West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

Early Years Budget 2021/22 (Lisa Potts/Avril Allenby)

Minutes:

(Janet Patterson left the meeting at 6.30pm)

Lisa Potts introduced the report (Agenda Item 13), which updated the Schools Forum on the funding rates for the Early Years Block for 2021/22.

The normal process for determining funding allocations for local authorities for the early years’ entitlements was to take an annual census count of the number of hours taken up by children in each local authority in January. However the Department of Education had advised that a new process was to be used for 2021. This was because the DfE had recognised that the number of children attending childcare might not have returned to normal when the January 2021 census was taken. Therefore if attendance was below 85% of the January 2020 census levels, a top up would be applied.

Lisa Potts added that this would have a big impact on maintained nursery schools which normally received a lump sum each year. The period from April to August was indicative and September to March was subject to change.

Avril Allenby referred to the point in the report regarding allocations and the January census. If the attendance rate for January 2021 was below 85% of the attendance recorded for January 2020 then a top up would be applied. It was important to note however, that the top up would only be up to 85%. It had been census week the week prior to the meeting and it was clear many parents were still withholding their children due to the lockdown. Previously allocations to providers had been guaranteed however, it was now based on places being available. Avril Allenby commented that it would be interesting to see what final figures where, as the funding allocations presented in the previous and current report were indicative.

Lisa Potts reported that the proposed budget for Early Years was due to be brought to the next meeting of the Forum in March 2021 however, she added that this was going to be particularly difficult to in light of the current situation. Catie Colston sympathised with the position being faced and stated that she would be interested to know how other areas were managing to create a budget given the lack of information. Lisa Potts reported that she had not yet spoken to other areas but she intended to do so. Estimates would have to be made.

Brian Jenkins stressed that the early year’s sector was heading into an impossible situation and pleaded with the Forum to bear with the sector. He referred to the comment made earlier in the meeting regarding the meeting at Number 10 Downing Street and the fact that there was due to be a policy discussion. Brian Jenkins stated that he would be interested to hear what this meeting could entail. The Chairman sympathised with the impossible situation faced by the early year’s sector.

Reverend Mark Bennet referred to the strategic significance of the issue. Early years settings were very important in preparing children for school, particularly amongst disadvantaged pupils. In light of the Covid-19 situation, a reduction in pre-school education would have a knock on impact on schools. As well as budgeting, the importance of reaching out to children and families who were in need was also a significant issue that needed to be kept in mind.

RESOLVED that the Schools’ Forum noted the report.   

Supporting documents: