Agenda and draft minutes

Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 5th November, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: Luciane Bowker  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist

Media

Items
No. Item

28.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted from Councillors Prue Bray and Jenny Cheng.

29.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 240 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 8 September 2020.

 

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 8 September 2020 were confirmed as a correct record and would be signed by the Chairman at a later date.

 

Matters arising

Councillor Mickleburgh asked for an update on the numbers of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) applied for but not issued (Performance Indicators dashboard 1), and also an update on apprenticeship opportunities for care leavers (Performance Indicators dashboard 6).

 

Sal Thirlway, Assistant Director for Learning Achievements and Partnerships apologised that this information was not included in the report and agreed to provide the data outside of the meeting and in future reports.

30.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

31.

Public Question Time

To answer any public questions

 

A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.

 

The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.

 

Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting.  For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions

Minutes:

In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited members of the public to submit questions to the appropriate Members.

31.1

Beth Rowland had asked the Chairman of the Children's Services O&S Committee the following question but as she was unable to attend the meeting a written response was provided:

Question

Recent data showed that at the end of September 81% of children in England with EHCPs attending state-funded schools were in attendance, compared to 88% of all children.  This difference was largely attributed to a number of pandemic related factors, including problems with infection control, timetables and transport. 

 

For instance, in some areas children have not been permitted to return, or have been placed on reduced timetables. In some parts of the country SEND hubs are not fully functioning because guidance relating to the use of bubbles means they can no longer operate as mixed-year groups. 

 

Please would the Chair of this Committee please outline the current situation with regard to these matters in Wokingham Borough?  

Minutes:

Question

Recent data showed that at the end of September 81% of children in England with EHCPs attending state-funded schools were in attendance, compared to 88% of all children.  This difference was largely attributed to a number of pandemic related factors, including problems with infection control, timetables and transport. 

 

For instance, in some areas children have not been permitted to return, or have been placed on reduced timetables. In some parts of the country SEND hubs are not fully functioning because guidance relating to the use of bubbles means they can no longer operate as mixed-year groups. 

 

Please would the Chair of this Committee please outline the current situation with regard to these matters in Wokingham Borough?  

 

Answer

Whilst I am aware that there have been issues nationally, we have worked closely with all of our schools and academies to ensure that every child who is able to attend school can since the reopening in September.  Example attendance data for the week commencing 5th October shows the average attendance over the 5 day period for children with EHCP’s was 91% for Wokingham schools.  This compares with 92% of all children during the same period, showing no significant disparity in attendance with EHCP’s as a factor.

 

It is the case that some children with EHCP’s will be isolating either due to family members being symptomatic, the children themselves being symptomatic or having been part of the few closed bubbles that we have had across our schools, and this can also be said of all children who may not be in school at any given time.

 

At the beginning of the school term there were a small number of children whose normal transport were disrupted as we moved to different arrangements as a result of the pandemic, however the Corporate Transport Unit has worked closely with providers to minimise the impact of such changes.

 

We are not aware of children with EHCP’s being refused return to schools in Wokingham, or any part time timetables that have been introduced specifically for children with EHCP’s.

31.2

Morag Malvern has asked the Chairman of the Children's Services O&S Committee the following question:

Question

Nationally 60 per cent of schools have failed to sign up to the government scheme to claim free sanitary products. Period poverty is a source of inequality in our society, and it has been made worse by the financial instability in the Covid crisis, and the lack of access to sanitary products when not attending school in person. Without access to free sanitary products, girls are resorting to using toilet roll, newspaper or socks to cope with their periods, or missing school. Can the committee investigate what actions are being taken by the Council to alert primary and secondary schools to the free scheme and to monitor take-up of the scheme by schools, and report back?

Minutes:

Question

Nationally 60 per cent of schools have failed to sign up to the government scheme to claim free sanitary products. Period poverty is a source of inequality in our society, and it has been made worse by the financial instability in the Covid crisis, and the lack of access to sanitary products when not attending school in person. Without access to free sanitary products, girls are resorting to using toilet roll, newspaper or socks to cope with their periods, or missing school. Can the committee investigate what actions are being taken by the Council to alert primary and secondary schools to the free scheme and to monitor take-up of the scheme by schools, and report back?

 

Answer

Thank you for bringing this Government Scheme to my attention.

 

I am aware that all schools have recently been advised of the scheme, but shall ask that colleagues reiterate the availability of free sanitary products, and request that we review the take up of the scheme by Wokingham schools in order to feedback to a future Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting.

 

Supplementary Question

Will the Borough Council be able to develop this into an ongoing relationship or is it more transactional?

 

Supplementary Answer

As you will be aware most of the secondary schools in our Borough are academy schools, to which we offer strong support to, and we do have a good relationship with those, but also we are all aware that girls from the age of 9 or 10 this days can have the need of sanitary wear offer at schools.  Sal, would you be able to add more to the answer I gave?

 

Absolutely Chair, and thank you Mrs Malvern for bringing this supplementary question.  As Councillor Swaddle said, we have recently contacted all schools within the Borough, maintained, academies and free schools to advise and signpost them to the government’s scheme and encourage them to participate.  We do have an ongoing relationship with all schools and as such we are able to go back to schools and ask about the take up of the scheme and understand how schools may have benefited from it.  We are absolutely aware of the physical health implications for young women in relation to period, as well as the emotional impact on wellbeing of young women at that time if sanitary products are not available to them.  We are encouraging schools and we will continue to work with schools and we will be following this up and hopefully report back to the Committee on the nature of that engagement and take up at some future point.  I hope that responds to your supplementary in as much as our relationship is ongoing and it is not just a simple we will inform you once and job done, it is absolutely much more than that.

32.

Member Question Time

To answer any member questions

Minutes:

There were no Member questions.

33.

Regional Schools Commissioner Update

To receive a verbal update on the work of the Regional Schools Commissioner with the Borough’s academy schools.

Minutes:

The Committee welcomed Catherine Turton-Ryz, Regional Lead in the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) Office for North West London South Central England.  Catherine Turton-Ryz had been invited to give an update on the work of the RSC in relation to Wokingham’s academy schools.

 

Councillor Mickleburgh asked if the RSC had any concernsthat some academies may not be responding as well as some others to the multiple challenges resulting from the pandemic.  Is there any additional specific monitoring in place to detect if and when this might be the case?  Are there additional and new supports in place for any academies that might be experiencing pandemic-related problems? 

Councillor Mickleburgh also asked what did the RSC believe were the most common problems facing academies in our Borough and what additional actions are being taken to help tackle these problems.

Catherine Turton-Ryz stated that there were no particular concerns about the schools in the Wokingham Borough.  She stated that attendance to school was closely monitored by the RSC, they also received soft intelligence from the education team in the Local Authority and would follow up any concerns. 

Catherine Turton-Ryz stated that if there were significant concerns they would offer the Covid recovery school to school support package.  This consisted of matching a school leader in the sector to dedicate an amount of time to help the school.

Catherine Turton-Ryz stated that the most common problem facing schools were: responding to outbreaks, reduced leadership, staff capacity and financial hardship.  Schools were not being able to let out their premises like they used to, and were suffering with loss of earnings.

Councillor Mickleburgh asked the following questions:

·           Particularly in view of current rising levels of financial hardship in many families, does the RSC monitor at all the costs that Academies impose on parents – particularly very expensive ‘school branded’ uniforms and sports clothing; and is this an area in which the RSC possesses any ‘levers’ to try to limit the impact on families? 

·           How would you characterise the working relationship between the RSC and our borough and in the spirit of ‘continuous improvement’, do you have specific areas and ways in which this working relationship could be strengthened?  

Catherine Turton-Ryz stated that the RSC did not have levers to compel schools to choose good value for money uniform.  It was up to the each trust board or governing body to source their uniforms.  The RSC published on the website the best practice guidance on school uniform, it was clear in that guidance that schools should give high priority to the costs considerations.  The RSC was urging schools to consider how to deal with uniform non-compliance which may come as a result of the financial difficulties being faced by many families as a result of the pandemic.

Catherine Turton-Ryz stated that the relationship with the local authority in Wokingham was very good and it was strengthened during the pandemic.

Councillor Richards asked how progress and performance at schools was going to be monitored this year, in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.

34.

CAMHS Review pdf icon PDF 529 KB

To receive and consider the CAMHS Review report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Review report was presented by Andy Fitton, Assistant Director of Joint Commissioning

NHS Berkshire West CCG and Kim Wilkins, Senior Specialist Strategy and Commissioning.

 

Members of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee were in attendance to participate in the discussions of this item.

 

Andy Fitton stated that the report contained the refreshed Future in Mind Local Transformation Plan (LTP).  This report provided an overview of the achievements of the partnership with providers, the CCG and the local authority, and it also outlined of what still needed to be achieved and what the priorities were.

 

Andy Fitton highlighted the following points:

 

·           The establishment of the first local Mental Health Support Team, providing early intervention and support service which was co-located in the community around the schools.  A third of Wokingham Borough was currently covered by this new scheme, it was hoped that in time NHS England would fund more teams for Wokingham;

·           There had been an increase in access to services, both for early intervention stage and for more specialist CAMHS.  Referral rates continued to increase year on year;

·           The training offer was much improved, both for schools and for Children’s Services staff, it was important to be able to identify the need for intervention as early as possible;

·           Seven priorities had been identified across the partnership.  Particular attention was being given to meeting the emotional and mental health needs of Children In Care (CIC);

·           Response to crisis was an area that was continuing to be developed;

·           The development of response to eating disorders was continuing to be developed;

·           During the Covid pandemic there had been a decrease in the number of referrals and an increase in the number of acute cases;

·           Providers had been very quick to offer online solutions during the pandemic.

 

During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:

 

·           Councillor Grandison was concerned about the waiting time for the treatment of anxiety and depression (page 19).  He also wanted to know if there was any feedback on the usefulness of Kooth;

·           Andy Fitton stated that the Kooth service had only been running for the last three months, he had not yet received any feedback but would report back when this information was available;

·           Andy Fitton believed that the high waiting time for the treatment of anxiety and depression was likely to be because the demand for the service outstripped the capacity of the service.  He offered to bring more information on this data to the Committee;

·           In relation to the replacement of Willow House, Councillor Mickleburgh asked if the new provision was going to offer the same services and how many young people were placed out of area.  He was also interested to know of data about eating disorders and self-harm and whether the new initiatives were having an impact on those conditions;

·           Andy Fitton stated that Willow House was commissioned by NHS England and he suggested that the Committee ask them to comment on it;

·           Andy  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.

35.

Children's Services Performance Indicators pdf icon PDF 118 KB

To receive and consider a report giving details of the service’s key performance indicators.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Performance Indicators report was presented by Nick Hammond, Service Manager Intelligence and Impact.

 

The following comments were made during the presentation and discussion of the report:

 

Dashboard Item 1 – Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)

·           Nick Hammond stated that there had been a slight dip in the percentage of plans issued within the 20 week period, but was still above statistical neighbours.  He stated that in some cases parents had asked for addional  time to feedback/submit evidence, in other cases professional reports had been received late and where schools could not be named in a plan, these had been delayed until such a time as they could be;

·           Nick Hammond stated that the number of EHCPs were up 17% compared to this time last year;

·           In response to a question Sal Thirlway stated the statistics in Q2 had been impacted by a couple of cases of children moving into the Borough from out of the area, where their plans had been started with another local authority; and also by one member of staff having to take time off due to a family bereavement;

·           In response to a question Sal Thirlway stated that the figures showed an increase of 23 children out of Borough from Q1 to Q2.  Nick Hammond added that the out of Borough figures reflected the fact that there were no colleges in Wokingham and sometimes children chose to go to college out of the Borough.

 

Dashboard Item 2 – Early Help

·           Nick Hammond stated that the average length of time between referral and assessment completion had gone down, despite the significant increase in the number for referrals in Q2;

·           Councillor Mickleburgh asked for an update on the internal review.  Adam Davis, Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care stated that the Early Help strategy was waiting be signed off, once that was completed there would be a task and finish group to look at the activity, but there had been a delay because of Covid.

 

Dashboard Item 3 – Children’s Social Care Front Door

·           Nick Hammond stated that it was encouraging that the number of repeat referrals had gone down, especially given the current circumstances;

·           Councillor Mickleburgh asked if the pandemic was having an impact in the number of repeat referrals and he also asked about the complexity of cases;

·           Adam Davis stated that there had been an increase in the complexity of cases, but this was not linked to Covid;

·           Councillor Loyes asked for more detail about the open cases mentioned on page 31.  Nick Hammond stated that this referred to the service promptly closing cases where appropriate.

 

Dashboard Item 4 – Child Protection

·           Nick Hammond stated that these figures related to the reduced number of referrals;

·           Nick Hammond stated that the service had an internal non-statutory timescale of 10 working days for child protection visits, and there was a high percentage of visits occurring within the timescales.  He pointed out that most visits were still being carried out face to face.

 

Dashboard Item 5  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35.

36.

Children's Services Response to Covid-19 pdf icon PDF 240 KB

To receive and consider a report outlining the Children’s Services response to Covid-19.

Minutes:

The Children’s Services Response to Covid-19 report was presented by Adam Davis.

 

Adam Davis stated that the report contained a review of how the service had operated since the lockdown in March and how the services continued to be delivered.  He highlighted that the service was able to continue to offer sustained respite care during this time and undertake a children’s social care audit for quality assurance.

 

During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:

 

·           Councillor Swaddle asked what the key learning points for the department during this time were.  Adam Davis stated that it was noticeable how workers were able to quickly adapt to working from home and deliver services differently, keeping staff and children safe;

·           Councillor Mickleburgh asked if there any particular concerns in relation to supporting schools during the next phase of the pandemic.  He also asked about attendance rates and if there any groups or localities that were more affected by the pandemic;

·           Sal Thirlway stated that schools provided data on attendance daily to the DfE, the attendance in the Borough was currently very good, in the range of 90%, this compared well with neighbouring authorities.  This data was not broken down in gender or localities;

·           Councillor Grandison asked what support was being offered for parents of pre-school children.  Adam Davis stated that the Early Help service has been offering support virtually to the families they were working with, this was a targeted service;

·           Councillor Grandison asked how the local authority was supporting pre-schools and nursery settings.  Sal Thirlway stated that support had been offered to all early years and childcare settings throughout out the pandemic.  Sal stated that were settings had to close temporarily parents had been helped to find alternative arrangements.  Sal believed that two settings had closed during the pandemic but not as a result of the pandemic;

·           Councillor Loyes asked how the service was being delivered to children with disabilities.  Adam Davis stated that Bridges had remained open throughout the pandemic, and the Saturday club for children with disabilities was re-opening.

 

RESOLVED That the report be noted.

37.

School Placements Sufficiency pdf icon PDF 195 KB

To receive and consider the School Placements Sufficiency report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The School Placements Sufficiency report was presented by Piers Brunning, Strategy and Commissioning Places Specialist.

 

Piers Brunning stated that the report presented four phases of school sufficiency planning: statutory primary, statutory secondary, post 16 and SEND provision.

 

During the presentation Piers Brunning highlighted the following points:

 

Primary Phase

·           There had been sufficient places in 2020.  All the schools were full in the Shinfield area, including the new school;

·           There had been a raise in demand in Arborfield, Wokingham Town West and Woodley areas and a significant number of unfilled reception places in Earley, the South East and Wokingham Town East;

·           In the long term there was tension between the underlying decreasing population trend in the population and the impact of new housing developments;

·           There were overall pressures for places in Key Stage 2 (years 4 to 6);

·           The impact of Covid-19 on demand for school places was not yet known.

 

Secondary Phase

·           There was pressure for places for secondary school places, this year it has been necessary to offer 25 additional places in Emmbrook School for year 7.  By the start of the academic year in September 2020, the number of children requiring secondary school places had fallen compared to the number on offer day.  It was believed that this was as a result of parents choosing to send their children to independent schools;

·           There were three schools in the Borough with surplus capacity, the Forest School having the largest number of surplus places;

·           There was a historical challenge in projecting numbers in Wokingham because of cross Borough movement.  However, the analysis indicated that there was no need to create an additional secondary school.

 

Post 16

·           The immediate challenge was that there were two schools in the Borough for 11 to 16 year olds, so there could be a need for additional capacity for post 16 education, especially in view of the new housebuilding;

·           A discussion with schools about the possible options for post 16 education would be undertaken.

 

SEND Provision

·           There was an issue with raising numbers of children with EHCPs needing specialist education.  A particular issue was in relation to young people being placed in expensive out of Borough independent non-maintained special schools;

·           It was necessary to create more SEND places within the Borough.

 

Piers Brunning stated that the local authority used population projections provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), as described in the report.

 

During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:

 

·           Councillor Helliar-Symonds asked if consideration was being taken in relation to the location of possible sixth form expansions;

·           Piers Brunning stated that Wokingham town centre schools were being considered.  St Crispin’s School had permission to expand, should the capacity be needed.  He stated that it was important to engage with schools about any potential investment;

·           Councillor Helliar-Symonds asked if there enough demand to justify a potential investment in sixth form places in the Arborfield area;

·           Piers Brunning stated that this was part of the discussion with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 207 KB

To consider the Committee’s Forward Plan.

Minutes:

The Committee considered its Forward Plan for the remaining of the 2020/21 municipal year.

 

The Schools Performance Indicators and Ofsted reports item was removed from the January meeting because Ofsted was not undertaking inspections during the pandemic.  Subsequently the Chairman agreed that for the same reason the Schools Causing Concern report would not be submitted until Ofsted inspections were re-instated.

 

The following items were added to the Forward Plan:

 

·           Elective Home Education – 22 March 2021

·           Mental Health Issues – Public Health – jointly with HOSC

 

A Children’s Social Care Briefing session was being organised and would take place in February 2021.

 

The Committee discussed the issue of child poverty and its impact on education.  Sal Thirlway agreed to investigate what data was available on children in low income families but not receiving free school meals for a future discussion.

39.

Exclusion of the Public

That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act (as amended) as appropriate.

Minutes:

That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of the Part 1 Schedule 12A of the Act as appropriate.

40.

Schools Causing Concern – Part 2

A report containing details of schools causing concern will be considered in a Part 2 report.

Minutes:

The report was discussed in a part 2 session.