Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Deborah Miller, Tel: 07920 084239 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction and Welcome
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the first virtual Meeting of the Education Scrutiny Committee and in particular Jane Portman, Interim Director of Children’s Services and Hayley Good, Deputy Director of Education.
Apologies for Absence and Temporary Appointments
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Ted Fenton (Councillor Hilary Hibbert-Biles).
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 5 February 2020 were approved and signed as an accurate record of the Meeting, subject to page 4, minute 4/20 substitute ‘forum’ with organisation and page 8, minute10/20, substitute ‘Acadamies’ with ‘Academies’.
Minute 3/20, in relation to the timetable set out in the minutes, Councillor John Howson asked whether the timetable was going to be kept in relation to COVID 19 and whether officers could provide an update on how deprived and disadvantage children would be represented on the Strategic Board?
Mr Chris Hilliard, Consultant Deputy Director for Education reported that a consultation had taken place earlier in the year, and the outcome now needed to be looked at and a draft would be prepared for September. In relation to how deprived and disadvantaged children would be represented he explained that it would be the responsibility of all those round the table to represent those children. A report with a strategic plan would be going to Cabinet in September/October.
The Chairman requested that the Committee see the report prior to it going to Cabinet.
In relation to Minute 6/20, Councillor Howson reported that there was now details on the government interactive tool information about average progress 8 per pupil. There had been a significant rebound in both pupils with free school meals where Oxfordshire were now performing in 2019 better than any of the statistical neighbours and that those not on free school meals were performing better than the South East and the County’s statistical neighbours.
The Chairman asked that the Committee’s congratulations be communicated to schools on the work they have put in.
In relation to Minute 6/20 the Chairman and Councillor John Howson drew the Committee’s attention to the high number of wards that fell within some of the most deprived wards, particularly Oxford East, with needed to be recognised in terms of funding.
The Chairman requested a meeting with the Cabinet Member for Education & Cultural Services and relevant officers to pursue this matter to make South East Oxford as an opportunity area.
The Cabinet Member agreed to the request.
This Learner Engagement Strategy has been co-produced by key stake holders and partners engaged in optimising the inclusion in education of all Oxfordshire’s statutory school aged children. The purpose is to ensure that children access their full educational entitlement to enable them to thrive as adults and fully participate in the economic, learning, personal and social life of Oxfordshire.
The Committee will receive an update from the Children’s, Education and Families Director team on the impact of Covid-19 on learner engagement and the current situation in education more widely.
The Education Scrutiny Committee is RECOMMENDED to consider and note this report.
The Committee had before it the Learner Engagement Strategy which had been co-produced by key stake holders and partners engaged in optimising the inclusion in education of all Oxfordshire’s statutory school aged children. The purpose of the Strategy was to ensure that children accessed their full educational entitlement to enable them to thrive as adults and fully participate in the economic, learning, personal and social life of Oxfordshire.
Mr Hilliard, Consultant Deputy Director of Education reported in relation to COVID 19 that officers had continued to operate across the four service areas from the moment lockdown began using the business continuity plan. A school brokering service and early years team were put in place immediately so if people with vulnerable children or key worker children were having difficulty placing their children, they were able to help.
Looking at the bigger picture, an important decision taken early on was to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for all schools which had had a significant impact on school confidence in opening to provide for vulnerable children and key worker children and then opening up further to other groups. They were acutely aware that they were one education Services across all ages and therefore had made a grant available for PPE for nurseries and childminders etc, encouraging those organisations to keep going and provide support.
Weekly meetings had been carried out with the Department for Education and Ofsted throughout the crisis enabling officers to feed back the position on Oxfordshire which early indications show had been very positive. Officers had received a wealth of support from Senior Officers and Members.
Mr Chris Hilliard, highlighted the services’ response as follows:
· All Children’s Education Services (Learner Engagement, Special Educational Needs, Access to Learning and School improvement and Learning) had been fully operational during the lockdown period.
· Staffing had been shared internally across the four service areas to enable the teams to continue to deliver and set up new work streams e.g. the ‘School Places Brokering Service’ and the Early Years Teams which had run the EY places brokering service mainly through the Family Information Service.
· A grant had been provided to early years providers for the purchase of PPE. All schools were provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff when their local supplies had limited access to PPE.
· The team had liaised with the Department for Education (DfE) on a weekly basis and Ofsted throughout the pandemic.
· There had been clear support and challenge for education officers from the Cabinet Member, the Interim Director of Children’s Services and other councillors.
Home to School Transportteams were working hard to ensure sufficient transport was in place for when more pupils return to school in accordance with government guidelines.
The main admissions round for Reception Year, Year 7 and Year 10 in September 2021 had been completed on time. There were high levels of appeals daily to address the backlog and support children being in school in September.
Early Years providers (childminders, ... view the full minutes text for item 14/20
An opportunity to discuss and prioritise future topics for the Committee, potential approaches to its work and to discuss the schedule for future meetings (ESC7).
The Committee considered the forward plan and AGREED the business for September 2020 as set out in the report and that the Chairman and Vice Chairman, together with officers would manage the business on the current work programme for the efficient running of the Committee, subject to the following:
The Learner Engagement Strategy being added (if available); and
Agreement to hold an extraordinary Meeting in September to consider the report on High Needs Block prior to consideration by the Cabinet; and
Adding a (verbal) update report in January on how the return to school in September 2020 went, followed by a written report in the Autumn.
Exclusions in Oxfordshire have been a cause for concern to Members, Officers, Parents, the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Board and Children’s Trust for several years. Education Scrutiny Committee commenced a deep dive investigation into the issues in 2018. Accordingly, Education Scrutiny Committee has requested an update briefing on the current position of School Exclusions in Oxfordshire.
The Education Scrutiny Committee is RECOMMENDED to consider and note this report.
Exclusions in Oxfordshire had been a cause for concern to Members, Officers, Parents, the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Board and Children’s Trust for several years. Education Scrutiny Committee had carried out a deep dive investigation into the issues in 2018. Accordingly, Education Scrutiny Committee had before it a report which provided an update on the current position of School Exclusions in Oxfordshire.
Deborah Bell, in introducing the report explained that at the beginning of the academic year 2019/20, there was a rapid increase of permanent exclusions which was of great concern, whilst that rate of increase had slowed down and stabilised, it was still in an upward trajectory and Oxfordshire, if COVID had not happened would have seen a very worrying figure by the end of the year.
Since writing the report, the figure had further reduced and now stood at 68, as 5 of the numbers had been rescinded. There had however, been an increase in primary exclusions, especially for those with special educational needs and disabilities, and there was work being undertaken to address this particular cohort.
At primary school, those most excluded were boys 87% reducing in secondary to 59%. In Oxfordshire there was a disproportioned excluding of children with SEN support which was higher than the national position. The main reason for exclusion was persistent disruptive behaviour, followed by verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult. The reasons were proving to be subjective, with what one school would find acceptable another school excluding for. There had been a lot of work carried out at Senior Officer and Officer level, with regard to the increase in trend and a new officer post had been funded out of existing funds to provide a response to schools when they were at the end of their tether, and this had gone a long way to slow down the increase in trend.
They had also created a multi-agency task and finish group which had created a behaviour pathway that schools are now expected to follow before they exclude a child which wraps in the need for an early help assessment which takes account of societal or family needs and assessment of any SEN which were unmet.
Conversations around inclusive cultures and ethical leadership were routinely held with heads and chairs. Restorative practice had been adopted and was currently being rolled out to all schools across the County and they had managed to adapt the training to an online offer. They were already seeing very positive outcomes in those schools that had received an embedded the training.
The Committee made the following points during debate:
The Committee noted that a reason cited by the schools for exclusion was insufficient SEN provision in the County and a lack of affordable alternative provision. The Chairman noted that this issue was likely to come up in the joint work to be undertaken with the Performance Scrutiny Committee.
Deborah Bell reminded members of the large piece of work being undertaken to look at alterative provision, together with ... view the full minutes text for item 16/20
The Committee is RECOMMENDED that the public be excluded for item in the Agenda since it is likely that if they were present during that part of the meeting there would be disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) and specified in relation to the respective item in the Agenda and since it is considered that, in all the circumstances of each case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
THE REPORT RELATING TO THE EXEMPT ITEM HAS NOT BEEN MADE PUBLIC AND SHOULD BE REGARDED AS STRICTLY PRIVATE TO MEMBERS AND OFFICERS ENTITLED TO RECEIVE IT.
The Committee RESOLVED that the public be excluded for item 10 in the Agenda since it is likely that if they were present during that part of the meeting there would be disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) and specified in relation to the respective item in the Agenda and since it was considered that, in all the circumstances of each case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.
THE REPORT RELATING TO THE EXEMPT ITEM HAd NOT BEEN MADE PUBLIC AND SHOULD BE REGARDED AS STRICTLY PRIVATE TO MEMBERS AND OFFICERS ENTITLED TO RECEIVE IT.
School Exclusions in Oxfordshire
The information contained in the report is exempt in that it falls within the following prescribed category:
2 Information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual
It is considered that in this case the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information, in that such disclosure would infringe the rights of the individual to privacy contrary to the general law and the duty of the authority to respect human rights and to comply with that law.
The Committee will receive a briefing on School Exclusion data in Oxfordshire.
The information contained in the report was exempt in that it fell within the following prescribed category:
2 Information which was likely to reveal the identity of an individual
It was considered that in this case the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information, in that such disclosure would infringe the rights of the individual to privacy contrary to the general law and the duty of the authority to respect human rights and to comply with that law.
This item was taken at item 8.