Councillors' Attendance Statistics
Agenda and minutes
Children's Services and Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 28 January 2010 7:00 pm
Venue: Terrace Room - York House. View directions
Contact: Gary Lelliott; 020 8891 7275; Email: email@example.com
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Elengorn and Anne-Marie True.
To consider and approve the minutes of the meetings held on 16 November 2009 and 24 November 2009 – attached.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meetings held on 16 and 24 November be received and approved and the Chair be authorised to sign them.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct, Members are requested to declare any interests orally at the start of the meeting and again immediately before consideration of the matter. Members are reminded to specify the agenda item number to which it refers and whether the interest is of a personal or prejudicial nature.
Members are also reminded of the requirements of Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 that they should declare and not vote on specified matters if they are two months or more in arrears with their Council Tax payments.
There were no declarations of interest.
REPRESENTATIONS BY MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
There were no representations.
EXECUTIVE DECISIONS CALLED-IN (IF ANY)
There were no executive decisions called-in.
Whilst the Children’s Services and Culture Overview and Scrutiny Committee is pleased to note that the last six years have seen overall improvement in GCSE results, it is also aware of the variation in achievement between schools. As a consequence, the Committee was interested to explore strategies that might help to lift academic attainment so that all our secondary schools are on a par with or exceed the national average.
It was therefore decided, at the meeting of the Committee on 19 June 2008, to set up a task group to look specifically at the part that parents and careers can play in raising their children’s academic attainment.
The Committee is requested to comment on the report, the recommendations (set out on pages 15 – 17 of the report) and to determine how it wishes to monitor the recommendations.
Report of the Parental Engagement in their Children’s Education Task Group attached.
Councillor Marlow, Chair of the Task Group, introduced the item by giving details of the background and the work that had been undertaken. He also thanked those that had been involved.
Councillors felt that the recommendations were useful and workable. Councillor Marlow added that the Task Group would have liked to include more information on new technologies, but many parents still did not have access to computers.
The Committee felt that recommendation 7 should be a priority and a comment was made suggesting that special education needs be linked in with the health and welfare recommendations.
In connection with recommendation 1, a paper on transition services would be presented to the Committee in November 2010. There would also be a paper evaluating the initial effectiveness of the new academies in November 2011.
Parental engagement was not an indicator at OfSTED, however some measures could be made under the “partnerships” heading. It was also noted that work could be done within Quindrats.
The Director for Children’s Services and Culture stated that the report could be taken to school governor and headteacher forums.
The Committee asked that a special note of thanks to Glenna McCulloch, former Council officer, be recorded for her work with the Task Group.
RESOLVED that the Task Group be noted subject to the following amendment:
· That recommendation 7 be a priority.
The purpose of this report is to advise the Committee of the outcome of the consultation and seek its views on which proposals should be progressed.
Report of the Director of Children’s Services and Culture attached.
[Councillor MH Wilson arrived.]
Laura Khalil, Headteacher of Darell Primary School, made representations at the meeting, which are summarised below:
· There had been some opposition to Darell Primary School being re-designated, although an agreement had now been reached to give the school ‘dual designation’.
· Additional support for the school could be negotiated for at a later date, should it become necessary.
· The relocation of the school’s SEN unit to a downstairs location formed part of this agreement.
· Darell Primary School would be able to provide for moderate learning difficulties with additional complex needs.
· Ms Khalil welcomed this negotiated agreement and additional investment in Darell Primary School.
· This agreement had only been negotiated the previous day, but staff members seemed to be positive about the proposals.
The Director added that he was very pleased with the results of the consultation, stating that he wanted to increase choice for children and parents while improving resources for children with complex needs. There had been lengthy talks with Darell Primary School and the plans would be kept under review. The Director stated that this was not trying to remove services from special schools.
In response to questions from the committee, the meeting was advised that the Local Authority would be working very closely with the Primary Care Trust, with the aim of getting more speech therapy as part of a wider review of therapies. It was noted that this may prove difficult because of forthcoming budgetary constraints.
The Council wanted to provide as many services as it could, but sometimes it was necessary to provide out of borough placements for more specialised services. This was particularly the case in a smaller authority like Richmond upon Thames.
Officers confirmed that they had considered the Lamb Inquiry. Continued efforts at local trust boards would be essential, particularly with impending budgetary constraints.
The Director added that there were certain logistical challenges arising from the borough being divided by the Thames, particularly for people who wanted to access services that were on the other side of the river. There was also a need to ensure high levels of continuity, particularly when there is a high level of staff absence.
The consultation needed to be reopened because the proposals had since changed from the original plan.
Some of the benefits of moving the SEN unit at Darell Primary School included not needing the installation of a lift, allowing direct access to outside space and freeing up existing space to provide for enhancements to the curriculum.
The Director thanked Geraldine Herage and Colin Herrick for their work on this.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
To provide a broad overview of the position on 14-19 learning in Richmond upon Thames.
Report of the Head of Commissioning, Delivery and Service Improvement attached.
The committee received details on how the diploma levels compare to GCSEs/A-Levels:
Level 1 – 5 A* - G GCSEs including English and Maths (or equivalent)
Level 2 – 5 A* - C GCSEs including English and Maths (or equivalent)
Level 3 – 2 A-Levels at grades A - E (or equivalent)
The attainment gap for children in receipt of free school meals was being looked at as part of a larger project. An officer had been appointed to look at gaps in attainment and ensure that all children achieve.
[Paul Leonard left the meeting.]
It was reported that there had been two requests by other boroughs for Richmond upon Thames to displace funds because of the numbers of children that were opting to go outside of the borough for their education. Richmond upon Thames College did however attract people from a wide area due to the large range of subjects that it offered.
It was difficult to say when Richmond upon Thames College may come under pressure because of the displacement of funds because it was dependant on how successful other boroughs sixth forms were.
It was noted that a lot of children from schools in Richmond upon Thames did not go to Richmond upon Thames College, although many would go on to attend other sixth form colleges.
Services like Connexions were able to establish what subjects parents and children in the borough wanted to be available and where although there was a need to balance what was wanted with what was affordable.
The Director stated that there was a difference in what children wanted to do in adulthood and what they ended up studying when they went to college. There was also a need to raise level 2 attainment, as well as ensuring that there was provision for those who did not achieve at secondary level.
It was confirmed that the provision of a Catholic school was being looked at, in order to cater for the borough’s Catholic population. Children seeking a religious education were currently receiving this in out-of-borough schools, mainly in Hounslow.
[Councillor Hodgins arrived.]
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
This report offers the Overview and Scrutiny Committee the opportunity to comment on budget proposals for the forthcoming financial year and to pass comments on to the Cabinet for them to consider when making the final recommendations to Council.
Report of the Director for Children’s Services and Culture attached.
It was noted that the figures reported in this budget report were expected to remain, although this could not be guaranteed. There were some major changes anticipated in the following year’s budget. The Children’s Services and Culture Directorate was contributing to the Council’s efficiency drive as well as deliver a key challenge in the form of the primary school expansion programme.
The Integrated Youth Service was facing cuts because of a reduction in the Area Based Grant (ABG). The ABG provided for a lot of services in Richmond upon Thames because the local authority received such a poor settlement from central government.
There had been a reduction in hours of operation for some advice services such as Connexions. The Connextions service had also moved from its own office and was no longer providing services in Richmond upon Thames College.
Spending on looked after children was not being increased because the service was being looked at to make it more effective and efficient.
It was noted that the Southwark Judgement was being taken to judicial review. Should the judgement not be amended, children would have to be assessed under children’s act before they were assessed under the housing act. Some councils were finding that there were significant cost implications because of this.
It was noted that there was a discrepancy in the figures contained on pages 129 and 130. Officers were asked to report back on this.
There was a concern that councils could be asked to fulfil more statutory requirements with no extra funding. Areas of concern included Area Based Grants and Children’s Centres. There had been some investment in service redesign in order to make efficiency savings.
RESOLVED that the committee note the proposed budget as being appropriate and acceptable for the current circumstances.
The draft work programme has been drawn up, in consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chair, from items in the forward plan and from actions arising from previous meetings of the Committee.
The Committee is requested to consider the items within the proposed work programme, set out at Appendix 1 to this report, and suggest any amendments or additional topics to be included in the future.
Consideration should be given to possible items for future meetings including their priorities.
Information items are included in a Briefing information/General Information Pack, which has been sent to Members of the Committee separately to this agenda. The pack can be accessed via the following link:
Items included in the pack will not be discussed at the meeting. If members of the public wish to discuss any issue arising from the reports included in the pack please contact the Committee Manager, whose details are given on the front sheet of the agenda. Members of the Council may wish to raise their concerns directly with the Chair of the Committee, the Cabinet Member or appropriate officer.
Report of the Senior Democratic Services Officer attached.
It was agreed that the Children in Care Council be invited to a future committee meeting (possibly June)
The committee agreed to consider its work programme at the special meeting being held on 16 March 2010.