Agenda and minutes

Venue: Virtual Meeting via MS Teams

Contact: Kelly Sutherland 


Webcast: View the webcast

No. Item


Apologies for Absence/Changes in Membership

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The Chairman, Mr Dev Dhillon, welcomed everyone to the meeting and apologised for the delayed start which was due to technical issues.


Apologies were received from Mr Paul Kelly, Mr Mike Collins and Mr Robert Jones.


Declarations of Interest

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The following declarations of interest were made:


  • Mr Dominic Barnes declared that his wife worked at a grammar school in Buckinghamshire.

·         Mr Arif Hussain declared that he was a school governor.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 448 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 4th June 2020 as a correct record.

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The minutes of the meeting held on 4 June 2020 were reviewed.  Mr Robin Stuchbury referred to the paragraph concerning the 11+ on page 10 of the agenda pack (5th bullet point) and asked whether monitoring of the 11+ would take place to ensure there was no negative impact on the percentage of children from disadvantaged families. The Chairman confirmed that there would be an agenda item on the Educational Standards Report at the next Children’s and Education Select Committee meeting. 


Mr Dominic Barnes requested that his declaration of interest be amended as his wife worked at a grammar school in Buckinghamshire rather than the Education Department at Buckinghamshire Council.

ACTION:  Kelly Sutherland


RESOLVED: the minutes of the meeting held on 4 June 2020 were AGREED as an accurate record subject to the highlighted change being made.


Public Questions pdf icon PDF 327 KB

Public questions have been submitted for this meeting and can be found in Appendix 4.

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Mr Dhillon advised that, in future, the work programme would be a standing item on the agenda and public questions would normally relate to an agenda item.  As the agenda was published after the deadline for questions to be submitted, Mr Dhillon stated he had agreed that the following three questions could be raised.  The questions were read out by Kelly Sutherland, Committee and Governance Manager; Mr Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services provided the responses.


Question 1

What provisions had the Council put in place that supported children who were not able to access respite care as facilities were currently closed? When would respite centres open again?



Since the start of Covid-19, the service had sought to balance the overwhelming need to reduce the risk of infection for children, young people and adults and provide services in line with our statutory duties. Respite care for children with additional needs and their parents had continued throughout this period of time, although it had had to change. Initially, overnight respite care was not safe to provide; however, this was now available albeit in a limited capacity and designed around the need to reduce the risk of infection. Overnight respite care was subject to continual review.


Question Two

Was the Council now able to continue their statutory duties on timescales from 25 September 2020 under the Children’s Act?



The Council had regular, and at least weekly, contact with colleagues from the Department of Education to discuss service delivery in the context of Covid-19. We, as a Council, remained confident that we would continue to be able to meet statutory expectations.


Question Three

How had the Council allocated the extra catch-up funding it received for education from Government for the Covid-19 pandemic?


On 19 June 2020, the government announced £1 billion additional funding to help England's children catch up on what they had missed while schools had been closed.  The funding was for the 2020-21 academic year and was split into two amounts:

  • £650 million Universal Catch Up Premium.

·           £350 million National Tutoring Programme to support the most disadvantaged pupils.


Universal Catch Up Premium:

·           This funding was available for all state funded mainstream and special schools, alternative provision and independent special schools to support all pupils in the 2020-21 academic year.  The funding would be allocated directly to schools and the Council did not have any discretion in the allocation.

·           For mainstream schools funding would be allocated at £80 per pupil.

·           For special schools and alternative provision funding would be allocated at £240 per place.

·           Schools had the flexibility to spend their funding in the best way for their cohort and circumstances.

·           Based on the last school census it was estimated that the amount to be allocated across Buckinghamshire schools (including academies) would be approximately £6.4m.


National Tutoring Programme (NTP)

This funding was to provide additional, targeted support for those children and young people who needed the most help.  The NTP was a more structured programme where schools purchased  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Chairman's Update

For the Chairman to update the Committee on Children’s Services and Education scrutiny activity since the last meeting.

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The Chairman reported that he had attended an informal meeting with some members of the Transport, Environment and Climate Change Select Committee.  The purpose of the meeting was for members to be assured that the home to school transport plan for the return to school in September, which had been made more complicated due to social distancing requirements, was in place.  The Service had been working hard with bus operators and school heads and the arrangements for the autumn term had gone smoothly. 


The Chairman reminded members that this committee was responsible for the scrutiny of changes in the policy of home to school transport which came under Mrs Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills; however, the operational side of school transport was the responsibility of David Martin, Cabinet Member for Logistics.  Therefore, Mr Dhillon had agreed with the Chairman of the Transport, Environment and Climate Change Select Committee that they should take the lead on this area.  A member of the committee commented that he understood why school transport was scrutinised by the Transport, Environment and Climate Change Committee but was concerned that the findings had not been shared with this Committee.  Mr Dhillon replied that Sara Turnbull, Service Director for Transport Services, had provided a detailed presentation which would be circulated to the committee members for information. Mr Dhillon thanked S Turnbull, David Martin and the officers concerned for their hard work and added that he had not heard of any complaints about the service.

ACTION:  Kelly Sutherland


Mr Dhillon advised that the Children’s and Education Select Committee was able to appoint co-opted members to assist Members with scrutinising education matters. Following advice from the Service Director, Legal and Democratic Services, the Chairman proposed inviting two parent governors, Mark Skoyles (primary representative) and Clare Pease (secondary representative), who had previously served on the committee for a short time before the Unitary transition.  If agreed, they would serve until May 2021.


RESOLVED:  It was AGREED that Mark Skoyles and Clare Pease be invited to be appointed as co-opted members of the Children’s and Education Select Committee.


Covid-19 Update pdf icon PDF 640 KB

The Committee will receive an update on the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Children’s Services and Education.



Mr Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services

Mrs Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Mr Tolis Vouyioukas, Corporate Director for Children’s Services

Mr Richard Nash, Service Director, Children’s Services

Mr Simon James, Service Director, Education

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The Chairman welcomed Mr Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services; Mrs Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills; Mr Tolis  Vouyioukas, Corporate Director for Children’s Services; Mr Richard Nash, Service Director, Children’s Social Care and Mr Simon James, Service Director for Education to the meeting.  Mr Vouyioukas explained that the report contained two sections; Children’s Social Care and Education.  Mr Vouyioukas acknowledged that it had been an incredibly busy time for everyone in the Directorate and schools and thanked staff and colleagues for their hard work. 


Mr Nash reported that the Service had focussed on meeting the needs of vulnerable children and young people and had adopted a flexible approach in the context of Covid-19.  The number of physical contacts with children, young people and their families had increased since the last meeting of the Committee.  The Service had introduced new practice standards to see as many children as possible, face to face, and it was evident, due to the increased complexity of case work, that Covid-19 had had an impact on vulnerable families.  There had been some positive outcomes such as the quality of the inter-agency work and the use of technology which had improved contact with some children.  Professional contribution to meetings had also improved.


The following points were raised and discussed by members of the committee.


  • In response to a request on the number of children percentage-wise who had returned to school and for information on the work being carried out to provide mental health resilience for children and families; Mr Nash advised that there had been a positive response to children returning to school and that children being away from school had underlined the importance of attending school.  Mental health resilience was not a new area of work but Mr Nash agreed that the impact of Covid-19 would increase the workload and that the relationship with the mental health service remained key to ensure a timely response.
  • Reference was made to paragraph 1.5 which stated that “August 2020 saw a greater proportion of individuals self-referring into the service, which is a significant shift compared to previous trends”.  Mr Nash explained that it was hard to provide an exact number/comparison but it had been notable that there had been successive days of requests for help which was unusual.
  • In response to a question on whether staff had been impacted in Buckinghamshire due to being unable to obtain a Covid-19 test; Mr Nash advised that it had not been a significant resourcing issue from a Children’s Social Care perspective; it had been a national issue and the service was working closely with public health colleagues.
  • Paragraph 1.4 referred to an increase in the number of referrals for families which had not previously been known to the service.  A member asked how many referrals and the scale of issues of the new referrals.  Mr Nash stated that the evidence was two-fold; the month by month comparison with last year showed the number of referrals had increased, possibly  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


SEND Improvement Plan pdf icon PDF 725 KB

The Committee will receive an overview of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Improvement plan and an update on progress to date.



Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Tolis Vouyioukas, Corporate Director for Children’s Services

Simon James, Service Director, Education

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Mr James introduced the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Improvement Plan report which related to the progress and improvement across whole local authority area.  It was part of the work for the local area inspection and should be seen in line with the SEND Strategy, the improvement plan and self-assessment document.  Demand for children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) was increasing each year and there were more children with complex needs, notably children on the autistic spectrum and also children and young people presenting with varying degrees of mental health concerns. 


Governance was carried out by the SEND Board which was chaired by Mr Tolis Vouyioukas.  This was an executive board, representative of the whole area and included parents, schools and partners.  There were also a number of impact groups beneath the SEND Board which focus on specific areas of priority; e.g. Co-production (working with families and children preparing for adulthood), the quality of EHCPs, and the local offer (an online resource for families to access information). 


Recent areas of improvement included the timeliness of EHCP assessments; there was a 20 week deadline for EHCP assessments to be completed and over 80% had been achieved in last four months with 89% at the end of August 2020.  The Service had also focussed on the quality of the plans through an audit programme; 50% of all plans were good or better during the last month.  Two of the biggest challenges were to ensure pathways were clear for young people moving into adulthood and to provide more focus on identifying children in need of SEN support.


The following points were raised and discussed by members of the committee:


  • The self-evaluation document was a live document and involved the contribution of all the stakeholders across Buckinghamshire including statutory and non-statutory services to parents, representatives and volunteers and the community to identify the people who had a special education need.  Mr James reported that there had been a recent, very well attended, school governors’ board meeting in which there was specific interest in the SEN topic.  The schools and School Governors were aware of the inspection preparation and there would be a series of upcoming meetings with head teachers to raise awareness of SEN.
  • A member referred to Paragraph 2.14 and asked about the support for those in need of speech therapy.  Mr James reported that ‘Speech Link’ was a very effective tool which identified children that might have a speech language therapy need.  It was a way of supporting schools to identify those needs early and, if appropriate, refer into the speech and language therapy service for a further assessment.  The Service was also working closely with health colleagues to make sure that teachers and teaching assistants felt confident to meet the needs of those children.  Mr James did not know if there was a waiting list for children who required speech therapy but agreed to check this.

ACTION:  Mr James


Draft Work Programme pdf icon PDF 340 KB

Members will consider and agree the forward Work Programme, which has been drafted on the basis of Members’ suggestions at the June meeting and subsequent feedback from Cabinet Members and the Corporate Director.  There needs to be an element of flexibility in the work programme so that the Committee can respond to any urgent issues that might arise, therefore the work programme may evolve and will be reviewed at every Select Committee meeting.



Chairman and all Committee Members

Kelly Sutherland, Committee & Governance Manager

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The following items were proposed to add to the Committee’s Work programme:


  • Social worker recruitment – possible area for Inquiry work to be discussed at the next meeting.
  • SEN children and preparation for adulthood.
  • Educational standards – the national issue/effects of C-19 on 11+. 

·         Members suggested that the item on the mental health of children should be brought forward to the meeting on 7 January 2021


Date of Next Meeting

Thursday 5th November 2020 at 2pm

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5 November 2020 at 2.00 pm