End of another term

 headersmallDear Colleagues,

As thoughts turn to the beach, or more likely, to what to do with the kids/grandkids when it's lashing down with rain outside, just remember, only half a term to go. It wasn't that long ago that the summer term was referred to as the 'quiet' term for governance. Not any more! Are you on track to publish your School Local Offer by September? For Primary governors, is everything in place for Universal Free School Meals? Have you started to look at how you will reconstitute your governing body (i know some schools have already done this, so perhaps they would like to share their experiences with the rest of us)? Have you worked out what the latest funding formula change means to your school budget? The list goes on, but it would be remiss of me not to mention that the New National Curriculum starts in September for Primaries!
Some of these issues are covered in the LA mid-term update, but here are a few points.

School Local Offer - Ian Ritchie, GOVAS, was part of the working party that considered the School Offer and there is a brief introduction to it on the website -click here-, along with the guidance document. For governors, as well as ensuring that the school publishes the offer in time, it is important for you to consider how you get involved in the process.

Universal Free School Meals - The LA has received £647k for maintained schools, against a projected £1.5 million to provide catering and dining facilities to cope with the increased uptake in school meals. Schools would have to fund the first £4k themselves and then 20% of any sum above this. Schools that do not currently have kitchen facilities, or need a considerable amount of work doing, are being looked at separately. The problem is that despite being told that letters have gone out to schools advising them of the process and the amounts that they are estimated to need to spend, this has still not been done (if your school has received a letter, please let us know). VA schools are receiving their money on a pupil pro-rata basis, and academies likewise. It is up to the LA to decide how it distributes the money, but our concern is that it is not reaching the schools quickly enough. GOVAS will continue to push this issue, but would welcome feedback from colleagues as to how they are approaching this.

Governing Body reconstitution - the recent National consultation led to the expected result, and all maintained schools will need to reconstitute by September 2015. Rather than moan about this, we need to embrace it and work out what it could mean for our individual bodies and how it can be used as a vehicle to improve the work of the governing body. The intention is to get people on the governing body with the right skills, although where you find these people is a different matter, particularly for schools in more deprived areas. There is help at hand, however. Last week, NGA was part of a launch of a new initiative, the Inspiring Governors Alliance -click here-. The trick will be to turn the words into actions, but this is something that we fully support and, again, we would welcome comments on any initiatives that you have used to find new members.

Funding Formula - you will now know that the proposed National Fairer Funding Formula has been deferred to April 2016 at the earliest. Also, the £350m fund to help the most poorly funded areas will not be helping Stockport schools (but will be helping many, seemingly, better funded authorities). So we have to carry on with what we have. The latest revision of the local funding formula was one of the main issues on the '3 Challenges' survey that we recently conducted. The schools that were losing out were facing hard financial choices, and the schools that were gaining were facing hard financial choices - no-one is happy! Comparing Stockport to the national picture throws up some interesting facts:

Basic Entitlement - the level is approx. £8m below the national average
Deprivation (FSM) - Stockport currently allocates 9%, the national average is 4.6%, of the local formula.
Deprivation (IDACI) - we are approx. £3m below the national funding average
SEN Prior Attainment - £1.2m above the national average

Lump Sum - we are above the national average for primaries, but below for secondaries.
Over the next couple of months, School Improvement and Finance Officers will assess and reflect on this data, and decide whether to propose any further changes to the local funding formula. So, for those of you suffering from consultation withdrawal, hope is on the horizon.

The issues raised from the '3 Challenges' survey are on the web-site, and many of the challenges were covered by the workshops at the Governor Conference but, short of trying to give an answer to each individual issue, we are still evaluating how best to use this information to improve governance in Stockport. We have shared the information with the LA and we will continue to work with them to achieve this aim. One of the main themes to emerge from the conference was the demand for more workshop/networking events, and this is something that we are looking to develop over the coming year.

Enjoy half-term!


Stu Foster
Chair, GOVAS