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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Virtual Meeting via Zoom

Contact: Sam Wilcock 

Link: Watch Live Webcast

Note No. Item




Presented By: Chair


SL welcomed everyone to the meeting. 




Forum Standing Business

(a)    Apologies for Absence

(b)   Confirmation meeting is quorate

(c)    Appointment of new members/Resignations: 

(d)   Notification of Vacancies:

(e)   Declarations of Interest


Presented By: Clerk


a.   Apologies for absence

Apologies for absence were received from:

Cedric Sanguignol, Primary Governor

Rebecca Watkin, LearnMAT

Jo Willis, Bristol Diocese Board of Education

Aderyn Zajicova, Nursery Governor


b.   Quorate

The Clerk confirmed the meeting was quorate.


c.    Resignations

It was noted that Mick O’Neil Duff and Richard Penska had resigned from the forum.


d.   Appointment of New Members

It was noted that Steve Hornsby joins the Forum as the new PRU Governor Rep and Tonya Hill joins as Special Maintained Representative.


e.   Notification of Vacancies

The following vacancies were noted:

1 Secondary Academy Governor Representative.

1 Primary Academy Governor Representative


f.     Declarations of Interest

There were no declarations of interest.




Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 107 KB

(a)  To confirm as a correct record

(b)  Matters arising not covered on agenda

Presented By: Chair


RESOLVED – that the minutes be confirmed as a correct record.


The actions listed in the minutes had been covered within the items on the agenda


Introduction and update from Director of Education and Skills


Reena Bhogal-Welsh was introduced to the Forum as the new interim Director for Education & Skills and welcomed to the meeting. 


RBW gave a verbal presentation regarding Family Hubs.  Physical hubs had been located in three different areas of the City with one of the hubs up and running with visitors.  A further update would be provided at the next meeting.


DSG Budget Monitor Update pdf icon PDF 221 KB


AL presented the report for information which outlined the forecast financial position for the DSG overall as at Period 10 (P10 to end of January 2023 extrapolated). 


In response to the report the following themes were discussed:

  1. At the end of last year, the Maintained Schools forecast had shown a surplus position of over £4.4m which was now a forecast deficit of £3.1m.  Officers were aware of the pressures faced by schools and nurseries within the current financial climate in terms of inflation and utility costs as well as falling primary numbers of pupils on roll. 
  2. It was suggested that a contributing factor to the £2.5m increase in the maintained Primary Schools deficit had been the removal of schools with surplus balances from the end of year position when they switched to Academy status.  Although, it was also highlighted that those schools would also remove their incremental costs.
  3. The draft mitigation plan for the High Needs Block would be released for consultation with the sector and wider public before consideration by the Bristol City Council Cabinet for decision.
  4. It was positive news that the mainstream schools additional grant for 2023/24 had been confirmed which would become part of the baseline funding going forward for primary and secondary schools.   However, the Nurseries funding formula rates were still behind the market rates, and it was hoped there would be future changes to the formula as announced by Government (currently not reflected within the report).
  5. The significant proportion of 85% of schools now an in-year deficit which was of high concern.  Although extra funding had been announced, costs continued to rise.  It was important to keep the support in place to help advise and assist schools going forward.  Action: AL to provide further information regarding the proportion of schools with an in-year deficit forecast that also had a cumulative deficit.
  6. With reference to sufficiency planning in the longer term as the population changes evident within primary schools moved through the system, AG highlighted an organisation that supported the Sheffield Schools Forum who could assist Bristol Schools Forum with proactive work in this area. ACTION: Officers to arrange contact.
  7. It was unclear how the Government announcement regarding increased nursery places for 2 year olds would impact on current workstreams.  Under the proposals, by 2025/26 there would need to be double the number of places being offered at a time where settings were at risk of closing.  Strategic direction was requested around funding and support for the strategic role of nurseries in Bristol in terms of early intervention and also as part of Family Hubs.
  8. With primary schools sliding into deficit this year, it was requested that the carried forward resource for ‘schools in financial difficulty’ be accessed.  Officers were asked to revisit the reasons for the original agreement to ensure consideration of the remit before any alternative use for the money was considered.  Action: Officers to confirm back to the BSF.


It was AGREED that the in-year 2022/23 position for the overall DSG  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Maintained Nursery Schools Transformation Programme pdf icon PDF 202 KB


RBW introduced the report which provided the Forum with an update on the progress of the maintained Nursery School transformation programme following the de-delegation of £90k from the 2021-22 Early Years underspend in July 2022.  The report outlined the spend to date, an overview of progress with the programme and its impact.


In response to the report the following themes were discussed:

  1. To date, £123,000 (out of £340,000) of the Early Year’s SEND / Nursery Improvement funding is forecast to be spent at the end of the financial year.  The remaining balance should continue to be ring-fenced for this purpose to allow the continuation of work with nursery schools and Early Years SEND improvement.  Information within the report which was indicative would be further updated at a future meeting.

1.      With reference to SEND, colleagues and partners endeavoured to work cross directorate and disciplines of education, health and children’s social care work holistically in order to ensure the biggest impact.

2.      AL confirmed that the submitted schools recovery plans would be finalised by the end of March.  Officers planned to establish a high level financial impact assessment evaluated in light of changing government announcements.  It was noted that following the year-end for schools in mid April a formal response would be released by the end of April. 

3.      Officers confirmed that support given by way of advice and officer support during the process would continue to be given as far as possible. 

4.      Through the evaluation of the schools recovery plans, the team were looking to identify operating models and examples of best practice that could be cascaded more widely.  Examples of effective financial improvements had been noted to share for training purposes.

5.      It was agreed that the item would remain on the agenda for the next meeting including an update of clarity around the remainder of the £250k spend.  ACTION: Officers to add to the work progamme and note for report planning


It was AGREED that Schools Forum:

a)      Noted the spend, activity and progress to date

b)      Noted planned next steps

c)      Noted that the funding of £340k includes £90k for Maintained Nursery Transformation



High Needs Recovery Plan - Delivering Best Value pdf icon PDF 619 KB

Additional documents:


RBW updated the forum on Bristol’s participation in the Department for Education (DfE)’s Delivering Better Value in SEND programme; the High Needs Block Deficit Recovery Plan and overarching governance of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) deficit management approaches. 


In response to the report the following themes were discussed:

  1. The Chair noted the helpful summary of the four different workstreams summarised in section 5 of the report. The report included helpful information (particularly the diagram on page 9) illustrating the different work streams and timeline.  Officers were asked to consider building on that to ensure the information presented to the forum continued to use consistent language, format and accessibility.  Alongside this, consideration would be given to provide the Forum with leading indicators to identify and track benefits.  ACTION: Officers to consider consistent information presentation and leading indicators within reports going forward.
  2. It was highlighted that it would be important to improve recruitment and retention within the sector in order to implement the planned progress of SEND within mainstream settings.  RBW confirmed that the local authority was actively looking at ways to improve recruitment and retention within schools in Bristol and in the context of the national picture.  Mention in the report regarding limitations of inclusive practice resulting in a lower number of children with an EHCP within mainstream settings was not a comment about the quality of the existing workforce within schools. 
  3. The Workstream 1 pilot would involve a range of schools from across the City and draw upon directorate roles to establish best practice to roll out.  The selection method would utilise the diagnostic work of the chosen organisation.  More detail would be provided when scoping work had completed.
  4. It was highlighted that schools were already under a lot of pressure due to the deficit forecast, pressures in terms of resources and also negotiations for pay increases the government propose are funded by schools.  There was concern that proposals within the report appear to call for more work when resources were already stretched.  AL confirmed that with the cost of living crisis and inflationary pressures being addressed by Government grants from 2023-24 intended to ease the financial pressure, the Local Authority needed to ensure a robust financial plan and associated due diligence work to ensure schools spend was sustainable.  Rather than approaching the issue as reducing spending on the HN budget, it was a case of ‘reframing’ spend to consider whether placements could be offered locally for less cost resulting in more benefit for the same spend and a better experience for the children.  The Schools Forum recognised the challenging financial times and that development was needed to ensure the sector could better support each other to meet the need for the children of Bristol.
  5. There remained concern about the amount of time parents were waiting to see speech and language specialists or a paediatrician during a time where more children were coming to nursery and school with more need than in the past.  It was of high concern the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Any Other Business (as agreed with the Chair)


A query had been received from a Forum member that had not been able to attend.  It asked about the financial pathway for top up funding where the pupils no longer on roll and how that funding was repaid.  The query would be sent to officers for reply.  ACTION: AL to be sent the specific query for consideration and reply.