West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

Growth Fund 2020/21 Payments (Melanie Ellis)

Minutes:

(Gemma Piper declared a personal and prejudicial interest in Agenda Item 8 by virtue of the fact that she was the Executive Head of Kennet School Academies Trust including Whitelands Park Primary. As her interest was personal and prejudicial and a disclosable pecuniary interest, she would be leaving the meeting during the course of consideration of the matter and would take no part in the debate or voting on the matter.)

(Reverend Mark Bennet declared an interest of transparency in Agenda Item 8 by virtue of the fact that he was a director on the Kennet School Academies Trust. As his interest was not a personal or disclosable pecuniary interest he would remain in the meeting during the course of consideration of the matter. He was unable to take part in the vote on the item due to it being restricted to School Members only.)

(Gemma Piper was placed in the virtual waiting room at 17.37pm)

Melanie Ellis introduced the report (Agenda Item 8), which aimed to review the Growth Fund applications and sought a decision on whether to award payments to schools from the growth fund in 2020/21.

Melanie Ellis reported that following the receipt of the final October 2020 census data, all schools were invited to make a funding request if they felt that their circumstances met the Growth Fund criteria. Whitelands Park Primary School, which was part of the Kennet School Academies Trust had been the only school to submit an application. This was due to an extra class being required from September 2020 to meet basic need, which involved an increase of 17 pupils. They had not needed to agree the provision of the extra class with the Local Authority for basic need and therefore the application did not meet the criteria of the Growth Fund. The loss of funding to the school however, would be significant.

The application had been considered by the Head’s Funding Group (HFG) however, there had been differing views across the group on whether the case should be approved. It had therefore been forwarded to the Forum for consideration.

Richard Hawthorne reported that he would find it difficult to support the application. His school, John O’Gaunt, had been in a similar position to Whitelands Primary School however, the case had been refused due to not meeting the criteria of the Growth Fund. If the application from Whitelands Park was approved, Richard Hawthorne felt that there would be number of other schools applying to the fund. It was important to keep the process fair to all schools and approving an application outside of the criteria could set a precedent.

Ian Nichol concurred with the caution raised by Richard Hawthorne regarding applications not meeting the criteria and was concerned about awarding funding on an ad-hoc basis. It was possible that the criteria needed revisiting. Many schools in Thatcham had moved around within their PAN however, had made adjustments without needing to apply to the Growth Fund.

Chris Prosser echo the concerns that had been raised and felt that consistency needed to be applied. He agreed that maybe the criteria needed to change going forward however, it was important that a consistent approach was taken with all schools. Melanie Ellis agreed that she would look into this at a later date.

The Chairman invited the Forum to make a recommendation. Chris Prosser proposed that the Schools’ Forum support refusal of the application and this was seconded by Jonathan Chishick. At the vote the motion was carried.

RESOLVED that

  • The criteria for the Growth Fund would be reviewed.
  • The application by Whitelands Park Primary School to the Growth Fund was refused.

Supporting documents: