The Director of Education provided OSB with an overview of school financial reserve levels and how those reserves were managed.
It was noted that schools often kept some of their allocated funding for capital works, as funding for capital projects was being reduced.
Members raised concerns about the levels of schools reserves across the town and it was confirmed that several processes had been put in place to monitor this, including schools being asked to provide regular updates on their spending.
It was stated the Council needed to do it all it could to ensure spending in schools was being carried out appropriately. It was also pointed out there was a statutory requirement to ensure sufficient school places were available but there was a pressure on the number of places in central Middlesbrough.
A Member queried if the Council worked with schools in managing budgets, and it was confirmed that schools are challenged if they are seen to have high levels of reserves. As some budgets continued to experience pressures, such as IT budgets, schools were being asked to consider their finances in longer term and not just on an annual basis.
It was queried if the Council had any involvement with contractors when capital projects were undertaken. It was clarified that for larger scale projects the Council's asset management team would be approached. It was also clarified that after such projects were completed, issues such as Health and Safety responsibility would be built into resulting contracts.
A query was raised regarding housing developments to the south of the Town and if this placed increased demand on school places. It was clairified that previous developments had not led to a net increase in children, however there was growing demand for places especially for children from Eastern European countries.
A Member asked if there was any mechanism to monitor the financial activities of non-maintained schools, such as academies. It was also asked if there was no such mechanism was there any way the Council could encourage such schools to comply with Council objectives. It was clarified that the Council had no oversight of non-maintained schools but the Council could challenge them to produce outcomes for their children. At the moment teams from the Council visited non-maintained schools to liaise with them.
It was asked what provision was in place for translation services in light of the increased number of children from Eastern Europe. It was clarified that limited funding was available for this and that some funding was still available from a successful bid made 2 years ago. Another bid was being created to assist with settling children from other countries and to provide assistance with translation services, especially Romanian.
The Chair stated that the migration assistance fund was reduced by Central Government which was detrimental to services. There were many examples, however, that showed how welcoming schools, and Middlesbrough as whole, were to children and families from other countries.
It was also noted that a town wide inclusion strategy was being worked on and that inclusion was an important issue for the Schools Management Forum.