Meeting documents

Venue: Mezzanine Room 1, County Hall, Aylesbury. View directions

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Note No. Item



Apologies for absence

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Apologies were received from Mr M Hussain, Mrs Luisa Sullivan, Mr K Hamblin, Mrs M Aston.


The Chairman informed the Committee that Mr N Hussain was no longer a member of the Committee.


Declarations of Interest

To declare any Personal or Disclosable Pecuniary Interests.

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There were none.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 259 KB

To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 17th October 2017.


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The minutes of the meeting held on 17th October 2017 were confirmed as an accurate record and signed by the Chairman.





Public Questions pdf icon PDF 182 KB

The Committee have received one public question which is included in the reports pack.


Public Questions is an opportunity for people who live, work or study in the county to put a question to a Scrutiny Committee about any issue that has an impact on their local community or the county as a whole.


Members of the public, who have given prior notice, will be invited to put their question in person.


The Cabinet Member and responsible officers will then be invited to respond. 


Further information and details on how to register can be found through the following link and by then clicking on ‘Public Questions’.

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The Chairman welcomed Ms K Bates to the meeting and invited her to present her question.


The Future of School Run Children’s Centres


I have been on the governing body of Bowerdean Nursery School, High Wycombe since 2000 and in the role of chair since 2006. In July 2013, as an Outstanding Nursery, we were approached by Bucks County Council about opening a new nursery site and taking on the running of a children’s centre. Following substantial refurbishment by the county council costing nearly £1 million, in April 2015, Mapledean Nursery School and Mapledean Children’s Centre were born.


The previous children’s centre had been under-performing. With a new and experienced co-ordinator, this has completely changed. We now have a team of four whose knowledge, experience and commitment has transformed the centre and the services it offers to the community. They work out in the community delivering targeted 1:1 support and yet are able to keep the centre open every day running vital group activities. We already facilitate numerous other services, such as Health, Speech and Language, midwives, Family Resilience, Freedom Programme, working from our premises, sharing information about families and making sure that help is delivered in a timely and appropriate manner. We have excellent facilities: good parking and accessibility, a training room, interview rooms, flexible spaces, kitchen, wifi etc. Our work has been focussed on the under-fives and their families, because that was the original brief, not because we choose to limit our contribution to the community. We are well on the way to delivering many of the features listed in the Early Help review document. We already operate on joined up thinking. We have the capacity to grow into an Early Help base.


However, my question to the committee isn’t just about Mapledean Children’s Centre but it serves as an example which is applicable to other centres.


We have to face the fact that you may choose to close the centre. Whilst I clearly think that this would be a huge loss to the community and a mistake in the long run, I should point out just how physically integrated the nursery and children’s centre are.


We share the building. We each have an entrance, but internally there is a connecting door. The boiler for the whole building is situated in the children’s centre. Security, communications, heating, electricity and maintenance are shared. Closure of one part will have a financial impact on the other part.

So my question is this:

What plans are there for protecting us, and others like us, who are schools that manage Children's Centres?


Karen Bates

Mapledean Children's Centre, Chair of Governors


The Chairman then welcomed Mr P Dart, Programme Director – Change for Children to the meeting and invited him to respond.


Following the question and response, Members made the following points.

·         It would be important to consult with all 35 Children’s Centres before making a final decision on the Early Help Review, even if this meant delaying the final decision to make  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.



Chairman's Report

For the chairman of the Committee to provide an update on recent scrutiny related activity.

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The Chairman thanked the Vice Chairman for chairing the last meeting and updated the Committee on his visits and attendance at:

·         His local Children’s Centres

·         An adoption panel

·         A Youth Voice Event attended by around 60 children and young people who raised issues around mental health provision and financial training in schools, apprenticeships and vocational learning.




Committee Member Updates

For members of the Committee to provide an update on any issue they are investigating on behalf of the Committee.

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Ms K Wood updated the Committee on her attendance at the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board and visit to social work teams. 


Ms Wood re-iterated Mrs Darby’s and Mr Williams’ comments at the previous meeting about the need for good emotional support for social workers, which still appeared to be lacking in some areas.  Ms Wood also commented that there appeared to be low morale in some but not all of the teams she visited.


Mr Williams had met with the Principal Social Worker and discussed improved access to parenting and mentoring courses.


Mr Williams had also had discussions with the virtual school and Dr Challoner’s Grammar school in developing a framework so that admittance criteria could be made more supportive of children looked after.


Mr Collingwood encouraged all Members of the Committee to attend an adoption panel.



Cabinet Member Question Time pdf icon PDF 114 KB

For Committee Members to ask Mr Mike Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, questions on current key issues for the portfolio.

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The Chairman welcomed Mr M Appleyard, the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills and invited questions from the Committee.


Mr Appleyard introduced Miss S Callaghan, Service Director-Education.


Following concerns raised at previous meetings about the performance of the Educational Psychology Service, Mrs I Darby asked questions about the current resourcing of the service and the ability of the service to manage the conversion of all the Special Educational Needs (SEN) statements to Education and Health Care Plans (ECHP) by the March 2018 deadline.


In response Miss Callaghan reported that:


·         Two new Senior Educational Psychologists had been appointed.

·         All SEN statements had now started to be converted to EHCPs and she was confident that the deadline would be met.  However, it was important that the quality of the new EHCP was not compromised in order to meet timescales.

·         Differences of opinion between parents and psychologist about some of the plans could potentially lead to delays but everything was driven around the needs of the child.



Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board pdf icon PDF 821 KB

For the Committee to consider the effectiveness of partnership working in keeping children safe in Buckinghamshire and the Board's performance in improving outcomes for Children and Young People.



·         Ms F Gosling-Thomas, Chairman of the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board.

·         Mrs J Davies, Head of Quality Standards and Performance.

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The Chairman welcomed Mrs F Gosling-Thomas, Independent Chairman of the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board and Mrs J Davies, Head of Quality Standards and Performance to the meeting.


Mrs Gosling-Thomas explained the work of the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB) and summarised performance over the past year. Mrs Gosling-Thomas informed Members that the Board’s annual report for 2015/16 had just been published.


Members asked questions and sought assurance about the following:

·         Resourcing caseload levels of the Barnardo’s RU Safe service.

·         Ability of the Board to sustain improvements with reducing resources.

·         Referrals and re-referrals from partners and application of the thresholds.

·         Joint working between the BSCB and the Select Committee.

·         How the Board listened and took account of the views of children and young people.

·         The reasons for increasing numbers of children looked after.

·         Engagement of partners with the Board.



In response the following points were made:

·         The widening of the agenda and the partnership approach to tackling exploitation had strengthened the RU Safe service.   There had been no reduction in provision for children and young people.

·         More information about the reason for the drop in active RU Safe caseloads would be provided to Members.

Action: Julie Davies


·         The Board currently had sufficient funding to cover its core work programme and had been successful at attracting funding for some important additional work.

·         Increasing demand was an issue for all partners. The Board was working to support all agencies to ensure each was able to respond effectively and provide help at an early stage to prevent issues escalating.

·         An analysis of referrals showed that a large number were from the police related to domestic violence; action is in hand to manage the volume of referrals more effectively.

·         The Board had communicated the referral thresholds to partners effectively consistency in applying the thresholds was now the challenge. For example, ensuring new staff had a good understanding.

·         Schools were encouraged to call and discuss potential safeguarding issues before making referrals if possible.

·         The Board consulted to get the views of specific groups of children and young people such as those looked after, care leavers and children with disabilities.

·         The Board received presentations from children and young people and provided a young person zone on the website to improve engagement.

·         There needed to be a whole system approach to reducing the numbers of looked after children.  Reducing demand at the front door should eventually lead to fewer looked after children.

·         Partners on the Board were now actively participating and where a partner missed two meetings in a row, the Chairman would issue a letter.




New Funding Formula for Schools and High Needs pdf icon PDF 425 KB

For the Committee to look at the implications of the new funding formula on Buckinghamshire's schools.



·         Mr M Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

·         Miss S Callaghan, Service Director-Education

·         Mr J Huskinson, Finance Director

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The Chairman welcomed Mr J Huskinson, Finance Director to the meeting.


Mr M Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Miss S Callaghan, Service Director-Education and Mr Huskinson presented the report.


Members asked the following questions and sought clarity on:

·         The impact on schools of transferring funding from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block.

·         Understanding more clearly the numbers of schools receiving more or less money.

·         The impact on the pupils at those schools that would lose funding and how the Council would ensure there were no negative outcomes for those pupils.

·         The detail of funding for each individual school.


In the discussion the following points were made:

·         Some schools would not get increased funding and there was some protection in place.  However those schools would have lost funding under the previous formula too.

·         Money could only be transferred into the High Needs Block during the next two years, therefore the savings objectives within the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Strategy would have be delivered within this timeframe.

·         The Education and Skills Strategy was key in protecting vulnerable groups of pupils during the redistribution of funding through the new formula.  Schools had agreed to transfer funding into the High Needs Block specifically to help support vulnerable children.

·         There was an additional £10m of funding available to Buckinghamshire this year and next and this would be used to continue to close the attainment gap.

·         There were still improvements that could be made in helping parents complete application forms to attract additional funding from the Department for Education (DfE) e.g. pupil premium funding.

·         More detail about the distribution of funding was available in the Schools Forum meeting papers from October 31st and November 28th and a link would be provided to Members.

Action Committee and Governance Adviser





Preventing Bullying in Schools pdf icon PDF 518 KB

For the Committee to look at work being undertaken to prevent bullying in schools in Buckinghamshire.



·         Mr M Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

·         Miss S Callaghan, Service Director-Education

·         Ms Y Thomas, Head of Equalities

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The Chairman welcomed Ms Y Thomas, Head of Equalities to the meeting.


Ms Thomas, Mr M Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills and Miss S Callaghan, Service Director – Education presented the report.


Following the report, Members asked the following questions and sought assurance about:

·         Helping schools and parents to intervene early to prevent issues.

·         Partners being engaged in informing and preventing cyber bullying.

·         Preparing young people to be able to deal with and prevent bullying incidents.

·         Anti-bullying policies and the link to exclusions.

·         Funding for the anti-bullying work of the Council.


In response the following points were made:

·         Some schools worked individually with parents around behaviour issues and prevention, although this was not happening consistently across all schools.

·         A bi-annual cyber bullying conference was held which web partners had contributed to. Partners had also provided advice on preventing cyber bullying on their websites.

·         The support that Councils would be able to give to schools in future could be reduced as budgets reduced.

·         Early help services would be key to helping children and young people and their parents in intervening early and preparing them to be able to prevent and deal with bullying incidents.

·         It was important to build positive relationships with schools to deal with prevention and bullying incidents as articulated in both the Education and Skills and the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Strategies.

·         The Head of Equalities had a good relationship with Head Teachers which was effective in helping schools share good practice around managing behaviour and bullying. 

·         It was important to support schools in managing behaviour before things got to the stage of exclusion.

·         Fair Access Boards were important in bringing schools together to get transparent and consistent approaches to implementing exclusions.

·         It was important to challenge schools where it was thought an incorrect decision had been made on exclusions.

·         It was thought that Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, which covered areas such as behaviour and relationships, would become mandatory in schools and a PSHE Lead Officer had been appointed to help schools understand their responsibilities in this area.

·         There were no plans to reduce the budget currently allocated to anti-bullying.



Permanent Exclusions Inquiry - Draft Scope pdf icon PDF 402 KB

For the Committee to discuss and agree the draft scoping document for the inquiry into permanent exclusions from school.

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Resolved: Members AGREED the draft scope for the Permanent Exclusions Inquiry.


Ms Ward, Mr Williams, Mr Moor, Mr Collingwood, Mrs Darby and Mr Collingwood were happy to be included in the inquiry group.


The Chairman asked other Members to let him know if they wanted to be involved.



Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 99 KB

To note the current work programme and contribute ideas for potential items to be looked at in future meetings.

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Resolved: The Committee NOTED the work programme.


The Chairman asked Members to contact him if they wanted to arrange to shadow front line social work teams or adoption panels.



Date of Next Meeting

To note the next meeting of the Children’s Social Care and Learning Select Committee on 6th February 2018, 10.30am, Mezzanine Room 1, New County Offices, Aylesbury.

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The next meeting of the Children’s Social Care and Learning Select Committee to take place on 6th February 2018 at 10.30am in Mezzanine Room 1, New County Offices, Aylesbury.


Private pre-meeting for Members from 9.30am