Agenda and draft minutes

Children & Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday 14 June 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber, Shire Hall. View directions

Contact: Helen Barnsley  Senior Democratic Services Officer

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

General

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1(1)

Apologies

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Minutes:

There were none.

1(2)

Disclosures of Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Interests

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Minutes:

There were none.

1(3)

Minutes of Previous Meetings pdf icon PDF 250 KB

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Minutes:

The minutes of the meetings held on 11 April 2022 and 17 May 2022 were agreed as a true and accurate record. There were no matters arising.

2.

Public Speaking

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Minutes:

None.

3.

Question Time

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3(1)

Questions to Cabinet Portfolio Holders

Up to 30 minutes of the meeting are available for members of the Children & Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee to put questions to the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Education and Learning and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services.

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Minutes:

Councillor Jill Simpson-Vince said primary schools in the Rugby district had been asked to consider bulge classes for Years 4-6 from September, and secondary schools had been asked to consider bulge classes for Year 8. She asked if the sufficiency strategy could be reviewed, as she considered it too close to the start of the next academic year for schools to be asked to consider bulge classes. Councillor Kam Kaur said this was not a situation that was unique to Rugby. The sufficiency strategy was in the early stages of being reviewed and the district and borough councils were being consulted as part of this, to learn more about where development was taking place and where future schools needs would come from. The Chair said a Task and Finish Group looking at this issue had been proposed. He said he had seen figures in relation to this topic and informed the Committee that he had questioned the robustness of these figures.

3(2)

Updates from Cabinet Portfolio Holders and Assistant Directors

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Minutes:

Councillor Jeff Morgan reminded members of the policy of trying to increase the number of children’s homes in Warwickshire. He said that the home in Stratford was now ready to be occupied, while accommodation in Leamington would be forthcoming in a few months. The property was currently occupied, with the tenant due to move out shortly. A third children’s home that would be adapted for children with disabilities was planned to open in Nuneaton. An offer on the property had been accepted but the purchase had not been completed.

 

Councillor Morgan said the Council was trying to get the District and Borough Councils in the county to sign to a pledge to help care leavers by providing things such as housing, access to leisure facilities and guaranteed job interviews. Councillor Morgan said the pledge was being reviewed by the chief executives of the various councils but the response had been mixed. He said all councils had a corporate parenting responsibility, and asked members to contact the chief executives of their district or borough council if they had close connections to them.

 

Nigel Minns said Ofsted and the CQC are establishing a new SEND inspection framework, and the Council had agreed to take part in a pilot inspection. It had begun the previous day and was being run virtually over a two-week period, before an in-person visit. Nigel Minns reiterated this was a test run of the new methodology to be used and was not a formal inspection, although some feedback would be provided.

4.

Approach to Levelling Up pdf icon PDF 335 KB

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Minutes:

The item was introduced by Nigel Minns, who reminded members that levelling up was a key national priority. Work was now underway to shape a countywide approach to Levelling Up, which would be presented to Cabinet for approval in July.

 

Nigel Minns told the Committee that the Levelling Up White Paper had four objectives: to boost productivity, pay and living standards by growing the private sector; improve public services and spread opportunities, particularly in places where they were weakest; restore a sense of community and local pride; and to empower local leaders and communities. Additionally there were 12 national missions to help achieve these objectives; one of these was devolution. There would be a national measurement and accountability framework to monitor achievement of the objectives. The notion of levelling up was a long-term aim towards 2030 and beyond. The emerging countywide approach envisaged a dual focus on specific communities of place and communities of interest (particular cohorts and groups of people where levelling up would be most relevant) for levelling up.

 

Members were told the national Levelling Up missions, and how they would shape the policy for Warwickshire, were; to share the Council’s commitment to Levelling up with its communities; to complement everyone’s organisational plans and strategies; to influence current and future strategies; to recognise and build on the power of Warwickshire’s communities, partnerships, networks, and forums; and to inform the future collective work on devolution. Nigel Minns said this would complement existing strategies and help influence future strategies. The approach has been shaped through engagement with key partner organisations, and would identify targeted places, cohorts and priorities for levelling up that affected the whole county or certain places, including those at a hyper-local level.

 

Of the 12 national missions, three had been identified as being particularly relevant to the scope of the Committee. These were to significantly increase the number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths; narrowing the gap in healthy life expectancy; and increasing the number of people to have completed high-quality skills training.

 

Members’ attention was drawn towards the various existing strategies and areas of work and how they would link in the Levelling Up programme, and what funding streams were available. Some of these were very specific, such as the Nuneaton Education Strategy and the Tackling Social Inequality Strategy.

 

Six principles for levelling up had been identified. The first of these was to take a holistic approach and involve partner organisations. Nigel Minns said this was about levelling up Warwickshire; it was not a project specific to Warwickshire County Council and partnership working would be important in shaping the Levelling Up programme. Some of these partners would be from outside the county. The second principle was to take a long-term approach and improve things for future generations. The third principle was to identify root causes of issues, particularly the complex ones that created longstanding inequalities within communities. Nigel Minns said it was acknowledged that had this project been run  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

SEND Written Statement of Action pdf icon PDF 327 KB

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Minutes:

The item was introduced by Chris Baird, who reminded members that an inspection of SEND provision across the whole of Warwickshire – not just in schools and education settings – had been undertaken last year. Weaknesses had been identified in a number of areas, so a written Statement of Action outlining how these would be addressed was required to be produced. The draft statement had been signed off by Ofsted and the CQC, which recognised the action plan that had been developed and how services would be developed over the course of several years. Monitoring meetings had been taking place with the Department for Education and NHS England, the most recent of which had been on 17 May. At this meeting the positive progress that had been made, and the pace at which it had occurred, had been noted.

 

Rachel Barnes said there had been good levels of input into the Written Statement of Action from parents and carers, including those from the newly relaunched Parent Carer Forum. Rachel Barnes reminded members there had been five areas of significant weakness that had been identified. The first of these was in relation to waiting times for autism diagnosis. Rachel Barnes said waiting times were reducing, and there had been increased staffing capacity to make diagnoses. There had been improvements to the self-help offer, including a conference that had been well attended. An e-booklet was due to be launched soon. A new model of assessment to streamline current processes was being piloted.

 

The second area of weakness related to communication with parents and carers. A new monthly SEND newsletter had been launched, as had a Facebook page specific to the SEND Local Offer, which had more than 500 followers. The main website on the Local Offer contained a section titled ‘You Said, We Did’ to show what progress had been made. Additionally a series of webinars and online workshops had taken place, which had been well attended and good feedback had been generated. Nearly 100 members of staff had received training in restorative practice, which was aimed at building trusting relationships with families and schools.

 

Areas three and four were closely linked to each other, regarding inclusion and workforce development in schools. Rachel Barnes said ‘change champions’ had been allocated within each school consortium to lead on this and help develop an inclusion charter. A new inclusion framework aimed at providing earlier interventions was being trialled within 17 schools in Rugby. Another trial regarding children with behavioural challenges was taking place within a further five schools, based on the work of Dr Ross Greene. Rachel Barnes said feedback on this had been positive and it was intended to roll this out to another 25 schools this year. The fifth area of weakness related to the Local Offer webpages. Rachel Barnes told the Committee these had been relaunched and traffic to them had increased by 50 per cent. Additionally literature had been provided to schools, children and family centres, libraries, and also GP  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

The Impact of Covid-19 on Children and Young People

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Minutes:

The Chair stated his belief that the report should have been entitled ‘the impact of the response to Covid-19’.

 

The item was introduced by Chris Baird, who drew members’ attention to the three main topics that were summarised in the report. These were school attendance, missing education and attainment; mental health; and the children and families service, including social care. Chris Baird said it was important to recognise that schools had been open throughout the pandemic unless there had been staffing issues. However it was noted there were instances of attendance falling. Patterns of attendance – and the implications for children moving from an early years setting to an infant or primary school, or from primary to secondary – was outlined in the report. It was recognised there had been delays in development, or children were not at the level they would have been expected to be at had the pandemic not occurred. In particular it had been noted some children were behind in terms of language and vocabulary, as they had not been exposed to social and word-rich environments. However there had been additional impacts on a range of areas affecting how children performed at school and how they were learning. This was a position that had been reflected in national studies. Chris Baird said this had been recognised by schools, who were working through this with the help of services being supplied by the Council.

 

Helen Broughton told the Committee that there had been a significant impact on demand for mental health services for children. There had been an increase in incidents of self-harm, suicides and suicide attempts. Rates of self-harm were already high in Warwickshire before the pandemic, and figures suggested during 2021 it had been 33 per cent higher than the national average. The demand for services relating to eating disorders was also extremely high and there were issues around recruiting staff for specialise fields such as this. Helen Broughton said during the pandemic there had been issues relating to young people transitioning between services for children and those for adults. The RISE mental health service had managed to help by providing some services online during lockdowns and throughout the pandemic.

 

Helen Broughton said a strategy group had been formed to look at transforming services for children presenting in crisis, with a workshop bringing together various partnership organisations being held the previous week. Additional funding had been awarded for services relating to eating disorders, and to roll out the provision of Mental Health Support Teams into schools. Initially this would be taking place in the south of the county before a further rollout in Nuneaton and Bedworth and North Warwickshire. The final rollout in Rugby would take place next year. In regard to suicide prevention, Kooth had been commissioned to provide young people with support online including online counselling and peer support chats. A countywide Suicide Prevention Strategy was currently out for consultation. In relation to the transitions work, Helen Broughton said a working party had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 307 KB

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Minutes:

Members noted the content of the work programme. It was noted there were a number of items scheduled for the next meeting, and there may be a requirement to schedule an additional meeting.

8.

Any Other Business

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Minutes:

There were no other items to discuss.

9.

Dates of Future Meetings

The next meeting has been scheduled for 27 September 2022 at 10am. The meeting will be held at Shire Hall.

 

Meetings for 2022/2023 have been scheduled as follows:

 

-        8 November 2022 at 10am

-        14 February 2023 at 10am

-        11 April 2023 at 10am

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Minutes:

Members noted the dates of forthcoming meetings.