Tony Burton presented the report on the initial modelling undertaken on the 2020/21 provisional Schools Block allocation of the Dedicated Schools Grant, following the receipt of provisional funding allocations in October 2019. He noted that the modelling suggested a 0.614 percent year-on-year increase from the 2019-20 allocation.
Tony Burton explained that the initial modelling used the ESFA’s Authority Proforma Tool and operational guidance to model two allocation methods for 2020/21. Model 1 used 2019/20 Local factor rates and applied them to 2020/21. Model 2 used area cost adjusted national Schools Block NFF rates and applied them to 2020/21.
A forum member asked what the consequences would be (for the high needs block, schools and the council) if Schools Forum did not agree the proposed transfer of £1.035m to the high needs block.
Tony Burton said the consequences for the high needs block would be a £1m increase in the deficit each year and it would delay rebalancing the high needs block in year. He added that the high needs block’s retained deficit of £19m this year represented almost an entire year of high needs block funding and the school system needed to everything it could to try and rebalance the budget.
Tony Burton noted that the DfE had informed the council that the high needs block deficit needed to be held by the school system, not the Council. It was previously recorded as a council deficit, offset by reserves.
A forum member commented that some schools had a high volume of SEND pupils whereas others had none. They had been told that some services were signposting to schools with high numbers of SEND pupils as they were seen as more inclusive – which was compounding the divide. Another forum member said that at their school there was a £250k gap between the funding they received for SEND and what they spent just to meet the statutory need.
A forum member asked if the £1m transfer was just a ‘sticking plaster’ – given the size of the deficit would Schools Forum be making these transfers forever or were they making a difference.
Forum members discussed the financial consequences of further transfers – as school budgets were being continually squeezed. Members felt that they needed more information on the consequences of transfers to the high needs block and the plans to tackle the deficit.
Tony Burton said the high needs block overspend peaked at £7m but has since reduced and would continue to reduce. He added that the money from Government was based around population factors which might indicate a better funding settlement from Government in future. He restated that the schools block transfer was an important element of rebalancing the high needs block budget in the short to medium term.
The Chair noted that the forum had to make a decision on this issue in January. He asked officers to produce a briefing on the high level consequences of £0.5m and £1m transfers. Forum members asked for this briefing as soon as possible (at least 10 days before the meeting) so they could discuss within their schools.
Schools Forum members identified a need for further discussions around the High Needs Block, including current allocations, the overspend and the recovery plan.
ACTION: Tony Burton
Tony Burton noted that a decision was needed at the meeting to agree the transfer in principle because the ESFA required an early request for disapplication. A decision on the final transfer would be made in January. This was agreed.
Schools Forum members identified a need for further understanding and discussions around the make-up of other elements of the DSG.
ACTION: Tony Burton
1. Schools Forum agreed a proposal to continue to transfer 1% of the total Schools Block to the High Needs Block in 2020/21 in principle – with the final decision being made in January.
2. Schools Forum approved the request to adjust the amount funded through the Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG) for Ark Burlington Danes Academy (BDA). This adjustment is required as BDA has converted to an all-through school resulting in the MFG being weighted towards the higher per pupil value for secondary phase pupils. This £44,734 adjustment requires the local authority to submit a disapplication request to the ESFA.