Agenda item

LA Maintained Schools Core Offer - update / response from last meeting and 2023/24 budgets

To consider briefing on Core Offer (a copy of the Core Offer booklet is attached).


This item will be led by the Council’s Service Director – Education Partnerships and Skills, Amelia Walker.


Note – the Chair will allow 25 minutes for this agenda item.


The Chair introduced Amelia Walker, Service Director Education, Partnerships and Skills, to present the LA Maintained Schools Core offer. Amelia Walker talked members through a presentation explaining the context and background to the Core Offer, implemented on 1st April 2023 and gave an overview of the current position, concerns and considerations regarding school budgets and how this authority would be helping schools be more financially resilient. She advised that Somerset Council would be focused on improving service standards and working closely with headteachers in the coming term.


Members were asked to consider the report and the new Core Offer Booklet, and the following questions and comments were received and discussed:

·         Are the majority of schools content with the Core Offer going forward? The Service Director advised that in her opinion the schools that have remained within this local authority do appear to be content with the offer, adding that this authority is fully supportive of any schools that have chosen to academize, or been forced to academize under a direct Academy Order. There is a backlog of schools currently going through the academization process, but the team are working with the Department and Education and the Dioceseto resolve this and embed efficiencies to improve forward work planning.   

·         The Chair asked members to consider taking up School Governor positions and that signposting, and support can be provided for members to do this. 

·         Regarding KPI’s and sign-ups for year 2 of the Core Offer - when will those be signed off, and when will this authority review those KPI’s? The Service Director advised that the team are having ongoing conversations to ensure that the second year Core Offer is ready to be agreed by January 2024. 

·         What is the risk that not all schools will sign up to this Core Offer? The Service Director reassured members that the risk is very low on this.

·         Regarding delayed sign-off of budgets in our schools this year, how much of an impact has this had on the sign ups to the Core Offer? This is part of a wider issue on the National Funding Formula, and more work is being done on financial support (budget recovery) and communication with schools facing budgetary difficulties.

·         Relationship Managers appear to be very effective in their roles. But is 4 enough? The Service Director explained the role and function of the Relationship Managers, adding that these people are connectors who ensure that issues and concerns are addressed quickly. So far feedback on these 4 new posts has been very good. 

·         How is the forced academization in under-performing schools managed? Is there a risk that some schools will not be accepted into an existing Trust? The Service Director acknowledged that there have been problems with some under performing schools not being accepted into Trusts. There are financial incentives for Trusts to take under performing schools which has helped, but it is a difficult situation that is being monitored closely.

·         Is there a possibility that any schools with surplus budgets can share these out with school that have budget deficits? The Service Director advised members that whilst it is against the law for the authority to provide any extra funding to struggling schools, the authority is permitted to have a clawback scheme in place for balances above a certain level, but that this is very controversial and has not taken place in Somerset.

In conclusion, the Chair thanked Amelia Walker for attending and thanked all members of the Committee for their robust questioning and in-depth discussion. It was agreed that an update be brought back to the Committee in 6 months.

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