Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Fifteenth Report



APPENDIX 3

First Memorandum by the Department for Education and Employment

FINANCING OF MAINTAINED SCHOOLS (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS 2000 (S.I. 2000/478)

  1. The Department wishes to apologise to the Committee for the breach of the 21 day rule.

  2. The above Regulations proved complex to draft and it was regrettably not possible to finalise them any earlier. They cannot come into force at any later date because local education authorities need to set their budgets now in advance at the start of the next financial year commencing on 1st April 2000.

  3. The Department will endeavour to complete the Regulations earlier next year so that the 21 day rule can be complied with.

28th February 2000

Second Memorandum by the Department for Education and Employment

FINANCING OF MAINTAINED SCHOOLS (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS 2000 (S.I. 2000/478)

  1. The Committee requested in their letter of 15 March a memorandum on the following point:

"This instrument came into force on 29 February 2000 the day after it was laid, the Department's memorandum of 28 February states the Regulations "proved complex to draft and it was regrettably not possible to finalise them any earlier". Elaborate upon this justification for breaching the 21 days rule, given that the regulations are closely modelled on the 1999 regulations (S.I 1999/101), and explain why they could not have been drafted earlier so that they could have been made and laid without breaching that rule".

  2. The Financing of Maintained Schools (England) Regulation 2000 ("the 2000 Regulations") are based on the previous year's Regulations ("the 1999 Regulations") but there are differences. In particular what were regulations 13 and 14 have become a single regulation 13. What was regulation 16 has now been split into regulations 15 and 16. There have also been changes to regulations 19 and 21 and in Schedule 1, for example paragraphs 19(c) and 41. Some changes may not look very great but they still took a lot of time to work out. For example regulation 13 now makes clear that LEAs must discriminate where this is justified but must not where it is not. This was not so readily apparent in the 1999 Regulations. Regulations 15, 16 and 21 make better provision for adjustments to be made to schools' funding to take account of changes in the data on which their budgets for a given financial year were originally based. Such changes are necessarily complicated if the right balance is to be struck between local flexibility, clarity and predictability. Considerable care is needed to ensure that all relevant eventualities are covered.

  3. It may assist the committee if a brief explanation is given of some of the problems that the Regulations have to deal with and why preparation takes a long time.

  4. The vast majority of the funding which a school receives is based on pupil numbers at the school. Some local education authorities determine pupil numbers on the basis of actual numbers. This is generally the number of pupils at the school on the third Thursday in January, the so called "Form 7 day". However, other local education authorities will use a combination of actual numbers and estimates of pupil numbers at a future date. Where pupil numbers are estimated then there will have to be adjustments for under and over estimates. These adjustments can take place either during the course of the financial year or at the beginning of the following financial year. If a school excludes a pupil, funding will be taken away but if the pupil has been excluded before the Form 7 day then that pupil will not be counted or funding purposes. The school would thus be penalised twice and an allowance has to be made to compensate for this.

  5. Where funding is based on factors other than pupil numbers, facts may come to light years after the event which affect the basis on which the school is funded. For example some schools who receive amounts in respect of rates have had their rates bills revalued retrospectively. A downwards revaluation will mean that the school will have been overfunded in the past and again the Regulations have to provide for adjustments to take account of this.

  6. Some schools receive so called transitional funding that is to say that the amount they receive for the financial year cannot fall below a floor. The Regulations have to determine what effect adjustments in pupil numbers and other factors in previous years should have on the level of transitional funding received in the financial year beginning on 1 April 2000.

  7. It was certainly a help that the 1999 Regulations were already in existence but this area is so complex that it was not just a question of copying them out again. They had to completely rechecked to make sure that they do what was required in the light of the general experience during the financial year as to their operation. Consultation on these Regulations first began as early as August 1999 but it was regrettably still late in February 2000 before they could be finalised.

21st March 2000


 
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