Agenda item


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

Key points raised in the discussion:

1.    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.

2.    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 plan.

3.    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 

It was stressed that focused actions against these priorities were aimed to enable better practice for children and improve outcomes.

5.    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 County.

6.    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 County.

7.    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.

8.    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.

9.    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 adequately safeguarded.

10.  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. 

11.  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.


Supporting documents: