Hounslow Council


Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 2, Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow. View directions

Contact: Irene Bowles, 020 8583 2075, Email: irene.bowles@hounslow.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

55.

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

Decision:

Apologies had been received from Marilyn Bater, Stephen Davis, Chris Hill, Farley Marsh, Mike Nicholls, Tony Ryan, Marjorie Semple, Sue Tysall, Phil Ward and Jackie Willis.

 

Declaration of Interest:  John Wright declared an interest in item 3, as he was the Headteacher of the only split site school in the Local Authority.

 

The Chair welcomed Sarah Roscoe to her first meeting of Schools’ Forum.

Minutes:

Apologies had been received from Marilyn Bater, Stephen Davis, Chris Hill, Farley Marsh, Mike Nicholls, Tony Ryan, Marjorie Semple, Sue Tysall, Phil Ward and Jackie Willis.

 

Declaration of Interest:  John Wright declared an interest in item 3, as he was the Headteacher of the only split site school in the Local Authority.

 

The Chair welcomed Sarah Roscoe to her first meeting of Schools’ Forum.

56.

Minutes of the meeting held on 9 November 2015, and matters arising pdf icon PDF 113 KB

Decision:

The minutes of the meeting held on 9 November 2015 were agreed as a true and accurate record, and were signed by the Chair.

 

There were no matters arising from the minutes.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 9 November 2015 were agreed as a true and accurate record, and were signed by the Chair.

 

There were no matters arising from the minutes.

57.

Outcome of the Split Site Formula Consultation pdf icon PDF 194 KB

Decision:

Resolved:

To agree the recommendations made in the Report (note amendment to recommendation 1) as below -

 

1.    Following discussion, members approved the following split site eligibility criteria:

Part  1

a)    It is either a local authority maintained primary/secondary school, an academy or a free school for pupils aged 5 to 15

b)    It is a school which is permanently expanding on an additional site.

If both of the statements are true, proceed to part 2.

Part 2

c)    The sites are distinctly separate from each other, so that the final footprint does not become one boundary.

2.    Approved the funding formula to be operated as part of the Schools’ Growth Fund, whereby a school occupying an additional split site building would receive an expansion allowance based on the number of existing classes occupying the building when compared with the planned capacity of the building.

3.    Approved a per pupil rate of £227.63 up to a maximum amount of £82,253 per year, until the planned expansion period is completed.

4.    Approved allocation of split site funding for up to a maximum of 3 years, but subject to review at the end of that period.

5.    Agreed no retrospective funding for 2015/16.

 

Votes were taken on each recommendation.

Items 1-4 were agreed unanimously; item 5 was carried by 8 votes to 1.

 

Minutes:

Shabana Kausar, Finance Manager (Strategic Lead for Schools), led members through her report (attached to item 3 of the Agenda pack). 

 

She confirmed that no responses had been received by the consultation deadline, although one had since been received from St Paul’s CE Primary School, which was tabled.  John Wright declared his interest as the Head of St Paul’s, the only school in the Borough currently with a split site. 

 

Shabana Kausar introduced the proposed criteria, explaining that Donald Fraser had benchmarked against other Local Authorities.  There would be two or three more split sites in the future, linked to the school expansion programme.

 

Shabana Kausar responded to questions from members:

Q:  why was the proposed cap set at £82K?  This was the basic average cost for an empty school building.

Q: if Schools’ Forum approve the recommendation, how would it be applied?  Funding would not be automatic; eligibility would be examined and, if appropriate funding would be agreed on a per pupil basis.  Members were asked to agree to review this in three years, to ascertain whether it was reasonable.  The Education Funding Agency (EFA) would want to know how the funding formula factor would be applied.

Q: Feedback from St Paul’s suggested that they agreed with recommendations 2 and 3.  John Wright advised that the school had borne the costs for the split site this year, which he estimated to be in excess of £80K.  He noted that the recommendation not to agree retrospective funding for 2015/16 would preclude St Paul’s from any benefit from the proposal. Although the additional site was definitely separate, it was not 500m from the main site.  He raised a concern that schools would not want to operate a split site within a given distance if it meant that additional needed funded would not be available.

Q:  Were there any amalgamated schools on split sites?  Michael Marks advised that he thought there were all either physically joined or on the same geographical site – ie that there was one final conjoined footprint.

Q: How had the 500m distance suggestion been arrived at?  It seemed to be common practice in most Local Authority formulas.  Although it could be ignored as a factor, the recommendations were based on those already in operation in other Authorities.  Members were asked to consider sustainability, as there would be a cost and impact on the DSG.

Q: Would a clearer model be a distinctly separate site as opposed to a set distance? Would other proposed split site schools meet a distance criteria?  This would fall into Sheena Poley’s remit, but it was too soon to know, which is why Schools’ Forum was being asked to agree to a review in three years’ time.

 

[Marais Leenders arrived at 4.40pm]

Shabana Kausar reminded members that any formula funding factor for 2016/17 must be included in the January 2016 budget return to the EFA; it could not be added after that time.

 

Following further discussion, members agreed that the distance criteria should  ...  view the full minutes text for item 57.

58.

Clarification on the remit in regard to School Balances pdf icon PDF 86 KB

Decision:

Resolved:

To approve the recommendations in the Report –

 

1.    Noted the regulatory framework for operating a balance control mechanism.

2.    Tasked Officers to:

a)    Develop criteria and clawback options for a balance control mechanism

b)    Review the current level of school balances and provide recommendations to Schools’ Forum

c)    Update Schools’ Forum at the next meeting on DfE advice.

 

Members voted on item 2 – this was carried by 8 votes to 1.

Minutes:

The Chair thanked Shabana Kausar for her useful report, and asked members to make other Headteachers (who were not members of Schools’ Forum) aware of the report.

 

Shabana Kausar advised members that the document set out the legal position around clawbacks and their use.  The Local Authority (LA) had a monitoring role to ensure financial probity.  She pointed members to Section 3.7 of the report (attached to item 4 of the Agenda pack), which outlined four elements to the framework in respect of schools’ surplus balances.  Shabana Kausar explained that elements (a), (b) and (c) are currently in place in the Authority’s Scheme for financing schools; element (d) allows LAs to have a mechanism in place to clawback excess surplus balances that are uncommitted – Hounslow does not have this at the moment, but could have.

 

Shabana Kausar reminded members (5.2 of the report) that “schools are required by the Schools’ Financial Value Standard (SFVS) to have a clear plan for reserves they hold.”  Donald Fraser had contacted the DfE for advice on how a voluntary agreement with Academies could be incorporated into any clawback mechanism.  A number of LAs operate balance control mechanisms; Schools’ Forum would have to set criteria for this if required, including the level at which this action would apply.  Shabana Kausar advised that there is a wide range: between 2% and 8% operated by other Local Authorities.  Members could review this when the EFA clarified the position in the New Year;  there is nothing in the guidance on restrictions on use of clawback, and how these need to be reported to the EFA.  Shabana Kausar advised members that the LA would need to develop a proposal and consult schools – the old guidance suggested 5% and 8%, but Hounslow could look at setting different figures.

 

The Chair advised that EFA recommended that Academies hold balances sufficient enough to pay salaries to staff for one month, which equates to approximately 8.3% of the annual budget.  Shabana reminded members that the 3 year budget plan that schools are required to produce would identify any planned projects and costings.  Members were reminded that the end of the financial year was not a convenient time for schools to undertake major projects, which were usually planned for the Summer break; this would inevitably lead to a time delay on spend, although the plans would be in place.

 

Michael Marks noted that Finance colleagues could draft a mechanism allowing for the completion of planned works to be monitored, as well as drawing up broad principles on what would be considered a reasonable balance, for consideration by Schools’ Forum.

 

Michael Marks suggested that examples of how other LAs implemented clawbacks, and their usage, might be a useful appendix to a revised report to come back to Schools’ Forum, to aid further discussion.  It was noted that 28 LA Primary Schools held balances above 8%.  Whilst members appreciated that some school had high balances for specific reasons, they noted that some schools had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.

59.

Proposals for Early Years Block Funding - 3 year strategy plan pdf icon PDF 458 KB

Decision:

Resolved:

Agreed to accept the recommendations in the Report –

 

1.     Support a gradual reduction in the hourly rate to prevent significant numbers of children not being able to access the free entitlement, with the associated impact on children’s outcomes and life chances.

2.    Support Option 2 of the Savings Options (item 11.1 on the Report attached to Agenda item 5).  Recommend to the Lead Cabinet Member that there be a reduction of 1.5% across the Early Years Funding Formula hourly rates across all sectors to be implemented on 1 April 2016.

3.    Task Officers to:

a.    Update Schools’ Forum at the next meeting on hourly rate reduction funding consultation;

b.    Review other areas of spend across DSG which can generate savings to reduce remaining estimated shortfall of £0.4m in Early Years block, and provide an update at the next meeting;

c.    Update Schools’ Forum at the next meeting on the impact of the January census numbers on funding and cost projections.

 

Votes were taken on each recommendation.

Items 1 and 3 were agreed unanimously.

2 votes were taken on item 2:

1st to move the implementation date to 1 September 2016 – defeated by 7 votes to 2;

2nd to agree the recommended implementation date of 1 April 2016 – unanimously agreed.

 

 

Members had considered a number of options for financial strategy in the short to medium term (item 10.1 of the Report attached to Agenda item 5) and tasked Officers to produce a report on the implications and context of reducing the hourly rate in the Early Years Single Funding Formula to bring it in line with DSG funding.  Any recommendation made on this basis would require the permission of the Secretary of State, as it would contravene the Minimum Funding Guarantee.  Shabana Kausar agreed to bring the report to the February 2016 meeting.

Minutes:

Chrissie Elam, Head of Early Years and Childcare, Children’s and Adults’ Services, led members through her report.  She reminded them that there were three options for consideration, although there was no detail available in respect of future funding rates – only national average rates.  Figures in the report were therefore “best guess”. 

 

Chrissie Elam stressed the importance of Early Years funding, but acknowledged the pressures on funding in every phase of education.  She urged consideration of a gradual reduction in hourly rates, in order to mitigate the risk of PVI providers withdrawing free places.  The option that was recommended was therefore Option 2 (item 11.1 of the report attached to item 5 of the Agenda), which reflected a decrease of 1.5% year-on-year.  This would not produce a balanced budget within three years, but it could be reviewed.

 

Members were informed that there has been an increase in numbers year-on-year, both of children accessing and being funded by the Council across all settings, and of providers.  There is a shortfall in funding as the hourly rate funded by the DSG is less than the rate paid to providers; this funding gap has to be addressed.  There is an aspiration to increase take-up of 3/4 and 2 year olds, but this will increase pressure on the DSG.

 

Chrissie Elam pointed members to the benchmarking figures at item 6 on the report (attached to Agenda item 5) showing the hourly rates in Hounslow against other London Boroughs and statistically similar Local Authorities.  The Chair noted that a 1.5% reduction would equate to approximately 10p per hour.

 

Members looked at the projected shortfall table for 2015/16 at item 7.1 of the report.  They noted that the net shortfall of £770K would be met from the DSG reserves.  In 2016/17 (item 8.1 of the report), they noted a projected shortfall of £640K. The Chair noted that a 1.5% reduction would equate to approximately £10K.

 

Chrissie Elam advised members that the Government’s comprehensive spending announcement on 25 November 2015 gave national average rates, but not any detail on how that would look on a local basis.  The proposed uplifts to hourly rates in the report were therefore based on a “best guess”.  Members were also asked to note that all actual figures would be calculated on the January census.

 

Q:  Do other Local Authorities (LAs) have the same issues?  Shabana Kausar advised that many LAs subsidise Early Years, and she reminded members that 2 year old provision was more expensive.

Q:  If using the January census caused problems for everyone, would it be useful to write to the DfE expressing that?  Chrissie Elam advised that representation had been made; this year the November census was also taken into account.

Q: Is the make-up of provision different in Ealing? Is there any difference in the relationship between LA and PVI providers, as Ealing is an inner London Borough?  Shabana Kausar reported that she was working on this with a number of London Boroughs to ascertain differences, as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 59.

60.

Options on possible savings within the High Needs Block - 3 year strategy plan pdf icon PDF 795 KB

Decision:

Resolved:

Agreed to accept the recommendations in the Report –

 

1.    Agree the proposed Special School and SEN Centre planned funded places for 2016/17, and recommend to the Lead Cabinet Member to agree for these to be implemented on 1 April 2016;

2.    Noted and agreed the key tasks identified by the SEN Task and Finish Group.

Minutes:

Merle Abbott, Head of SEN and Disability, Children’s and Adults’ Services, led members through her report (attached to item 6 of the Agenda), highlighting the recommendations at Item 1.

 

Merle Abbott explained that there had been a significant increase in the number of children with complex SEN needs, and that these children were being identified at an early age.  This had led to a substantial increase in pre-school and reception children receiving additional support and statements of SEN.

 

The types of needs with the greatest increase were Autism (ASD) and Social Communication Difficulties (SCD), followed by Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD). PMLD was the most complex and provision the most expensive.  There was a slight reported decrease in children with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD), but members were asked to know that this could be due to Secondary Schools working collaboratively together to manage this.

 

Q: Overall, there had been an increase of 27.9% of children with statements of SEN in 4 years.  How did this correlate with the growth in the general population?  Merle Abbott advised that the percentage of school aged children with SEN had reduced from 24.47% in 2009 to 19.51% in 2014.  The percentage of the school population with statements had been 2.37% in 2009 and had slowly risen to 2.58% in 2014.  Benchmarking data shows that the number of statements of SEN is 0.1% below Hounslow’s comparable neighbours and 0.2% below the national average.  This is against the statistic that Hounslow has the 5th fastest growing child population in the London Boroughs.  Shabana Kausar confirmed that the numbers of children are increasing, but not the funding.

 

Merle Abbott directed members to item 3 of her report (sections 3.5 – 3.23) on Post 16 College Placements.  Prior to 2014, statements of SEN had ceased at age 16, and Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs) completed in their place.  This document was at a lower level and less robust.  There had been a substantial increase in numbers of LDAs in place, which has had a funding implication.  Under new legislation, and the Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan, children with a EHC plan must be provided with a college placement and the support required to meet their need.  There will therefore be more SEN students in College, staying longer in education (up to the age of 25).  This is uncharted territory and, as there is no trend data, projections will have to be refreshed every year.  Merle Abbott advised members that she was meeting with local colleges to encourage them to meet a broader range of needs, including a meeting with West Thames College for including therapy provision in EHC plans.  Merle Abbott reminded members that, by increasing the range of local provision, the need for residential College placements could be avoided; parents and young people had a stronger position in this now.

 

Q: If provision was now required to age 25, did this mean that there would be growth in this area for the next  ...  view the full minutes text for item 60.

61.

Date of Next Meeting - 18 January 2016

The next meeting of the Schools forum will be held on

Decision:

The next meeting will take place on 18 January 2016 at 6pm, in Committee Rooms 1 and 2, Civic Centre.

Minutes:

The next meeting will take place on 18 January 2016 at 6pm, in Committee Rooms 1 and 2, Civic Centre.