The Scrutiny Support Officer presented a report outlining the purpose of the meeting which was to provide the Panel with information on its previous review of Child Poverty, Deprivation and Attainment. Details of the previous review undertaken in 2013, including the Terms of Reference, Conclusions and Recommendations were contained in the submitted report.
The Director, Wellbeing, Care and Learning, and Assistant Directors, Learning and Skills and Supporting Communities were in attendance at the meeting to provide an update on the progress made with the implementation of the agreed recommendations and actions since the Panel's Final Report was submitted to the Executive on 3 December 2013. Appendix One to the submitted report provided an update in respect of the Department's Action Plan, which was prepared in response to the Panel's recommendations.
The first recommendation was for the Council to work in partnership with local health, public and voluntary sector services to put prevention in early life at the heart of service delivery and practice, particularly with regard to measures relating to deprivation and its impact on attainment. The Children and Young Peoples Trust (CYPT) had had its role re-drawn due to feedback from OFSTED and other reviews regarding clarity of its role. There were three key strategic themes which were: children needed to be safe, well and achieving. The Safeguarding theme was covered by the Local Safeguarding Board, Achievement was covered by the Middlesbrough Achievement Partnership (MAP) and the CYPT would pick up Wellbeing. A new Early Help Strategy and the local offer would be considered for formal adoption at the next CYPT Trust meeting on 13 April 2016. At that meeting clarification would be provided on the preventative, early help and acute services available and which elements each individual organisation was responsible for.
The second recommendation was that the Middlesbrough Child Poverty Strategy and the Children and Young Peoples Plan 2011-2014 were updated to reflect the change of Government in 2010 as well as the fact that targets included in the Child Poverty Act 2010 were unlikely to be met. It was confirmed that Child Poverty had been identified as a key priority of the Children and Young Peoples Plan (CYPP) and the Strategy and the Plan would be updated in summer 2016. A lot of the identifiable issues related to child poverty were identifiable in other strategies and plans.
It was highlighted that the previous CYPP expired in 2014 and concern was voiced that in spite of the previous scrutiny recommendation, there had been a significant delay in refreshing the Plan. The Director explained that the delay was partly as a consequence of the responsibility for different partnerships moving to different parts of the Council and also due to negotiations with schools regarding the level of leadership for the partnership. There had been a recognition that schools were better focussed on school improvement through the MAP rather than through wellbeing. The Assistant Director, Supporting Communities, had now taken this issue on board and would develop the new CYPP which would include how the issue of child poverty was addressed. Rather than having a key definition of child poverty to work to, the way forward was about getting a shared understanding amongst partners rather than a defined set of words. It was intended that the new CYPP would have a clear strategy to support families to ensure children were safe, well and achieving. If this vision was not met, then that would be the definition of child poverty.
The third scrutiny recommendation related to the mechanisms in place to measure and evaluate the impact of interventions relating to deprivation and attainment and to take action as necessary to ensure they were working to maximum effect. Headteachers were responsible for reviewing the impact of measures and had to publish a statement indicating how Pupil Premium (PP) funding had been used. The Learning and Skills team were currently reviewing this information to ensure the data was an effective measure of achievement including PP funding.
A recent study by an organisation called Transforming the Tees had undertaken a review of good practice in using PP to improve attainment for disadvantaged children, including many Middlesbrough schools where PP pupils were achieving very well. The good practice identified would be disseminated and the MAP had produced a plan for Raising Achievement with a clear emphasis on PP pupils, including a plan to have a PP Champion in each school. Transforming the Tees had been established approximately eighteen months ago with funding from the four Tees Valley Authorities. It was anticipated that in future this work would transfer to the new Combined Authority.
It was noted PP funding was allocated to children who had been on the Free School Meals register within the last six years. However it was often the case that many children who did not meet the criteria were on the borderline and needed additional support. Schools often needed to look at broadening the experiences of those children also. Schools could use the money for visits, residential trips and visitors to schools as well as specific intervention for individual pupils.
The fourth recommendation was that an appraisal was undertaken in respect of the Save the Children UK Families and Schools Together (FAST) project and its involvement in the CANparent scheme locally and possibility of expansion of the FAST project in Middlesbrough. The FAST project had initially been offered free of charge to a selective group of schools and was based around encouraging parents to engage with their children in fun activities within a school setting. The project enabled children to develop skills in co-operation and collaboration and improved their behaviour, whilst also involving parents in school life.
Funding from Save the Children had now ceased and the cost of the FAST package was £9995. The project was a long term investment and once the first eight weeks had been implemented the concept was that schools, volunteers and parents continued to work together. The National Foundation for Education Research was assessing the impact of the project on Year 1 children and schools had been invited to submit data in relation to Year 1 pupils' academic results. Panel members were keen to ascertain how many schools in Middlesbrough were currently engaged in the FAST project. The Assistant Director, Learning and Skills, indicated that some schools were continued with FAST type projects but had modified them and tailored them to their individual school needs.
The fifth recommendation was in relation to the most effective use of Pupil Premium (PP) and comparing the performance of pupils to identify schools where it had had a positive impact. As already discussed, the MAP was currently working on this and the evidence would be published on the website. An Action Plan of projects to raise attainment over the next two years was also available on the website.
The final recommendation was in relation to the 'Seaside Challenge' which was organised by Blackpool Council for Local Authorities with similar challenges, funded by the DfE, to enable sharing of good practice and identification of further initiatives. The Director explained that this work had not taken place, although some joint working with Blackpool had contributed to assisting Middlesbrough to develop its Landlord Licensing Scheme. OFSTED had also produced a report looking at issues such as isolation and attainment in coastal based schools. It was also noted that in relation to the indicator of multiple deprivation, Middlesbrough had slipped from eighth to seventh.
A particular problem in Middlesbrough was the influx of asylum seekers and refugees whose economic situation was very poor and schools had to provide them with significant support. Discussion also took place regarding provision during school holidays and the reduced support available to families and children when schools were closed. Whilst the Council offered various programmes during holiday time, the main problem was the lack of available resources. Community Hubs and other voluntary organisations offered support but it was not always possible to engage families if they were not in contact on a daily basis, as they were with schools.
1. The information provided was received and noted.
2. The Officers would attend a future meeting of the Children and Learning Scrutiny Panel to give a further update on the Action Plan.