Agenda and minutes

Children & Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday 19 September 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room 2, Shire Hall. View directions

Contact: Helen Barnsley  Senior Democratic Services Officer


No. Item



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The Chair welcomed two new Co-Optee members –


·         Mr Michael Cowland, CEO of The Diocese of Coventry MAT

·         Mr Phil Johnson Chair of Stockingford local governing body.


The committee is looking for two more representatives.  If anyone knows of anybody who would be interested in the role, could they please contact Helen Barnsley, Senior Democratic Services Officer.


·        Two parent governors and two church governors are invited to the committee.

·        Their terms of office and appointment are governed by statutory requirements.

·        They may speak on children’s matters but may only vote on matters relating to education.




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Apologies were received from Councillor Barbara Brown, Councillor Brian Hammersley, Councillor Jill Simpson-Vince and Councillor Jerry Roodhouse.


Councillor Bill Gifford was present as a substitute for Councillor Roodhouse and Councillor Tim Sinclair was present as a substitute for Councillor Simpson-Vince.


Disclosures of Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Interests

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Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 124 KB

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The minutes of the meeting held on the 13th June 2023 were agreed as a true and accurate record.


There were no matters arising.


Public Speaking

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Question Time

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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 Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children & Families.


The work programme attached lists any briefings circulated to the Committee since the last meeting and any items listed in the Council’s Forward Plan for decision by Cabinet or individual Cabinet Portfolio Holders over the coming months.

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Updates from Cabinet Portfolio Holders and Assistant Directors

Cabinet Portfolio Holders and Assistant Directors are invited to provide any updates they have on issues within the remit of the Committee.

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Councillor Kam Kaur, Portfolio Holder for Education confirmed that following a period of change within the education service, the team is working well together and working on project including SEND.  This Committee was reminded that they are able to ask for any updates or information relating to the remit of the committee that they would like.




Corporate Parenting Panel Update pdf icon PDF 4 MB

The Portfolio Holder for Children & Families to provide an update on the work of the Corporate Parenting Panel.


To include an update from the Children in Care Council and other forums.

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Councillor Sue Markham, Portfolio Holder for Children & Families confirmed that a comprehensive report had been presented at the Corporate Parenting Panel meeting which was held on the 18th September 2023.  A copy of the report was circulated to members of the Committee ahead of the meeting but the following points were highlighted –


·        A paediatric first aid course was held with support from the Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service to provide first aid training for care experienced young parents.


  • National Siblings Day was celebrated on the 6th of April. Over 50 brothers and sisters attended an event at Myton which had been transformed into a fair ground for the day.


  • There has been an increase in events aimed at brothers and sisters and following National Siblings Day, there was a trip to Legoland so that siblings who perhaps don’t live together were able to spend time together.


  • As part of Refugee Celebration Week, Warwickshire hosted a celebration for all young unaccompanied asylum seekers on the evening of 19th June. Over 60 young people attended and the evening included an awards ceremony to recognise educational and personal achievements and acts of kindness. 


The Corporate Parenting Panel also received a report in relation to Missing Episodes for Children in Care.  The Panel found this incredibly useful and gained a better understanding of the reasons behind missing episodes and what is being done by the teams to support children and reduce occurrences.


Councillor Bill Gifford thanked Councillor Markham for the report, saying that the publicity of the work done by the officers and their teams was excellent and that allowing everyone to see just what good work is being done should continue.


The Committee thanked Councillor Markham for her update and confirmed that they are looking forward to receiving updates at all future meetings.


Quarter 1 Integrated Performance Report pdf icon PDF 132 KB

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The report was introduced by Johnny Kyriacou – Director of Education, and confirmation was given that overall the performance within education services is on track with the exception of In Year School Place Applications.  Item 7 will cover this in more detail.


Johnny Kyriacou provided an update in relation to the work underway on SEND.  It was noted that there has been a lot of change recently and officers are working on bringing it all together.  Work includes reviewing what has happened previously and how officers can use lessons learnt to move forward more efficiently.  It was agreed that a member development session in relation to SEND and the current change programme be arranged and offered to all members, not just those on this committee. 

John Coleman – Director for Children and Families highlighted that the performance in relation to Child Protection Plans remains stable; it has risen slightly but is still within target. 

Regarding referrals to the Front Door service, the Panel noted that there had been an increase over the summer but that this is a normal trend and expected. 

It was confirmed that the performance in relation to the number of Children in Care was currently not on track but that the figure is coming down.  It is an area of focus for the team, and it was noted that the number has been affected by the number of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) taken in by Warwickshire.

Following a question from Councillor Justin Kerridge, John Coleman confirmed that the risk register for children’s service will always include a consideration of significant injuries or death.  It was noted that this was the same for the adult service risk register.  Officers do need to be aware that situations could arise that result in injury or death, especially within the children and adult services. 

Following a discussion in relation to the service overspend, it was noted that this was predominately in relation to the cost of residential placements which has increased recently by 23%.  The Warwickshire County Council regional framework is predicting another increase of 10%.  This isn’t unusual across children’s services in England’s local authorities. 

The demand for emergency placements has also increased and is often offered at a high cost to the council.  Work is underway for council owned children’s homes which mean that by the end of this financial year the council will have 13 residential places resulting in a large saving across the board.

Councillor Clare Golby requested further information in relation to the high cost related to children in care, asking if it was in relation to specific care needs.  Councillor Golby also raised concerns that behavioural issues in council run homes, within the county, could cause issues within the communities they are based in.  John Coleman stated that the placement market for children in care is broken and that providers are seeking “easier children” to look after and will not take those with higher needs.  There are complex needs with some of the children  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


School Attendance update pdf icon PDF 90 KB

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Sarah Tregaskis, Head of School Services & Post-16 Education, present the report to the committee which contained further analysis following the report presented in April 2023.  Andy Danks, Delivery Lead - Attendance Service, continued by confirming that the report contained key elements of the service and gave an overview with the following points highlighted -


·        The national figure in relation to school absence is increasing, but Warwickshire is narrowing that gap with a slower increase.


·        There has been a significant increase in the figures for absence within Warwickshire, and it is important to note that absence from school is often a symptom of other issues, such as self-harm, the cost-of-living crisis or family illness.


·        The Committee noted that there is a new delivery model in place for monitoring school absence but at the moment, real time date is not available.  When that is in place, officers will have a much clear idea of the number of absences.


·        Some schools within Warwickshire have not yet signed up to the new delivery model but officers from the council are working with them to get them on board.


·        Part of the new direction is an understanding that absence and attendance is something that everyone should be working on.  Support from appropriate, multi agencies can make a real difference.


Following a question from Councillor Bill Gifford in relation to the link between absence and other issues, and how officers identify which comes first, John Coleman, Director of Children & Families Service confirmed that there is a strong link between the attendance team and children’s services and that officers have a clear objective to support children to attend school.  The early help team are also working closely with the attendance team to ensure support is available. 


Clarification was given that the figures reflect a small number of children not attending school more frequently, rather than more children generally not attending.  It was reiterated that often there is another, significant issue that is preventing attendance and that it is often much more than truancy.  The Committee noted that schools and officers do a lot of work with the families as well, not just the child/ren.


Councillor Penny-Anne O’Donnell asked for confirmation in relation to how many schools have taken up the new delivery model and if there was a difference between the number of the absence reported by families and the number of absences reported by schools?  It was confirmed that there are just over 80 schools within Warwickshire that have yet to sign up and that are being offered support to get them on board.  There are 69 schools that have not yet been contacted.


In relation to the question about how absences are reported by families in comparison to how they are reported by schools, the Committee was referred to the coding definitions in the report.  It was acknowledged that these codes do not always show the full picture and that they can be open to interpretation. 


Councillor Clare Golby asked how absence was recorded when  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


School Admissions Service Progress Report pdf icon PDF 435 KB

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Matt Biggs, Head of Access to Education introduced the report which focuses significant improvement work which was undertaken following a robust review.  The focus was on stabilising the service following the well documented issues of the last 12 months. 


Louise Church Delivery Lead - Admissions highlighted the fundamental and statutory requirements to the Committee.  Confirmation was given in relation to “in year” admissions which relates to children moving into or around Warwickshire during the school year.


The Committee notes that the report includes a lot of information about the role of the school admissions team including helping families applying for free school meals and school transport. 


In relation to the overall improvement plan and the themes identified in order to improve the service, it was noted that this will be an ongoing project until March 2024.  The Committee noted that 77% of actions have been completed. 


Louise Church confirmed that ‘in-year’ allocations is now within target and that there has been a big reduction in waiting times for families.  The statutory requirement is 15 working days.  There will always be a small number that don’t meet the target – and this can include children who have been previously excluded.


The Offer days, which were held in March and April 2023 were very successful.  All information was sent out in a timely fashion and in two ways to ensure that no one was missed out.  Confirmation was given that officer felt the needs and expectations of Warwickshire families were met. 


The Committee was pleased to learn that there has been a 72% reduction in complaints.  Officers will continue to work so that there is a further reduction in complaints. 


The Committee learnt that the service has received approximately 40,000. emails since January 2023.  Officers are focused on maintaining a service that can offer the best to the families.


The discussion moved to the current concerns which include the significant rise in families moving to the area including Ukrainian families.  Council officers are working with internal and external teams to support these families.  This has led to an increase in school appeals but with an increase in staff these are being worked through.  The Committee was invited to go and meet the team and see the work that they are doing.


Councillor Bill Gifford congratulated the team on the reduction in complaints stating that it shows that there has been a real change for the better. 



Councillor Tim Sinclair agreed that there has been a significant improvement in performance in a short space of time and that officers aren’t reasting on their laurels – well done! 


Councillor Sinclair continued and asked where improvements could be made in the number of appeals in view of the fact that the number of successful appeals is rising.  Louise Church confirmed that there is a lot of work underway with the schools on the best way to avoid appeals as they shouldn’t be happening, officers should be getting admissions right the first time.  Louise Church added  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Draft Final Sustainable Futures Strategy

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Steve Smith, Director of Commissioning Support Unit, introduced the report and the history behind it.  A Climate change emergency was declared by the council in 2019 with the first draft of the strategy presented to Cabinet in October 2022.  The current stage of the strategy is being presented at all the Overview and Scrutiny Committees to provide an updated on the current situation, where projects are currently and what the next steps are.  It is worth noting that the strategy will continually develop; more will be coming on board.  The report comments on funding and where financial opportunities can be found to help with the affordability of the strategy. 


Mr Phil Johnson, Chair of Stockingford local governing body thanked officers for the interesting read and comprehensive report.  Mr Johnson asked how the council is supporting schools – for example with solar panels?  Steve Smith confirmed that ensuring that school roofs are suitable would be the first step and that officers are working with the property team who deal with enquiries about this. It was confirmed that improved insultation is often required first and that this can be costly.  It was agreed that further Information can be supplied to the Committee on the current situation relating to support for schools.


Councillor Clare Golby asked for information on how the strategy will prevent the work negatively impacting the less well off.  In her experience it has been a struggle to get people to do the work, and to find the materials that are required.  Steve Smith confirmed that the council is working with the district and borough councils within Warwickshire as well as partners within the industry.  Steve Smith added that there aren’t always easy solutions but that is why there are regular partnership workshops.  Work will continue with other agencies and partners to ensure that the council is always working intelligently.


It was confirmed that there are a lot of new industry standard targets and as the work continues to progress, the performance information will be made available to this committee and all elected members.


Following a question from Councillor Tim Sinclair in relation to the development of new schools, and how they fit in to the strategy, Steve Smith confirmed that there are a number of ways to mitigate additional emissions with each new development.  These include renewable energy sources, discussion with planners and insulation.  A lot is governed by planning policy and there are different methods from building research policies.  Each new investment will have their own targets but ultimately, the benefit will need to be to the bill payers at the school.


Mr Michael Cowland, CEO of The Diocese of Coventry MAT asked for clarification in relation to the lack of reference to schools in the report.  Mr Cowland asked if there is there a relationship between education services and the Commissioning Support Unit?  There are a lot of schools in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Work Programme and items on the Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 110 KB

Up to date work programme to be presented to the Committee.


Items from the Forward Plan relevant to the remit of the Committee to be noted.

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The Committee noted and agreed that updated work programme and items on the Forward Plan relevant to the remit of the Committee.


The Chair asked that if members of the Committee had any requests for topics to be added to the work programme for future meetings, they should contact Helen Barnsley, Senior Democratic Services Officer. 


Any Other Business

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There were no additional items of business.


Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on XXXXXXX

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The next meeting will be held on 14th November 2023 at 10am.


The meeting will be held in Committee Room 2, Shire Hall, Warwick.