Venue: County Hall, Worcester
Contact: Alyson Grice/Samantha Morris Overview & Scrutiny Officers
Apologies and Welcome
The Chairman informed the Panel that Mr B Clayton had replaced Mr R W Banks as a Member of the Panel.
Apologies were received from Mr B Allbut, Mr B Clayton, Ms R L Dent and Mr M J Hart.
Declaration of Interest and of any Party Whip
Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Head of Legal and Democratic Services in writing or by e-mail indicating the nature and content of their proposed participation no later than 9.00am on the working day before the meeting (in this case 16 July 2019). Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/e-mail address below.
Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 4 June 2019 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
The Director (Designate) Education and Early Help and the Head of Quality and Effectiveness (Babcock Prime) had been invited to the meeting to update the Panel on Pupil Attainment at Key Stage 2.
The Panel received a presentation and Members were given the opportunity to ask questions. The following main points were made:
· Support was provided to a group of maintained schools which had been identified as being of concern.
· An area-wide strategy also aimed to extend the reach of this support further.
· The challenge of raising attainment for vulnerable children remained. Vulnerable children included Looked After Children and those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Although the County was closing the gap on national attainment figures, this was less true for children with SEND.
· When looking at 2018 results, Worcestershire’s trajectory of improvement was better than that seen nationally but outcomes remained below national figures. A study had been undertaken of 62 schools which had just fallen short of the national figure. This had revealed that at least 50% of these schools had been judged ‘good’ by Ofsted at their most recent inspection.
· Work with schools showing concern also showed a positive trajectory with more schools being judged to be in the higher categories of ‘secure’ and ‘light touch’.
· Progress scores for disadvantaged children had shown significant improvement when compared with national figures.
· Funding of £490k was available via the Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) to work with maintained and academy schools based on need. Currently, 32 schools in the County were involved in this work.
· The programme had led to real gains in terms of pupils’ learning attitudes and attributes, and improved resilience. Schools’ capacity for leadership had also improved markedly.
· For pupils with SEND, attainment was too low and progress was a challenge. There was a need to better understand what outcomes in special schools looked like and work was being undertaken over the summer to analyse data from maintained special schools.
· A further challenge was supporting mainstream schools in their SEND work. To date, Babcock Prime’s training programme had been attended by 45 SENCOs.
· It was confirmed that some special schools were academies, although this was not typical. Members were reminded that, although the Council was not funded to work with academies, it retained the responsibility for the education of all children in the County.
· In response to a question about whether schools were spending their SEND budgets appropriately, Members were informed that this was difficult to say as the formula was complicated. This was an area that the Improvement Adviser would explore with governors and leaders.
· Concern was expressed about ‘informal exclusions’ and pupils being ‘off rolled’. Members were assured that, in these circumstances, there were mechanisms to hold schools to account (including academies). The Chairman pointed out that schools needed to be confident about the quality of alternative provision.
· The Chairman highlighted the interesting difference between schools’ attainment levels and Ofsted judgements and suggested that Ofsted may wish to look into this further. ... view the full minutes text for item 385.
The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families, the Director of Children’s Services and the Assistant Director of ADM Programme and Communities had been invited to the meeting to update the Panel on developments relating to Worcestershire Children First (WCF).
The newly appointed Director of Resources for Worcestershire Children First also attended and was introduced to the Panel. The Chairman of the Panel informed Members that in a previous conversation with the Director of Resources he had assured her that the same information would be available to the Panel as previously and he envisaged a smooth transfer to the Company.
During the course of the discussion, the following main points were made:
· WCF’s Business Plan would be agreed by the Company’s Board and Cabinet. The Plan would go to Cabinet in September and would be an interim plan to cover the set-up period, initially for a period of at least six months.
· The consultation with staff who were in the scope of the TUPE transfer had now started and gave a reassurance to staff that their terms and conditions would not be changed.
· The appointment of the Council’s Director of Commercial and Change as the Company’s final Non-Executive Director had now been confirmed.
· It was confirmed that only part of the remit of the CMR for Education and Skills would transfer to WCF. The ‘skills’ remit would remain with the County Council. The Director of Children’s Services confirmed that the Scrutiny Panel would still be able to hold the CMR to account on the full range of his remit.
· She went on to confirm that Councillor Roberts (CMR for Children and Families) was the statutory Lead Member for Children’s Services. However, the Council would still have two CMRs and accountability would remain the same and would still be direct. The CMR for Education and Skills would be a Member of the WCF Board. She acknowledged that this was somewhat messy in terms of potential conflicts of interest and there may be occasions when the CMR for Education and Skills would have to remove himself from discussions. However, on balance, it was felt to be better for him to be a Member of the Board.
· The Company Board had met for the first time the day before. This meeting had been attended by a mix of Executive and Non-Executive Directors and had focused on setting the scene and bringing the Board up to speed, looking at the vision and values of the Company.
· It was confirmed that the Board would meet monthly with the Annual General Meeting being held in public. It was not proposed that other meetings would be in public, although this was subject to ongoing discussion.
· The Chairman of the Board had been contracted to work for 10 days per month and other Board Members for 5 days per month. Two other committees would operate underneath the Board – Audit and Risk Committee, and Governance Committee.
· Concern was expressed about the access to information implications of the ... view the full minutes text for item 386.
The Director of Children’s Services, the Director (Designate) Children’s Social Care and Safeguarding, and the Chief Financial Officer attended to update the Panel on performance and financial information for services relating to Children and Families.
In the course of the discussion on social care PIs, the following main points were raised:
· This was the first full year of useful baseline data being available and gave a much more secure picture.
· In relation to the Family Front Door, the figures reflected a national trend of rising referrals. However, it would be important to analyse the specific reasons why the County Council had seen a rise in referrals. One issue appeared to be a rise in referrals from the police that were not meeting thresholds and work had been done on why the police were not applying thresholds correctly. Similarly, there was a peak in referrals from schools in July. It would be important to understand whether this was due to professional anxiety or schools clearing out a backlog before the holidays. This had been a repeated pattern and it would now be important to identify which schools the referrals were coming from.
· A Member asked if it would be possible to include year on year averages to identify trends in seasonality.
· Social work assessments were only counted when complete. A system was now in place to monitor the assessments still open and identified those which were about to breach the 45-day target.
· A question was asked about the 23% of contacts to the Family Front Door classed as ‘other’. It was confirmed that there were about 20 different ‘other’ sources, such as other local authorities or other social workers.
· In response to a question about why these datasets were collected, Members were reminded that there had been many conversations about which figures to include and this combination had been arrived at.
· KPIs relating to Through Care for Looked after Children and Care Leavers showed a sustained positive improvement or a positive trajectory of improvement.
· The figures for looked after children who came into care having been previously looked after within the previous 12 months related to only 12 children in the whole year and it was suggested that these were very small figures.
· It was confirmed that the Edge of Care Service would go live in September, with some staff already in place.
· Within the West Midlands region, the Council had the lowest rate of new children being taken into care. The Chairman welcomed this news and reminded the Panel that it was important to look at the actual impact on children.
· The Chairman was pleased to see the reduction in the number of children experiencing 3 or more placements in a year. The Director (Designate) informed the Panel that work on sufficiency was a focus for 2019/20.
· In response to a question about why the level of external residential placements was higher than the national average, Members were informed that this related to a shortage of specialist residential placements. The ... view the full minutes text for item 387.
The Panel was asked to review its work programme for 2018/19.
The following main points were made:
· The CMR for Children and Families asked that the Panel remembered the different roles of the Scrutiny Panel and the Corporate Parenting Board in relation to looked after children when considering its work programme. The Chairman confirmed that she was happy to involve the Corporate Parenting Board in the Panel’s work as appropriate.
· The following items should be added to future agendas:
o Feedback on the Ofsted ILACS inspection
o Results of the consultation on Overnight Unit-Based Short Breaks for Children with Disabilities
o Medical Education Provision
· An additional meeting in October may be necessary. Scrutiny Officers would contact Members after the meeting to check availability.