Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 13 January 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Web ex meeting. View directions

No. Item


Declarations of interest

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


Councillor Andrew Miller declared that he was in the process of applying to become a foster carer for the Authority. 


Councillor Ben Evans declared he was a Director of a non profit organisation, Chime. 


Councillor Nick Housden declared he was a Director of Bridge Youth Services. 


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 113 KB




That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 25th November 2021 were approved as a correct record.


Domestic Violence and Children _Withdrawn

It has been necessary to withdraw the report. 


The Committee were advised that the report had been withdrawn.


Widening Participation - Gloucestershire Grammar Schools pdf icon PDF 137 KB

Additional documents:


4.1    Kirsten Harrison, Director of Education presented the report in detail and advised the Committee the report was in response to a request made at the September meeting to consider what options were available to engage high ability disadvantaged students and their parents in applying to the county’s grammar schools as part of the Year 6 to Year 7 secondary transition arrangements. 


4.2    Members were advised that a collective group of Grammar Schools Head teachers, known as the G7 Group, were taking on the challenge of recruiting disadvantaged children to the grammar schools.  It was noted that a visits programme was in place and the grammar school Head teachers visited local primary schools in Years 5 & 6. 


4.3    The Committee also noted that a myth busting video would be released on the grammar schools’ websites, in an effort to raise awareness and increase engagement with parents.  Members requested that the video link be circulated for information when available. (Action – KH)


4.4    Members felt that preparing for the entrance test was a barrier.  The Director of Education explained the G7 had devised a bespoke pupil premium programme which would give disadvantaged children direct access to exemplar educational materials to assist them with preparing for the entrance test. 


4.5    The G7 group were focusing their attentions on building relationships with primary schools and offered training for staff.  There was a discussion as to whether any pressure could be applied by the LA. The Director of Education was clear that that would not be appropriate and stood outside of the LA’s role in the school admissions regulatory framework.


4.6    Some members felt that educational disadvantage started in early years and this was further compounded by transport and financial implications when considering grammar schools. 


4.7    During the discussion members questioned the high number of children from out of county that attended the grammar schools.  Members felt this prevented local children from accessing those school places and there was no longer a local cohort.  The Committee felt many of the children who passed the entrance tests had received coaching, which many disadvantaged families wouldn’t be able to afford. 


4.8    The Director of Education explained the grammar schools are single academy trusts and as a result their own Admissions Authorities. The LA was responsible for ensuring the SATs admissions policies are consistent with the School Admissions Code.  The grammar school admission policies  were consistent with the national school admissions policy and did not have catchment areas. GCC had no authority to make the schools take children from the local areas.  In terms of the numbers of local students attending, it was noted that grammar schools held that data.  The Committee noted that the Director of Education was working collaboratively with the G7 group. 


4.9    Some members felt that the majority of children who attended grammar schools had been coached and were from families who could afford the additional tutoring. Unfortunately this was an uneven playing field for many disadvantaged children. 


4.10  The co-opted member informed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Accelerated Improvement Plan pdf icon PDF 302 KB


5.1       The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) presented the report in detail which highlighted pressures within the service.  It was noted there was an increased proportion of inadequate practice, this was detailed on page 36 of the report.  The number of inadequate audits had increased to 24% in October 2021, compared to 8% inadequate audits in August 2021.  It was noted that the figures for November/December were yet to be moderated but the DCS recognised that it was an area of concern which would be closely monitored.   


5.2       During the discussion, it was remarked that the performance journey appeared to be plateauing, which was a cause for concern at this stage.  The DCS suggested that the service was in the middle of a “perfect storm” in terms of the running of services, however the biggest area of concern related to staffing and the need to stabilise the workforce.  It was evident that the staffing market had changed since September 2021 and staff had reappraised their lifestyles and no longer wanted to spend time travelling vast distances to work, hence the upturn in staff numbers. 


5.3       It was noted prior to Christmas there were currently 44 vacancies, which had obviously put a strain on case loads and the remaining staff were carrying heavier work loads.  In order to attract staff to the service, uplift had been agreed for agency and permanent staff and overtime payments were now being paid for hard to recruit to posts.  As a result of the uplift the number of vacancies currently stood at 20. 


5.4       It was evident that workflow and challenges were now increasing, as the number of violent incidents, young people suicides, etc., locally had increased, which further impacted on the provision of services and on staff.  In addition there were now three migrant hotels in Gloucester and those families  and lone children required support, these additional factors had put a significant strain on the service. 


5.5       Members felt the reports were honest and gave a true reflection of the service issues and the challenges faced by staff, as such members felt staff should be applauded on their efforts in the face of adversity. 


5.6       In response to a question, it was explained that keeping records and ensuring agency staff notes were recorded accurately was a frontline issue.  The DCS explained it was important to revert to basics at this present time and it was a question of priorities, while ensuring that visits were completed on time, children were seen and the details were properly recorded on the system.


5.7       The Committee felt the uncertainty of the Ofsted Inspection continued to cause difficulties for the service.  In response to a question, it was noted that it was nearly five years since the inspection had taken place.  Members hoped that Ofsted would carry out their inspection sooner rather than later, as they felt the delay continued to have a detrimental impact on the service and staff morale.


5.8       In response to a question it was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Performance Report pdf icon PDF 108 KB


6.1       The Director of Partnerships and Strategy presented the report and drew member’s attention to the performance indicators and explained that the offers to stabilise the workforce would evidently show in the December/January data. 


6.2       Officers found themselves in a difficult position of having to balance bureaucracy and work loads in order to deliver the performance targets.  In response to a question regarding ES.17, it was explained that the neglect tool kit was a useful and was regularly reviewed and shared with partner agencies.  The Young Ambassador for Vulnerable Children and Young People offered to assist officers with the neglect tool kit. 


Quality Assurance Framework pdf icon PDF 492 KB


7.1       Rob England, Head of Quality presented the report in detail, during the discussion it was noted that the less resilient teams at risk of vulnerability were receiving support. 


7.2       Members referred to the recent murders of young people in the County and felt that these cases didn’t end with a court case and they wondered what additional support had been put in place to support the families.  The DCS explained when events of such magnitude occurred it caused a ripple effect.  The first point of support was for the family of the victim and secondly school support to assist their friends and peers.  It was noted that a rapid response approach was undertaken and educational psychologists were on hand to provide support and advice if required.  In addition the implications for the local community were also considered and assistance was provided. 


7.3       In response to a question, it was explained that audit completions depended on system pressures.  The Head of Quality explained that the gap wasn’t necessarily an area of concern at this stage. 


Revenue Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 91 KB

Additional documents:


8.1       Suzanne Hall, Finance Business Partner presented the report.  It was noted there was a £17.328m overspend, of which £9.026m related to Covid, which gave a net position of approximately £8.302m.  Members were advised of the key points in relation to budget pressures, which included external placements, which is the significant element, the cost of safeguarding staff, SEN in relation to EHCP plans and home to school transport. 


8.2       Members questioned the increased costs, it was explained that there were a number of strategies now in place to help control the budget implications.  In response to a question relating to rising energy costs, it was noted that schools were responsible for their own budgets. 


8.3       It was noted that early help was hugely important if under resourced, officers appreciated this point and confirmed that if it was possible to intervene early it could prevent spend later on.  The newly established family hubs would provide advice and support for 0-25 year olds and were developed in association with Child Friendly Gloucestershire.  The Committee welcomed this approach and initiative.