In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DFE published its latest guidance late last week on the financial support for schools and associated establishments. This guidance follows on from the announcement that the Academies Budget Forecast Return Outturn (BFRO) will no longer be required this year.
The updated guidance tries to summarise in one place all the financial support measures available for the education sector, as well as clarifying some of the more detailed points that have been raised on certain areas such as furloughing and future funding.
A summary of the funding and financial support including:
- The continuation of Government funded income from the DSG, including income filtered through third parties such as Local Authorities
- Grants, Loans and Rates Relief for the private sector areas
- Additional COVID-19 costs funding
- Furloughing across the different sectors and areas.
Sector and specific guidance for:
- Early Years – split between the private sector and that of schools/academies
- Social Care providers
- Supply and contingency workers
- High needs funding
- Higher education.
Our experts’ comments/ a practical note
The updated DFE guidance comes as a welcome relief after much confusion on some of the financial support measures available for schools and academies, but sadly there remains many unhelpful barriers to obtaining this much needed income:
Furloughing For Schools
The initial general and HMRC guidance on furloughing stated that schools would be unlikely to make any claims under the furlough scheme due to their substantially ‘funded-by-government nature’. This guidance was made extremely grey and confusing however, when the Department for Education seemed to contradict its own guidance by confirming funding for Early Year establishments was continuing yet they could also furlough their staff, where needed
Thankfully, this new and updated guidance has now addressed that conflicted information and clarified when, how and why a furlough claim would be relevant.
Method of Calculating any Furlough Claim
The new guidance has made the calculation somewhat convoluted and arguably most unhelpful. By having to pool all private income and compare it to the school’s total income, this may give a disproportionate and somewhat low percentage of the maximum amount of payroll costs that can be reclaimed by furloughing staff.
A movable feast
It seems that every day brings new and more detailed guidance on the financial support available during COVID-19, bringing with it a huge amount of confusion and conflicting advice, which updates like this attempt to resolve. We’re aware of some schools being advised that they can be in full receipt of their FEEE Income whilst furloughing all their staff, whereas others have been informed that their Local Authority will be withholding their High Needs funding. These conflicting instructions thankfully appear to have been addressed by this new guidance, but we suspect it will take some time for it to be digested and for the message to filter through to relevant parties.
The full guidance can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-financial-support-for-education-early-years-and-childrens-social-care/coronavirus-covid-19-financial-support-for-education-early-years-and-childrens-social-care#sector-specific-guidance
A final note about Budget Forecast Return Outturn (BFRO)
As advised above, the BFRO is no longer required this year, meaning that the next budget return will be that of the Academies Budget Forecast Three Year (BFR3Y) for which the online form will be available to use from 23rd June 2020.