Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions
Note: This meeting will not be live streamed
Declarations of interest
Please see note (a) at the end of agenda.
In respect of agenda item 5: Education Provision in Gloucestershire: -
Ø Cllr Ben Evans declared a personal interest as a Director of Chime Management CiC.
Ø Cllr Nick Housden declared a personal interest as a Director of Bridge Youth Services.
The notes of the meetings held on 17 June and 15 July 2021 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Co-option of the role of Ambassador for Vulnerable Children and Young People
The role of Ambassador for Vulnerable Children and Young People was co-opted
onto the committee in 2015. This has added value to debates as the Ambassador brings the voice of the child and young person directly into the committee room.
The committee to consider co-opting the of the Ambassador for Vulnerable Children and Young People onto the committee for the duration of this council (2021-2025).
The committee agreed to co-opt the role of Ambassador for Vulnerable Children and Young People on to the committee for the duration of this council.
Following the discussion and debate the committee may wish to consider whether it wishes to invite the Regional Schools Commissioner to a future meeting to respond to any questions/issues related to Academies in Gloucestershire raised at this meeting.
4.1 The committee was pleased to welcome Kirsten Harrison, Director of Education, and Clare Dudman, Head of School Improvement, particularly as both had only been in post for two weeks. (The presentation slides to accompany this agenda item were published on the council website.)
4.2 The Director of Education informed the committee that their key role was to look to establish appropriate vehicles for change and improvement, and develop collaborative system leadership. They stated that their focus would be to aim for influence on the system in the best interests of the children and young people of Gloucestershire.
4.3 The committee was informed that the new Ofsted framework brought outstanding schools back into the inspection regime. Over 20 schools in Gloucestershire have not been inspected for over 10 years; there could have been many changes in the school during that time.
4.4 The current climate was challenging for everyone, including, but not limited to, the recovery from Covid, financial challenges, and pressures on high needs provision.
4.5 Members were informed that the council does not have a fixed position around Academisation, but could not ignore the national agenda. The Education Reference Group, which brought together the Director of Education, the Director of Strategy and Partnerships, the Regional Schools’ Commissioner’s Office, the Dioceses and the Chairs of the Headteacher’s Associations – secondary, primary and special, was established in the summer term 2021 and has met twice. The purpose of the group was to discuss local education system areas of operation, opportunities and barriers to collaborative working as well as considering innovative ways to work together for the benefit of young people.
4.6 The committee noted that the SEND area review was due within the next 18 months to two years. A SEND strategy document would be received by Cabinet in December 2021.
4.7 Both the Director and Head of School Improvement would be spending time getting to know the teams, and looking at those schools and aspects of the school system that were causing particular concern.
4.8 The committee was informed that one of the upsides of Covid was that it had led to more effective weekly communication with Headteachers, which had resulted in a better level of trust and understanding; it would be important to build on this.
4.9 Members were informed that officers were working actively to achieve closer harmonisation between education and social care teams to better collectively support the most vulnerable children and young people.
4.10 It was questioned whether the performance data indicated that educational achievement in Gloucestershire was benefiting from pupils from outside the county accessing our grammar schools. It was explained that this type of data would be hard to extrapolate, and that it was important to note that young people from Gloucestershire also travelled cross border for their education.
4.11 In response to a question the committee was informed that it was the council’s role to support schools to ensure that the pupil premium was used as effectively as ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
5.1 The committee received a briefing from the Director of People and Digital Services. The Director was clear that the state of the ICT service had negatively impacted on children’s services. However, they wanted to give the committee confidence that there was a plan in place to address this position.
5.2 The Director described the challenges that had been encountered as the council tried to move toward a more sustainable future for its ICT Service. The pandemic had proved to be a particularly challenging time with the service not immediately best placed to be able to support the level of remote working that would be required. This had also delayed some of the planned improvement work. The focus now was on improving and replacing much of the infrastructure. The committee was informed that some of the inherited inconsistencies were causing some issues, but things were improving month on month. The service was now receiving positive feedback from children’s services.
5.3 It was noted that the service was about to begin the rollout of Microsoft 365 which would be a further increase in the stability of ICT.
5.4 The Cabinet Member Safeguarding Children and Early Years informed members that they had met with Director on this matter. They wished to record their thanks for the work undertaken to improve the situation. The committee was also informed that the Cabinet Member had seen an improvement in feedback from Children’s Services.
5.5 Members were concerned that this could have a negative impact on the expected Ofsted Inspection. The Director stated that there was no straightforward answer to this question. There was a difficult period in April and May (2021) as the (inherited) system had not been fully documented by the previous provider and was not fully understood by the present incumbent. However, the number of Priority 1 incidents had now significantly reduced, and the previous issues around the MASH were no longer being seen. There had been a period where there had been a lot of frustration.
5.6 The Director informed members that Ofsted would want to see that there was a plan in place to address issues. The Director believed that the current position with ICT was not negatively impacting the council’s ability to keep children safe.
5.7 The Director of Partnerships and Strategy (Children’s Services) informed the committee that the operational impact at the start of the pandemic had included connectivity issues related to LiquidLogic, logging on to the system, and an inability to have collective conversations. These issues had impacted on performance data; children’s services were required to respond to particular issues within 4 hours. A WhatsApp group had been established to enable an immediate sharing of problems. The traffic in this group has fallen significantly; the concerns and number of incidents have reduced. As part of the 6 month review officers had spoken with the DfE and were clear that this situation was not preventing council from keeping children safe. The SEF (Statement of Evidence) would reference this ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
6.1 In addition to the items already included in the work plan to add: -
Ø The outcome of the Ofsted Inspection (this may require an additional meeting of the committee)
Ø Exclusions – the Timpson review into exclusions and the committee’s task group report to be shared with members
Ø Domestic Abuse – January 2022
Ø Alternative provision
Ø Peer to peer violence
Ø Education – how can children and young people be inspired to achieve.
6.2 It was agreed that Performance Reports be scheduled on a quarterly basis, and that members would send in questions on these reports at least two days in advance of the meeting.