Agendas, Meetings and Minutes - Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

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Contact: Alyson Grice/Samantha Morris  Overview & Scrutiny Officers

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Items
No. Item

443.

Apologies and Welcome

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Mr P M McDonald.

444.

Declaration of Interest and of any Party Whip

Minutes:

None.

445.

Public Participation

Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Assistant Director for Legal and Governance 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 Monday 7 September 2020).  Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/e-mail address below.

 

Minutes:

None.

446.

Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting

(previously circulated)

 

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 17 July 2020 were agreed as a correct record and would be signed by the Chairman.

 

447.

COVID-19 Education Update pdf icon PDF 177 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Education and Skills and the Director of Education and Early Help, Worcestershire Children First (WCF) updated the Panel on work to prepare and support education settings and schools in the autumn term.

 

By way of introduction, the Director of Education and Early Help made the following main points:

 

·       All schools in the County had returned as planned at the start of term.  All except seven schools had returned in the previous week with the remaining seven having returned this week. There remained one outstanding site issue (at Lea Street in Kidderminster) which the Local Member and the Cabinet Member were aware of.

·       Some schools had opted to stagger the return with different year groups returning on different days. At the start of the academic year, a time of school transition, this approach was not unusual but had been used by more schools this year, allowing headteachers to manage the logistics of the return of pupils in a Covid secure way.

·       With reference to attendance, Members were advised that schools were required to provide a daily return to the DfE.  All but 30 schools in the County had made the return and WCF officers were following up the remaining 30.  As of the previous day, of those schools making the return to the DfE, just over 87% of pupils were attending school, representing a strong start when compared regionally and nationally.

·       The Panel was reminded that the IT device programme had been delivered successfully over the summer.  Going forward, if a local Covid 19 outbreak meant that further devices were required to facilitate remote learning, these would be distributed direct from the DfE.

·       With reference to the handling of outbreaks in schools and other settings, Members were advised that work had been carried out in conjunction with public health colleagues and a robust Outbreak Control Plan (OCP) had been published.  Specifically, Standard Operating Procedures for schools and early years settings had been issued.  Schools had reported receiving a lot of contact from parents with concerns about symptoms and the Local Outbreak Response Team (LORT) desk had seen an increase in contact from schools seeking advice.

·       Although nationally, the government did not recommend the use of face coverings in education settings, schools had the discretion to require face coverings for pupils in Year 7 and above if space was tight in communal areas.

·       Overall, the home to school transport provision had run relatively smoothly since the return.  WCF received a daily report from transport colleagues and providers were beginning to report issues with students not sticking to the agreed seating plan.  In response, additional staff were being brought in to help with the coordination of this.  Officers were also in touch with West Midlands Trains to monitor the situation as Further Education Colleges returned in the coming weeks.

·       The County Council had been allocated approximately £85k as part of the government’s Wellbeing for Education Return, which provided funding and resources to train and support education settings  ...  view the full minutes text for item 447.

448.

Performance and In-Year Budget Monitoring pdf icon PDF 136 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Panel was updated on performance information relating to Quarter 1 (April to June 2020) and financial information for period 3.

 

Budget Monitoring

 

The Director of Resources (WCF) made the following main points:

 

·       With reference to the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), at the end of June there was a forecast overspend of approximately £300k.  Members were reminded that the High Needs overspend at the end of 2019/20 had been £7.9m with a total deficit of £6.2m to be carried forward against future DSG income.  In 2020/21 the Council had received additional funding of £8.7m for Higher Needs.  This would keep pace with spending but would not address the historical deficit.

·       For Higher Needs, the Government had already announced a budget for 2021/22 with indicative funding.  The County Council’s share of this would be £7.8m, which would help keep pace with demand but would not address the current deficit.  The Council’s situation was in line with most other local authorities.  The budget was in a better position than last year but pressures remained.

·       In relation to the children and families budgets that had remained in the County Council there were no issues to report.

·       WCF budgets had now taken account of the transfer of services from Babcock with the inclusion of an additional £5.1m.  The area of greatest focus was on looked after children.  Placement numbers had been relatively stable over the last 12 to 18 months but covid-19 had put pressure on this demand led budget.  The latest forecast was for a £1.5m overspend.  This forecast also took into account the pay award that had recently been agreed.

·       Home to school transport was currently forecasting to budget.  An additional grant of £503k to support the return to school in the autumn term had been announced in August.

·       It was acknowledged that it would be a challenging year for the council and for local government as a whole, but the current forecast overspend was not as sharp as some other councils and could be seen as part of a national trend.

·       It was confirmed that the Council had had to continue to pay home to school transport providers throughout the pandemic, as advised by the government.

 

The financial information was received and noted.

 

Social Care

 

The Director of Children’s Social Care and Safeguarding made the following main points:

 

·       On average throughout 2019/20 the Family Front Door had received about 1000 contacts per month.  This figure remained consistent at the start of lockdown and throughout April and May but had now started to rise and in June there had been 1582 contacts.  This level of contacts was sustained throughout June and July with a slight drop in August.  This rise had also been seen in other local authorities and would need to be monitored carefully.

·       Officers were yet to see the impact of lockdown related ‘hidden harm’ that was predicted as children had only just returned to school and the figures were currently missing a big proportion of the school referrals that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 448.

449.

Work Programme 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 131 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Panel reviewed its 2020/21 work programme and noted that dates for Panel meetings in 2021 had not yet been confirmed.

 

The following changes to scrutiny champions were also noted.  Councillor Mackay would now act as scrutiny champion for education and Councillor Oborski would be scrutiny champion for looked after children.

 

Members were asked to let the scrutiny team know if they had any suggestions for items to be added to the work programme.