Agenda and minutes
Venue: online meeting
Contact: Sarah Buffrey, Governance Services
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Christine Bryan, Tim Knapp, Tracey Kneale and Sian Lines.
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 substitutes.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive any declarations of interest by Members in respect of items on the Agenda.
Paul Deneen declared an interest as a representative of Trades Unions.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 13 January 2023.
The Head of Additional Needs confirmed that the Local Authority’s bid for a new SEN free school as reported at the previous meeting was unsuccessful. The LA would use the feedback received to improve the bid and hoped to resubmit in a future round. In the meantime the LA would continue to explore other options to add capacity through smaller expansions and use of non-standard buildings.
It was resolved that:
The minutes of the meeting held on 13 January 2023 be approved as a correct record.
To make recommendations to the Cabinet Member for Children and Families for the net £22.5m Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) high needs budget for 2023/24 and to advise of amendments made to the Schools Budget 2023/24 regarding revised basic education funding for primary and secondary pupils as part of the validation process with DfE.
The strategic finance manager (SFM) presented the report and explained there was insufficient funding in the high needs block from the Department for Education (DfE) to meet both cost inflation and demand pressures. The budget as presented in the report was already overspent by £0.5m and was likely to overspend by between £1m and £1.5m by the year end.
Risk factors in included:
· growth in mainstream top ups;
· costs of out of county placements;
· increased costs of new provision planned from September 2023 as details are worked up;
· the possibility of additional pupils with complex needs – every additional pupil in this category costs over £100k.
The cost of the SEN protection scheme now exceeds the 0.5% that can be transferred from the schools block. The budget working group will be asked to consider options over the course of the coming year to be implemented for 2024/25.
The projected overspend for 23/24 will result in a cumulative deficit of between £2.5m and £2.7m, in line with the forecasts previously produced. The government has extended the statutory override to allow councils to carry over deficits for a further three years. After this, the council will become responsible for any remaining deficit.
Forum members discussed the proposed budget and in response to queries it was noted that:
· the increase for special schools (LA and academy) is based on the minimum funding guarantee of 3.4%,compared with mainstream schools who received a 6.2% increase and it is possible to improve the increase to special schools with a small addition to the overall deficit;
· new provision autism and language units will be spread across the county, subject to agreement with the hosting governing bodies or academy trusts;
· much depends on how the DfE implements the SEND review, which appears to focus on inclusion, and if any additional funding is forthcoming to support this;
· the latest publications from the DfE talk about a uniform funding matrix, which in the view of officers is unlikely to address the challenges faced, and give little indication of significant change before the next general election;
· the DfE paper of 8 March also talks about a small amount of funding through the ‘supporting families fund’ to bring the early help offer closer to SEND provision but historically the LA had to bid for this funding so it is not guaranteed.
Feedback from the budget working group was noted. The proposed budget had been discussed in detail and while members of the working group were reluctant to recommend a deficit budget, the working group recognised that there was no viable alternative. Herefordshire is one of the last LAs in the country to be in this situation and had done well to hold off for so long. The group had approved continued funding for the secondary nurture group at Earl Mortimer College and funding for the summer term for the satellite nurture project at Orleton Primary as part of ongoing efforts to reduce future demand pressures.
It was proposed and agreed that an ... view the full minutes text for item 73.
Any other business
The chairperson led members of the forum in recording their thanks and best wishes to Les Knight on the occasion of his retirement as Head of Additional Needs. Members of the forum noted his long standing support for schools and pupils.