Agenda item

Dedicated Schools Grant Pupil Demand Task and Finish Group 2018/19

The report provides the Schools Forum with details of funding mechanisms for secondary growth recommended by the Pupil Demand Task and Finish Group.



Dena Aly presented the report which followed a paper presented at the Schools Forum meeting in December 2017. The Pupil Demand Task and Finish Group had met to consider growth in the secondary sector in conjunction with rising rolls and, as a result, two models had been proposed (section 3.3 of the report on page 39 of the Agenda pack). The first option constituted a payment of a lump sum to schools in the year in which the growth occurred, calculated on the Average Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) rate. The second option was to use a pupil variation adjustment to the funding formula in the year in which growth had occurred. Ms Aly noted that for both models, funding would occur in the first year, following which rising rolls would be used. She highlighted that rising rolls funding would be based on actual numbers rather than estimates and the key principle applied would be that funding would follow the pupil. 


Ms Aly directed members’ attention to Appendix A (page 42 of the Supplementary Agenda pack) which showed the impact of both options on an individual school and explained the examples provided. She stressed the total amount of funding in both scenarios was the same, with the difference being how and when payments were made. Members heard that Appendix B (page 44 of the Supplementary Agenda pack) illustrated the overall financial impact of both of these models, highlighting that the biggest pressure would be in 2022/23.     


The Task and Finish Group recommended the second option. The pupil number variation in the first year would be simple and transparent and it would provide a guaranteed cash flow boost in the first year of growth, providing the expanding school with a degree of certainty on its growth funding. In subsequent years the rising rolls mechanism would be used, providing the school had met the rising rolls threshold.


The Pupil Demand Task and Finish Group had examined the threshold and agreed that 1.75% increase in pupil numbers equated to a much larger number of pupils in secondary schools than primary, and the actual number of pupils that this percentage equated to would vary greatly depending on the size of the secondary school. Therefore, the Group recommended changing the threshold for the secondary sector to an absolute value of 15, with no amendment for primary schools. The proposed new threshold would be lower than the present trigger point for the majority of secondary schools (see Table 1 on page 41 to the Agenda pack).


A primary headteacher asked whether the rising rolls threshold could be set to the absolute value of 15 or 1.75% increase in pupil numbers, whichever is greater, and if approving the recommended option could potentially cause financial difficulties for schools which incurred upfront costs. Andrew Ward explained that secondary schools were expected to have budgets that would allow them to accommodate upfront costs and enable them to manage their cash flow. Nevertheless, it was noted that it would be easier for bigger schools to absorb additional students and, therefore, this policy proposal may not incentivise smaller schools to expand.   



(i)                    The contents of the Dedicated Schools Grant Pupil Demand Task and Finish Group 2018/19 report, be noted;


(ii)                  For secondary schools that expanded in response to the basic need to accommodate pupils, by 30 places or more, a pupil number variation be applied in the first year of growth, based on the number of planned places;


(iii)                 Increases in actual pupil numbers in subsequent years be funded by the rising rolls mechanism; and


(iv)                 The threshold for triggering the rising rolls mechanism be changed to an absolute value of 15 pupils per secondary school.


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