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Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence from any members of the Committee.
Councillor Maddie Henson gave her apologies. Councillor Patricia Cummings attended in her absence.
Councillor Maria Gatland gave her apologies. Councillor Andy Stranack attended in her absence.
Elaine Jones gave her apologies
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 28 November 2017 as an accurate record.
The minutes of the meeting held on 28 November 2017 were approved and signed as an accurate record.
Disclosures of interest
In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to register disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and gifts and hospitality to the value of which exceeds £50 or multiple gifts and/or instances of hospitality with a cumulative value of £50 or more when received from a single donor within a rolling twelve month period. In addition, Members and co-opted Members are reminded that unless their disclosable pecuniary interest is registered on the register of interests or is the subject of a pending notification to the Monitoring Officer, they are required to disclose those disclosable pecuniary interests at the meeting. This should be done by completing the Disclosure of Interest form and handing it to the Democratic Services representative at the start of the meeting. The Chair will then invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3. Completed disclosure forms will be provided to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion on the Register of Members’ Interests.
There was none
Urgent Business (if any)
To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.
There was none.
The Children's Improvement Plan
The Executive Director of People was in attendance to provide an oral update on the Children’s Improvement plan, following the detailed update provided to the Scrutiny and Overview Committee on 30 January 2018.
The Sub-Committee was informed that a change control process was agreed with the Chair of the Children’s Improvement Board in order to prioritise or bring forward certain improvement activities to allow fluidity in how the pan was to be delivered over the two year programme.
The Sub-Committee learned that since January 2018 there had been a lot of progress made with 24 improvement actions completed including six high risk actions. Completed including the following:
- In-depth understanding of and work completed on Return Home Interviews (RHI)
- Adoption of clear and succinct social work practice model (principle social worker will be invited to the next meeting of the Sub-Committee).
- Principle social worker leading on staff training
- Integrated work with Unit Managers
- Member learning and development sessions being delivered.
- Additional £700k allocation for business support
- Backlog amnesty of scanning completed
- CSC and missing children’s group working together
- 30% rise in work received in referral and assessment team
- Rise in number children subject to Child Protection plans.
- Currently over 100 cases in care proceedings
- Restructuring of assessment team had taken place
- Supervision and recording mechanisms have been overhauled to ensure the system is robust and trackable
- Preparations for the March Ofsted monitoring visit were underway.
- Practice week completed with 50 cases audited in preparation of Ofsted, vulnerable and highest risk cases had been monitored.
The Sub-Committee was provided with an update on the assessment team and informed that there had been a substantial increase in demand. The last quarter of 2017 saw a 30% increase in referrals compared to 2016. There had been an increase from 368 to 500 children subject to child protection plans. The number of families requiring an assessment each week had increased from 40 to 70 during November and December 2017.
In order to manage the increase in demand to the referral and assessment team, there has been a reconfiguration of the teams from six teams of six social workers to five teams of nine social workers in an attempt to balance case allocations. There was however still concerns regarding caseload and this would be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The Sub-Committee learned that Croydon had adopted the Strengthening Families Model to focus on safeguarding practices and promote collaborative work between families and professionals in order to achieve safeguarding aims.
Members queried the relationship between front line staff and senior management to which officers responded that senior management had been more proactive in building relationships and improving line of visibility. The observation from the December 2017 Ofsted visit was that there had been an improvement in staff morale.
In response to a Member question on the role of Camden in working with Croydon, officers stated that Camden’s role was to support and ... view the full minutes text for item 5/18
This report provides an update on missing children and return home interviews.
The Interim Director of Early Help and Children’s Social Care was in attendance for this item accompanied by the Information and Intelligence officer and the Service Leader.
The Sub-Committee was provided with the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) data for December 2017 and January 2018 but stressed that the data was provisional and still to be verified.
The Service Manager provided Members with details of the composition of team and the process of conducting Return Home Interviews (RHI).
The Sub-Committee learned that there were 3 members of staff that conducted RHI’s, 1 RHI co-ordinator, 3 members of staff that managed child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases and 1 service manager to oversee activities and intelligence analysis.
The Sub-Committee learned that once a missing child had been located, the interviewer made an appointment and aimed to complete the interview within 72 hours. The interview took place in a comfortable space away from the home of the young persons, usually at the school during break so as not to disrupt lesson time and a teaching assistance sat in the meeting. The aim of the interview was to ascertain where the young person had been, identify concerns of risks and harm and further services of support that may be required. The team used the information gathered to identify commonalities and themes of where young people had been going when missing, what they had done and with whom. As a result, a high risk panel that meet weekly had been developed to track high risk missing children. This panel membership consisted of professionals in the education sector as well as the police and data analysis team.
Members questioned whether young people were asked where they felt comfortable for the interviews to take place and what feedback had been received as to how the system could be improved. Officers responded that in determining where and when the interviews took place, the young person would be consulted. The interviews took place during break time in order to maintain discretion. The feedback received from young people is that they welcomed the interview being conducted by someone that is independent of the social work system.
Members questioned the number of asylum seeking children that had frequently featured on the missing data and commented that the placement of those children away from their families and community may be a factor in recurrent missing episodes.
Officers acknowledged that asylum seeking children had featured frequently on the missing list. One of the issues identified was the distance of placements and, where a young person was placed outside of their community, the council would seek to ensure that RHI is part of future commissioned services in such cases. They would also seek to regularise existing commitments.
In response to a Member query on the data for RHI for unaccompanied minors, Officers stated that the most recent figure was 55% offered and accepted. This was an improvement on the April 2017 figure of 15% accepted rates.
In response to a Member question as to how ... view the full minutes text for item 6/18
This report outlines the proposals for the Education Budget 2018/19.
The Head of Finance and the Senior Management Accountant were in attendance to present the report and answer Members’ questions on this item.
An overview of the three areas that the Education Budget was split into was provided and consisted of:
- The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG)
- Capital Expenditure
- Council Services Provision
The Sub-Committee was informed that the DSG allocation funding was split into separate rates for primary and secondary schools and the detailed schools budget would be issued to schools in March 2018 once agreed and finalised by the Department for Education (DFE)
The Sub-Committee was further informed that the DSG allocation for the forthcoming year 2018/19 was £337.82m, a £10.3m increase from the 2017/18 funding. This included additional funding for Early Years, High Needs and Schools Block due to an increase in number of pupils.
The Schools Forum had agreed an hourly rate increase for 3/4 year old funding, with continuous work in that area. There was also ongoing work to address issues of overspend on high needs where there had been significant overspend over the years by many local authorities due to ongoing increase in demand.
To manage overspend in Special Education Needs (SEN), the Council had explored actions to be taken to address issues relating to cost which included the following:
- Early provision of vital resources
- Post 16 provision within the borough, and
- In borough provision of Autistic Spectrum services.
Members expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the low funding allocated to Croydon, which although an outer London borough, shared many of the characteristics of an inner London borough. Officers responded that the raking and allocations were based on historical formula of outer and inner London rates. This was an important issue and lobbying had taken place over a number of years in an attempt to get the government to address the issues and deliver a fairer funding settlement.
In response to Member concerns regarding the impact of exclusions of pupils on the budget and in particular exclusion of pupils attending Academy schools, officers advised that exclusions were being monitored very closely and that both the Council and schools worked hard to avoid permanent exclusions, with negotiations between schools to ensure that pupils at risk retained a place in full time education.
There had however been an increase in exclusions, mainly for children without an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), concerns had been raised with the Schools Commissioner where it had been identified that particular schools had excluded a high number of pupils with SEN to ensure that there were no underlying issues of disparity and unfairness.
Members sought detail on the support being afforded to pupils with SEN by colleges. Officers responded that work was being undertaken with colleges to ensure good provision for pupils, there were however challenges with provision for pupils with significant disabilities and high needs.
Members commented that more needed to be done to promote the specialists schools in the Borough which were providing outstanding services. Officers ... view the full minutes text for item 7/18
This report summarises the performance of children and young people in Croydon schools for the academic year 2016 / 2017
The report was presented by the Director of Education and Youth Engagement, and the Head of Standards, safeguarding and Learning Access.
The Sub-Committee was advised that this was a pre Cabinet report, was asked to review the academic outcomes of 2016/2017 and note the contents of the report.
Members were provided with some of the key headlines of the report such as an overview of standards, with standards in early years above the national average. Key Stage (KS) 4 progress was also above national average and improvements were seen in KS5.Croydon secondary schools judged by Ofsted as good were 90% and 47% were outstanding. Almost 50% of Croydon pupils attend an outstanding school and 86% attended a good school. The percentage of primary schools rated as good was 86.8%.
The Sub-Committee learned that A level attainment was just below the national average of grade C, with Croydon pupil’s achieving C minus on average.
In addressing issues on attainment for Looked After Children (LAC) who were performing below national average at KS2 and KS3, the Council had concentrated on restructuring of virtual schools and EPEC systems to monitor Personal Education Plans (PEP). There were planned visits to virtual schools in other areas to gain better understanding of best practice. There was a workshop due to take place for professionals to explore barriers for LAC attainment. The restructuring of the virtual school will allow a greater focus on monitoring and improving progress, ensuring that children’s needs are being met.
The Sub-Committee was informed that in relation to attendance, there had been general improvement from 2015/16 figures. Croydon primary schools had remained static against the national average and secondary school figures were just below the national average but had improved compared to the previous year.
In relation to exclusions, there had been 33 permanent exclusions for 2016/17 compared to 2 for 2015/16. The increase in primary schools exclusion contributed to the rise in this figure. The data for Croydon was still favourable compared to statistical neighbours and London as a whole. There were 346 fewer fixed period exclusions compared to 2015/2016 figures. Officers stated that Croydon was one of the few boroughs that had an exclusions and fair access panel. The Council was looking at what further could be done prior to pupils being referred to the panel.
In response to a Member’s request for clarification on attainment for LAC children, officers stated that the attainment were lower than the national average and this was attributed to the type of LAC, they stressed that there were many LAC children who had good outcomes.
The Sub-Committee commented that there were a number of schools in appendix three of the report that did not have any figures listed. Officers responded that this was because the schools had not excluded any pupils, although these figures would be checked and any amendments added to the final report to Cabinet.
In response to a Member question on strategies in place to prevent exclusion of primary school pupils, officers ... view the full minutes text for item 8/18
To note the work programme for 2017/2018 municipal year.
The Sub-Committee agreed to note the work programme for the remainder of the 2017/18 municipal year.