Councillors' Attendance Statistics
Agenda and minutes
Education and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Monday, 14 June 2010 7:00 pm
Venue: Salon - York House. View directions
The Chairman’s introduction.
The Chairman welcomed members to their first meeting of this committee. Councillor Evans gave some background information about the previous committee’s work and an outline of how he expected this committee to run.
Committee members introduced themselves and gave some brief information on their backgrounds.
To consider and approve the minutes of the Children’s Services and Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee meetings held on 16 March 2010 and 24 March 2010 – attached.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the following Children’s Services and Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee meetings be received and approved, and the Chairman be authorised to sign them:
DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES AND CULTURE
Introduction to the work of the Directorate.
The Director of Children’s Services and Culture, Nick Whitfield, gave an introduction to the work that his directorate carried out. The Local Authority’s statutory obligation was to secure good outcomes for children including safety, education and health.
The borough’s school standards were improving, with excellent primary schools improving further and secondary level education improving at a good rate. The London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames had the best primary schools in the country, when compared with any other ‘full-sized’ local authority.
The social care section of the directorate was performing extremely well and there was some good partnership working taking place. A future challenge would be to get the most from partnerships, particularly when there were going to be some significant funding issues in the near future.
There were 52 ‘educational settings’ across the borough, plus the children’s centres. These settings got around £100m per year and the Local Authority got about £35.5m a year which included £3.5m in grants. The directorate was tasked with finding £700k in savings in this financial year. Frontline services would be affected as there wasn’t much capacity to be found amongst back office staff.
The Director introduced the senior leadership team, who each outlined their areas of work:
Barbara Murray – Deputy Director Children's Services
The Deputy Director’s areas of responsibility included:
· Safeguarding, child protection and high level family support
· Children looked after and leaving care
· Integrated Service for Children with Disabilities and Learning Difficulties, including SEN
There was pressure on the service, particularly since the Baby Peter case, which meant there was an increase in the number of referrals being made.
Dr Tessa Moore – Head of School Effectiveness
Dr Moore was responsible for overseeing the inspections and advisory service for schools. The borough currently had 13 schools which were classed as ‘outstanding’ by OfSTED.
The school effectiveness section provided the School Improvement Partner service, which aimed to provide an external challenge to each school. It also had a power of intervention, should a school start causing concern.
Paul Bettles – Head of Finance, Building Development and PFI
Finance, Building Development and PFI was responsible for managing the directorate’s finances and building projects. Current projects included the ongoing rebuild of Teddington School.
Ian Dodds – Head of Culture
Ian Dodds was responsible for services like the borough’s libraries and sports centres. These areas of the local authority’s work fell within the Environment, Sustainability and Community Overview & Scrutiny Committee’s remit.
Robert Henderson – Head of Protective and Preventative Services
Protective and Preventative Services tried to ensure that as many children as possible, who needed extra support, got it at as early a stage as possible. It was also responsible for the Early Years Service.
There was an aim to have one Children’s Centre in each Quindrat, which offered a variety of services.
This service area was also responsible for targeted youth support, which offered advice on alcohol misuse, sexual relationships, etc. There had been a large increase in the number of participants in youth services, including Connexions and Way2Work.
Questions from members of the committee
The Committee was informed that Section 74 was part of the Children’s Act, where an assessment was needed because a child had committed a crime.
There were currently around 50 in-borough foster families.
All children’s plans of protection were up-to-date.
There was some talk from the new coalition government, which suggested that there may be deregulation of some areas of safeguarding.
There was a shortage of experienced, quality, social workers which was not being helped by some very negative publicity around the profession in recent years.
A rational debate was needed, which looked at areas where funding may have to be cut in the future. A process was also needed, which assessed the impact of any potential cut before it was made.
The average cost of taking a child into in-borough care was around £300 a week. Some out-of-borough services could cost up to around £2000 a week.
Each child’s outcomes were measured and the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames was judged as ‘outstanding’ by OfSTED.
Areas where some further work was needed included the achievement of white working class boys; decreasing the number of high achieving children accepting places at out-of-borough grammar or private schools; and the development of emotional wellbeing services.
STRATEGIC CABINET MEMBER FOR EDUCATION, YOUTH & CHILDREN'S SERVICES
Presentation by the Strategic Cabinet Member for Education, Youth & Children’s Services.
The committee welcomed Councillor Christine Percival and congratulated her on becoming Strategic Cabinet Member for Education, Youth and Children’s Services.
Councillor Percival introduced herself to the committee and gave a brief outline of her background; she had been a councillor since 2002 and previously chaired a children’s services committee.
Councillor Percival’s aim, as Cabinet Member, was to develop services for looked after children and for those with special educational needs. She also stated that there was an area of work underway which was looking at the transition between children’s and adult services.
CABINET MEMBER FOR SCHOOLS
Presentation by the Cabinet Member for Schools.
The committee welcomed Councillor Paul Hodgins and congratulated him on becoming Cabinet Member for Schools.
Councillor Hodgins said that his main priority areas were to include school achievement and quality, and school places. A 10-year plan for the provision of school places was currently being developed, which hoped to advise the local authority early on, of the likely changes in demand for school places.
Work was taking place to look further into sixth form provision across the borough. Two academies were being introduced in the autumn term, with a further one proposed. Work was also taking place to look into the feasibility of introducing a Catholic secondary school.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
An opportunity for Committee Members to ask questions on the presentations by Cabinet Members.
The Shene Academy project was still going ahead, although more formal engagement was needed with the local community. This was to ensure that it would become a local community school.
Councillor Hodgins proposed to proceed with Academies Enterprise Trust with them taking control of the school in September 2010.
Sixth form provision at Shene was also being looked at.
The purpose of this report is to set out the Committee work programme for 2010/11, to give an opportunity to consider possible training and to note the broad principles behind scrutiny.
Report of the Head of Democratic Services attached.
There was a suggestion that co-opted members be sought, in order to gain experience for the committee from different areas of the community. These included seeking someone from the Children and Young People’s Board and a young person leaving care. The Chairman agreed to take this suggestion to the meeting between overview and scrutiny Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen being held on Monday 21 June 2010.
The committee requested that it receive a ‘digest’ which provided information on any issues that arose within the committee’s remit and a summary of events that would be taking place.
RESOLVED that the following items be received at the next committee meeting, subject to any amendments at the agenda planning meeting:
· School exam results
· Preventative Services, and budgetary constraints – to include a review of the effectiveness of the ‘Quindrat’ arrangements
· An update on efficiencies
This item is not for discussion at the meeting.
Report published 11 June 2010.