Agenda and draft minutes

Children, Families, Lifelong Learning & Culture Select Committee - Monday, 21 September 2020 10.00 am

Venue: REMOTE MEETING

Contact: Benjamin Awkal, Scrutiny Officer 

Note: Please note that due to the Covid-19 situation this meeting will take place remotely. 

Media

Items
No. Item

10.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

    To report any apologies for absence and substitutions.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Apologies were received from Simon Parr.  

    .

     

11.

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING: 28 JULY 2020 pdf icon PDF 102 KB

    To agree the minutes of the previous meeting of the Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture as a true and accurate record of proceedings.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The minutes were agreed as a true record of the meeting.

12.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

    All Members present are required to declare, at this point in the meeting or as soon as possible thereafter:

          I.        Any disclosable pecuniary interests and / or

        II.        Other interests arising under the Code of Conduct in respect of any item(s) of business being considered at this meeting

     

    NOTES:

    ·         Members are reminded that they must not participate in any item where they have a disclosable pecuniary interest

    ·         As well as an interest of the Member, this includes any interest, of which the Member is aware, that relates to the Member’s spouse or civil partner (or any person with whom the Member is living as a spouse or civil partner)

    ·         Members with a significant personal interest may participate in the discussion and vote on that matter unless that interest could be reasonably regarded as prejudicial.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Members of the Select Committee held personal interests in Item 5. Those interests were not considered to be prejudicial and thus did not prevent the Members from participating in the discussion of the report.

     

    Declarations:

    • Chris Botten – Local Leader of Governance; Chair of Governance at Holland Junior School and Burstow Primary School.
    • Robert Evans – Vice-Chair of Governors at Stanwell Fields C of E School.
    • Tanya Quddus – Parent Governor at Grovelands Primary School.
    • Peter Martin – Chairman of Governors at St Catherine’s School, Bramley.
    • Richard Walsh – Governor at Littletons C of E Primary School.
    • Chris Townsend – Governor at City of London Freemen’s School.

     

13.

QUESTIONS AND PETITIONS

    To receive any questions or petitions.

    Notes:

    1.    The deadline for Member’s questions is 12.00pm four working days before the meeting (Tuesday 15 September 2020).

     

    2.    The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting(Monday 14 September 2020)

     

    3.    The deadline for petitions was 14 days before the meeting, and no petitions have been received.

     

     

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all questions and petitions received will be responded to in writing and will be contained within the minutes of the meeting

     

     

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    1.    A Member asked how many, and what proportion of, looked-after children and care leavers lived in unregulated accommodation and what steps were taken to safeguard such young people from criminal exploitation.

     

    2.    The Assistant Director – Children’s Resources responded that the provision of a sufficient number of suitable placements for looked-after children and care leavers was a statutory duty. It was acceptable to place young people above the age of sixteen in unregulated accommodation when they needed support to achieve independence. If an accommodation provider was also providing care, then that setting would be regarded as an unregistered children’s home. It was the responsibility of the council to quality assure supported accommodation provision; a provider must submit a statement of purpose and a location risk assessment that details issues such as the risk of criminality. The Quality Assurance Team had oversight of all semi-independent providers and the council’s dynamic purchasing system invited providers to submit applications to the system, which are the subject to a quality assurance process. A child with care needs can only be placed in unregulated provision with the agreement of the Director – Social Care and with additional layers of quality assurance and supervision arrangements in place. The shortage of placements, particularly for children with the most complex needs, was a national issue.

     

    3.    The Member asked whether the council carried out regular visits to these settings. The Assistant Director stated that children’s’ social workers visited looked-after children at least every six weeks and more frequently visited those in unregulated or unregistered provision. An Independent Reviewing Officer had oversight of care plans and carried out regular statutory reviews for looked-after children in regulated placements. The role of regulator is fulfilled by the council for unregulated or unregistered accommodation settings. In the case of unregulated or unregistered accommodation, the council is subject to its own internal quality assurance assessments, i.e. due diligence and unannounced visits.

     

    Action:

    i.              For the Assistant Director – Children’s Resources to provide the proportion of looked-after children and care leavers living in independent accommodation and the steps taken to safeguard young people from criminal exploitation.

14.

SCHOOL GOVERNOR SUPPORT pdf icon PDF 81 KB

    Purpose of the report:

     

    To provide an overview of the work undertaken by Surrey County Council and partners to support governors and governing bodies in Surrey maintained nurseries and schools and academies.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Julie Iles, Cabinet Member for All-Age Learning

     

    Liz Mills, Director – Education, Learning and Culture

    Jane Winterbone, Assistant Director – Education

    James Durrant, School Governor at Oakwood School

    Doris Neville-Davies, Member of the Executive Committee of the Surrey Governance Association and School Governor at Cleves School, Weybridge

     

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked what the main challenges faced by school governors were and what support was in place to enable governors to overcome these challenges. The Cabinet Member responded that the role of school governor was a demanding position that placed many responsibilities and a significant workload on the volunteers undertaking the role: including the requirement to keep up to date with legislative changes, the variety of skills required of governing bodies, and holding schools to account regarding the discharge of their duties owed to looked-after children and children with additional needs. The Cabinet Member highlighted that governors freely volunteer their time in the best interests of their school communities. A school governor commented that there was a wide range of places from which school governors could access information and support, and that, before reading the report, she had been unaware that support from Cognus was available, and asked how governors were made aware of such support. The Director assured members that the Service was constantly trying to improve the accessibility of information and support available to governors.

     

    2.    A Member queried whether academy schools received the same level of support as local authority funded schools. The Director explained that the council’s statutory duties were different for non-maintained schools, and that the council had a responsibility to appoint local authority governors to community schools. The council, however, went beyond its statutory responsibilities by endeavouring to provide accessible governance information and support to schools of all types, as part of a holistic approach to maintaining strength in  Surrey’s entire school system.

     

    3.    A Member who was a governor of an independent school commented that he had never received governance information from the council in that role. The Assistant Director explained that all independent schools received a weekly information bulleting from the Schools Relationships Team, but it was then the responsibility of the schools to disseminate that information. The Assistant Director offered to add the Member to the bulletin’s circulation list. A member of the Surrey Governance Association (SGA) asked if it would be possible for such information to disseminated directly to representatives of governing bodies, as the council maintained a database of governors.

     

    4.    A Vice-Chairman asked whether governors would like to receive support  in any additional areas. The Cabinet Member explained that webinars provided throughout the COVID-19 pandemic had been a positive additional resource and were well attended by governing bodies; subsequently, recordings of the briefings had been made available for retrospective viewing. The council was working with the SGA to increase the schedule of availability through the Schools Alliance for Excellence (SAfE) in order to make information more accessible. The Assistant  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.

15.

VERBAL UPDATE ON THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS pdf icon PDF 98 KB

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    Purpose of the report:

     

    Regarding a verbal update on the reopening of schools to be received pursuant to a recommendation made by the Select Committee on 28 July 2020 following its consideration of a report on the council’s preparations for school reopening.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Julie Iles, Cabinet Member for All-Age Learning

     

    Liz Mills, Director – Education, Learning and Culture

     

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1. The Director summarised that most Surrey schools had reopened as expected, but some had remained closed due to flooding. Some schools with a large number of high-needs children had initially adopted an approach of partial opening. Such schools were receiving targeted support to fully reopen. The council had published information encouraging parents to return their children to school. School attendance in Surrey was higher than the usual number of children. However, there had been a higher-than-average number of children being withdrawn from school to receive home education – targeted work on this issue was being undertaken. Social workers and Special Educational Needs teams were being equipped with materials to reinforce the back to school campaign. Some schools had experienced staff or student absences due to COVID-19, but all schools had risk assessment plans in place and were relying on ‘bubbles’ of children in school. Overall, the Director was pleased with the work that was ongoing between school leaders, the Schools Alliance for Excellence (SAfE), and public health teams, despite the receipt of Department for Education guidance at a late stage. Work to encourage vulnerable learners to attend school was continuing to go well, with a dedicated team monitoring this. Throughout the summer term, the Learners Single Point of Access (L-SPA) had launched and provided parents and professionals with guidance and support and had proved a positive addition, with 60% of enquiries resolved at first contact – the launch of the L-SPA was welcomed by the Chairman. Some of the additional central government funding obtained through the COVID-19 grant was being used to provide a support package to assist the narrowing of the learning gap that resulted from extended school absences and closures during the pandemic. Support pathways for vulnerable learners with anxiety who were struggling to return to school were being developed. Some concerns remained; for example, the Test and Trace system had created unsatisfactory waiting times for testing. The Chair of the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership had relayed these concerns to the Department for Education. Family interventions for vulnerable children and further targeted work with schools were needed; and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of children was also a concern – enhanced training on domestic abuse was being provided to Designated Safeguarding Leads.

     

    1. The winter flu season was a concern in terms of workforce resilience. The Service was supporting health colleagues with the delivery of the immunisation programme.

     

    1. A Member asked what proportion of pupils who were expected to return to school had done so. The Director informed members that attendance was slightly lower than at the same time last year, albeit this figure was higher in Surrey than the national average. The Director assured the Select Committee that more work would be done to ensure all pupils who were expected to attend school were doing so.

     

    1. A Member asked how  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

16.

NO WRONG DOOR TASK GROUP REPORT pdf icon PDF 251 KB

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    Purpose of the report:

     

    To apprise the Select Committee of the work, findings and recommendations of the No Wrong Door Task Group.

     

     

    Report to follow.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    witnesses:

    Mary Lewis, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families

    Lesley Steeds, Chairman – No Wrong Door Task Group and Vice-Chairman of the Select Committee

     

    Jo Rabbitte, Assistant Director – Children’s Resources

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1. The Chair of the Task Group explained that the Task Group had been formed at the suggestion of the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families. The key reason for adopting the No Wrong Door model was that children entering care as teenagers generally had a worse experience than younger entrants. Adolescent entrants often experienced wide ranging social and emotional needs and greater placement instability and tended to attain worse outcomes that young entrants, particularly regarding education, employment, training, and post-care accommodation stability. Looked-after children often reported that they would like better communication between staff, to remain with their birth family where possible, to receive more consistent support, and to be able to access support more easily. The No Wrong Door model sought to address those needs and mitigate the challenges experienced by adolescent entrants to the care system. The Task Group primarily utilised targeted requests for information, public surveys, and remote meetings with witnesses to gather the information required to assess the suitability of No Wrong Door for introduction into Surrey.  

     

    1. The Task Group found that the model had been effective at reducing care episodes, improving outcomes for service users and creating cost savings elsewhere; and was consistent with the priorities and policies of Surrey County Council. The introduction of the model had strong support at Member and senior officer levels within the Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture Directorate. Fundamental issues continued to persist in children’s services. However, despite the presence of some barriers, the conditions in Surrey were such that the model would likely be efficacious if introduced in the county.

     

    1. The Chair of the Task Group thanked its Members, supporting officers and inquiry respondents.

     

    1. The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families thanked the Task Group for the Report. She stated that work with teenagers needed to improve and would be increasingly important over next few months due to the increased number of adolescents entering care under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was cause for concern as outcomes for young people entering care in their teenage years were generally poor; the No Wrong Door provided a way of preventing adolescent entry to care. The Cabinet Member stressed that it was important for an organisation to make sound and timely judgement when adopting a new model and stated that the council was well placed to do so, due to and the council’s high-quality residential care homes.

     

    1. A Member questioned how the more sceptical views on the No Wrong Door Model held by Cambridgeshire and Wiltshire County Councils had been considered against the positive feedback received from Rochdale Borough Council. The Chairman of the Task Group assured the Member that the Task Group had taken very careful consideration  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

RECOMMENDATIONS TRACKER AND FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME pdf icon PDF 64 KB

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    Purpose of the report:

     

    For the Select Committee to review the attached actions and recommendations tracker and forward work programme, making suggestions for additions or amendments as appropriate.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1. The Chairman proposed that a standing six-monthly high-level performance report be added to the Forward Work Programme. The Select Committee was in agreement.

     

    1. A Member requested that updates on (1) the Virtual School and (2) the provision of support on careers education for vulnerable groups be provided at a future meeting.

     

    1. The Cabinet Member for All Age Learning stated that the best governance arrangements were being looked at for the Virtual School and suggested that the Select Committee consider the findings of the review of governance arrangements. The Cabinet Member added that the timing of the consideration of alternative provision at a future meeting was important as work in this area was ongoing.

     

18.

DATE OF THE NEXT MEETING: 14 DECEMBER 2020

    The next public meeting of the committee will be held on Monday 14 December 2020.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Committee noted its next meeting would be held on 14 December 2020.

     

     

     

    Meeting closed at 12:10 pm.

     

19.

PRIVATE WORKSHOP

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    Budget Scrutiny: review of the council’s current financial position and core planning assumptions.

    Additional documents: