The report provided details of the High Needs Funding consultation and the Council’s proposed response.
The Head of Children, Education and Families (CEF) Finance introduced the report explaining that the ambition was to produce a joint response to the consultation on behalf of the Local Authority and the Schools’ Forum.
The Schools’ Forum noted that in Bromley there was a high level of funding protection in the formula and Officers had tried to reflect this in the responses that had been drafted.
In response to a question concerning the rationale for the use of 2017/18 for the historic spend factor in the high needs national funding formula, the Head of CEF Finance explained that the movement in the high needs block had begun in 2017/18. This financial year was being used as a point in time before some of the major changes were introduced and was the basis for the way in which some of the current high needs funding was driven.
The Schools’ Forum agreed the response to Question 1.
In response to a question, the Head of CEF Finance confirmed that funding protection was in place and there was currently no indication of a limit being placed on the length of time this protection would be in place.
It was agreed that the response to the question should spell out the assumption that funding protection would continue.
The Schools’ Forum agreed the response to Question 2, subject to the amendment outlined above.
A Member suggested that, like the previous question, the response to question 3 should reflect the need for the continuation of funding protection based on nationally available data.
It was noted that the use of EHCPs and Alternative Provision was a key factor in the level of need going forward. The issue of the use of historical data was considered and a Member highlighted the significant difference there could be between the spend in 2017/18 and the current spend in 2020/21 and the spend that would be required in 2022/23. The Head of CEF Finance explained that 2017/18 was when the methodology first began and it was therefore being used as a driver for the way in which funding could be distributed to Local Authorities.
The Schools’ Forum agreed the response to Question 3, subject to the amendment outlined above.
The Schools’ Forum endorsed the proposed response to Question 4.
The Schools’ Forum supported the suggestion of using “Ever6” as the proxy measure and endorsed the proposed response to question 5.
The Schools’ Forum noted the failure of the consultation to address the fundamental issue of underfunding. Following discussion Members of the Forum supported the expanded response which highlighted the challenges faced by schools across the Borough.
It was also suggested that the equalities issue should be addressed in response to question 6 as a reduction in funding would impact students with disabilities.
The Forum endorsed the response to Question 6, subject to amendments to highlight the equalities aspect and that the use of any proxy would undermine the subtleties of students that may present with a range of disabilities and protected characteristics.
RESOLVED: That draft response to the High Needs Funding Consultation be endorsed subject to the amendments outlined above.