Hounslow Council


Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Committee Rooms 1 & 2, Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow. View directions

Contact: Ainsley Gilbert, Email: ainsley.gilbert@hounslow.gov.uk or 020 8583 2064 

Items
No. Item

16.

Apologies for Absence, Declarations of Interest and Any Other Communications from Members

Decision:

Euan Ferguson was elected to Chair the meeting, as both the Chair and Vice-Chair had sent their apologies.

 

Carole Carr explained that this would be her last meeting of the Schools Forum as she was retiring at the end of the spring term. Members wished her well for the future.

Minutes:

Euan Ferguson was elected to Chair the meeting, as both the Chair and Vice-Chair had sent their apologies.

 

Carole Carr explained that this would be her last meeting of the Schools’ Forum as she was retiring at the end of the spring term. Members wished her well for the future.

 

Alan Adams introduced himself as the new Director of the Children’s and Adults’ Directorate, and explained that Chris Hogan, Assistant Director Children’s Safeguarding and Specialist Services, would continue to fulfil the statutory Director of Children’s Services role.

 

17.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 90 KB

Decision:

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed to be accurate. There were no matters arising which were not covered by other agenda items.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed to be accurate. There were no matters arising which were not covered by other agenda items.

18.

School Place Planning Update and DSG Reserve pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Decision:

It was agreed

a)         that the Schools Forum recommend to the Cabinet Member for Education and H.R. that the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) reserve be allocated as follows:

 

-          0.6m to the Education Improvement Partnerships (to fund schools’ memberships for three years).

-          £3m to be allocated to the Council’s School Place Panning Programme for SEN places

 

b)         that should there be any additional DSG reserve identified during 2013-14, over and above the £4.9m reported, this ought to be added to the £3m contribution to the SEN Capital Programme. However, should the final DSG reserve be less than the projected £4.9m, the contribution of £3m to the SEN Capital Programme would be reduced accordingly, whilst maintaining the £0.6m allocation to the EIP.

 

Both the current financial projections for the delivery of primary, special, and two year old provision, and the Chief Financial Officer’s requirement to maintain a balance of £1.3m in the DSG reserve, were noted.

Minutes:

See report of Michael Marks, Assistant Director for Education and Early Intervention, pages 15-17 of the agenda pack.

 

Michael Marks reminded members that there was a £4.9m reserve in the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). This was considered to be unnecessarily large, and discussions regarding the allocation of the reserve had been held with both Primary and Secondary Headteachers, as well as with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Schools’ Forum. Mr Marks said that it would be difficult to allocate the money to individual schools budgets, as it had been accrued over a number of years, each with a different funding formula, and also because many schools had changed status over this time. It was therefore proposed to allocate funding as follows:

  • £1.3 million to remain as a reserve
  • £600,000 to fund Education Improvement Partnership membership for all schools for 3 years
  • £3 million to fund the programme to provide additional Special Educational Need (SEN) places

 

If the reserve was found to be lower than £4.9 million, the funding allocated to the SEN expansion would be reduced accordingly, and in the same way, if it were found to be greater than anticipated, more funding would be allocated to expanding the number of SEN places.

 

Kuldip Sidhu noted that most of the reserve had developed in 2011/12 and asked why it would be difficult to allocate funding back to schools. He also suggested that primary schools which required improvement and which held low reserves could use the money well. Michael Marks explained that the complexity of the calculation was added to by the number of schools. John Norton suggested that the Minimum Funding Guarantee might mean that primary schools would not get a larger overall budget, even if some of the reserve were allocated to them. Mr Norton said that spending the money on SEN expansion would save money in the future, especially with the rise in Primary Level SEN.

 

It was resolved

a)         that the Schools Forum recommend to the Cabinet Member for Education and H.R. that the DSG reserve be allocated as follows

 

-          0.6m to the Education Improvement Partnerships (to fund schools’ memberships for three years).

-          £3m to be allocated to the Council’s School Place Planning Programme for SEN places

 

b)         that should there be any additional DSG reserve identified during 2013-14, over and above the £4.9m reported, this ought to be added to the £3m contribution to the SEN Capital Programme. However, should the final DSG reserve be less than the projected £4.9m, the contribution of £3m to the SEN Capital Programme would be reduced accordingly, whilst maintaining the £0.6m allocation to the EIP.

 

Both the current financial projections for the delivery of primary, special, and two year old provision, and the Chief Financial Officer’s requirement to maintain a balance of £1.3m in the DSG reserve, were noted.

19.

2014-15 School Budgets Update pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Decision:

It was agreed

to defer consideration of any part of the 2014-15 Dedicated Schools Grant unallocated following the formula allocation to the next meeting. It was requested that figures be made available for that meeting.

Minutes:

See report of Alex Taylor, Head of Schools Finance, pages 10-14 of the agenda pack.

 

Alex Taylor explained the timetable for the issuing of schools’ budgets. He expected maintained schools to be issued their budgets by 28th February.

 

Mr Taylor referred to the total Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), which was expected to be £219,101,000, and he compared this to the £216,799,000 total for the year 2013/14. He explained that the change in the secondary prior attainment funding formula factor, from pupils who had failed to achieve level four in both English and Maths at Key Stage Two, to pupils who had failed to achieved level four in either English or Maths, had significantly increased the number of pupils qualifying their schools for this funding. This meant that the per pupil unit rate would need to be reduced from the 2013-14 level of £5,124 to £2,111. The Department for Education had predicted that the change in formula factor would make only a very small percentage difference in the number of pupils who would be funded, whereas, in Hounslow the difference was actually over one hundred percent.

 

The Chair asked what the maximum impact of this change on any one school would be. Mr Taylor explained that the figures weren’t yet available for individual schools, however, all schools would be protected from a significant drop in funding by the Minimum Funding Guarantee.

 

Mr Taylor explained that there may be a small amount of DSG left unallocated after the formula had been applied and suggested that Schools Forum might want to agree to allocate this through a small increase in the Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) rate. He said that this would prevent a large reserve from building up again.

 

Mike Nicholls asked whether it would be sensible to allocate the money to the reserve, as it was being cut significantly in size. Marjorie Semple said that the report regarding the allocation of the reserve had been clear that £1.3 million was a sufficient reserve, and she felt that the money ought to be allocated. However, she did not think that increasing the AWPU rate was the right way to allocate additional funding, as she was worried that the rate under the national funding formula would be lower, and so raising the AWPU rate would not prepare schools for that.

 

Kathryn Harper-Quinn asked how funding for two year olds who started late in the year was held. Alex Taylor, explained that there was a ‘ringfenced’ fund for this, and these pupils were not funded out of a reserve. He added that growth in the budgets of services where high demand was expected had been agreed at the School’s Forum’s September meeting, and so the reserve should not be called upon.

 

Marjorie Semple said that she felt more information was needed before a decision could be taken. She suggested the decision be delegated. Alex Taylor explained that the Forum itself needed to take the decision. The Chair suggested that the forum  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.

20.

DS Catering pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Decision:

The report was noted.

Minutes:

See presentation by Nick Moore, Head of DS Catering, pages 18-20 of the agenda pack.

 

Nick Moore, Head of DS Catering, gave an update regarding the project to externalise the service. He explained that the plan was to work with a private sector partner to improve the service provided to Schools. An experienced schools catering partner would be selected by the end of January 2014, and schools would receive presentations about the service in February. He explained that both providers currently being considered were proposing a cashless service. Once schools had considered the proposals, contracts with the new provider would be signed between March and May, with the new service starting in September 2014. He said that he expected the new service to be of great benefit to schools. Michael Marks said that it was important that schools make arrangements for catering for the academic year 2014/15, as the DS catering contracts were to end on 1st August 2014, and schools would not automatically be signed up to the new service.

 

Mike Nicholls asked whether schools could leave the contract if they so wished, and whether schools could sign up after the initial period. Nick Moore said that the option to leave the contract would be available, and that schools would be welcome to buy into the service later. 

 

Kuldip Sidhu asked whether there would be separate options for caretaking and school meals. Nick Moore said that schools could opt into either service individually, or choose to take both services.

 

Euan Ferguson asked what the contract length would be. Nick Moore explained that the contract length had not yet been decided, but was likely to be three years.

 

The report was noted.

21.

Schools Forum Constitution pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

It was agreed

a)     that one representative of the Teachers’ Panel be added to the membership of the Schools’ Forum in an observer capacity by the Local Authority (LA), as previously agreed.

b)     that an amendment to paragraph 5 of the constitution to confirm that academy members include Free Schools, Universal Technical Colleges and Studio Schools be made by the LA

c)      that an amendment to paragraph 7.7 of the constitution to clarify that academy members can vote on matters relating to the school funding formulae be made by the LA.

 

The report was noted.

Minutes:

See report of Hazel Best, Legal Services, pages 21-62 of the agenda pack.

 

Michael Marks, Assistant Director for Education and Early Intervention, explained that it was proposed to amend the Schools Forum constitution to bring it up to date, by amending paragraphs 5 and 7.7. He said that there would be a further report to the June meeting, which would consider ways to improve the operation of the Schools Forum.

 

Marilyn Bater said that the membership referred to in the Constitution omitted a representative of the Teachers’ Panel, which had previously been agreed. 

 

Mike Nicholls pointed out that there was an error in recommendation 1.1 and that colleagues ought to read colleges.

 

It was resolved

a)                 that one representative of the Teachers’ Panel be added to the membership of the Schools’ Forum in an observer capacity by the Local Authority (LA), as previously agreed.

a)                 that an amendment to paragraph 5 of the constitution to confirm that academy members include Free Schools, Universal Technical Colleges and Studio Schools be made by the LA.

b)                 that an amendment to paragraph 7.7 of the constitution to clarify that academy members can vote on matters relating to the school funding formulae be made by the LA.

22.

Processing Free School Meals Applications pdf icon PDF 45 KB

Decision:

Schools’ Forum suggested that the e-form be made available in alternative languages. Schools were to inform Jacqui Hurd, Head of Customer Relations, of which languages would be useful. Partnership groups were to nominate individuals to Ms Hurd who would be able to review the draft e-form.

 

The report was noted.

Minutes:

See presentation by Jacqui Hurd, Head of Customer Relations, and Nick Rowe, Head of Revenues and Benefits Client Side, pages 63-67 of the agenda pack.

 

Jacqui Hurd explained that the processing of Free School Meal applications, and School Uniform Grants, had been transferred to her service in 2013. She introduced Harminder Persad, who was responsible for the team which had taken on the role. Ms Hurd explained that she had met with the Chair of Schools’ Forum, Kevin Prunty, in December and she felt there were improvements to be made in the way Free School Meal applications were processed. Ms Hurd explained that she proposed creating an electronic form which could be used to save parents having to apply in writing, and to speed up the process. She also proposed that parents would not be forced to re-apply, as the Local Authority held the eligibility data, and could check if pupils remained eligible without asking parents again. Parents would also be asked to tell the Local Authority if their circumstances changed. She noted that it was school census week and urged schools to send in any Free School Meal applications as soon as possible. She said that generally applications should be processed within 48 hours, and that if there were issues which might prevent this, schools would be informed.

 

Moira Stuart asked if schools would lose funding if Free School Meal eligibility information was not up to date. Jacqui Hurd said that regular lists of pupils eligible for free school meals would be sent to schools to help them ensure they knew which pupils should receive free school meals.

 

The Chair asked when the e-form would be available. Jacqui Hurd explained that she would send a draft out for review shortly, and asked that partnerships nominate people to review it. The Chair urged that the form be kept as simple as possible, and Matthew Read asked that the e-form be available in community languages. Ms Hurd asked that schools send a list of languages which would be useful to them.

 

The report was noted.

23.

Welfare Reform Update

Please see the presentation for Item 7 which includes this update.

Decision:

The report was noted.

Minutes:

See presentation by Jacqui Hurd, Head of Customer Relations, and Nick Rowe, Head of Revenues and Benefits Client Side, pages 63-67 of the agenda pack.

 

Nick Rowe reported that welfare reform by the Westminster government was having a significant impact on the borough. He explained that the Local Housing Allowance no longer met the rental costs of suitable housing in the borough. The benefit cap had affected 268 claimants in Hounslow, and 96 percent of those whose benefits were reduced by the cap were families with children. Council Tax Support had been introduced, and people who had previously paid no council tax would now have to pay 8.5 percent of the council tax for their properties. This was however much lower than the cost of the scheme to the local authority, which was over 20 percent of the council tax value for the properties. The administration of Local Crisis Payments had been transferred to the local authority, however, funding for these was to be removed, so there would be an additional cost to the Council. There was also still much uncertainty about universal credit, as the Council was waiting for central government to confirm details of the scheme.

 

The Council had employed staff to support people through the changes to the benefits system, and to help signpost residents towards benefits they were entitled to, however, there was only so much that the local authority could do to protect residents from the impact of the changes.

 

Ajit Singh asked whether immigration had caused an increase in demand in Hounslow. Nick Rowe said that the take up of benefits was relatively static in Hounslow, and that immigration was not having a noticeable impact on the benefits picture.

 

The report was noted.

24.

Elective Home Education Funding pdf icon PDF 55 KB

Decision:

It was agreed

That £25,600 be allocated from the Dedicated Schools Grant to fund an additional half post to carry out Elective Home Education and Safeguarding work.

 

An annual report on the number of pupils being educated at home and consequential demand on the service was requested.

Minutes:

See Report by Penny Stephen, Senior Education Adviser for Vulnerable Groups, pages 68-69 of the agenda pack.

 

Michael Marks, Assistant Director for Education and Early Intervention, explained that, as had been reported to Schools Forum at its September meeting, an increasing number of children were being educated at home, as a result of parents choosing not to send them to school. The report was asking for £25,600 of additional funding from the Dedicated Schools Grant, which would cover an additional half-post.

 

Carole Carr emphasised the importance of the work the service did, and the impact of having children out of school.

 

Ajit Singh asked whether particular groups of people in the community were behind the increase. Roger Shortt suggested that Penny Stephen could provide Mr Singh with this information outside of the meeting. He continued to explain that the main causes of people going into elective home education appeared to be children not being allocated a place at their parent’s first choice school, and disagreements with schools. The increase in numbers could be attributed to improvements in other services which identified children not at school, and improvements in education welfare investigations, as well as the general increase in pupil numbers.

 

Moira Stuart said that she was particularly concerned about the issue, as the service dealt with children whom schools didn’t know about.

 

The Chair requested that the number of children supported by the service be monitored, and reported back to the Schools’ Forum.

 

It was resolved

that £25,600 be allocated from the Dedicated Schools Grant to fund an additional half post to carry out Elective Home Education and Safeguarding work.

25.

Children and Families Bill pdf icon PDF 49 KB

Decision:

The report was noted.

Minutes:

See presentation by Merle Abbott, Head of SEN and Disability, pages 70-74 of the agenda pack.

 

Merle Abbott reported that a project was underway to prepare the Council for the impact of the new Children and Families Bill, which was due to come into effect in September 2014. The purpose of her presentation was to inform members of the changes which would be required, however, she felt that it was likely that she would be returning to forum in the autumn to discuss the financial impact of the bill. The objectives of the bill were: to reduce bureaucracy; to involve parents and young adults more in decision making; and to move to more holistic procurement of support for children.

 

Merle Abbott explained that one of the key issues was that Statements of Special Educational Need would be replaced with Education Health and Care plans intended to cover all areas of support for a particular child. These care plans would also carry on beyond the child leaving school, potentially up to the age of 25. Those over 16 years old could also request a statutory assessment themselves, rather than their parents doing so. Colleges and other training providers therefore needed to prepare for dealing with these issues. Parents, Carers, and Young People over the age of 16 were also entitled to request a personal budget to pay for support and care provision. This had however, been amended from the original draft, as schools would now have to agree before budgets for individuals were allocated for support in the educational setting.

 

Schools need to be mindful of the need for a period of dialogue with families prior to the request for a formal Statutory assessment. There will be a reduction in the length of time Local Authorities have to complete the statutory assessment, from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, which might well place considerable pressure on resources, if the volume of assessments continues at the current rate 200 per year. The pressure would be felt especially by educational psychologists. Education, Health and Care plans would be introduced in September, and the Local Authority would then have 2 years to complete plans for those who currently had a Statement of Special Educational Need. School SEN co-ordinators would be involved in prioritising those children for whom care plans would be of most benefit.

 

The act also required the Council and schools to publish a local offer, which was supposed to allow parents and young people to compare their options. Local offers ought also to be a useful commissioning tool, as they would identify gaps in provision. However, there were no templates for the care plans or the local offer, and so these would have to be designed in-house, without the benefit of central government advice.

 

Ms Abbott thanked the Schools’ Forum for allocating some of the DSG reserve to SEN expansion, and noted that the area of need had been growing, and was likely to continue to do so; the pre-school SEN panel had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Schools Forum Forward Plan / Date of Next Meeting pdf icon PDF 42 KB

The next meeting of the Schools forum will be held on 9th June 2014

Decision:

Members noted that the next meeting would be held on 9th June 2014, and that a provisional date of 22nd September 2014 had been agreed with the Chair and Vice-Chair.

 

The following items were added to the forward plan for 9th June 2014:

-          National Funding Formula

-          Universal Free School Meals for Key Stage One Pupils.

An update on SEN capital spending was to be included in the update on Expansion and Bulge Classes, forward plan item three.

 

Minutes:

Members noted that the next meeting would be held on 9th June 2014, and that a provisional date of 22nd September 2014 had been agreed with the Chair and Vice-Chair.

 

The following items were added to the forward plan for 9th June 2014:

-          National Funding Formula

-          Universal Free School Meals for Key Stage One Pupils.

 

An update on SEN capital spending was to be included in the update on Expansion and Bulge Classes, forward plan item three.