Essex Small Schools

Essex Schools Funding Formula Review

Archive for the month “November, 2014”

Schools Forum December 2014

The next meeting of Schools Forum will be on Wednesday. The agenda is included below – please feel free to contact me or comment if you have particular points you’d like me to raise.

Discussion/Decision Papers

2. Early Years & Childcare Update Blue Stav Yiannou All Schools
3. ‘Spend to Save’ Proposals for More In-County Provision for SEN Pupils Green Chris Kiernan All Schools
4. Enhanced Provision for Pupils with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs in Mainstream Primary Schools Yellow Ralph Holloway All Schools
5. Constitution and Membership of Schools Forum Lilac Yannick Stupples-Whyley All Schools
6. Schools Broadband Budget 2015/16 Peach Tracey Kelsbie All schools
7. Scheme for Financing Schools Pink Yannick Stupples-Whyley Maintained Schools
8. High Needs Block Update Blue Yannick Stupples-Whyley All Schools

Forum Business

9. Any other business and feedback from schools through Associations

Feedback from Schools Forum representatives on other Bodies

Minutes of SEN Sub Group

Green

Chair All schools
10. Minutes of 22 October 2014 White Chair All schools

Information Papers:

11. Audit of all Placements of Pupils into Independent Schools, 2013/14 Academic Year Yellow Liz Cornish / Elaine White All Schools
12. LA Benchmarking Lilac Yannick Stupples-Whyley All Schools
13. External Funding Opportunities Peach Yannick Stupples-Whyley All Schools
14. Forward Plan Pink Yannick Stupples-Whyley All Schools
15. Closing Comments Chair
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Funding Formula: 3rd Meeting

The third meeting of the 16/17 funding formula review group met in Chelmsford on the 26th of November.

The agenda was to cover special schools, low cost high incidence SEN (LCHISEN) and notional SEN funding.

I could only attend very briefly due to a preexisting governing body commitment. The chair kindly agreed to therefore take the LCHISEN item first, as this is perhaps the most important of these issues facing the schools I represent.

A model had been circulated by the local authority (at the request of the funding review group) to identify the impact of removing the LCHISEN funding element from the Essex funding formula, instead putting all LCHISEN funding into the deprivation factor. I argued strongly against such a move. In my view, we have to be very clear to distinguish deprivation from SEN; they are not the same thing at all. While I’m completely supportive of deprivation funding (much of which now comes through pupil premium rather than through the LA-determined formula), this should be targeted to ameliorate the educational impact of deprivation. When it comes to SEN, we should look at the best available indicators of SEN that we’re allowed to use. I argued that the interpretation if the options was as follows:

  • Putting funding through LCHISEN factor based on prior attainment (EYFSP for primary, KS2 for secondary). This corresponds to the belief that low attainment follows SEN.
  • Putting funding through the deprivation factor. This corresponds to the belief that deprivation is a better statistical predictor for SEN than attainment; I have not seen any research to suggest this, and it sounds counter-intuitive.
  • Putting funding through the AWPU. This corresponds to the belief that we have no reliable data upon which to predict the rate of SEN at a given school, so we simply fund all schools equally per pupil. I noted that this is already in place in Essex, since 3% of AWPU forms part of a school’s notional SEN pot.

On the basis of this discussion, we decided not recommend an alteration in the way that this funding would be distributed.

Primary Assessment Consultation

An unusual post today – nothing about finance!

I read the recent DfE consultation on primary assessment with some concern. I would encourage all schools to respond to this consultation and to urge their governors – and even parents – to respond as well. My own draft response can be found here.

Thanks for your time.

October 2014 Schools Forum

My first meeting of Schools Forum as an elected member was held on the 22nd October 2014. Below I aim to update readers about some of the more interesting items for discussion.

  • Q2 budget update
    The LA is projecting an underspend of £3m in the Dedicated Schools Grant. A very large part of this comes from £2.9m set aside as “Prudential Borrowing Costs”, which has not been spent. Upon query, this relates to the LA’s “Invest to Save” project for SEN. The LA was proposing to re-invest this underspend by keeping surplus school properties open, and funding management costs for this project. I queried this, as I have not seen a plan for this project. Apparently a detailed business case is still awaited. Moreover, I noted my disquiet when reading that SF had allocated £42m to this project and yet reading in the minutes of the SEN subgroup of SF that the LA “do not need to spend £42m” and that there is “no strategic plan”. Richard Thomas (ASHE) asked why this funding was expected to come from the DSG rather than from ECC money. It was therefore resolved not to allocating this funding in the way proposed until the LA produces such a business case, and Chris Kiernan agreed to bring full details to the December SF meeting.
  • Increasing Provision for Pupils with High Need
    The LA had prepared a paper showing the funding implications on schools of increasing the number of available high needs places in special schools. I queried why the cost appeared to be falling disproportionately on primary schools, with a 0.78% reduction in primary AWPU forecast, while secondaries were showing a 0.54% reduction. It was explained that this is because the model was aiming for an equitable funding split between primaries and secondaries, but since more primary funding goes into lump sum than secondary funding, this led to the above figures. I argued against this, based on the idea of maintaining an equitable split of the hit on disposable income, rather than total income, i.e. keeping the AWPU percentage reduction the same. Richard Thomas disagreed. What happens to this point appears to be bound up with the overall strategy on the Invest to Save project, and so is currently unclear.
  • Schools in Financial Difficulty
    The LA sought approval from SF to allocate around £500k of funding over the next few years to a specific secondary school, to support the school with an unexpected loss of funding due to a delay in their conversion to academy status. I made the point that the proposed level of funding, pegged at the current MFG rate of -1.5%, extended well beyond the duration that the Government has underwritten the MFG at this rate. The LA said that, if the MFG rate were reduced, they would revisit the figures, and if the MFG rate were increased, the contribution expected would not be increased. Nevertheless, SF voted to reject the LA’s proposal. It was felt by many members that it was uncomfortable for SF to be making funding decisions on a school-by-school basis.
  • Significant Increase in Pupil Numbers Contingency
    I noted that the stated rules for application of this funding seem to be inequitable between the primary and secondary sector. In particular, it was stated by the LA that primary schools with more than 251 pupils need to have an increase of 13 pupils before they can receive funding, whereas secondaries need an increase of 10 pupils, no matter how large the school. It was agreed to look again at this rule.

I hope schools find this brief update useful.

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