Agenda and draft minutes

Schools' Forum - Monday, 11th March, 2024 5.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 3, Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street W8 7NX. View directions

Contact: Luke Curran 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies were received from the following: Mariella Ardron, Sarah Bouette, Wasim Butt, Claire Dimpfl, Craig Hanlon-Smith.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Any member of the Council who has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a matter to be considered at the meeting is reminded to disclose the interest to the meeting and to leave the Chamber while any discussion or vote on the matter takes place.

 

Members are also reminded that if they have any other significant interest in a matter to be considered at the meeting, which they feel should be declared in the public interest, such interests should be declared to the meeting. In such circumstances Members should consider whether their continued participation, in the matter relating to the interest, would be reasonable in the circumstances, particularly if the interest may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interests, or whether they should leave the Chamber while any discussion or vote on the matter takes place.

 

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

3.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 129 KB

The minutes of the meeting held on 15 January 2024 are submitted for confirmation.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 15th January 2024 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

4.

Dedicated Schools' Grant Budget Monitoring 2023/24 and Declaration of Balances Form pdf icon PDF 148 KB

This report provides Schools’ Forum with an update on the revised Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) allocation, budgets set and forecasts for 2023/24.

 

Information is also provided on estimated school balances as well as a template for a declaration of balances form.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair introduced the item and invited officers to comment on the report. Officers highlighted there had been no change to the Dedicated Schools Grant position since the previous update in January 2024, but noted an improvement on the forecast High Needs Block underspend to £1.595m. The underspend was attributed to resolved staffing issues that had allowed action to be taken to validate payment schedules and costs of independent school placements.

 

The Chair invited comments or questions from members of the Committee on the DSG. Forum members:

 

  1. Welcomed the recent action taken to validate payment schedules and placement costs and review costs below the estimate during the closure of the 2022/23 accounts and asked whether this would have any impact on the 23/24 budget position. Officers advised the 23/24 forecast accounted for some corrections but that did not significantly affect the budget position.

 

  1. Sought assurance that the Council could maintain the work to track and review placement and one-off costs and, by extension, more accurate forecasting of the financial position. Officers were confident that the work could be maintained based on current staff levels and improved knowledge resilience across the department.

 

The Chair invited comments or questions from members of the Committee on the Declaration of Balances Form. Forum members:

 

  1. Sought clarity on whether self-generated additional income, such as via extended nursery day places, would be included in the clawback. Officers confirmed that all income including additional income streams must be reported but additional streams would be treated as mitigations and excluded from clawback when reviewing excessive balances.

 

Schools’ Forum NOTED recommendations 7.1.1 and 7.1.2 as set out in the report:

 

7.1.1     note the 2023/24 DSG allocation of £84.464m and forecast underspend of £1,595,000.  This will reduce the DSG cumulative deficit from £6.271m at the end of 2022/23 to £4.676m by the end of 2023/24;

 

7.1.2     note the potential increase in the number of schools with deficits and that support will be provided to schools most at risk of going into deficit;

 

Schools’ Forum AGREED recommendations 7.1.3 and 7.1.4 as set out in the report:

 

 

7.1.3     agree the declaration of balances form to be implemented from the 2024/25 budget setting round (based on 2023/24 outturn);

 

7.1.4     agree for a balances control mechanism criteria to be brought to June Forum for implementation from 2026/27 and for the next version of the Scheme for Financing Schools to be updated prior to consultation with all maintained schools.

5.

Recommendations of the High Needs Block Reference Group pdf icon PDF 257 KB

This report provides feedback from the High Needs Block Reference Group, the High Needs forecast and recommendations for 2024/25 top up funding.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair introduced the item and invited officers to comment on the report. Officers noted the report made recommendations to increase top-up funding and band capping for mainstream schools and highlighted that the increases would take effect from April 2024.

 

The Chair invited questions or comments from members of the Committee. Members:

 

  1. Noted concern that the increase in young people with eating disorders was creating pressure on the High Needs budget.

 

  1. Welcomed the significant decrease in spending on independent post-16 placement and asked whether this was forecast to decrease further. Officers noted work was ongoing to reduce reliance on that type of provision and therefore further savings were anticipated.

 

  1. Noted the 2023/24 forecast spend on independent pre-16 placements was significantly under-budget but in-line with 2022/23 outturn and asked whether the Council over-budgeted or was able to achieve in-year savings. Officers explained that the budget was set before the final 2022/23 outturn was known, with the final outturn lower than expected. Officers expected to be able to make savings on the independent pre-16 budget for 2024/25 but exact figures would be unknown until Autumn 2024.

 

Schools’ Forum NOTED recommendations 9.1 and 9.4 as set out in the report:

 

9.1      Note the high needs block forecast and DSG cumulative deficit position (section 3);

 

9.4   note the forward plan for the HNBRG (section 8).

 

Schools’ Forum AGREED recommendations 9.2 and 9.3 as set out in the report:

 

9.2      approve the recommendations related to the capping of bands 8-10 and increases to other top ups (section 4);

 

9.3      approve the proposed top ups for the SRPs from September 2024 subject to SLA review and note the impact of special school funding increases (section 6).

6.

Membership

To agree the membership of Academies representatives as nominated by the Academies group:

 

Mariella Ardron (Chelsea Academy)

Anna Jordan (Kensington Aldridge Academy)

Karen Wyatt (St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School)

Minutes:

Forum agreed the membership of Academies representatives: Mariella Ardron (Chelsea Academy), Anna Jordan (Kensington Aldridge Academy) and Karen Wyatt (St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School).