The report provided an outline of the final Dedicated Schools Grant allocation for 2023/23 and an overview of how this would be spent. The report would also be presented to the meeting of the Schools’ Forum on 26 January 2023 for consultation purposes.
In considering the four options for the 2023/24 Dedicated Schools Grant formula, a Member underlined the need to provide as much support as possible to disadvantaged pupils and suggested Option 2: Basic rates at National Funding Formula and Maximum Deprivation Rates be agreed. In response, the Head of Finance: Children, Education and Families advised that the four options were broadly similar but that it was recommended that Option 4: Inflating all National Funding Formula rates across the board by +0.5% be agreed. This was because Option 4 was as close as possible to the National Funding Formula and would minimise the funding disruption to schools once the National Funding Formula was rolled out. Once the funding formula for the 2023/24 financial year had been agreed, the majority of Dedicated Schools Grant would be returned to the Department for Education which distributed funds directly to the Borough’s academies. The Local Authority kept a small portion of the Dedicated Schools Grant, including the allocations for the Early Years Block and Schools’ Central Block. The Vice-Chairman was concerned to note an additional contribution made to the Schools’ Central Block by the Local Authority totalling £510k for the 2023/24 financial year. The Head of Finance: Children, Education and Families advised that this had previously been agreed to offset to an annual reduction in funding from the Department for Education for the Schools’ Central Block. Any reduction in the additional contribution was a matter for Members but there was limited scope to make savings due to a number of areas of mandatory spend, including school licenses.
Another Member asked a question about deprivation payments and the Head of Finance: Children, Education and Families clarified that as part of the Early Years’ Formula, both a child-level and setting-level deprivation supplement was currently paid but that in future, an increased focus would be placed on the child-level deprivation supplement (determined by the Income Deprivation Affecting Child Index), so that funding followed individual children identified as being affected by deprivation. Another Member queried a recoupment cost of -£10,978,001 within the High Needs Block and it was explained that this related to the way High Needs providers were paid, with the Department for Education covering the first £10k of a High Needs place from recouped funds and the Local Authority paying any outstanding balance. There was a significant deficit in the High Needs Block which reflected the experience of other local authorities across the country; however, the Government had put a Financial Disregard in place which meant that the deficit did not have to be counted within the Local Authority’s reserves. The Local Authority had developed a Dedicated Schools Grant Recovery Management Plan in consultation with the Department for Education to address this and it was anticipated that the Local Authority would reduce the deficit position over time.
RESOLVED: That the Portfolio Holder be recommended to approve the Dedicated School Grant allocation for 2023/24 and the methodology of its distribution, taking into account the views of the Children, Education and Families Budget Sub-Committee and the Schools’ Forum.