Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday 12 January 2017 10.00 am

Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Contact: Andrea Clarke 01452 324203 

Items
No. Item

38.

Declarations of interest

Please see note (a) at the end of agenda.

Minutes:

Cllr Brian Robinson declared a personal interest as a governor at Dene Magna School, as Chairman of the Management Committee of the Gloucestershire Alternative Provision School, and as a Foster Carer.

 

Richard Castle declared a personal interest as a governor at Gastrells Community Primary School.

39.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 76 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting on Friday 18 November 2016 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

40.

Permanent Exclusions pdf icon PDF 381 KB

The committee to receive a presentation.

Minutes:

40.1     The committee has been concerned about this matter for some time and wanted to gain a greater understanding of the underlying issues and so was pleased to welcome the Head of Education, the Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills, the Strategic Lead for Education, Performance and Inclusion, and the Headteacher of the Stroud and Cotswold Alternative Provision School, to engage with the committee on this matter. (For information the presentation slides were uploaded to the council website and included in the minute book.)

 

40.2     The committee was informed that permanent exclusions were a serious problem in Gloucestershire. Data showed that the number here was not only higher than our statistical neighbours but also higher than the national average. Alongside this there was also a record level of elective home education. A particular concern was the growing number of permanent exclusions at the primary level. Research undertaken by Research in Practice (www.rip.org.uk) on education outcomes has shown that stability was a key factor in achieving good educational outcomes. It was felt that not all schools had the level of confidence needed when dealing with challenging behaviour; and it was known that if there were developing issues with a student then it was important to deal with the situation immediately – speed was a key issue.

 

40.3     It was questioned whether the move to Academies was a particular factor. It was noted that whilst there might be some relevance to the type of school, the Director of Children’s Service’s informed the committee that permanent exclusions had been an issue for Gloucestershire for some time and was getting worse, and she therefore did not think that there was a direct causal link to the education structure itself. The Director also informed members that the same issues were faced across the country so for her the question was why was there a particular issue in Gloucestershire?

 

40.4     The committee engaged in a robust discussion and debate on this matter. A particular factor coming through the debate was the potential negative impact of students with challenging behaviour on a school’s position on the academic ‘league’ tables, and the part that this may have when a school was considering permanently excluding a student. There were also different pathways to becoming a teacher and it was questioned whether they all gave sufficient opportunity for training in how to work with children and young people with challenging and persistently disruptive behaviour. Members were interested to note that the majority of teachers, nationally, have less than ten years experience of teaching which could be a factor in this regard. Also, classroom sizes were increasing (potentially 30+) which made managing challenging behaviour difficult particularly if there were students with special needs in the classroom, with insufficient levels of individual support.

 

40.5     For members an over-riding concern was that if students were not in school they were missing out on education, and opportunities to develop their socialisation skills; and if they were not able to access appropriate behaviour management support  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.

41.

Qtr 2 2016/17 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 131 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

41.1     The Director of Children’s Service’s informed members that significant pressures remained but that targets were showing a small improvement. Whilst this was good to note, members agreed that it was important not to make assumptions based on one quarter’s data. It was noted that the vacancy rate for Social Workers had reduced, and was now below 7%. Case loads were reducing in line with the increase in social workers, although there was still work to do to upskill some of the newer social workers to broaden out their skill base across the system. Members were interested to note that the new front door process was in place which meant that there was now better triaging of referrals; although pressures remained in the core teams.

           

41.2     The committee noted that a deep dive into care proceedings had recently been undertaken; actions to improve this area have been identified. The Annual Complaints and Compliments Report was tabled. Members noted that the number of compliments was greater than the complaints, and that there has been a significant improvement in resolving complaints at an early stage. (For information these reports were available on the council website for information.)

           

41.3     In response to a question with regard to the trajectory of the number of children coming into care it was explained that this was impossible to answer; there was no guidance on what was the right number, and Ofsted tended not to comment on actual numbers in care. Officers have looked at the patterns over a 30 year period and it was clear that Gloucestershire had followed the national trajectory. The committee was informed that about 7 years ago we had had low numbers in care, and the Director indicated that she felt that we were to a degree dealing with this legacy now, and that some children might have benefited from earlier intervention. The Director also informed members that she felt that the numbers seemed to have peaked; and that it would be important to try and maintain this level. Members agreed that this was an issue that the committee, in the next council, would need to continue to closely monitor and investigate to better understand the drivers for children coming into care.

 

41.4     In response to a question the committee was informed that the numbers of unaccompanied asylum seekers (UASC) in the county continued to be low. The committee would be informed if these numbers changed significantly. The Director also informed members that the government had increased funding such that care leavers were now supported at the same level as those in care. Local authorities were still in disagreement with government as to whether funding did cover all costs, in particular where there were complex needs.

42.

Revenue Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The committee noted that the trends remained as previously reported. The Finance Business Partner explained that the second phase of the investment in Social Workers was included in the budget for the financial year 2017/18, and that it was anticipated that by the end of 2017/18 it should be possible to see the impact of this funding coming through, for example in a reduction in staff agency costs. Members agreed that it was good to note that there was now a regional protocol in place with regard to agency costs; this included an agreement not to employ anyone who had left local authority employment in the previous six months.

 

43.

Capital Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The committee noted the report.

44.

Scrutiny of the Budget - Children and Families pdf icon PDF 498 KB

As part of the scrutiny of the budget process the committee to receive the proposals for Children and Families..

Minutes:

44.1     The committee welcomed the work that was being carried out, and the investment included in the budget, to establish the Intensive Recovery and Intervention Service (IRIS). It was explained that this would be based around residential hubs providing effective support for those very vulnerable young people with multiple needs.

 

44.2     Members recognised the challenges around agency spend and the work that was being carried out in this area. In response to questions it was clarified that the actual spend had risen sharply from 2016/17 and that the trend had not been apparent before that point. Members noted the second part of the additional investment for social workers which sat within the budget following the recommendations of the task group. Members looked forward to seeing the impact of this investment over the coming months.