- Meeting of Children's Select Committee, Tuesday 15th January 2019 10.30 am (Item 7.)
For the Committee to ask Cabinet Members questions on current key issues for their portfolios.
I. Mr M Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
II. Mr W Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
This agenda item will also include an update on the performance of the Educational Psychology Service.
The Education performance under item 10 was covered within this session.
Mr Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education & Skills, informed Members that the Home to School Transport consultation had finished and the outcome would be reported to Cabinet shortly.
Miss Callaghan, Service Director, Education gave an update about Education, Health Care Plans (EHCP’s) and the Educational Psychology (EP) service. Up-to-date figures reflected a cumulative increased score of 52.8%, which she felt Ofsted would agree indicated that the service had been progressing on its improvement journey. She informed Members of two new appointments – a permanent Head of SEN and an interim Principal EP. Both appointments would provide oversight of the allocation of cases and performance in the area.
In response to questions, Members were informed that:
· The service was processing 95 more assessments than this time last year. This increased figure of completions within the statutory time demonstrated an improved performance.
· There would be no further permanent appointments in the Service area until the restructure consultation with staff had been completed.
· The service area would provide a chart which had a yearly comparison and demonstrated the pattern of referrals.
ACTION – CABINET MEMBER FOR EDUCATION & SKILLS
· The transfer of locums to the associate model would reduce costs and increase performance.
· Though the level of EHCP’s in Buckinghamshire had been high, when compared nationally, this had now stabilised as there had been a national increase.
· The SEN strategy and improvement plan had a core aim of providing SEN support without the reliance on children going through the 20 week EHCP process.
· Caution should be exercised with national averages and the service area would be looking into causation behind the current figures.
· There had been a regular thematic audit cycle which quality- checked the EHCP’s and improved management oversight would ensure fair distribution of workload based on staff specialism and capacity. The oversight would introduce a balanced support and challenge culture.
· There had been no known issues with the quality of EP’s work; instead there had been issues with the pace at which work had been completed. The service area would have to strike a balance between quality and speed of completion.
A Member advised the Cabinet Member that she had received letters from Buckinghamshire Head Teachers who had enquired about the availability of ‘Healthy Pupils Capital Funding’. She asked whether Schools had been involved in decision-making about how funding would be allocated and asked what decisions had been made.
In response, it was reported that the funding had been awarded to the Local Authority and that the Cabinet Member had decided that the best use of funding, which would produce long-term larger effects, would be within School’s scheduled maintenance programmes which were in line with grant criteria. This would be communicated with Schools at the Schools Forum, Primary Executive Board (PEB) and Buckinghamshire Association of Secondary Head teachers (BASH). It had been a challenge to decide how to distribute the money fairly while pleasing all Schools who had differing views on how it should be spent.
Education figures from within the Q2 performance report were then discussed:
· Updated figures for permanent exclusions, for the academic year to November 2018, were provided. The new figures were 0.01% for primary Schools, 0.05% for secondary Schools and 0% for special Schools. Members agreed that lags in national figure provision had been unhelpful and resulted in delays when tracking the recovery journey.
The Chairman thanked Miss Callaghan and Mr Appleyard, and then welcomed Mr Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, for his update.
Mr Whyte updated Members about the progress of the newest children’s home, which would open in Spring, and that the project team had been working hard to identify new opportunities for children’s homes within the Wycombe area. He told Members that the early help consultation had closed so they would review the current strategy and service proposal ready for a March Cabinet decision. The Cabinet Member also thanked Members for their support and contributions to the successful Christmas present appeal for looked after children. Lastly he reported that the new looked after children strategy had been agreed at the last Cabinet meeting.
When questioned about the looked after children placed over 20 miles from their home key performance indicator from the Q2 performance report, Mr Whyte informed that improving this figure would be challenging due to the shape of the county, the fact that some children had to be situated further away for safeguarding reasons or to be placed with family and friend connections. A request was made and subsequently accepted for a breakdown of these figures to be provided to the committee.
ACTION – EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CHILDREN’S SERVICES
A Member asked whether there had been any analysis of where looked after children were coming from and where foster placements were situated. Mr Vouyioukas, Executive Director for Children’s Services, asked the committee to refer to the recent Placement Sufficiency Strategy as all data would be contained within that document. Quality, stability and competence of placement would always be prioritised over geographical location.