Agenda and minutes

Schools Forum
Wednesday 12 December 2018 6.00 pm

Venue: Dining Area 2 - The Village School, Grove Park, NW9 0JY. View directions

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

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence and Membership

Ø  To receive apologies for absence

Ø  To welcome Raphael Moss to the Schools Forum

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

o   Nursery Governor

o   Academy Primary Head

o   Maintained Secondary Head

 

 

Minutes:

Governors                                                    Tim Jones

Titilola McDowell

 

                                                                       

Head Teachers                                           Melissa Loosemore

Andy Prindiville

Jayne Jardine

 

Early Years PVI                                          Paul Russell

 

 

Members welcomed Raphael Moss 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 Nursery Governor; an Academy Primary Head; and a Maintained Secondary Head.

 

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

None.

3.

Deputations (if Any)

Minutes:

None.

4.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 124 KB

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

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 10 October 2018, be approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

 

Members of the Schools Forum requested that their views were reflected in more detail in the minutes.

 

5.

Actions arising pdf icon PDF 110 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.

 

It was noted that:

·         Actions 28, 29 and 30 related to six-monthly updates on specific projects. Officers would consult with stakeholders, including the Brent Schools Partnership, in order to identify a suitable time to report back to the Schools Forum.

·         Actions 32, 33, 34 and 37 would be considered at the Schools Forum meeting on 16 January 2019.

·         In relation to Action 35, Members heard that there had not been any changes to the funding allocations so there had been a need to organise a meeting of the Early Years Task Group.

·         Action 36 would be considered at the current meeting.

·         An update on Action 38 would be provided at the Schools Forum meeting in January 2019.

·         As far as Action 39 was concerned, Andrew Ward informed the Schools Forum that the Council was developing a Debt Recovery Strategy. He advised schools which had a significant single debtor to contact him and he would ask the Debt Recovery Team to work on the case. However, there were barriers to using the Council’s resources to collect smaller sums from multiple debtors. Mr Ward had raised the issue with the Debt Recovery Team’s manager. He reminded members that if schools intended to write off debts exceeding £1,000 for a single debtor, they had to notify the Council and the Chief Finance Officer could grant approval, while writing off debts exceeding £3,000 for a single debtor had to be agreed by Cabinet.  

 

A Member enquired about underspends in previous years in the Early Years provision and Mr Ward clarified that all underspends were consolidated in the DSG reserve.  

 

6.

Dedicated Schools Grant Support for Central Education Services 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 95 KB

The purpose of this report is to provide information and explain the rationale behind the Council savings proposal to contribute Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) funding towards supporting central services for schools.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Brian Grady reminded members that the Local Authority had launched a consultation on the 2019/20 and 2020/21 budgets. It had been centred on the need to find savings from the revenue budget of £20 million across the two years. In addition, it had been forecasted that £40 million of savings would be needed to balance the budget by 2022/23. Mr Grady highlighted that the proposals affected the Children and Young People Department as well as the contribution from the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). He noted that if the Council did not achieve the savings outlined in the ‘Recommended’ and the ‘Difficult’ budget proposals, it might be necessary to consider measures included in the ‘Most Difficult’ category.

 

Mr Grady directed the Forum’s attention to proposal CYP001 (Appendix A to the Draft Budget Proposals 2019/20 and 2020/21 report presented to Cabinet on 15 October 2018) which suggested using £250,000 from the DSG to fund statutory education functions. This would provide services with a greater degree of protection from future savings as they would no longer be funded by the Council’s General Fund. If this recommendation was adopted, granting the funding would require annual approval by the Schools Forum.

 

A Head Teacher commented that they were not content with allowing funds allocated from the DSG to support services to be ring-fenced and accessed by third party organisations such as the Brent National Health Service (NHS) Clinical Commissioning Group and the health economy. Mr Grady said that the intention of this part of the report had been to demonstrate that the resources of the Local Authority had been used to secure funding from stakeholders to deliver services which provided wider support for children and families in Brent and confirmed that the proposal would not result in access to DSG resources by other parties.. A Primary Governor pointed out that local authorities in London had experienced a reduction of nearly 70% to their core funding from Government in the last decade. They spoke of alternative approaches, adopted by some other local authorities, which protected frontline services and reduced back officer support. However, this could lead to a situation where it might not be possible to provide sufficient support to practitioners. Therefore, it would be advisable to support the proposal outlined in the report in order to prevent the need to implement measures outlined in the ‘Very Difficult’ and ‘Most Difficult’ budget proposals. 

 

Members queried the back office reductions that had been made by the Local Authority and Mr Grady explained that the Children and Young People Department had been restructured four years ago to provide a child-focused and responsive service. The new structure relied on two Operational Directors (some local authorities had three) which allowed for joint integration of resources. Nevertheless, if the ‘Recommended’ and ‘Difficult’ budget savings were not achieved, there would be a need to consider measures in the ‘Most Difficult’ category and services for children and families could be effected.

 

A Primary Head Teacher referred to paragraph 7.5 of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Dedicated Schools Grant Financial Forecast 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 106 KB

The report updates School Forum Members on the Forecast position of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) ‘Schools Budget’, including Sixth Form funding grants and planned use of reserves for 2018/19. It also includes a presentation which describes the pan-London pressures on High Needs provision.

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 forecast for Q3 showed that there were increased pressures in the High Needs Block, which along with other probable underspends indicated that the overall overspend could be limited to approximately £0.1 million. He directed members’ attention to Appendix A (page 31 of the Agenda pack) which contained the full budget monitoring table. Mr Ward said that a slight overspend of £123,000 against the DSG budget had been forecast and provided detailed information about the financial position of the four blocks of the DSG:

 

·         High Needs block – there had been a late ‘Import / Export’ adjustment to Brent’s High Needs Formula which meant that the Block’s funding was approximately £0.3 million less than budgeted for. The Forum heard that there were 2,200 children with Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), which represented an annual increase of 8% over the last four years. The current demand for support was expected to remain and officers would continue to monitor growth. It was noted that nearly half of the EHCPs were for children in mainstream education so additional funding would be allocated to schools according to need. Moreover, the High Needs post-16 budget of £1.8M had overspent by £0.6M in 2017/18 as approximately 180 young people had been supported (compared to 150 in the previous year) and the pressure was likely to continue in 2018/19.

 

·         Early Years block – Mr Ward reminded members that 95% of the income of the Early Years block was passed to providers so little variance was expected on the remaining 5%. Expenditure in this block is forecast to underspend by approximately £0.3 million, but this remained in line with expected income and officers would continue to monitor its performance.

 

·         Schools block – the funding formula for 2018/19 had already been set and it was likely that there would be a large underspend against the growth contingency budgets. Allocations would be known at the end of the autumn term, but indications based on the number of primary place offers made showed a likely underspend of £2.4m. Mr Ward said that officers did not expect to use all of the budget allocated to supporting schools in difficulty as the forecast showed that approximately half of it would be spent.

 

·         Central Schools Services block – this block was expected to underspend due to the fact that the costs of running some services such as the Schools Forum had been lower.

 

Mr Ward said that information about the Council’s General Fund had not been included in Appendix A. However, he noted that it was under pressure, particularly in relation to the Children and Young People Department. He reminded the Forum that the Achievement of Black Caribbean Boys project and the School Leadership project, which Schools Forum approved in June 2018, would be funded from the High Needs earmarked reserve for 2018/19. The funding pressures related to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Any Other Urgent Business

Minutes:

None.