Venue: Mezzanine Room 1, County Hall, Aylesbury. View directions
Note: Please note that this meeting will be webcast - please use the "Webcasts" menu link
Webcast: View the webcast
Apologies for absence
Apologies were received from Mr Roberts, Mr Collingwood and Mr Brown.
Declarations of Interest
To declare any Personal or Disclosable Pecuniary Interests.
Mr N Hussain declared that he was a contractor for bus and taxi services for BCC and worked with a number of Home to School transport companies in Buckinghamshire therefore he would not participate in the Home to School item.
For the Committee to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 3rd October
The minutes of the last meeting were agreed as a correct record. There was a discussion about the assigned RAG status of the permanent exclusion item from the last meeting. Members requested an update on three of the recommendations in order to agree the RAG status which had been awarded for them. These items were covered under Cabinet Member’s Question Time.
A Member asked for an update on the 11+ testing remedial actions which followed the recent testing incident. Mrs Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education & Skills, advised that GL Assessment accepted all responsibility. Mr Drawmer, Head of Achievement & Learning, told the Committee that there had been a recent presentation to Head Teachers to brief them on the solution which would be applied to ensure fairness. GL Assessment had offered unreserved apologies and were working with Buckinghamshire Grammar School Head Teachers and Statisticians to ensure a valid approach had been taken. The solution would not be made public as it could unfairly advantage children who took the test in future.
In response to Member questioning about the responsibility of the tests, Mr Drawmer reiterated that Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools commissioned the test. The Council managed appeals, but was contracted to do so by Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools.
Mrs Cranmer offered apologies and sympathised with parents and children but she was confident that the solution would be fair.
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’.
There were no public questions.
For the chairman of the Committee to provide an update to the Committee on recent scrutiny related activity.
Members requested that the visit to Social Workers in High Wycombe was rearranged, which was agreed by Mr Whyte.
ACTION: Democratic Services to arrange visit with the Service Area
Cabinet Member's Question Time
For the Committee to ask Cabinet Members questions on current key issues for their portfolios.
I. Mrs A Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
II. Mr W Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
Mrs Cranmer asked the Committee to present their questions from the earlier permanent exclusion item. In response to questioning, Members were informed that:
· Mr Morgan, Head of Early Help, would continue to be the representative on the Bucks Inclusion Hub. He would deliver an update on Early Help at the next Select Committee meeting
· Details of the dates for the workshops and past attendance figures at network meetings and workshops would be sent to Members via email after the meeting
ACTION: Ms Thompson-Omenka
· The audit of Secondary Schools would be discussed within the side-by-side item
A Member asked for a follow-up update from the last meeting, where the Service area had been asked to provide details of current programmes which would raise standards and performance of non-selective children across Buckinghamshire. Ms Thompson-Omenka, Service Director Education, advised that an analysis of the attainment figures could now be undertaken as they had been validated. A report would come to the Committee when an Educational Standards item came onto the agenda,
ACTION: Democratic Services to schedule Educational Standards item for 2020
Mr Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services reported that there would shortly be a number of Fostering and Adoption events at various locations across Buckinghamshire and asked members to promote them within their divisions.
He had attended an LGiU Bright Futures conference with his focus on Children’s Services and had seen the challenges that children’s services across the country were facing, on the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Act. During the presentation on draft findings, Mr Whyte was reassured by the fact that everything that other Authorities had been implementing had already been done within Buckinghamshire.
Mr Whyte informed the Committee that the Early Help item which was planned for January would be a month early, so wouldn’t be a full 6 month update. However, as there were no further Select Committee meetings scheduled prior to the formation of the new Council, it was agreed that the item would remain on the agenda at the next meeting.
Information Update on H2S transport
For the Committee to receive an update from the Cabinet Member for Education & Skills about H2S transport actions
Mr N Hussain left the room for the duration of this item.
Mrs Cranmer told the Committee that she had recently attended a meeting which gave a complete update on remedial actions. Home to School transport would sit within the portfolio of Richard Barker, the new Corporate Director of Communities.
As an overview, Mrs Cranmer told the Committee that:
· Less calls and messages had been received within the service area and those that had been received had been answered more effectively
· They had closed down all extraneous email boxes to reduce the likelihood that messages would get missed or sent to the wrong location.
· Communications had been analysed and improved, with teams given guidance on how to communicate better with stakeholders.
· A new team of people had been established to carry out special educational needs and disability (SEND) mobility assessments on Buckinghamshire students.
· There had been a complete reorganisation of the whole system, with the new Director of Resources holding responsibility for the function.
· The removal of free post-16 SEND travel, which would be replaced by a parental contribution system, had been delayed until the following year. This was to facilitate a robust communications process and to allow parents to apply for the necessary bursaries, confirm college placements and go through the appeals process if they weren’t happy with the decision. This was expected to affect 440 children within Buckinghamshire.
· It was stressed that this was not intended to be a cost-cutting exercise but was intended to build resilience for SEND children and enable them to travel independently. An independent travel training scheme had been replicated from the scheme delivered in Nottinghamshire and there would shortly be a large train the trainer session delivered to Schools within Buckinghamshire. This would enable Schools to directly train students from November 2020.
The Chairman told Mrs Cranmer that he believed residents to be happy with the solution and communications as he hadn’t heard back from them, but wanted to know that the Service Area would deliver effectively next year. Mrs Cranmer assured the Committee that they were definitely on track and she didn’t believe another full system breakdown to be possible.
A Member asked about the likelihood of all of the commercial routes continuing, now that students were reliant on them, and whether there would be contingency measures in place should these stop running. It was hoped that plans would be in place so that their education and School attendance didn’t get affected. Mrs Cranmer told the Committee that there were short-term contracts in place and new processes would be rolled out in time for next September. They would look at standards and make any adjustments based on these findings, with the goal to roll all routes out to the commercial sector, providing benefits to residents in rural areas. It was suggested that Mr Robson, Head of Integrated Transport, and Mr Shaw, Cabinet Member for Transportation attend a future meeting to provide technical and operational information.
A Member queried the current position involving ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
For the Committee to receive a quarterly update from Educational Psychology Services
Paulette Thompson-Omenka – Service Director Education
Anita Cranmer – Cabinet Member for Education & Skills
Ms Thompson-Omenka, Service Director Education introduced the item and the following main points were noted::
· There had been an improving picture within SEN services and significant progress had been made. The table within the report showed the progress made with education health care plans (EHCPs).
· Integrated SEND had gone live in September. In April 2019, progress had been poor and the Service area felt they were heading in the wrong direction. Average time taken to complete an EHCP had been 31 weeks which wasn’t acceptable.
· The national target for EHCP completion was 20 weeks. In order to meet this target the Service Area had to undertake a significant amount of work and issued a significant number of plans.
· There had been a significant number of complaints from unhappy parents who had been waiting excessively for EHCP completion.
· At present over 70% of EHCP’s were delivered within the timescale and staff were working to continue to improve this figure. The average time taken to complete an EHCP was 25 weeks in October 2019.
· At the end of October 2019 the cumulative percentage of EHCP’s completed within 20 weeks had been 32.8% and the Service area had ambitions to get this to 40% by December 2019.
· Buckinghamshire teams carried an average of 350 individual cases requiring an EHCP, while comparative statistical neighbours had a maximum of 180 individual cases.
· Healthcare Co-ordinators were being recruited to have oversight over the process.
· There had been some vacancies within senior posts within the service, which were due to be filled by January 2020. There would continue to be difficulties hiring workers within the main grades and also associates, but senior managers were working creatively to overcome this.
The Chairman requested to know what was being done differently to recruit Educational Psychologists. Ms Thompson-Omenka explained that they had run the recruitment campaign slightly differently, hosting an informal session and were anticipating applications from most of the individuals who had attended.
In response to questioning, Ms Thompson-Omenka told the Committee that:
· Specific metrics were tracked to identify trends, including children who were home schooled, children under child protection, young offenders, gender groups, children in care and children in need.
· The last 16 people who attended the informal session had been attracted via a creative social media campaign, which had been executed by the Human Resources (HR) team within a tight 3 week timescale. More creative recruitment tactics were planned, including a video which Ms Thompson-Omenka would be featuring in.
· The Service Area would consider handing out leaflets at the local train stations to London workers, as suggested by a Member of the Committee. This had been a successful tactic in the past when recruiting for other roles.
· They expected to recruit all 15 of the required Educational Psychologists from the last recruitment drive. If they managed to gain 12 new staff then caseloads would reduce to 150-180 per staff member. The service had been understaffed for a significant amount of time which had led to the ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
For the Committee to receive an update on the Side-by-Side project.
Paulette Thompson-Omenka – Service Director Education
Anita Cranmer – Cabinet Member for Education & Skills
Mr Drawmer, Head of Achievement and Learning, gave an update about the Side by Side School Improvement project. The following points were made:
· There was a modest amount of funding available for this project which had been allocated to Schools based on their level of need. If a School wanted to use additional support but wasn’t identified as having a need for it, they were able to pay for the support.
· Schools were divided into three categories; Intervention Schools who had up to 18 funded days per annum, Prevention Schools who had up to 6 funded days per annum and Enhancement Schools, who didn’t require much support but could access support if they funded it themselves.
· Schools could access group work and prevention conferences throughout the year.
· There was a current audit taking place across Buckinghamshire Secondary Schools. Furzedown and Chiltern Wood had been carrying out audit work to support teaching assistants. The council had been funding this work so that the Schools could release their staff to complete the audit.
· Across Chiltern and South Bucks, Stony Dean School had been carrying out work which focussed on reintegrating pupils into mainstream schooling. It was anticipated that this work would get broadened out into a wider SEND programme over time.
· Inclusion work and work to reduce permanent exclusions, while identifying best practice, had been taking place across the County, led by the Head Teacher at Aspire Secondary PRU.
· There had recently been a 2 day leadership conference at Bucks Academy for Head Teachers. This had been vital in supporting School leaders to develop the quality of their work and form networks of support.
· The Council had focussed on creating teacher networks so that they had been able to become ambassadors for the side-by-side project. 18 liaison groups were looking at running small research groups and would receive seed money so that they could improve performance across the County.
· All side-by-side project work was managed by the Council, through a small grant of £650,000 per year.
· Schools were prioritised based on the distance until their next Ofsted inspection and their last result. They were well-supported in the process leading up to an inspection. Larger schools also required additional support.
· Support was always tailored to each School’s needs. The Council ensured that the right people were mentoring each School and that they had a thorough and correct understanding of the context of the School and the problems which it faced, to be able to assist effectively
· The success of the project had been measured through key performance indicators which included higher performing attainment 8 results, differences across selective and non-selective performance and Ofsted gradings, which were good or better.
· A Member suggested that it would be helpful to hear accounts from Schools who had been involved in providing support and those who had been supported. It was agreed that this could be brought to a future meeting.
· A Parent Governor Representative suggested that particular Schools within the enhancement group had not been ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
For the Committee to receive information about Children’s Mental Health Services within Buckinghamshire
· Introductory presentation
· Partnership working with Looked After Children
· Participation from children and young people
· Mental Health Support Teams – to follow item
· Kooth online counselling (slide plus video)
Lead Officers -
Jack Workman - Specialist Commissioning Manager – All Age Mental Health
Matilda Moss - Head of Service – Integrated Commissioning
Partner agencies in attendance -
Oxford Health NHS Trust
The Chairman welcomed all contributors who were in attendance and acknowledged that they represented a range of partner organisations who were involved in providing mental health services to children and young people.
Mr Workman, Specialist Commissioning Manager, told the Committee that the provision of effective mental health services and widening access for people who wanted to access these services was a nationally mandated expectation. Buckinghamshire had been fortunate enough to be one of the first 50 sites to be included in the trailblazer project (implementing mental health support teams in schools and improving waiting times for young people accessing CAMHS services).
Dr Connolly, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, discussed new services for looked after children and the fact that Oxford Health had good working relationships with Buckinghamshire Social Care. Social Care and CAMHS had developed a working party that meets regularly to review the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (a statutory mental health screening tool for Looked After Children). This was to ensure children received the right support at the right time.
The Chairman asked about actions which had followed the increased drive to improve access to NHS-commissioned services and whether the prevalence of mental health issues had increased nationally. Ms Clarke, Service Director at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust told the Committee that routes of access had been opened up to allow children and parents to self-refer. Mr Workman said that the service had increased the percentage of people who were able to access services and this was monitored at a national level, based upon the local prevalence to ensure they could meet service demands.
A Member questioned how open and honest parents had been when referring their own child and whether they tended to hide problems. Ms Clarke assured the Committee that they usually received good quality referrals from parents and parents tended to accurately predict the main areas which children would need help with.
A Member asked for an update about waiting times for eating disorder appointments and specialists as they had experienced issues 10 years ago. Ms Clarke told the Committee that 2015 had been a transformational year for CAMHS services, as it had been identified nationally that young people with eating disorders had been poorly served. The waiting times to see patients within the eating disorder service were accurate, with 100% of urgent referrals receiving assessments within a week and 84% of non-urgent referrals receiving an assessment within 4 weeks.
Dr Roberts, Clinical Director for Mental Health Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) informed the Committee that a patient would initially be able to access an urgent same-day appointment with their registered Doctor and that a referral would go in straight away with no delays. Dr Rowsell, Head of Psychological Therapies – Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said that the number of patients accessing the CAMHs eating disorder services had grown but this hadn’t led to delayed referrals.
Dr Connolly told the Committee that the service carefully triangulate data about each child within ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
Committee Work Programme
The next meeting will have updates on:
· Ofsted monitoring visit
· Early Help - 6 months from implementation
· Bucks Safeguarding Children’s Board (BSCB)
· Ofsted Improvement Plan Update
· Retrospective of work completed by the Children’s Select Committee
The Committee’s work programme was discussed. The next meeting would be the last meeting before the new Council was formed and would include:
· Ofsted monitoring visit update
· Early Help - 5 month update
· Bucks Safeguarding Children Board Annual update
· Ofsted improvement plan progress
The Chairman hoped to include an update from a visit to social workers within the High Wycombe office. A Member requested that the Select Committee included an item which looked at the work programme and monitoring which would be carried across to the new authority.
Date of Next Meeting
To note that the next meeting of the Children’s Select Committee will be held on 24th January 2020 in Mezz 1, County Hall, Aylesbury.
The date of the next meeting will be 24th January 2020 at 10 am in Mezzanine Room 1, County Offices, Aylesbury.