers. He added that Shirley Parks and her team would discuss it with primary schools in order to consider ways of implementing it.

 

In response to a question whether the Department for Education (DfE) could override the Council’s decision not to open the Ark Somerville Free School until 2022, Mr Grady noted that the Local Authority did not power to decide on the opening year. However, it could provide communication in line with the 2019-2023 strategy – for instance, Mr Grady would be meeting representatives of the DfE in February 2019 and March 2019 to reconfirm Brent’s position that there would not be a need for additional primary provision until the end of the strategy. A Secondary Academy Head Teacher asked if a location had been chosen and members heard that a planning permission had been given for a site on Wembley Hill Road in Wembley Park. Furthermore, it was noted that the site could be used for a special school, which would allow the Local Authority to provide additional capacity in this sector. 

 

RESOLVED that the contents of the Primary School Place Demand Update report, be noted

 



[1] The Ark Somerville  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Options for Financially Supporting Schools with Falling Rolls pdf icon PDF 93 KB

At the June 2018 Schools Forum, members requested that options for financially supporting schools with falling rolls be presented for discussion and consideration.nd consideration.

Minutes:

Dena Aly introduced the report which outlined options for financially supporting schools with falling rolls as per Schools Forum’s request. She explained that according to the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) operational guidance, there were some conditions under which a falling rolls fund could be established. In summary, there had to be a long-term reduction in pupil numbers; the Schools Forum had to agree the value of the fund and the criteria for allocation; the growth fund had to come from the National Funding Formula Schools Block (for details, please see paragraph 3.3 of the report on page 40 of the Agenda pack). Ms Aly pointed out that support would be available only to schools who had been judged to be good or outstanding in their most recent Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspection. She explained that the Department for Education (DfE) had proposed two different methodologies for allocating falling rolls funding – ‘rate per vacant place’ and ‘lump sum payment’. In order to access funding, schools would need to provide evidence that staff would be made redundant, they should not hold any access surplus balances and they should not qualify for rising rolls funding in another year group.   

 

Ms Aly directed the Forum’s attention to sections five and six of the report (pages 41 and 42 of the Agenda pack) which contained some illustrative suggestions for both methodologies. Under ‘rate per vacant place’, a 15% reduction in pupil numbers would trigger falling rolls funding which would account for 75% of the age-weighted pupil unit (AWPU) rate for the relevant sector and it would be provided as a one-off payment in the year in which the decrease had taken place. As far as the ‘lump sum payment’ methodology was considered, Members heard that officers would need to decide how to calculate it as they had not been able to locate a Local Authority who had used this methodology.

 

Ms Aly referred to the last section of the paper (page 42 of the Agenda pack) which contained some advantages and the disadvantages of establishing a falling rolls fund. She emphasised that the disadvantages outnumbered the advantages and noted that there was a risk that no schools in Brent would qualify for the funding.

 

The Schools Forum welcomed the report. Members discussed the need for Head Teachers to plan ahead and it was emphasised that there were criteria which had been designed to prevent schools from using the falling rolls in the long term, which would not lead to significant expenditure. Furthermore, it was noted that there were schools who had not expanded, but experienced falling rolls. Therefore, it was important to support schools not to fall into deficit.

 

A Primary Head Teacher pointed out that most schools were struggling to recruit and retain good teachers. Therefore, making staff redundant and asking them to come back later in time would cause significant difficulties and could lead to increased use of agency staff which would be against the objective  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Updated Scheme for Financing Schools and Schools Financial Regulations pdf icon PDF 96 KB

The report details the changes implemented to the Scheme for Financing Schools and the Schools Financial Regulations, which became effective from 1 April 2018.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Dena Aly presented the report which contained details about the changes implemented to the Scheme for Financing Schools and the Schools Financial Regulations, which had become affective from 1 April 2018. She explained that both documents focused on the financial relationship between maintained schools and the Local Authority. She referred to appendices B and D (pages 93-97 and 141-144 of the Agenda pack respectively) and focused on key sections, pointing out that the ones that had been highlighted in yellow had been changed, while information that had been deleted had been stroked through. Some of the key changes made included changing VAT returns to take place on a monthly basis; changing budget payments; adding guidance on electronic banking; updating the guidance on contract value; and changing the value of debts to be reported to the Local Authority’s Cabinet.

 

While members of the Schools Forum welcomed the report, they questioned officers why a consultation had not taken place prior to the implementation of the changes outlined in the report and the appendices. Andrew Ward said that some of the changes had been directed by Department for Education, while others were so minor that there was not a requirement to conduct a consultation. In addition, the papers for the present meeting had been published five clear working days in advance so members had had time to familiarise themselves with the proposals.

 

A specific issue that was raised related to the fact that a number of schools had passed debt for collection to the Brent Council’s Debt Recovery Team and had not received an update. Andrew Wad and Brian Grady said that they would discuss the situation and it was noted that the matter would be followed up.

 

RESOLVED that:

(i)                    The contents of the Updated Scheme for Financing Schools and Schools Financial Regulations report, be noted;

 

(ii)                  The fact that the Schools Forum had been formally consulted on the Brent Schools Financial Regulations 2018/2019 be noted;

 

(iii)                 The amendments to the Scheme for Financing Schools 2018/2019 be approved; and

 

(iv)                 The issue related to debt passed for collection to the Council’s Debt Recovery Team be followed up and update be provided to affected schools.

 

 

13.

Any Other Urgent Business

Minutes:

Andrew Ward informed the Schools Forum that there were two vacancies on the High Needs Task Group. Helga Gladbaum (Primary Maintained Governor) expressed an interest to sit on the Group as a representative of the primary sector. However, as no one volunteered to represent the secondary sector, it was agreed that the matter would be discussed at the termly meeting with Head Teachers.

                                 

RESOLVED that:

(i)                    Helga Gladbaum be appointed as a primary sector representative on the High Needs Task Group;

 

(ii)                  Filling the secondary sector representative vacancy on the High Needs Task Group be discussed at the termly meeting with Head Teachers.

 

Karen Zajdel (Nursery Governor) announced that she was stepping down from her position as a Governor at College Green Nursery School. Members placed on record their appreciation for Ms Zajdel contribution to the Forum through the years and wished her well in her future endeavours. 

 

RESOLVED that the Governance Officer supporting the meeting be authorised to conduct a recruitment campaign to appoint a Nursery Governor to the Schools Forum.