Agenda item

Growth Fund – confirmation of 2023/24 top slice


Tony Madden (TM) introduced this item, confirming that the report is brought annually at this time of year, to clarify the conditions that would apply for distribution of the growth fund in the following year, and to confirm DSG top slice for 2023/24.


TM confirmed that the Growth Fund could be  used to: 

·  support growth in pre-16 numbers

·  support additional classes

·  meet infant class size regulation

·  meet the cost of new schools.


TM confirmed that the funding rate was based on AWPU, with the figure used at secondary being an average of KS3 and KS4 rates.


Bulge classes have been funded in the past. If a bulge class is opened, the Growth Fund funds 30 places in full for all schools up until March of that year and for academies for the remainder of the academic year because of the difference between the financial years for maintained  and academy schools.  For an academy Forum has also agreed funding in the second year of the bulge class, to account for the long lag in funding for any pupil who joins a school after the October census.  The LA has not opened any bulge classes for some years now but the principle and policy will remain in place because of the potential pressure in some primary year groups in certain areas of the town.


TM asked Forum members to note that there were currently only two permanent expansions in progress – both in secondary at Wexham and Westgate Schools. In 2023/24 this reduces to Wexham only, and in 2024/25 there will be no permanent expansions in progress.  However, Growth Fund will still be needed  to account for bulges, larger classes, etc. Larger classes are funded where the LA asks schools to do this, eg by going over 30 at key stage 2 or asking secondary schools to take over PAN. If this is agreed in advance, the extra places are funded on a termly basis.  The advantage of this is that with a bulge class, 30 places are funded in one area of the town, whereas with the larger classes policy, smaller numbers of additional places can be created in the right areas of the town according to need.  Overall, this is likely to require less Growth Fund support.


TM explained the recommended top slice for 2023/24.  The permanent expansions require £188k and a contingency sum of £177k is proposed.  TM noted that that the way the LA presents Growth Fund information is under review and a simpler presentation will be adopted when the end of year outturn is presented in May. The top slice for 2022/23 was £950k;  the actual expenditure has been £675k, including £150k contingency.  The amount required in 2023/4 is £565k, of which £177k is a contingency sum;  this was broadly in line with the Schools Block modelling underpinning the Forum discussion in November 2022.


NB noted that at the time of the November meeting, the DfE had not confirmed the DSG funding for growth.  The final DSG settlement has allocated £900k.  The LA believes that only £565k will be required;  the surplus becomes additional headroom for allocation. 


MW commented that it was good that less funding was needed, and endorsed the notion of keeping the reporting simple while ensuring that the funding was not lost, and that Forum retained a way of checking on the fairness of how funding was distributed. 


Navroop Mehat (NM) asked if is it possible to get a list of schools who have agreed to go above 30 in key stage 2? NM also noted that there seems to be some confusion about this policy in admissions. NM gave an example where a child is taken into a school mid-year eg as SEND or CLA;  although not part of an agreed strategic conversation with the LA, and hence without Growth Fund support, this triggers discussions with admissions and potentially leads to pressure to take more children without funding. TM confirmed that this issue should be taken up with Sabi Hothi.


In response to the Chair, TM reconfirmed that the Growth Fund would be used where going over 30 in a class is a planned strategic request by the local authority to deal with a bulge in a particular area, where the best way to deal with that is to allocate those children as a small group to one or more different schools, taking them over 30 in that year group. The alternative – to create a bulge class -

might not be appropriate because of the geographical distribution of the pupils, or there might be a significant number of them, but not enough to justify a whole class.


The Chair thanked TM and NB for their work on this item, and confirmed that Forum noted the proposed Growth Fund top slice for 2023/24.

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