The Department for Education (DfE) recently published their updated guidance on schools forums, particularly aimed at local authorities and elected members of school forums.
The DfE has focussed on updating two documents: the schools forum operational and good practice guide; and the schools forums powers and responsibilities summary. Both were originally published in March 2015.
The updated operational and good practice guide (the Guide) aims to provide advice and information about the operation of schools forums at local level, providing examples of good practice. It also contains information on the constitutional and organisational requirements for schools forums. The updated Guide specifically notes the ‘ring-fencing’ of schools block funding in the 2018-19 funding year. It clarifies the need for schools forum approval before a local authority can apply to the Secretary of State to move up to 0.5% from the schools block to other blocks. More generally, the Guide is split into two sections – the first dealing with ongoing responsibilities of schools forums and the second covering aspects schools forums should consider in making themselves as effective as possible.
The Guide is not designed to be prescriptive, other than in relation to requirements under the Regulations. It aims to stimulate debate within schools forums and contribute to their ongoing development.
The schools forums powers and responsibilities document seeks to give a brief summary of schools forums’ powers and responsibilities. The updated document sets out various functions and schools forums and how these relate to the roles of the local authority and DfE. Generally, the schools forum is granted a consultative role; however, it can make decisions on de-delegation for mainstream maintained schools for various issues, as well as on specified central spending and deficit matters.