Agenda and minutes

Venue: online meeting

Contact: Sarah Buffrey, Governance Services 

Link: Watch the recording of this meeting on the Herefordshire Council Youtube Channel

No. Item



To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies were received from the following forum members: Georgie Griffin, Ali Jackson, Sian Lines.



To receive any details of Members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a Member of the Forum.


The attendance of the following substitutes was noted:


Andy Gosling for Georgie Griffin

Andrew Teale for Sian Lines



To receive any declarations of interest by Members in respect of items on the Agenda.


Tim Knapp declared an interest in agenda item 6 as the headteacher of Whitecross Hereford High School.


Paul Deneen and Chris Lewandowski declared interests in agenda item 5 as representatives of unions.


MINUTES pdf icon PDF 487 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 23 October 2020.


Resolved: that the minutes of the meeting held on 23 October 2020 be approved as a correct record.


Schools Budget 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 496 KB

To agree final budget proposals for recommendation to the cabinet member for children and families for school budgets, central school services and early years within the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) for 2021/22.

Additional documents:


The strategic finance manager (SFM) presented the report and outlined the proposed schools budget based on the confirmed Dedicated Schools Grant allocation from the Department for Education (DfE). A copy of the slides used in the presentation are attached to the minutes of the meeting.


The SFM highlighted that the proposals were largely the same as those set out in the consultation paper shared with schools in the Autumn Term. However the final settlement was better than expected and as a result the allocations proposed an improved amount to schools. The underlying approach remained to fully fund the national funding formula levels for schools and to share any surplus funding between schools and the high needs block to support the SEN protection scheme. The Budget Working Group had been fully involved in drawing up the proposals and had endorsed the recommendations set out in the agenda papers.


The SFM had submitted a request to the Secretary of State for approval of an exceptional factor to pay additional monies to six small schools who would lose out on the consolidation of the teachers’ pay grant and teachers’ pension grant. A response was still awaited. The Budget Working Group had recommended that while use of the exceptional factor was the preferred way forward, in the event that approval was not received the £27k allocated for this factor should be distributed to all schools by increasing the per pupil amount.


An inflationary allowance of 1.5% had been received for the early years’ block which was not expected. Taken together with an adjustment for a regular underspend in part of the early years block this allowed for an improvement in the offer to the nursery education funding to settings. There was also an allocation of £10k funding to the MASH to provide support to early years settings.


The allocations of the central services block were largely as set out in the consultation paper. An allocation of £25k into SEN casework was proposed, which would help to support the implementation of the amended high needs matrix which would be discussed later on the agenda.


The high needs budget was in a slightly more positive position than it had been recently. An increase of £2.1m in the high needs block allocation had been received and the latest forecasts of the complex needs funding showed a lower demand for additional funding than had been expected. It was not yet clear whether the council would need to fund the new Beacon College so an allocation had been set aside.


The chair of the Budget Working Group thanked the SFM for his work on the proposals and also thanked members of the working group for their contributions. He highlighted that there had been a number of interesting and robust discussions on the key points during the working group meetings and that it was refreshing to have a small amount of good news to share regarding the budget proposals. The working group were happy to commend the recommendations  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Whitecross PFI contract - triennial review pdf icon PDF 231 KB

To review the financial position of the Whitecross PFI contract and inform Schools Forum of any necessary action.


The strategic finance manager presented the findings of the triennial review of the Whitecross PFI contract. It was noted that the level of inflation had generally been below the 2.5% included in the finance model. Should inflation continue at its current low rate through to the end of the contract then the council would be able to cease paying into the sinking fund a year or two earlier than planned. The contract was felt to be working well and no changes were proposed for the next three year period.


In response to a query the SFM explained that in the event Whitecross School was expanded any building work undertaken through the PFI contract would be expensive and the council would need to consider carefully how to proceed. The headteacher confirmed that the school was aware of the costs to the council of any kind of expansion. While some very informal conversations had taken place around possible future expansion this had not proceeded further at this stage.


It was resolved that:


(a)    The council’s existing contribution of £928,350 pa be continued until the next triennial review in Autumn 2023.  


High needs revised matrix and tariffs - Implementation plan pdf icon PDF 173 KB

To update Schools Forum on the implementation plan for the revised High Needs Matrix and to seek comments prior to consultation with schools and parent carer groups.

Additional documents:


The head of additional needs (HAN) presented the implementation plan for the revised high needs matrix and tariffs and explained that this would be subject to consultation with schools and parent carer groups. The results of the consultation would be brought back to the budget working group and from there to the March meeting of the schools forum.


The HAN reported that a considerable amount of work had gone into the changes and it was important to differentiate between the matrix itself, which had been revised for some time, and the table of tariffs which are the values attached to the number of points generated by that wording. The revision sought to address double counting of scores and give greater recognition to the high level of medical and physical needs of some children. The revised matrix would cover the vast majority of children so fewer exceptional decisions would need to be made.


The revisions to the wording in the matrix had been carried out with a working group which had a wide range of stakeholders represented. Since that work had been completed a moderation exercise had taken place to make sure that individual children did not receive big changes to their financial packages and that individual schools did not have wide fluctuations between the old and new arrangements. The principles set out at the start of the review included an aim that children and young people should be funded at the same level irrespective of the setting they attended. A lot of work had been undertaken to try and smooth out changes for individual settings while still adhering to that principle.


The new arrangements would be phased in over five years. From April 2021 all new education health and care plans would be based on the new matrix and tariff. Existing plans would be moved to the new system as pupils reached points of phase transfer.


Forum members noted that there would likely be some fluctuations for individual schools but they should be relatively small in an overall budget. The representative of LA special schools highlighted that the tariff system was the only means of increased income for special schools as there was no year on year increase in the basic per pupil funding. The SFM explained that the council was restricted by the national funding formula which fixed the per pupil figure of £10k. Feedback had been sent to the DfE that it was about time the figure was increased but the DfE were waiting for the conclusion of the national SEN review. It was hoped that the outcome of the review would be published before the end of the Spring Term 2021. The SFM explained that the council had allocated greater inflationary increases on the tariffs which were most relevant to special schools in recognition of the increase in costs such as staffing for special schools.


It was resolved that:


(a)    Schools forum endorses the implementation plan for consultation with schools and parent carer groups (subject to any  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.


Early Years funding


The chair introduced an additional item of business. The forum heard from one of the early years representatives regarding problems with the NEF payments for the Spring Term 2021.


Forum members noted that current guidance was that the funding was to be on actual children attending on a head count, which was difficult given that many families were keeping their children away from settings during the lockdown. New guidance had just been issued that settings would be able to apply for funding for children for whom they had a space even if they weren’t attending but many settings had already cut back on their availability and staffing because children were not coming in. It was a challenge to balance costs with keeping sufficient places open for those parents wanting them and ensuring settings were viable for the future.


The SFM confirmed that the council was aware of the difficulties and was in dialogue with the DfE. Further information and guidance was expected. Funding for the autumn term had been based on the figures from the previous year and it was possible that a similar arrangement would be put in place for this term. If children were not recorded on the census then the council did not receive the funding in its DSG to pass through to settings.


The assistant director education development and skills confirmed that the council had taken a decision to provide some additional support to nurseries and that details of this would be announced shortly. It was recognised that information needed to be communicated to providers as soon as possible.