Purpose of the report: To provide an update regarding service priorities for the next six months.
Declarations of Interest:
Rose Durban, Interim Strategic
Director of Children, Schools and Families.
Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children
Mary Lewis, Cabinet member for Education
points raised in the discussion:
The Strategic Director highlighted the current
summary self-evaluation, prepared for Ofsted, of Children, Schools
and Families attached to the minutes as Annex A.
The summary is informed by a more detailed self-assessment against
inspection criteria. It was particularly emphasised that the
service was working to improve the impact of frontline practice
through clarifying expectations in Children’s Services and
ensure that the service was clearer at identifying potential risks
and issues earlier.
Officers explained that the focus of current
improvement work was to ensure that children are seen, safe and
heard through practice improvements throughout the directorate. It
was emphasised that improving the experience of the child from
needing to receiving help through the system was at the forefront
of thinking within the directorate’s improvement
Officers acknowledged that practice was not
consistently good enough or safe enough and that the service would
prioritise improvement. It was stressed that, to achieve this
improvement in consistency of practice, plans needed to be
prioritised effectively, followed through and have defined end
goals, which the service was looking to achieve. It was also stated
that the service was being clearer regarding practice expectations
and what was required from frontline delivery.
4. Officers highlighted the five key priority areas for the improvement of Children’s Services:
a. Embedding practice, management and leadership expectations
b. Strengthening front door decision making
c. Routinely identifying children at risk and taking action
d. Creating the conditions to enable better practice
e. Using focused assurance arrangements
stressed that focused actions against these priorities were aimed
to enable better practice for children and improve
Out of County placements in relation to both care
and learning for children were mentioned as a key area of focus for
the directorate. A number of workstreams are investigating interventions and
approaches to best meet children’s needs within the
Officers indicated that workforce recruitment and
retention was critical in the service and that the service was
looking at further innovative means to improve this to ensure a
robust and sustainable system of delivery for all services. It was
highlighted that a method of delivering this was to reduce reliance
on interim workers as well as institute a small short-life agile
team of social workers to help meet demand pressures across the
Officers noted, following Member concerns raised
over potential over reliance on social workers as a child’s
first point of support, that Early Help services were working with
parents to provide help to support them in their role.
Early Help implementation by all partners and work
to support and promote sector–led School Improvement were
also highlighted as key priorities for the service that would be
worked on over the next six months.
Members highlighted concerns raised by teachers
regarding increased pressure placed upon schools relating to
safeguarding requirements; and that increased pressures on school
budgets and time had ensured that schools had less capacity to work
in this way, particularly noting increased pressure from the
service to do so. Officers noted that any specific concerns could
be relayed to the service, but that there was a difficult balance
between ensuring adequate safeguarding and teaching, but that the
service would be working in partnership to ensure that children are
Members expressed concern that the service needed a
more forensic analysis of its overall data and performance in order
to identify the right future strategic priorities. Officers advised that more work was underway to
ensure such a data set, building on the recent development of
robust child level operational data.
Members stressed the need for further clarity on
what the service had achieved in the last six months and what it
was hoping to achieve in the future. It was suggested that future
reports could include updates against targets previously set, and
the targets for the next six months.
1. That the Strategic Director for Children, Schools and Families provides a written report to the next meeting of the Children and Education Select Committee detailing the work of the directorate over a six month period, and future priorities over the next six months with a clear view of what the service is planning to deliver and any timescales and actions for improvement.