Schools Forums are local consultative bodies, whose role is to scrutinise, and potentially challenge, each local authority’s school funding proposals for each year. They are a means to increase the involvement of schools themselves in authority funding decisions and thereby provide a check on local authorities. Local authorities are required to consult Schools Forums on the proposed school funding formula for each year, on particular issues relating to the budget (such as provision for special educational needs and free school meals), and on service contracts agreed by the local authority.
Forums should have 15 members, and are composed of ‘elected’ schools members (head teachers and governors) representing the schools within each local authority, with an additional quota of non-schools members appointed directly by the local authority (which can be no more than one-fifth of the total membership).
Forums' views should also be sought before a local authority applies to the Department of Education and Skills for an increase to the limit on central expenditure items (limits are set by the Secretary of State). Ministers themselves are required to take the views and advice of Schools Forums into account when considering an individual local authority’s requests for amendments to their budgets. In June 2013 the Department for Education has published further guidance for Schools Forums, in which it specifies that all meetings should be open to the public. Although observers do not have an automatic right to speak, this provision allows the public to be more engaged and to scrutinise the activity of Schools Forums.