Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Online access

Contact: Fatima Rehman  01628 796251

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Items
No. Item

49.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Maggie Callaghan, Richard Pilgrim and Mike Wallace.

50.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 219 KB

To receive any Declarations of Interest.

Minutes:

Sarah Cottle declared an interest in item 10 as the business rate relief impacted Cookham Nursery School.

 

51.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 71 KB

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting.

Minutes:

The Chairman said it was agreed in the last meeting that the item on ‘Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions’ was to be carried forward to this meeting, but this did not take place.

 

James Norris, Head of Finance (RBWM), informed the Members that The Early Years National Funding Formula 2020-21 consultation was undertaken, with positive feedback to accept the rate increase per hour.

 

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the minutes of the meeting held on 16 January 2020 be approved.

 

 

52.

Budget Outturn and School Balances 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 181 KB

To receive the above report.

Minutes:

James Norris introduced the report to Members, which provided the outturn position of the Schools Budget 2019-20 and the position finalised for the last financial year. The report covered the level of Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) deficit held at the end of the financial year and the level of school balances for maintained schools.

 

The schools budget had £64,000,000 allocated, £34,000,000 of which was allocated directly to schools and the remaining £29,000,000 was managed by the local authority. Of the £29,000,000, there was a net overspend of £242,000 for 2019/2020. With the net overspend combined with £917,000 deficit position brought forward, there was a net in-year overspend of £1,159,000. With the combined DSG earmarked reserves of £134,000 from 2019/20, the overall net deficit was £1,025,000.

 

There was a requirement of the School Forum to approve the deficit carried forward to 2021/22.

 

The net deficit was a cumulative deficit of 0.83% of the overall school budget allocation, and it was previously a target to remain under the 1% threshold to avoid submitting a Deficit Recovery Plan. However, the government guidelines had changed, therefore all authority’s in a deficit position at the end of the financial year had to submit a Deficit Recovery Plan.

 

The template of the Deficit Recovery Plan was still being created by the Department of Education (DfE) and Achieving for Children (AfC) had some input in the template. The template was unlikely to be released until a number of weeks and the submission was likely to be in Autumn 2020.

 

There was a net surplus of £1,552,000 in the maintained school balance, which was a net favourable movement of £132,000 compared to the previous year.

 

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) did not have the control mechanism to recover excessive balances that schools held, but it was now considering this due to the financial position the authority was in. The reclaim excess balance had been estimated to be approximately £1,400,000.

 

The Chairman said reclaiming excessive surplus, which was done by accruing for a project or a rainy-day fund, may prove unpopular with schools, especially when doing a three-year budget with increasing costs. He understood why the local authority would reclaim excess balance, but this was something to be managed carefully, as schools may have saved that money for a future budget.

 

James Norris said the excessive balance in total at the end of the financial year was £950,000, and schools identified in their annual return that they had commitments of approximately £700,000. Therefore, the authority would not look at the committed element, but rather the £250,000 of further funds that was not currently shown as committed. The Chairman said the remaining uncommitted amount could quickly become committed. The Members were informed that this was just a consideration and the funds would be redistributed to the schools.

 

The Chairman asked for the year on year comparison of deficit and the Members were informed that there was an increase of £242,000 from last year’s  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.

53.

Budget Monitoring and Forecast July 2020 pdf icon PDF 106 KB

To receive the above report.

Minutes:

James Norris introduced the report to Members. This includes the projected financial position; the impact the budget would have on the reserve deficit position and discussed the ways the financial pressures could be addressed. Most of the financial pressure was in the High Needs Block and would be targeted to help reduce costs.

 

The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) Budget 2020/21 was £65,000,000. The budget for The Early Years and High Needs Blocks budget were only indicative as DfE needed to finalise the budget in the summer.

 

The projected overspend was comparable to last year of £195,000, which was driven by the High Needs Block pressures, such as Pupil Top Up funding and other support packages. In addition to the in-year overspend of £200,000, there was a risk of a further £200,000 overspend due to pressures in the second half of year within the High Needs Block. The projected reserve balance was £1,220,000, which was 0.99% of budget allocation. With the projected future risks, the projected reserve balance increased to £1,420,000, which was a 1.14% overspend. This was a similar position to the last two years.

 

The future actions for the year included submitting a Deficit Recovery Plan for the previous and current financial year and proposed next steps to address the deficits. This included greater commissioning in order to receive better value for money and drive down price where appropriate, retain rates on costly placements, work with schools to retain complex pupils for longer within the existing school, and ensure there was as much local provisions as possible.

 

There was a significant underspend in the Schools Block, with the Growth Fund underspend of £450,000. There were two applications for in-year funding from the Schools Block. There were requests for Growth Fund allocation to be redistributed from Churchmead and Holyport College.

 

Chris Tomes, Headteacher at Churchmead, said that 5 years ago, there was a year group with only 38 students who had just left in Year 11. The schools had come through two good ratings from Ofsted and staff were reduced staff in the last 5 years. Whilst 38 students left the school, there would be 123 students coming in September, which was an increase of 85 students. A growth fund was requested because of the significant increase in the school, and the school would work with the local authority to reduce the school’s deficit and create the best policy going forward with the money received. With an increase in students and not receiving the lag funding for maintained schools until April 2021, a growth funding of £217,000 was requested.

 

Kevin McDaniel said Churchmead had an excellent recovery and the last two Ofsted inspections reiterated this. The improvement of the school status was led by the investment in good quality services and there was a need to retain staffing to support the influx of students.

 

He said that one of the Forum’s responsibility was to minimise the financial risk to the system. With the underspend in the growth bid, if  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53.

54.

ORDER OF BUSINESS

Minutes:

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the order of business as detailed in the agenda be varied.

 

55.

Wellbeing Team and Behaviour Support Team Future Planning pdf icon PDF 502 KB

To receive the above report.

 

Minutes:

Rebecca Askew, Senior Educational Psychologist, introduced the report to the Members which covered the current and future service provision from the Wellbeing and Behaviour Support Teams based on local Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) considerations and developments to support the increased SEMH needs. Members were asked to consider proposal 7.1 from the report.

 

Support from the team was open to all CYP people in RBWM schools (5-18 years) except for private schools. It was agreed that the team would offer both direct work such as consultation and initial assessment, time limited focused interventions, group work/workshops, Early Help meeting support and signposting.

 

During the last academic year, members of the team continued to support CYP known to the social care PODS through the provision of Dyadic Developmental Therapy based consultations for 0.4 Full-time Equivalent (fte). The team delivered preventative work such as Psychological Perspectives in Education and Primary Care (PPEP Care) Training and mental health training, such as Young Carers.

 

During the academic year, two full time Wellbeing Practitioners left the team due to a limited opportunity to progress within the team structure, and a lack of CYP focused course options/funds for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Diploma. Therefore, the practitioner left the RBWM Wellbeing Team and enrolled on the Children and Young People's Mental Health Services (CYPMHS).

 

This added further pressure to the Wellbeing Team this year with no reduction on referrals through the Early Help Hub or other group and whole school initiatives. Therefore, Early Help Hub wait times increased.

 

There were six Wellbeing Practitioners in the Wellbeing Team including; Counsellor 0.2fte, Play Therapist 0.4fte, Art Psychotherapist 0.4fte, CBT Practitioners 1.4fte and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapist 0.5fte. With the implementation of the Getting Help Teams from September 2020, there would be an additional 1.5fte of practitioner time (CBT-based) available to RBWM. The Getting Help Wellbeing Practitioners were employed by Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (BHFT) but would support within the Wellbeing Team using the Early Help systems.

 

The Behaviour Support Team offered a range of individual, group and systems-based support to schools to CYP and their families in the Borough. The service was freely accessible to maintained primary schools. Requests for individual pupil support could be accessed through the Early Help Hub, group work and training requests sent directly to the team. Academies, middle and secondary schools could purchase any one of the five package options at any point during the academic year.

 

During the academic year, one full time team member left to pursue training to join a Mental Health Support Team in Wokingham and another team member retired. This reduced the Behaviour Support staff capacity from 3.4fte to 1.8fte.

 

The team continued to deliver the Nurture programme but scaled back the offer of in-school transition work. The Onwards and Upwards Summer Transition programme for vulnerable children who were about to enter secondary school proceeded with planning considerations considering safety measures and government guidelines.

 

Rebecca Askew referred to table 4.5 of the report, which provided detail to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 55.

56.

ORDER OF BUSINESS

Minutes:

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the order of business as detailed in the agenda be varied.

 

57.

Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) Project Update pdf icon PDF 218 KB

To receive the above report.

Minutes:

Helen Huntley introduced the item and said that in 2017 it was agreed by the Schools Forum to transfer money from the School Block to the High Needs Block, so that pupils did not have to be sent out of the Borough.

 

Last April, it was agreed to create an SEMH Intervention Programme to reduce the number of permanent exclusions from RBWM primary schools. This was because the life chance of children once they transferred to alternative provision decreased and financially it cost £18,000 a year to send a child to Haybrook College (the local alternative provision).

 

Two secondary schools had shown interest to trial the project, including Churchmead and Desborough College and data that showed there were more permeant secondary exclusions than primary schools. There was a concern in the increase in primary school exclusions.

 

The project was within budget, with a coach who worked for half a term with the child and teacher in the classroom to better manage the child’s behaviour. The project also worked with the school as a whole to deliver training to manage the needs of children.

 

The report addressed the successes of the project, with no exclusion of children that were supported by the Programme. The project development was to continue to work with primary schools for the next two years and to trial the programme in secondary schools.

 

It was projected that some children would show anxiety about COVID-19 through challenging behaviour.

 

The Chairman said there was demand for this project in both primary and secondary school and if issues were dealt in primary schools, challenging behaviour would not escalate to secondary schools. The Members were informed that training could be given if coaches were unable to support schools.

 

Isabel Cooke, Headteacher at Knowl Hill C of E Academy, said she appreciated the outstanding service and whilst her school did not have a coach, the ability to be in contact via phone was reassuring. The Chairman said this was an important service with the potential to have a large impact on young people.

 

Andrew Morrison, Headteacher at Furze Platt Senior School, asked if any young children had fixed or permanent exclusions from training and Members were informed that one child had been excluded. Attempts could be made to reduce exclusions but could not be stopped altogether due to extreme cases. Andrew requested for data to see the trend in training and the overall proportion of children rather than extreme cases in future.

 

Helen Huntley said the model of the project was to self-finance the programme so that it does not stop due to monetary issues.

 

The Members noted the report.

 

58.

Schools Forum Membership Framework 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 99 KB

To receive the above report.

Minutes:

The Chairman introduced the report and stated that the Forum historically had 17 members and struggled to fill all the vacancies.

 

James Norris said the purpose of the report was to undertake an annual review of the Forums membership. The terms of reference had not changed since last year, and whilst the level of membership was 17 available places, the Forum was generally only 12 to 13 Members. Currently, there were 11 members registered, with nominations to replace Richard Pilgrim with John Fletcher, and Maggie Callaghan to replace Francis Walsh.

 

The Chairman said the membership of the Forum was academy biased as his school (Clewer Green CE First School) had converted to an academy too, and there was a need for more involvement of maintained schools in the Forum.

Kevin McDaniel said the school sector membership of the Forum should be given voting rights that reflected the ratio of children in the schools. The Members were encouraged to ensure there was a balance in membership and to discuss if a larger or smaller forum size was required.

 

Sarah Cottle, Headteacher of Cookham Nursery School, asked how the invite to the Schools Forum was sent to maintained school headteachers. The Chairman said an invite was sent though Cluster Chairs, who should have asked for volunteers.

 

Kevin McDaniel said the Forum was a statuary body that had to exist by law, which made decisions for £125,000,000 annually, and should therefore be one of the most influential decision-making body for school finances.

 

Isabel Cooke asked if the Forum was correctly represented given the vacancies, and the Members were informed that whilst there were some changes in schools, the Forum reflected the pupil ratio.

 

Kevin McDaniel recommended to keep the panel size the same and to advertise vacancies for maintained representation.

 

Chris Tomes asked if the Chairman could chair the meeting if his school was now an academy, and Members were informed that this was correct.

The Chairman said that himself, Kevin McDaniel and James Norris would work on the membership offline and bring back its findings to the Forum.

 

Kevin McDaniel advised Members to try to fill the vacancies, and the consequences of not filling the vacancies would be brought back to the next meeting.

 

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the recruitment of John Fletcher and Maggie Callaghan for the Schools Forum be approved.

 

59.

Scheme for Financing Schools 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 614 KB

To receive the above report.

Minutes:

James Norris introduced the report and informed the Forum of the changes to the Statutory Guidance for Financing Local Authority Maintained Schools. The Members were asked to approve the Scheme for Financing Schools 2020/21, to be effective from April 2021. He said the only change was that maintained schools could apply for the Risk-Based Approach (RBA) insurance scheme and other minor changes.

 

Chris Tomes asked if there were any other major changes, and the Members were informed that other than the RBA change, changes were cosmetic and could be found in the report pack.

 

Due to the lack of representation of maintained schools in the Forum and lack of urgency to make a decision, the Members agreed to defer this item to the next meeting.

 

Members noted the report.

 

60.

Schools and EarlyYears providers Business Rates

To discuss the agenda item.

Minutes:

The Chairman introduced the discussion and said Sarah Cottle had been in conversation with Kevin McDaniel about the business rate charge for maintained nurseries, whilst other school settings were not. 

 

James Norris explained that schools received funding allocation to pay the business rate. Nurseries and Private, Voluntary or Independent’s (PVI) did not receive the same rate relief or funding unless they had a charity status. Under the Local Government Act, the billing authority could not give itself rate relief. Maintained nurseries were deemed an entity of the local authority and therefore could not be given rate relief. Neighbouring authorities did not give discounts to their nurseries, whilst county councils did as they were not the billing authority.

 

Kevin McDaniel said all providers were given business rate relief due to Covid-19 apart from maintained schools, which seemed unfair.

 

Sarah Cottle said she had been in discussion for business rate relief for many years, as maintained nurseries were deemed to be a school. During COVID-19, Cookham Nursery School was one of the only three schools in the Borough to pay rates. The nursery was not a business as all the money made was spent on the pupils. Whilst the Nursery was classed as a school and one of the three outstanding schools, it was not classed as a school when business relief were sought. When AfC changed its policy, nurseries in Kingston and Richmond received support for their business rates. The nursery had to pay £48,000 as part of business rates, which was 12.5% of the budget. Short-term support during COVID-19 and a longer-term solution was requested.

 

The Chairman said this was about clarity, equity and fairness, and if every other requirement was being met by the nursery from DfE and Ofsted, it was unfair to not classify the nursery as a school from a business rate perspective.

Kevin McDaniel said schools also paid business rates, but the DfE paid back a grant after a year which covered the cost. The DfE policy excluded maintained nurseries.

 

The Chairman said this was not a local authority decision, but if other authorities found a way to not pay the rate, the Council could consider doing the same. Members were informed that the Schools Forums in Kingston and Richmond agreed to pay the business rate from the education budget, which was against the legislation.

 

Chris Tomes proposed to adopt the same strategy as Kingston and Richmond, which the Chairman considered. The Chairman asked if the underspend in the Early Years Clock could be used for the business rate. The Panel were informed that the budget could be used, but this would increase the overall net overspend across DSG.

 

James Norris said that nurseries received a different funding than PVI settings, such as lump sum supplement payments for additional responsibilities. Sarah Cottle said this payment was made because by statuary the nursery had to cover costs such as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), headteachers and qualified teachers, whilst PVIs were not obliged to have highly  ...  view the full minutes text for item 60.