Children and Young People's Learning Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Children and Young People's Learning Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Tuesday 5 July 2016
2:00 p.m.
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor J A Walker (Chair), Councillor R Brady, Councillor A Hellaoui, Councillor J McGee, Councillor L McGloin, Councillor G Purvis, Councillor B E Taylor and Councillor M Walters
J Batten
R Broad, J Dixon, R Horniman and G Moore.
Apologies for absence:
Father G Holland
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

Nominations were sought for the appointment of Vice Chair of the Children and Learning Scrutiny Panel. Councillor Walters was nominated and seconded and, therefore, appointed as Vice Chair of the Panel until amended by the Panel.


ORDERED that Councillor Walters be appointed Vice Chair of the Children and Learning Scrutiny Panel until amended by the Panel.


The Minutes of the Children and Learning Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 6 April 2016 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a report providing the Panel with information in relation to its 2015 scrutiny investigation of Early Help - Improving Outcomes for Children, Young People and Families.


The aim of the review had been to investigate local practices that aimed to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families in respect of early help, early intervention and prevention.


The submitted report provided details of the terms of reference used for the investigation and the conclusions made by the Panel, based on the evidence gathered throughout the investigation.


The Panel made a number of recommendations in its Final Report, which was submitted to the Executive on 17 March 2015. The recommendations were detailed in the report at paragraph 5 a) to j). Appendix 1 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 Scrutiny Support Officer had circulated a copy of the Final Report electronically to Panel Members prior to the meeting for information.


The Assistant Director for Supporting Communities had been invited to the meeting to provide an update on the progress made in relation to the agreed recommendations/actions and also to provide the Panel with information on the Incremental Change Model (developed to track and improve the development of pre-school children) and the overall early help offer, including the early help strategy.


R Horniman, Assistant Director for Supporting Communities, was welcomed to the meeting and provided the Panel with an update on progress made in relation to the actions arising from the Panel’s recommendations, as set out at Appendix 1.


The Panel was advised that the majority of actions had been covered by two main factors; being better organised at the early years stage in relation to school readiness and; how the Service worked with other partners, eg public health, health visitors, etc.


It was stated that one of the key elements in relation to improving Children’s Centres was that the management of the Central Children’s Centre, based at Abingdon Primary School, had now transferred to the school. The Centre was accessed by other schools as well as Abingdon Primary.


In relation to recommendation b) it was queried whether there was any comparative information in relation to school readiness. Members were advised that, in Middlesbrough, school readiness had increased from 50% in 2014 to 56% in 2015. To put the figures into context, it was highlighted that school readiness in Middlesbrough was around 36% three years ago. This figure had increased from 60% to 66% nationally.


The Assistant Director circulated copies of the Middlesbrough Incremental School Readiness Model which had been developed in conjunction with partners in the early years sector and was based on a similar model adopted in Greater Manchester.


The document provided background information as to how school readiness was currently measured and how the new model had been developed to provide an over-arching framework to ensure opportunities for effective communication and integrated working in preparation for school readiness.


Pages 8 and 9 of the document set out the school readiness pathway and highlighted the points of contact, assessments required and the universal and targeted interventions at each stage of a child’s life from pre-birth to five years. At any point where a child was deemed not to be meeting expected targets, the information would be fed into the system and shared with appropriate partners in order to provide co-ordinated support where necessary.


Pages 11 to 14 of the document set out what should be expected in life - what a child should be able to do at three years old and being ready to start nursery, how a child’s carer could help them to be ready for nursery, what was expected of people supporting the child and their carers and what was expected of the services working with a child and their family. These key messages needed to be targeted at the right families at the right time and were intended to be thought-provoking.


The document in its entirety was a framework aimed at anyone working with families and young people.


During the course of discussion, the following issues were raised:-

  • A Member of the Panel queried whether there were sufficient resources to support the initiative and it was confirmed that, based on the current checks that were undertaken and the interventions available, there was the ability to deliver the programme. The Service had been reconfigured to ensure that there was greater emphasis on intensive support programmes, delivered by skilled staff and health visitors for those families that needed it, however, children’s centres would continue to provide an inclusive offer of services for all. It was acknowledged that the levels of demand arising from the implementation of the Incremental School Readiness Model were still unknown at this stage.
  • In response to a query, it stated that the new model was aimed at targeting harder to reach families. The information sharing between relevant partners would assist in identifying harder to reach families and allow the Service to be proactive in encouraging them to use the services/support available.
  • In relation to children being ready for school, it was clarified that the school readiness assessment was undertaken once a child started school and that, currently, this was the first indication of whether a child was school-ready. The new model allowed information around a child’s development to be collated, for the first time, in order for early intervention and support to be provided to children and their families.
  • It was queried whether any data was held in relation to provision for two-year-olds and how the model for community support was being reshaped in order to engage with parents to ensure that those who most needed intervention and support were identified. The Assistant Director summarised that a record of all children under five years did not exist in Middlesbrough. The starting point for the incremental model for school readiness was to identify all those that were not meeting targets and, where the criteria was met, personalised support provision would be identified and work would be undertaken with those families to encourage them to engage with the identified interventions.
  • In relation to the establishment of the model, it was clarified that the Service had worked very closely with the Health Visitor Service Provider and that a Health Visitor had been seconded to work within the team to establish the data system required to underpin the work. Consideration was being given to locating community support teams nearer to the children’s centres.
  • Reference was made to recommendation d) (that an overarching information sharing protocol be devised, including the health service, Police, schools and DWP) and it was highlighted that there were still restrictions on what information could be shared and why. Local arrangements were in place to work around these restrictions wherever possible. The protocol provided a whole population approach to identify vulnerability issues and to inform improved service provision.
  • Reference had been made previously to the Incremental School Readiness Model being based on a similar model in Greater Manchester and it was queried how long that model had been in operation and whether it had been successful. The Panel was advised that the Manchester model had been in operation for five years and was working well.
  • The Panel wished to highlight the importance of ensuring a robust Community Development structure was in place in order to properly support communities and to promote the work that had been discussed.

The Panel was advised that the Middlesbrough Incremental School Readiness Model was due to be launched in September 2016 and that the Panel could be provided with an update in relation to progress in the future.


The Assistant Director circulated the Early Help in Middlesbrough flowchart which provided details of available services that could be accessed in relation to a range of issues. The flowchart was based on the Tees-wide Framework used by the other Tees Valley authorities.


The Chair thanked the Assistant Director for attending and for the information provided.


AGREED as follows:-

  1. That the information provided be noted.
  2. That the Assistant Director of Supporting Communities be invited to attend the Panel in the future to provide an update on progress in relation to the Middlesbrough Incremental School Readiness Model, due to be launched in September 2016.

The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a report to provide Panel Members with information to assist with consideration of suitable topics for inclusion in the Panel’s Work Programme for 2016/17.


Background information relating to how each of the Council’s Scrutiny Panels agreed its annual work programme was included in the report. It was highlighted that once agreed by the Panel, the Work Programme would be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for approval. Detailed terms of reference would then be agreed by the individual Panels at the start of each scrutiny investigation.


Suggested topics for consideration for inclusion in the Panel’s Work Programme were set out at paragraph 4 of the report. The issues had been suggested as possible topics following consultation with all Council Members, Directors and members of the public. This was not an exhaustive list and Members were reminded that additional topics could be considered. The Scrutiny Support Officer circulated a list of topics that had been suggested by LMT, namely:-

  1. Impact of Education Bill proposals on education within Middlesbrough.
  2. Effective family support to promote and improve learning (nursery readiness, family literacy, etc).
  3. Managing school exclusions (rising significantly in Middlesbrough).
  4. Options to reduce numbers of children in care (looking at models utilised by other local authorities, eg Leeds).
  5. Ofsted improvement plan implementation (assurance that this being delivered and having the intended impact).

It was noted that when considering the suggested topics outlined in the report, consideration should also be given to how investigating those topics could add value to the local authority’s work. In addition to the agreed work programme, Scrutiny Panels had previously responded to emerging issues on an ad-hoc basis and, on occasion, ad-hoc Panels might also be established throughout the year to undertake additional investigations or to examine areas of work that overlapped more than one Scrutiny Panel.


Paragraph nine provided the Panel with a work prioritisation aid to assist in determining the topics for the work programme.


R Broad, Executive Director for Wellbeing Care and Learning had been invited to the meeting to provide an overview of the main services within the Scrutiny Panel’s remit and an outline of priorities, key issues and challenges for the year ahead.


The Executive Director explained that within Children’s Social Care, an improvement plan had been produced in response to the November 2015 Ofsted inspection. Work was continuing on the subsequent Action Plan, containing 16 recommendations. The action plan covered a broad range of topics, including how carer assessments were delivered, supervision of Social Workers, education for looked after children, recording and care planning provision. It was suggested that the Panel may be interested in looking at the Action Plan.


Another challenge for Children’s Social Services was to look at ways of reducing demand and cost within the service. A significant amount of work had been undertaken in relation to easing demands on the system. The Department for Education had recently issued its vision on how children’s social care would be delivered in future and the Executive Director agreed to arrange for this information to be circulated to the Panel.


In relation to priorities for Education, Learning and Skills, the Education in Excellence programme outlined plans for every school to become an academy. Whilst Middlesbrough met the threshold for the number of outstanding primary and secondary schools, it was considered to be an area for concern. There was a potential for additional funding to be provided, however, the details were not yet known. This would be linked to raising standards and continued improvement.


The Service was in the third year of its School Strategy. One concern highlighted was the mobility of pupils in school which had a profound effect on outcomes for some schools and masked the quality of teaching in those schools. Another challenge was around excluded pupils which was putting the system under severe strain with alternative education being compromised. It was anticipated that there would be a continued improvement in outcomes in secondary schools and primary schools would be challenging with a new reporting system. It was suggested that Members might wish to look at the results and to understand why some schools had not achieved the results they had anticipated.

It was highlighted that the Panel may also be interested in receiving information in relation to the changing profile of looked after children. Over the last year there had been a rise (of around 5.7%) in the numbers of children remaining within their own families by way of connected persons placements.


Reference was also made to pupil premiums. It was noted that there was a variation in how schools used pupil premiums and this was something the Panel might also be interested in receiving information on.


Panel Members held a discussion to determine which topics it wished to add to its work programme, as follows:-


In-depth reviews :-

  • The provision of support for family and friends carers (inship carers)
  • Post-1education and the skills agenda

Task and finish group :-

  • Managing school exclusions

Short topics or information sessions :-

  • School outcomes at KS1,KS2 and KS4, including how the pupil premium is utilised.
  • Update on children’s social care:
    - Ofsted improvement plan.
    - How the government will reform children's social care in England.
    - Placements - demand and costs.

The Panel considered that the issue of preventing childhood obesity in schools should be referred to the Health Scrutiny Panel for consideration but highlighted that it would be willing to be involved in the topic if necessary.


AGREED as follows:-

  1. That the information contained in the submitted report, and information provided by the Officers at the meeting, be noted.
  2. That the Panel’s Work Programme for 2016/17 be approved as follows:-

In-depth reviews :-

  • The provision of support for family and friends carers (kinship carers)
  • Post-16 education and the skills agenda

Task and finish group :-

  • Managing school exclusions

Short topics or information sessions :-

  • School outcomes at KS1,KS2 and KS4, including how the pupil premium is utilised.
  • Update on children’s social care:
    - Ofsted improvement plan.
    - How the government will reform children's social care in England
  • - Placements - demand and costs.

The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 14 June 2016, namely:-

  • Second Capital Monitoring Review - 2015/16.
  • Final Report of the Ad-hoc Scrutiny Panel - Council use of Consultants.
  • Executive Forward Work Programme.
  • Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.

AGREED that the information contained within the submitted report be noted.


Due to a planned August recess, it was anticipated that the next meeting of the Panel would be held in September 2016 and Panel Members would be advised of details accordingly in due course.

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