The report was introduced by the Management Accountant which outlined the new national funding formula from 2018/19 by the Department for Education (DfE). From consultations with the Thurrock Schools Forum, it was agreed that Thurrock schools would move towards the National Funding formula but maintain some localisation to support schools in this transition period. Local discretion may end in 2021 when the full funding formula was expected to be implemented.
The Parent Governor Representative questioned if the Thurrock funding formula was sustainable when compared against the national funding formula due to the amount of the money. The Management Accountant answered that the same amount of money was distributed but a different formula had been used so that each school would be impacted differently. Thurrock’s formula would target money to schools with additional educational needs to ensure they received the much needed resources to raise standards. This was on par with the national funding formula. The formula would be able to be delivered within its funding allocation as there was a mechanism in place that would only distribute the money that was available.
In response, the Parent Governor Representative sought further clarification if this would be sustainable going forward due to the significant difference in the figures. Referring to appendix A, the Management Accountant explained that the figure within the Schools Block Formula showed the same amount of money distributed but the only difference was the formula used. He went on to say that the report asked for the basic principles to be agreed as a different outcome could be formulated with new data that would be available in mid-December 2018. The new data would be from a school census that had taken place in October 2018.
Referring to page 49, paragraph 7.2, the Chair sought clarification on ‘maintain some localisation’ during the transition period. Pointing out the National Funding Formula (NFF) 2019/20 column in appendix A, the Management Accountant explained that the idea was to not distribute the £1.4 million for the free school meals but instead to build it in as protection so the amount that schools could use per pupil was reduced. This would give schools time to adjust to the reduction funding and implement change which would then enable them to better manage the resources they would have in the next year.
The Chair asked if the schools had agreed to the suggested formula to which the Management Accountant answered that the schools had agreed. Consultations had taken place with Schools Forum and the formula had been presented as the safer option. The Chair went on to ask who had the power to make the decision on the school formula. Explaining that it was Cabinet, the Management Accountant went on to say that school were consulted beforehand. Cabinet would also be aware of the recommendations from Schools Forum.
As the report was going onto Cabinet in the next week, 12 December 2018, the Chair asked why the report was going so soon after the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Management Accountant said approval was needed in December 2018 due to the release of new data mentioned earlier. This would enable the service to work through the funding formula before submitting to the DfE on 21 January 2019.
That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted and provided comments on the consultation responses made by Schools Forum to Thurrock Cabinet on changes to the local funding formula to be implemented from April 2019:
· The National funding formula to be implemented in full from April 2019 with the exception of Free School Meals;
· Minimum Funding Guarantee to be implemented at 1.5%, in line with the National funding formula guidelines. Any unallocated funds once the National funding formula has been implemented will be used to reduce the Minimum Funding Guarantee to the lowest possible figure to afford more protection to schools. The options presented showed this as -0.57%; and
· A revised calculation for Notional Special Educational Needs to be implemented consistent with the new funding formula.