Meeting documents

Scrutiny Children & Young People Sub-Committee
Tuesday, 7th February, 2017

Children & Young People Scrutiny Sub-Committee Minutes

Tuesday 7th February 2017
6:30 p.m.
The Council Chamber at the town hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX

Attendance Details


Councillors Jan Buttinger (Chair), Sean Fitzsimons, Sue Bennett, Sherwan Chowdhury, Mario Creatura, Bernadette Khan, Andrew Rendle  and Maddie Henson



Parent Governor Representatives:

Mr James Collins

Teacher Representative:

Dave Harvey

Diocesan Representatives:

Mrs Elaine Jones

Mr Leo Morrell

Item Item/Resolution

The minutes were agreed.


RESOLVED THAT: the minutes of the meeting held on 6 December 2016 be signed as a correct record.


There were none.


There was none.


There were none.


The following officers were in attendance for this item:

- Barbara Peacock, Executive Director (People)
- David Butler, Head of School Standards, Commissioning and Learning Access
- Tony Murphy, Head of Learning Access
- Shelley Davies, Strategic Manager of School improvement
- Richard Simpson, Executive Director of Resources (S151 Officer)
- Lisa Taylor, Director Finance, Investment and Risk, (Deputy Section 151 Officer)
- Jenny Duxbury, Head of School Place Planning and Admissions

Cllr Alisa Flemming gave a Powerpoint presentation on her portfolio. She highlighted the vision for the portfolio, which is as follows:

"Our children and young people will be safe, healthy, enjoy learning and achieve highly, enabling them to positively shape their own lives and to make a positive contribution.

Our children and families will experience us as walking alongside them with compassion and understanding, to help them grow in resilience and independence."


Cllr Flemming then outlined the key achievements of the past year:

- The OFSTED inspection of Croydon's adult education service (CALAT), which led to a "good" grade, narrowly missing an "outstanding" grade
- The Joint Targeted Area Inspection, which had included a deep dive on Children Sexual Exploitation and had concluded that no child was at immediate risk of this in Croydon
- The effectiveness of the borough's services for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children
- Croydon's sharing of good practice on missing children with other boroughs
- Significant improvements in educational outcomes for early years, putting Croydon above the national average
- The borough's school building programme, leading to an additional 1580 primary school places and 150 secondary school places in the last year
- The expansion of St Nicholas school for children with Special Educational Needs, initially by 1FE, changed to 2FE in response to demand


Members heard that online applications for school places had been very high in number and that over 90% of applicants had obtained a place in their 1st to 3rd favourite schools.


The Cabinet Member expressed her thanks to those officers who had been involved in the very hard work to bring children to the UK from the asylum seeker camps in Calais.

Cllr Flemming outlined the top priorities within her portfolio:

- Recruitment and retention in the children's social care division
- The implementation of the action plan arising from the Joint Targeted Area Inspection
- School place planning
- Improving pupils' English and maths results at a faster pace
- Creating a new targeted youth offer (e.g. leisure activities) for the most vulnerable young people in the borough. This would include mentoring young people to help improve their educational outcomes and ambitious for the future
- The planned "Youth Take-Over" of the Croydon Congress in 2017 to enable young people to have their say and share their needs and views
- Holding a youth festival in 2017 and working with Cllr Timothy Godfrey, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, on preparations

Cllr Flemming outlined the pressures faced in her portfolio. They include the following:

- A rising number of children in need
- The high cost of safeguarding conference and court referrals
- The challenge of finding placements for looked after children within the borough
- Forthcoming cuts in funding for schools resulting from the new National Funding Formula to be introduced in 2018/2019

Members stated that councils must be "laboratories of bold innovation" and congratulated the Cabinet Member for the creation of Youth Hubs providing positive out of school activities for vulnerable children in the borough.


Members discussed nursery school provision. Officers explained that each child was entitled to 15 hours of free nursery school provision, expected to rise to 30 hours per week. It is not yet known what percentage will be provided by the council and what ratio will be available through private nursery schools.


Following the November 2016 Schools Forum meeting, at which it was agreed to fund the Early Years block for 3-4 year olds at an hourly rate of £3.99, consultation had taken place, leading to the conclusion by providers that this rate would not be sufficient to cover the cost of early years education. The schools forum has consequently agreed to raise the amount to £4.30 in January 2017. The 2 year old hourly rate of £5.66 was also agreed at the schools forum.


The Cabinet Member was questioned on the staffing and retention of children's social care staff. She gave the sub-committee assurances that the council had a committed and well trained work force. She explained that she had attended many focus groups towards the end of the last year to gain a better understanding of issues facing social workers employed by the council in order to improve retention and stated that the department was taking steps to increase the number of in-house social workers. These needed to included baselining the pay scales of social workers to ensure the retention of more experienced staff.


The Executive Director (People) announced that 29 newly qualified social workers had been recruited in 2016. They had been given a protected caseload and time for learning and reflection to ensure they had the opportunity to gain knowledge as well as experience. She added that there had been a good retention of 2015 recruits.


Officers explained that each social worker team was headed by a senior manager who signed off all cases, and included two or three newly qualified officers, who received practice supervision on a weekly basis.

The Cabinet Member highlighted the role of support workers who supplemented the work of qualified social workers and provided good value for money. For instance, workers in the Functional Family Therapy team provide support to vulnerable families in a holistic way to help them function better and avoid crisis points.


The Cabinet Member and the Executive Director offered to bring a paper to a future meeting of the Scrutiny Sub-Committee on the recruitment and retention of staff in children's social care.


The Cabinet member was questioned regarding the recruitment of agency teachers who may not have any qualifications. Officers acknowledged that they had heard of this practice, although they did not collect such data on teachers. Officers added that teaching agencies had changed and now recruited teachers directly from teacher training colleges and then advertised to schools. The Croydon Head Teachers' association had worked with such agencies at their recent staff recruitment fair. Officers explained that agency teachers were usually costlier to employ in view of agency fees, but that they had a role to play, particularly when some posts were found to be difficult to recruit to.


Members asked how officers planned for population swings in the borough. Officers explained that the monitoring of birth rates was key, and that a place planning report was presented to Cabinet on a yearly basis. Additional information on projections is published twice a year. Officers also work to calculate the likely "child yield" for each new housing development. They work very closely with the Place department to develop long-term population projections and identify suitable sites for future schools. Every effort is made to offer school places as close to children's homes as possible although suitable sites are becoming increasingly difficult to find.


Members turned their attention to the forward planning of school places for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). The Cabinet Member acknowledged that more places were needed in Croydon, both at primary and secondary levels, and that the limited numbers of such places forced some children with SEN to travel a very long way to their school. She added that more work needed to be done to enable children with SEN to be educated in mainstream schools, and that a pilot was planned to develop effective ways of teaching children with SEN effectively in such an environment. In addition, mainstream schools are put in touch with specialist SEN schools when necessary so that the latter can share their experience and expertise on managing the needs of pupils with SEN.

Members highlighted the importance of support to pupils with SEN, especially during transition phases. The Cabinet Member pointed to the wide range of support services provided by the voluntary sector but observed that some form of list of groups and providers would be useful. Members concurred that a good support network was essential, but observed that people who relied on such networks became very frightened when the funding for such services was threatened. The Cabinet Member stated that the council was committed to supporting children with SEN and their parents through community groups and networks such as Parents in Partnership, and to sharing tasks, information, experience and resources with them.


Members questioned the Cabinet Member on the work of the Regional School Commissioner, who scrutinises and challenges academies on the quality of their education and support for their pupils. Officers confirmed that the Regional School Commissioner had made an intervention with regard to Broadmead Primary school, which is now due to go to a new academy trust. They added that the Commissioner also intervened regularly on less dramatic and less public issues in Croydon's academies.


Asked about the occurrence of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) , the Cabinet Member stated that a big piece of work had been carried out with the Metropolitan Police Service, where good practice had been shared on the tackling of CSE through Operation Raptor. This was a campaign to work with hotels, B&Bs and taxis to raise awareness of this phenomenon and possible risks. This good practice has also been shared with other boroughs.

The Cabinet Member was questioned on action taken in Croydon to combat bullying. She stressed the impact this couldhave on children's mental health and highlighted the awareness raising on this issue during "bullying week", although she acknowledged that action to eradicate bullying should be embedded in everyday processes.


Cllr Flemming announced new funding available for children's physical education and the borough's physical activity action plan, which will include making use of the borough's many parks.


The Cabinet Member was thanked for her detailed answers to Members' questions.
















Richard Simpson, Executive Director of Resources and S151 Officer, and Lisa Taylor, Director of Finance, Investment and Risk and Deputy Section 151 Officer, were in attendance to answer Members' questions on the Education Budget 2017-18.


The Director of Finance gave an overview of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) allocation for the forthcoming year, which will rise from this year's £309.36m to £324.69m. This includes additional funding for the Early Years and High Needs Blocks allocated in response to local pressures, with more funding for 3-4 year olds and 2 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Members questioned officers regarding the impact of the reduction in the Education Services Grant (ESG), which is used to fund central education functions. This is set to go down from £3.1m this year to £1.58m in 2017-18. The Executive Director (People) explained that this funding had been cut nationally in a drive to remove responsibility for education from local authorities. However, this drive was no implemented in full, and local authorities have been left with some duties and with reduced resources.


In answer to a further question, the Director of Finance explained that the ESG was currently made up of two elements paid on a per pupil basis:
- the maintained duties rate paid to the local authority per pupil in in maintained and non-maintained schools
- the general funding rate paid to the local authority for maintained school pupils only (funding to academies is paid directly to them by central government)


In 2017-18, however, the general funding rate component will be removed and the £1.58m funding will include:
- £820,000 for the retained duties element, equating to £15 per pupil, paid to the local authority for all pupils in both maintained and non-maintained schools, down from £855,000 this year
- £762,.000 transitional funding to cover general funding for the period April to August 2017 (equivalent to £20 per pupil for this period), down from £2.2m this year


Members discussed funding for Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). Officers explained that they were funded through the High Needs Block. They added that efforts had been made to maximise the use of PRUs for pupils with challenging behaviour as the council has better control over the quality of teaching and support, as well as over the costs of these establishments.


Asked about trends in school exclusions, officers explained that permanent exclusions were now very few in number, although fixed exclusions were high in some schools. He added that some children were moved to PRUs due to challenging behaviour but expressed the view that these establishments should be used as a temporary solution and not as a long-term destination for pupils.


Members questioned officers regarding funding for Octavo, Croydon's school improvement mutual. Officers explained that the reduction in funding had been agreed with the mutual in the light of its work during its first year of operation. The reduction represents services which are no longer needed, and officers gave assurances that there had been no cuts to funding for school facing services provided by the mutual. Officers added that the value of the Octavo contract was agreed yearly between Octavo and the council, and that the operation would be extended for two years if it operated satisfactorily. The contract was monitored on the quantity of services traded as well as on their quality.


Members expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the low funding allocation to the London Borough of Croydon, which, although an outer London borough, has many of the characteristics of an inner London borough. They felt that the council needed to make cross-party representations to persuade central government to increase resources to Croydon, which has a number of wards with high levels of deprivation. The Cabinet Member and officers agreed with this view and gave assurances that they were continuing to lobby central government for a significant increase in resources for Croydon's schools.


Members discussed place planning. Officers explained that all schools to be built in future would be free schools, which will be funded directly by central government. In answer to a member's question, officers commented that there  would be opportunities for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark to make applications for new Catholic free schools to open in Croydon.


Officers were asked whether a grammar school was due to be opened in the south of the borough. The Cabinet member stated that no new school could be designated as a new grammar school as this was illegal, and that primary legislation would be needed to establish such a school in Croydon. It was observed, however, that existing grammar schools could open "annexes" and thus circumvent current legislation. The Cabinet Member stressed that the new secondary school in the south of the borough would be a free school, and that the application to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) had been accepted. However, no site had yet been allocated to this school.


Officers announced that the national funding formula for schools was set to change in future and that the results of stage 2 of the consultation were expected towards the end of March. They added that they would seek clarification on the rationale for any losses in funding for the borough.


David Butler, Head of School Standards, Commissioning and Learning Access, presented this item.


He reported significant improvements in early years outcomes as well as in Key Stages 1, 2 and 4, and stated that results had remained in line with the national average at Key Stage 5. He added that 50% of pupils now attended an outstanding school and that results were set to improve even further. Despite the funding challenges discussed in the previous agenda item, he stressed the borough's commitment to raise its performance further up the London league tables.


Members expressed their warm congratulations to officers for their contributions to the above results.


Officers were thanked for the new set of statistics on pupil referrals to the Fair Access Panel (FAP) to avoid school exclusions. These had been added to the yearly report on Education Quality and Standards presented to Cabinet and to this sub-committee, as a result of a recommendation arising from the recent Scrutiny review of school exclusions. Asked whether other councils had a FAP, officers stated that every local authority had a duty to have a FAP protocol but that Croydon's FAP was particularly proactive, with very good participation from the borough's head teachers. They added that many pupils referred to the FAP were moved to another mainstream school rather than a PRU and benefited from this opportunity for a fresh start. Asked whether there would be more exclusions if Croydon did not have a FAP, officers answered in the affirmative.


Officers were questioned regarding regular reports in the media regarding pupils disappearing from school rolls. They added that new regulations (*1) had been introduced in September 2016 obliging all schools to notify the local authority within 5 days of any pupil removals from their rolls, giving details of parents, new schools, and reasons for the pupils' departure. They explained that there were only 15 legal reasons why a pupil might legally be removed from school rolls.


In answer to a question on support provided to schools to attain Key Stage 2 floor standards for their pupils, the council's Strategic Manager of School Improvement explained that bespoke support was given to schools to bring them up to expected standards through joint work with subject leaders in these schools.


Officers were questioned on pupil migration to schools in other boroughs. Officers confirmed that very few Croydon children who were eligible for Pupil Premium support went to secondary schools outside the borough whereas a significant number of pupils who were not eligible for this support did attend a school outside the borough.


Officers were thanked for their detailed answers to Members' questions.



(*1) The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016


Members confirmed the agenda for the 14 March sub-committee meeting.


They asked for the 14 March report on children's social care to include information on the following:
- statistics for children's social care staff: recruitment over the last 12 months and evidence of staff retention
- size of caseload for newly qualified social workers in their Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) as well as for more experienced social workers
- the origin of referrals to children's social care (e.g. police, schools, GPs)


Members also suggested that the sub-committee's future work programme might contain scrutiny of the following areas:

- the performance of Octavo, the council's school improvement mutual
- pupils' educational and other outcomes of managed moves through the FAP and the number of school moves undergone by pupils referred to the FAP

The meeting ended at 9.47pm.