To receive a presentation in respect of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).
The Service Manager for Finance provided an overview of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) which included what it was, how it was controlled, the role of the council and the current position for the council. As part of the presentation, the Service Manager for Finance noted that the slide titled ‘DSG – what do we do?’ should include a note to say that the council was able to put a school in special measures.
Councillors discussed the issues arising from the presentation and comments were made as follows:
· Reference was made to the way that the DSG was distributed to the council in four blocks, with the funding then being passed onto schools. It was noted that the Government was setting the schools budget below the schools minimum standards
· In response to a question it was noted that the Government had announced increases to the blocks which represented of the order of £200 per child per primary school, based on a particular formula, including deprivation factors. Some background to the High Needs Block deficit was provided and reference was made to a current Department for Education consultation around a proposal for deficits to sit within the school rather than with the council. The outcome of this consultation was awaited
· Councillors discussed the budget issues in this area and the Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help provided background to previous financial forecasting that had been undertaken and noted that the forecasting mechanism needed to be looked at again. There was recognition that every child had a right to mainstream education although some would require special education provision in an appropriate setting
· It was noted that this was a demand driven process
· The challenge in setting the budget in this area was that notification of DSG was usually received late in the process
· It was noted that coverage in the Press was suggesting that the additional funding to be provided by Government, could take the budget back to the position in 2015
· In response to a question, it was reported that the pay increase for new teachers was just a proposal at present
· A discussion was held in respect of the way that deprivation factors were measured and it was noted that a number of factors were taken into consideration and could vary by council. The experience was that there was undeclared deprivation which could impact on the funding provided to the council in this area. The Portfolio Holder encouraged councillors to communicate and seek understanding from local MPs of the needs of Dorset in terms of funding. The situation in Dorset was considered against the situation in other areas such as London and although the issue was recognised by the Department for Education, there was currently no solution
· In response to a question, it was reported that there was no provision to allow the council to charge the deficit back to the Department for Education
· The council funded the top up of schools’ budgets in respect of education, health and care plans.