Agenda and minutes
Venue: online meeting
Contact: Sarah Buffrey, Governance Services
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from the following forum members: Ed Gwillim, Martin Henton, Sue Jenkins, Tim Knapp.
NAMED SUBSTITUTES (if any)
To receive any details of Members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a Member of the Forum.
There were no named substitutes.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive any declarations of interest by Members in respect of items on the Agenda.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 15 January 2021.
Resolved: that the minutes of the meeting held on 15 January 2021 be approved as a correct record.
To consult on the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) high needs budget for 2021/22 prior to recommending to the Cabinet Member for Children and Families for approval; and
To consult on the implementation plan for the improvements to the high needs matrix and the associated revisions to the tariff funding from 2021 following consultation with schools and parent/carer groups.
The strategic finance manager summarised the proposals that had been included in the consultation with schools and the final proposals as set out in the report.
The head of additional needs explained that the projections for Beacon College were for more than 40 places to be filled when it opened and so the money allocated to underwrite the first 20 places was not expected to be needed and would provide some contingency in the budget overall.
Forum members discussed the proposals for the pupil referral unit. The head of additional needs explained that in order to ensure the required outcomes for pupils they needed to spend more time on site and less in off-site provision. The number of places at the PRU would shrink to 50 to reflect the available accommodation. The service was now focussed on the council’s statutory responsibility for permanently excluded pupils, with schools purchasing additional services. However the pandemic had interrupted the launch of the revised service and action was required on staffing levels to address the projected resulting overspend.
Concerns were expressed by one forum member that the outcome for children should remain the focus and it was suggested that a review take place to report back to Schools Forum into how many children were denied a place at the PRU because it was full and how many because the costs of a place were too high. It was also queried what arrangements were in place for those who lived further away from Hereford where the PRU was based.
In response forum members heard that:
· the changes proposed were intended to protect the PRU and that the staffing restructure would address curriculum needs as well as the projected overspend;
· pupils received transport to the provision so that those further away from Hereford could access the service;
· calculations showed that 50 places was the likely requirement for permanent exclusions at any one time but this would be kept under review;
· schools remained responsible for outcomes of pupils they elected to place with the service;
· it was recognised that the pandemic had challenged the new model before it had time to get off the ground but officers believed it would work in the longer term;
· there was a large cohort in year 11 at the PRU at the current time and numbers would be much reduced in September, making this a good time to enact changes;
· the remit of the schools forum was primarily schools finance so some of the concerns raised would be outside the scope of the forum but further discussions would take place and anything relevant brought back to the forum at a later date.
The strategic finance manager also update the members of the forum on a range of consultations currently being undertaken by the Department for Education. Forum members noted that:
· the proposed changes to the sparsity factor were welcomed as beneficial to schools in Herefordshire;
· the consultation on the high needs block seemed premature in light of the SEND review, the ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
To review delivery of projects under the Solid Roots Programme.
The strategic finance manager introduced the item by explaining that the funding for the solid roots programme was derived from surplus funds from the 2 year old NEF. The funds had been allocated on a three part programme focussed on early years in relation to:
· Early speech and language difficulties;
· Maths, literacy, learning and development; and
· Parenting, attachment and infant mental health.
At the end of the project there was likely to be a small surplus and it was recommended that discussions take place with the budget working group on how best to utilise the remaining funds.
The public health specialist explained the background to the projects and summarised the benefits to date. Forum members noted that the projects had been designed to leave a legacy for example by training local trainers who could then continue to roll out schemes once the original project had come to an end. Other training schemes which had been successfully developed and launched would be maintained through existing services going forward.
Forum members heard that the pandemic had impacted the roll out of some of the programme, while other elements had adapted using online platforms to roll out training packages. Part of the programme had been extended by 6 months at no additional cost so that the full delivery could be achieved. The assessment of the impact of the programme would be more difficult as some national data reporting had been put on hold. However there had been a good response from all the settings, groups and agencies involved and officers would be able to provide some evaluation towards the end of 2021 when all the contracts had come to an end. A further report would be brought to the forum at that point.
It was resolved that:
a) Schools forum have reviewed the progress on delivery of projects under the Solid Roots Programme; and
b) The Budget Working Group be asked to consider proposals for allocation of any surplus funding that may be available at the end of the current contracts and make appropriate recommendations.
Any Other Business
The clerk updated forum members on changes to national regulations that allowed for future meetings of the forum to be held wholly or partly remotely. This made permanent the temporary arrangements that had been put in place at the start of the pandemic. The operational and good practice guidance published by the department for education would shortly be updated and the new arrangements would need to be incorporated into the constitution of the forum in due course.
Forum members welcomed this development and commented on the amount of travel time saved by holding remote meetings and the improved attendance.
It was agreed that the next meeting on 9 July would be held via remote means and arrangements for subsequent meetings confirmed at that point.