The Scrutiny Support Officer advised that a schedule had been prepared for individual Members of the Executive to attend meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Board to provide updates on their respective work in terms of their aims, aspirations, objectives, priorities and any emerging issues or pressures. The process was part of the scrutiny arrangements of holding the Executive to account and also provided the opportunity for the Board to identify or highlight any issues of concern or difficulty.
The Chair welcomed Councillor Brunton, Executive Member for Education and Skills, to the meeting. Councillor Brunton indicated that it was her intention to talk about her role as well as answer any questions on the Children and Learning Service.
The Executive Member explained that she had been a School Governor for twenty six years and was currently Chair of a Primary School Governing Body and the Complementary Education Governing Body as well as a Governor at two secondary schools. As a School Governor, the Executive Member also had extensive experience of OFSTED Inspections.
Since taking on the portfolio in May 2014, the Executive Member had visited all Middlesbrough secondary schools and met with Headteachers. Meetings had also taken place with Governor Support and Governor Training Officers and several briefings had been organised for Elected Members. The Head of Achievement had been asked to produce a quarterly newsletter for all Members to keep them up to date about what was happening with education in Middlesbrough.
The importance of engaging schools and governors was emphasised. The Executive Member had asked Headteachers how they tracked pupil progress and what measures they put in place if pupils were not achieving the required levels of progress. Middlesbrough was a disadvantaged area and sadly many pupils had mental health needs and found it difficult to sit and listen and learn. Primary Schools tended to work together in clusters and shared best practice.
The Executive Member had also met with David Laws, Education Minister, to seek his views on how Elected Members could help education in Middlesbrough. Several specialist subject advisers had been engaged to work in secondary schools and promote best practice taken from other schools out of the area.
The Executive Member expressed her view that Middlesbrough would benefit from a good vocational establishment for those pupils who were not able to achieve good academic results. There was a danger of losing a generation of qualified skilled people to work in local industries and who might not have gone through the University route.
In response to a query regarding pupils for whom English was a second language, the Executive Member commented that this did not appear to be an issue. There were some Middlesbrough schools where there was a high percentage of pupils from Eastern Europe but they were coping well. Some schools invited parents into school to learn English to assist them to support their own childrens learning.
In relation to the development of Academies, the Executive Member stated that there had to be a benefit to pupils. The conversion of a school to an academy did not automatically lead to an improvement in standards.
In relation to a query regard the recruitment of foster carers, the Executive Member explained that this issue was not in her remit but was included in the portfolio of the Executive Member for Childrens Social Care. However, the Executive Members for Education and Skills, Childrens Social Care and Supporting Communities met regularly and worked closely together as their portfolios were inter-twined. The Executive Member confirmed that foster carer recruitment was improving but there was still a lack of carers for teenage boys in particular. It was clarified that apprenticeships were part of the Executive Member for Supporting Communities' portfolio.
The Executive Member stated that she had not encountered any problems engaging with Headteachers and one of the issues identified through her meetings was the transition from primary to secondary education. The Executive Member stated that a longer transition period from primary to secondary would undoubtedly help pupils.
A Member highlighted that the Outwood Academy in particular was achieving good results whereas previously it had been a failing school. The Executive Member explained that Outwood Academy had very strict policies and excluded pupils with behavioural difficulties. Excluded pupils continued their studies in Complementary Education and achieved good results.
ORDERED that the Executive Member for Education and Skills be thanked for the information provided.