Schools forums play an important role in the system but the approach can differ across localities, and there has been some concern by members about the transparency of these groups, and what schools can expect from them in terms of engagement.
Following discussions at our School Business Leaders Council, we have put together a short outline of schools forums below – what they are, what their responsibilities are and suggested best practice for their communication.
All local authorities are required by the government to have a schools forum.
A schools forum acts as both a consultative and decision-making body where schools can put forward their views to the local authority on matters such as:
- the allocation and distribution of funding
- supplies and services
- arrangements for special educational needs
- the use of pupil referral units
- free school meals
- the funding of early years provision.
You can access information on what powers and responsibilities a schools forum has here.
Who sits on a schools forum?
A schools forum is made up of representatives from schools and academies, as well as other non-school organisations, such as nursery and 14-19 education providers.
There is no maximum or minimum size of a schools forum.
It is considered best practice for the composition of the forum to be published on the schools forum website so that schools and wider stakeholders can identify their representatives.
Schools forums are required to be open to the public. Furthermore, papers, agendas and minutes must be publicly available well in advance of each meeting.
A schools forum should be transparent, open and have communication channels to all of the members that are represented. This ensures the wider school family are aware of the business discussed, the impact on their setting and the reasons for the decisions.
Notes or minutes of each schools forum meeting should be produced and published on the local authority website as soon after the meeting as possible to enable members and others to see the outcome of any discussions and decisions and/or votes.
As outlined in the Department for Education’s best practice guide, it is fundamental that each member of the schools forum represents the views of the group or subgroup that they represent and that all those with an interest in funding work together to ensure that their views are taken into account.
Therefore, communications directly between members and those they represent is essential; the Department for Education recommends using professional associations and phase groups as possible channels.
Other suggested options include:
- drawing schools’ attention to the fact that all its agenda minutes and papers are publicly available on the local authority’s website (this should include the publication of formula consultation documents)
- an annual report on the proceedings of the schools forum
- attendance by the chair, or other schools forum member, at other relevant consultative or management groups, such as any capital working group or senior management meetings of the Children’s Services Department
- a brief email to all schools, early years providers and other stakeholders after each schools forum meeting informing them of the discussions and decisions with a link to the full papers and minutes for further information
- a schools forum newsletter can be a less formal and more interesting way of communicating forum business and raising the profile of the forum and its members.
First published 21 June 2022