Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Joseph Tyler Email: Democratic.Services@bcpcouncil.gov.uk
To receive any apologies for absence from Councillors.
There were no apologies for this meeting.
To receive information on any changes in the membership of the Committee.
Note – When a member of a Committee is unable to attend a meeting of a Committee or Sub-Committee, the relevant Political Group Leader (or their nominated representative) may, by notice to the Monitoring Officer (or their nominated representative) prior to the meeting, appoint a substitute member from within the same Political Group. The contact details on the front of this agenda should be used for notifications.
There were no substitute members for this meeting.
Declarations of Interests
Councillors are requested to declare any interests on items included in this agenda. Please refer to the workflow on the preceding page for guidance.
Declarations received will be reported at the meeting.
There were no declarations of interest for this meeting.
To confirm and sign as a correct record the minutes of the Meeting held on 1 December 2020.
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the Children’s Services Overview and
Scrutiny Committee held on 1 December 2020, having been
previously circulated, be signed by the Chairman and confirmed as a
To note and comment on the attached action sheet which tracks decisions, actions and recommendations from previous meetings.
The Chair referred to two actions that were outstanding: the report on children carrying knives and the Local Government Peer Review. Both were yet to be circulated to members and would require actioning. Action
The action sheet was noted.
To receive any public questions, statements or petitions submitted in accordance with the Constitution, which is available to view at the following link:
The deadline for the submission of a public question is 4 clear working days before the meeting.
The deadline for the submission of a public statement is midday the working day before the meeting.
The deadline for the submission of a petition is 10 working days before the meeting.
There were no public issues for this meeting.
During the national lockdown that was in place over the spring and summer terms 2020, all BCP schools remained open but were only able to offer places to children from vulnerable groups and key worker children.
The impact of the lockdown on children and families, and their readiness to resume full time education in September 2020 was unknown. However, it was clear that some would require additional support to enable them to successfully transition back into school and a more ‘normal’ routine.
The Council worked with schools and partner organisations to prepare materials that would support professionals and families with this to address these concerns. Two survey were also carried out to better understand the impact of the lockdown and what further support was needed.
The Director of Quality and Commissioning for BCP Council presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'A' to these Minutes in the Minute Book. The report related to the first national lockdown, during the Spring and Summer months of 2020.
The report detailed the work that the Council had undertaken to support professionals and families with the September 2020 return to school, after the first national lockdown. The Director of Quality and Commissioning gave an overview of this work and provided further information on the Staying Connected surveys and the materials that were produced to support the return to school. The key points of the presentation were:
• The Local Authority had produced materials for parents and educational professionals detailing the support that would be provided in the return to schools in September 2020.
• Two surveys were undertaken relating to children with SEND.
• Feedback from the surveys highlighted anxiety, isolation and lack of structure as the main impact on wellbeing.
• Work was undertaken between the Local Authority and local schools to best meet the needs of children not attending school to continue with the education offer delivered at home.
• The remote learning offer had developed over the course of the lockdown; however, the Local Authority must be aware of the impact of lockdown on children and the effects of not being in school.
• It was hoped that children would be able to transition back to school successfully and pick back up on the experiences and socialisation they had missed.
Members of the Youth Parliament that were present provided some further information to the Committee. The Committee heard that the Youth Parliament had:
• Conducted research into children’s responses to lockdown. These included the use of questionnaires and social media polls.
• Overall, the prominent feelings of children were that of anxiety, stress and uncertainty.
• Many changes had taken place since the initial return to schools in September 2020 and with the situation changing rapidly, more needs to be done to assess the feelings of children affected.
• More than half the children surveyed said that they felt the remote education was unsatisfactory and that the loss of the classroom environment was the biggest negative impact.
• Extra-curricular classes and activities were a big part of children’s lives prior to the pandemic and these opportunities had stopped for almost a year.
The Committee discussed the Report. Comments, questions and answers heard included:
• How was wellbeing of children being monitored and was best practice advice being shared? The Committee heard that monitoring of the educational offer was a prime part of the monitoring process. This offer had developed over time alongside the monitoring of schools and quality assurance. For mental health, vulnerable children are tracked individually, and work is done with schools to ensure these children receive the necessary support. This is a large number of children and it therefore required ... view the full minutes text for item 126.
The focused visit to Children’s Services made by Ofsted in October 2020 resulted in a formal published letter on 27 November 2020. The letter, which is appended to this report, set out serious concerns about the quality of services, concerns which warrant urgent and immediate attention. Appendix A - the 15-point action plan - is the response to those concerns.
The Interim Corporate Director for Children’s Services at BCP Council presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'B' to these Minutes in the Minute Book. The report related to the visit to Children’s Services made by Ofsted in October 2020, the serious concerns in the quality of services and the subsequent 15-point action plan - is the response to those concerns.the first national lockdown, during the Spring and Summer months of 2020. The Interim Corporate Director for Children’s Services gave an overview of this work and provided further information on the Action Plan and the position after four months post-Ofsted inspection. The key points of the presentation were:
• 4 Months on from the October 2020 Ofsted inspection the service area are continuing to make improvements. The entire academic year had been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however the ambition of service area remains high and the throughout whole department relentless in their focus on the areas that were deemed in need of improvement, such as Corporate Parenting and Young People. The Committee heard that as system leaders there is an imperative to provide whatever is needed by young people.
• Some of the service area’s staff were prioritised for the vaccine and there had been an increase in positive tests as the testing rates increased. The Action Plan does consider potential reductions in workforce due to COVID-19.
• The most significant change in the 4-month period was on service area clarity and how the service orders their work. There were now processes in place that were clear and linear, so that staff and families could understand what work was being done, why and where, which was considered the bedrock of good practice by a Local Authority.
• Keeping spirits and energy levels high within the service area was key to maintaining good leadership and workforce activity.
The Department for Education representative gave further detail around the 4-month progress of the Action Plan which included:
• That the service has made a good start and there is strong political commitment to the plan, including cross party support.
• The plan contains 7 ‘obsessions’ and 15 action points, which is the irreducible minimum so that all areas are delivered simultaneously.
• Progress had taken place within the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) which was heavily criticised by Ofsted last year. The services have been changed enough so that the right children were getting to the right service quicker. The family court application process, to remove children from parents where necessary, had also improved. These applications were much better handled, scrutinised and performance managed. Therefore, the service can improve as shown by such examples.
• Improvements and changes should not happen too rapidly as there is a risk that staff could be alienated, and morale could decrease.
• COVID-19 and lockdown had limited the progress that could have taken place, however it was important that the service continued ... view the full minutes text for item 127.
The number of children and young people assessed as requiring a place at a specialist education provision in the BCP area has increased in recent years. Local provision to meet these needs is of high quality, but capacity has not been expanded sufficiently to meet this additional demand. As a result, increased use has had to be made of local Independent and Non-Maintained special schools which are comparatively expensive and often located outside of the BCP area. The result of this has been significant pressure on the school Transport budgets. In partnership with the BCP community of schools, a range of proposals has been developed to increase capacity and create new provision to meet the needs of these pupils and these were reported to Cabinet in the paper ‘Capital Investment to Increase Special Educational Needs Capacity’ on 22 April 2020.
The process for making changes to maintained schools is prescribed by the Department for Education. This report provides details of the process undertaken in relation to adding places at Winchelsea School through establishment of a new satellite at Somerford Primary School. The request to implement the proposal is being made with the support of Winchelsea School and Somerford Primary School.
The Director of Quality and Commissioning presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'C' to these Minutes in the Minute Book. The report related to the proposed increase in local capacity at BCP maintained schools to meet the assessed educational needs of children and young people with SEND and to reduce pressure on the High Needs Budget.
The Director of Quality and Commissioning explained that there was pressure on the High Needs Budget and that many schools were full or oversubscribed, despite the Council having created additional units. The next proposal was for Winchelsea Satellite at Somerford Primary It is proposed that the number of places provided by Winchelsea School will increase during the academic year 2021/22. The school will increase through the addition of a satellite provision. This provision will add up to 60 Key Stage 1/2 at Somerford Primary School. These places will be able to meet the needs of children placed at Winchelsea School.
There had been a good level of responses to the public consultation on the matter. The Council understood the concerns raised and were now in a position to submit the proposal to go through due process. The Committee heard that the Council were confident they would come through with a good offer.
The Chair summarised that the Committee were reassured by the update and their concerns had been addressed.
RESOLVED that the Committee agree to the proposal to establish a new satellite of Winchelsea School at the Somerford Primary School site without objection.
Items for Information
The following items will be circulated for information only after the Committee meeting:
· Childcare Sufficiency
· Update and Impact of the Family Support Strategy
A Committee Member referred to the Health and Adult Social Care O&S Committee and suggested that two of the items featured at their meetings, which worked effectively, be added to the Children’s Services O&S Committee Forward Plan as standing items. The items were:
1) A Portfolio Holder update (To receive any updates from the relevant Portfolio Holders on key issues or actions that have been taken since the last meeting, as appropriate). Action
2) COVID-19 update (For the Committee to receive an update on COVID-19, to enable the Committee to monitor the ongoing pandemic and scrutinise the ongoing response). Action
The Chairman acknowledged the suggestion and explained that this would be explored with the relevant officers.
Dates of Future Meetings
To note the dates of future Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committees as follows:
· 24 February 2021 (*Please note this is an additional meeting and will be held on a Wednesday)
· 23 March 2021
· 8 June 2021
· 27 July 2021
· 21 September 2021
· 23 November 2021
· 25 January 2022
· 22 March 2022
Resolved that the Committee note the dates of their future meetings.