Agenda item


Purpose of the report:


This report seeks to provide oversight of the current position in relation to:


  • Our work on Inclusion in relation to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) activity we are undertaking and the activities that are supporting schools and other educational settings to be more inclusive
  • The alternative provision offer within Surrey for compulsory school age pupils
  • The current position of the post-16 rate of participation in education, training and employment (and subsequent proportion of young people who are not in employment education or training, NEET) and
  • The work of Schools Alliance for Excellence (SAfE) in securing school improvement.


Finally, the report considers the challenges and opportunities for local authority (LA) maintained schools in a new education landscape.




Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning


Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

Jane Winterbone, Assistant Director – Education

Sandra Morrison, Assistant Director – Inclusion and Additional Needs

Maria Dawes, Chief Executive Officer, Schools Alliance for Excellence


Key points raised in the discussion:

  1. The Cabinet Member for Education and Learning introduced the report and highlighted that the work described therein was underpinned by the council’s corporate priority that ‘no one is left behind’.


  1. A Member sought clarity between the classifications of ‘children missing education’ and ‘children missing full-time education’. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning explained that a child missing education would not be on the roll of any school, for example if they had moved into the county and were awaiting enrolment. A child missing full-time education would be on the roll of a school but receiving less than 25 hours of education per week; mechanisms were in place to support such children and help them return to school when appropriate. The Assistant Director for Inclusion and Additional Needs added that children with medical needs may be supported by a medical Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). Other children could be supported by the Access to Education Service if, for example, they had a mental health issue. On occasion, as agreed with the parents, a child may attend school on a part-time basis to accommodate specific needs. The Member asked whether a proportion of children missing full-time education was still due to a lack of suitable transport arrangements, as well as the impact of missing full-time education had on children. The Director stated that home to school transport was not a focus of this report but recognised the connection. The Director explained that each individual child would have a learner’s plan and the school would have a responsibility to ensure that their outcomes were in line with their peers. It could be the case that a child’s education would need to be adapted to meet their needs. Leadership and locality teams reviewed the data of these cohorts regularly.


  1. A Member asked about how the council monitored the number of children who were electively home educated and their education and safety. The Director for Education and Learning explained that legislation relating to elective home education did not provide the council with all the powers to identify this cohort fully: parents were not obliged to tell the council that they were electively home educating their child, but the council encouraged parents to provide this information. Close monitoring arrangements were in place for children who had been on the roll of a school and withdrawn to receive home education. The Assistant Director for Inclusion and Additional Needs explained that a risk assessment would take place for a child whose parents wished to home educate them and the Service would encourage the parents to keep the child in school. If the parents proceeded with home education, there would be an annual monitoring visit. If such a child was known to children’s services, the risks of a them being home educated would be discussed with their social worker. Where an electively home educated child had an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan, an additional annual review would take place. Concerns regarding the safeguarding of electively home educated children were shared by officers; the Director for Education and Lifelong Learning and the Chair of the Safeguarding Board had written to Government regarding such concerns. The number of children known to the council as being electively home educated in January 2022 was 1,535. Mechanisms were in place for hospitals and GPs to alert the council about any children who appeared not to be enrolled in a school. The Director added that there were no looked after children who were electively home educated. Many children were being electively home educated as the result of the pandemic, although a proportion had since returned to school. The Chairman noted that this was a national issue and requested the response from Government be shared with the Select Committee.


  1. The Member also enquired about the progress of the new Alternative Provision Strategy and how it would impact children’s outcomes. The Assistant Director for Education explained that the Strategy was launched in September 2021. The Strategy included a service level agreement for PRUs which focussed on integration and pupil outcomes, as PRUs should be seen as an intervention with the aim of a child returning to a mainstream school. A quality-assured approved provider list was being developed to enable schools to decide where would be best to place a child and to understand the council’s prior work with that provision, although schools would still hold responsibility for the child. Key performance indicators (KPIs) were being developed, which would include the number of young people who were not participating in post-16 education, employment or training. The Assistant Director shared that in July 2020 there was a government grant to ensure that those in alternative provision during the pandemic transitioned successfully into education, employment or training after year 11. There was a high level of success in that year and the work was being mainstreamed. The Member queried if the success had continued in 2021. The Assistant Director clarified that the increase of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) in 2021 from AP was not large or cause for concern. The Assistant Director also explained that there had been work on new curriculum pathways, which included a strong vocational offer for 14 to 16 year olds. Through the Post-16 Phase Council, there had been work with all colleges in the county to ensure a vocational offer was accessible to all regardless of location. To provide fit-for-purpose PRUs, feasibility work on the existing sites had been completed and the searches for new sites was completed in December 2021.


  1. A Member sought assurance that all children with SEND had home to school transport and asked whether those who had missed education had received support during such periods. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning assured the Member that a relatively low proportion of SEND children had been affected by home to school transport shortages. Where any issues had arisen, the Education Service had worked closely with providers to ensure children could access school as quickly as possible. Schools were responsible for providing education to their pupils who were unable to attend.


  1. A Member asked how many disadvantaged children were NEET, as only percentages were given in the report. The Assistant Director – Education was to provide the data following the meeting.


  1. The Member asked how the figures in the report compared with benchmarks, how looked after children and care leavers were supported into post-16 destinations and what more could be done to support them. The Assistant Director explained that a role dedicated to supporting care leavers and looked after children had recently been created in the NEET team. The Service was committed to improving recording of post-16 destinations. Many looked after children experienced significant barriers to participation in EET and many were not engaged during Year 11. There was close working with the Headteacher of Surrey Virtual School (SVS) to consider if anything could be done differently to reduce the barriers experienced by this cohort. The Member queried whether there was any information on the destinations of care leavers placed in county versus out of county. That data could be circulated subsequently. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning added that there had been a development in SVS on functional skills, as this had been a barrier for care leavers in the past. The Corporate Parenting Board routinely scrutinised this information.


  1. The Member asked whether there was capacity in the home to school transport team to cope with increased demand as more SEND provision was established in Surrey. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning explained  that a dynamic purchasing model had been introduced and had enabled more providers to enter the market. The increase in local SEND provision had enabled more children to attend school in county and the majority of children went to school within six miles of their home. The independence of children was a key focus of this work and thus, a broad range of options were being considered. The Cabinet Member added that as part of the home to school transport review, there was currently a twin-track funding bid to increase capacity in the home to school transport team so every case could be quality assured. The Director explained that the Capital Programme was about ensuring that where children required a special school placement, they would be placed in a local maintained setting.


  1. Responding to a question on schools’ involvement in decisions regarding home to school transport for SEND pupils, the Director for Education and Lifelong Learning explained that schools usually led on children’s annual reviews and worked with the council on next placement steps for a child, which would often lead to conversations about transport arrangements. It was noted that the majority of parents took their children to school themselves. The Member raised a concern that the EHC plans were not being taken into account when transport arrangements were made for SEND children. The Director was to provide a response subsequently. The Member also asked why the NEET rate had remained at the same level as in 2019. The Assistant Director for Education explained that due to the complexity of needs of those children, there were significant challenges. The ambition was now 100% participation, which encouraged practitioners to consider the onward journey of each child. The number of NEET former pupils for every educational setting in Surrey was now monitored, which allowed for targeted conversations with individual settings. The Director added that a co-produced initiative for young people with SEND who get stuck on pathways to EET was being piloted under the Preparation for Adulthood programme.


  1. The Member also raised concern about the proportion of looked after children who were NEET and asked about the support available to those children to see that   they were not left behind. The Assistant Director for Education replied that as improvements delivered under the children’s improvement programme embedded, there would be fewer social care placement breakdowns, which was likely to lead to more successful transitions into post-16 destinations. The young people who tended not to transition into post-16 EET were those who had experienced multiple placement breakdowns. The Director for Corporate Parenting acknowledged that the turnover for looked after children was higher than the mainstream group. Each individual child would have a Personal Education Plan which addressed the issues for them.


  1. In response to a question on mitigating the learning gap and supporting disadvantaged pupils, the CEO of the Schools Alliance for Excellence (SAfE), recognising that quantifiable evidence was not available in the absence of statutory exams, explained that SAfE monitored schools to ensure they were focusing on supporting disadvantaged children to minimise the impact of the pandemic. The Department for Education (DfE) closely monitored schools’ use of COVID catch-up provision, including tutoring, for disadvantaged children. Ofsted inspectors had identified that schools were sufficiently providing for disadvantaged children, although only one non-primary (an all-through) school had been inspected recently.


  1. A Member asked how the performance of academies were monitored, what the outcomes were for academy pupils and how a school’s status as an academy affected the council’s ability to improve its pupils’ outcomes. The CEO of SAfE explained that although local authorities did not have the accountability for academies in the same way as they did for maintained schools, it did not result in a lack of engagement with academies. Ofsted inspected academies in the same way as maintained schools and SAfE scrutinised inspection reports in the same way. SAfE had regular meetings with the Regional Schools Commissioner and would provide challenge to the Commissioner regarding academies with low performance. SAfE’s support was available to both academies and maintained schools. The Director for Education added the Education Service was part of a wider education system, the focus of which remained on the collective success of every child in the county. The Assistant Director for Education explained that if a pattern of complaints related to a specific academy, then the complaints would be addressed with the academy. The Member raised the issue of occasions where home to school transport arrangements were unsuitable for a child’s specific needs. The Cabinet Member responded that work was underway with community providers to explore alternatives and to incentivise parents to transport their own children with a milage reimbursement.


  1. A Member asked whether the council had considered or modelled the formation of a multi academy trust (MAT) in light of a forthcoming white paper which could propose that local authorities be empowered to form MATs. The Director for Education shared that there had been a joint session with the Diocese of Guildford on the sustainability of schools. The Assistant Director for Education was leading on related analysis which includedrisk accessing all schools and their direction of travel. The Service’s view was that schools should be centrally involved in determining their own futures and thus, such work was undertaken in collaboration with schools.



The Select Committee noted the report and its recommendations. 



i.             The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning to share the council’s letter to Government regarding elective home education and the response to it with the Select Committee once available.


ii.            The Assistant Director for Education to provide the numbers of children in the cohorts used in the figure 16- and 17-year olds NEET by disadvantage, as at end June 2021 on page 58 of the report and the percentage of those children whose post-16 destinations were unknown.


iii.           The Assistant Director for Education to provide comparative data on the post-16 destinations of looked after children and care leavers who had been placed in county and out of county.


iv.           Director for Education and Lifelong Learning to provide information on home to school transport arrangements for SEND children, including:

·      Consideration of Education Health and Care plans when arranging provision,

·      Schools’ involvement in decision-making,

·      The number of children who did not start school at the beginning of the 2021/22 school year due to home to school transport issues,

·      Data on the increase in demand for home to school transport.



Supporting documents: