Agenda item

Draft proposals for the use of DSG 20/21

Presented By:Graham Booth

Minutes:

GB introduced the report and drew attention to the following:

  • In relation to DSG for 2020/21, the Department for Education (DfE) and Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) had made a number of announcements with indicative figures for most of the blocks (with the exception of the Early Years Block) but this had stopped due to the pre-election period;
  • Based on this information, indicative figures for 2020/21 were set out in Table 1 of the report including:
    • Schools Block: there was a substantial increase of £8.2m;
    • Central services: there was a reduction of £200k due to ESFA unwinding some of its historic commitments such as prudential borrowing and utilising it elsewhere;
    • High Needs: there was a significant increase in funding of £6.6m although it was predicted that this block would be under pressure again and even with a modest increase in cost pressure of 1.8% the budget would still be in an adverse position.  The first call on the funding would be paying back the advance funding from the current year;
  • These figures were indicative and would change once the October census figures were available in December;
  • Along with the indicative figures, Government guidance and regulations had also been released, most of the regulations were the same but there were some restrictions to moving between blocks; 
  • In view on the pressure on the High Needs block, Forum would be asked to consider whether to transfer money from the other blocks.

 

In response to questions about the reason for the Early Years underspend it was clarified that:

·         funding was based on censuses throughout the year and income was based on 2 whereas expenditure was based on 4 and therefore falling rolls would generate a surplus;

·         There would be a presentation on the Early Years block at the next meeting of the Schools Forum.

 

In response to a question about the emerging pressures in Out of Area Placements and Alternative Provision (AP), GB clarified that some of these pressures were starting in year e.g. the termination of the contract by provider, Catch 22.  He undertook to provide Forum with additional information in relation to AP expenditure.

 

Concern was expressed that the surplus in Early Years did not reflect the situation on the ground and a more strategic piece of work was required relating to encouraging families to take up their free entitlement of education for two year olds which was particularly low in areas of high deprivation and for families with English as an additional language.  It was noted that an increasing number of children were entering Early Years with High Needs and investment at this age, including the training of staff to meet complex needs, would take the pressure off funding in later years.

 

At this point in the meeting, the Chair asked AH to give an update on the strategic overview for education which addressed some of the points raised by Members.

 

Strategic Overview of Education

AH circulated a report which followed on from the presentation at the last meeting on the system wide transformation of Bristol’s education provision and reported that:

  • The report contained more detail, but it was still relatively high level;
  • The detail would be co-produced in partnership with stakeholders;
  • She was unable to report back on the outcome of the Department’s SEND Inspection as Inspectors had prevented this being published until after the election;
  • In terms of internal progress, the self-evaluation form submitted by the Council as part of inspection was open and transparent and detailed the work that had already started to in relation to SEND improvement before her appointment as substantive Director;
  • The Education and Skills Department had been restructured into learning city; accessible city; inclusive city and learning, employment and skills.  This was not a cost saving exercise but was realigning the priorities with the core priorities of the Council;
  • A recruitment campaign had begun and 20 new appointments made which would increase capacity to drive improvement within three high level delivery and investment components:
    • SEND Statutory Assessment, Planning and Review – investment to streamline services;
    • Performance and Standards (SEND & Inclusion) – this was critical and would include the detailed analysis of place planning and disadvantaged two year olds accessing Education;
    • SEND Improvement and Programme Delivery Team - to use the broad range of data. 

·         There was a total ask of £2.9m, £1.7m which had been provisionally identified but was subject to approval in the Council budget;

·         The proposals would not be the complete solution but would start the journey.

 

In response to questioning, it was clarified that:

  • although not included in the financial report, £1.5m had been included as an in year pressure that could be used for the proposals;
  • If transferring between blocks was restricted in future years, the Government would need to come up with an alternative solution for funding SEND.

 

The following comments were raised by Forum Members:

  • There was a need for a joined up approach between Council departments and to identify areas of high need.  E.g. the Housing Department would not repair a roof which ended up falling in and damaging the nursery which cost the Council more than the initial repair;
  • It was premature to make a decision on funding prior to the presentation on Early Years Funding to give Members an understanding of the issues and before the publication of the SEND Inspection;
  • Agree this is a vision but it needs resources and Forum is being asked to take resources away from Early Years;
  • Welcome the strategic approach but the High Needs Block should not be the only source of funding for Inclusion, there should be income from Health and funding should not be taken away from schools;
  • It would be useful to have a success criteria to measure against the proposals;
  • It would be useful to see the impact of these proposals on the ground.

 

AH responded that it was important to start implementing the improvement plan as soon as possible, further work would include action planning; key performance indicators and a shared set of objectives but an immediate decision was needed on transferring funds to the High Needs block to accelerate improvement.  DM advised the Forum that there was a legal timescale in relation to consulting on budget proposals in advance of a Council decision in January and that that a decision needed to be taken at this meeting to allow for consultation with schools.

 

On voting for the recommendations in the report to transfer funds to the High Needs Block:

(1)   the transfer of £0.333m funding from School Central Block to the High Needs Block in 2020/21 was agreed (13 in favour and 0 against);

(2)   the transfer of £1.300m funding from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block in 2020/21 was agreed on a conditional basis, subject to further information on how the money will be spent (12 in favour and 2 against);

(3)   on voting for the possibility of transferring funding from the Early Years Block to the High Needs Block in 2020/21 this was NOT CARRIED (1 in favour and 11 against).

 

RESOLVED – that

(1)   the potential 2020/21 indicative funding levels be noted;

(2)   the proposed restrictions relating to the DSG be noted;

(3)   the transfer of £0.333m funding from School Central Block to the High Needs Block in 2020/21 be agreed (13 in favour and 0 against);

(4)   that the transfer of £1.300m funding from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block in 2020/21 be agreed on a conditional basis, subject to further information on how the money will be spent (12 in favour and 2 against);

(5)   the possibility of transferring funding from the Early Years Block to the High Needs Block in 2020/21 be rejected.

 

Actions:GB

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