Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1 - Wallasey Town Hall
Contact: Patrick Sebastian 0151 691 8424
Webcast: View the webcast
Apologies for Absence
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Moira McLaughlin; Councillor Julie McManus attended as deputy. The Committee also received apologies for absence from Councillor Anita Leech and from Co-opted Members Julie Johnson and Chris Penn.
Members' Code of Conduct - Declarations of Interest
Members are asked to consider whether they have any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.
Members are reminded that they should also declare whether they are subject to a party whip in connection with any item(s) to be considered and, if so, to declare it and state the nature of the whipping arrangement.
Members were asked to consider whether they had any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.
Members were reminded that they should also declare whether they were subject to a party whip in connection with any item(s) to be considered and, if so, to declare it and state the nature of the whipping arrangement.
The following declarations were made in respect of business on the agenda:-
Councillor Chris Meaden made a declaration of personal interest in respect of the agenda generally by virtue of her daughter’s employment in the Children and Young People’s Department.
Councillor Wendy Clements made a declaration of personal interest in respect of Item 6 on the agenda – Summary of Standards – Provisional Outcomes for Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 August 2018 – by virtue of her work as an Early Years Educator and Administrator at Moreton Baptist Preschool.
To approve the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 22 March 2018.
That the Minutes of the meeting of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 3 July 2018 be confirmed as a correct record.
A report by the Head of Intelligence introduced the 2018/19 Quarter 1 (April – June 2018) performance against the Wirral Plan pledges under the remit of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Appendix 1 to the report provided an overview of the progress made in Quarter 1 and available data in relation to a range of outcome indicators and supporting measures.
Quarter One Wirral Plan Performance was summarised as follows:
· The percentage of women booked to access professional maternity services on or before twelve and six week gestation was 89.5%. This was a significant improvement compared to the previous quarter (76%), which was above the regional average and was just below the 90% target
· The Percentage of early years childcare providers rated 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted was 93%. This was a 15% improvement since the start of the Wirral Plan and an increase of 2% since December 2017. Wirral was slightly below the regional and national figure of 94%.
· The percentage of schools rated 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted was at 86%, below the very aspirational target of 100%. This was a 2% improvement since the start of the Wirral Plan, but a 3% decrease on the previous quarter. Wirral's figure was the same as the national figure, and slightly below the regional figure of 88%.
· The achievement gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their peers achieving the 'expected standard' at the end of key stage 2 for the academic year 2017/18 was provisionally 23.5%, 1.5% below the previous year’s figure.
· There had been a slight improvement at the beginning of the year on the number of children looked after. It was anticipated that it would take a considerable amount of time to reduce the overall numbers due to the high proportion of children aged 10+.
· Numbers of children in need overall currently remained in line with/slightly below statistical neighbours. Given the factors that led to children in need it was not anticipated that these numbers would decrease significantly over the next 12 months.
· The number of children subject to child protection plans had increased compared to previous year and was now at a rate (per 10,000 of 0-17 population) of 52 compared to 39.3. There were concerns within the service that children were being managed as children in need or children looked after when they would have most benefited from a period of time subject to a child protection plan. The new number of children subject to a plan was comparative with statistical neighbours and, therefore, seen as more appropriate.
· In Quarter 1, 23 more disabled people were in receipt of personal budgets; including 215 children (compared to 203 in the last Quarter). Being in receipt of personal budgets allowed people more choice and control over their lives and the support they received.
· The percentage of children and Young People single assessments authorised with Domestic Violence (DV) related factors was 36.2%, a slight improvement when compared to the same period last year (35.5%). ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
The Corporate Director for Children’s Services made a presentation entitled ‘Only the best for our children’ which was about his Department’s improvement journey to the Committee. The Corporate Director provided information on:
· OFSTED’s Visit on 4/5 September 2018 and subsequent feedback
· What was driving improvement
· Performance summary
· What needed to improve
· Recruitment and workforce stability
In summary OFSTED would visit again early in the New Year and Children’s Services would be in a better position to pass the test that would be applied. In the meantime, officers would continue to address those things that required attention.
Following his presentation the Corporate Director was questioned on its content by Members and responded as appropriate. Issues raised included the following:
· Performance Appraisal, professional personal development and making sure staff were valued.
· Good support provided by the HR Department.
· Reasons why the Child Protection rate had increased.
· Research carried out nationally that found that there were higher levels of cost and demand for services in areas of high social deprivation.
· Partnership arrangements being put in place to avoid the need to refer families into social care. This was about efficiencies and best use of resources.
· Newly qualified social workers and their team structures.
· Standards Framework applied to teams to ensure good practice.
· Communications and new working relationships between social workers and the police.
That the Corporate Director for Children’s Services be thanked for his informative presentation.
The Assistant Director for Education introduced a report and appendices that included a summary and a detailed analysis for the pupil outcomes at the age of 5 (Good level of development), the age of 7 (Key Stage 1 SATs) and at the age of 11 (Key Stage 2 SATs). There was a separate report that outlined the attainment and progress for pupils with SEND.
Comparisons had been made with the results nationally wherever possible. However, many of the national results had not yet been published. When the statistical first releases were published in October 2018 the report would be amended.
The Committee noted the following:
The Committee also noted a detailed analysis of pupil outcomes that was appended to the report which could be used to measure the impact of work undertaken in the following pledges:
· Children are ready for school.
· Young People are ready for work and adulthood.
· Vulnerable children reach their full potential.
The report provided detailed analysis of outcomes for all pupil groups at the end of each key stage in the primary phase of education. The analysis of outcomes had also been provided by locality (Birkenhead, South Wirral, Wallasey and West Wirral).
In respect of Key Stage 1 Members noted that this year a greater proportion of children with English as an additional language (EAL) met the standard. There had been an increase of 8.2% to 66.7%. EAL pupils had attained better than pupils with English as their first language. In all localities EAL pupils had outperform pupils who had English as their first language. Attainment of EAL pupils had increased in three of the localities: Wallasey by 16.4%; in West Wirral by 11.8% and in Birkenhead by 9.5%. Attainment of EAL pupils in South Wirral had decreased by 16.8%.
In respect of Key Stage 2 Members noted that the attainment of both the boys and girls had increased. The increase in boys’ attainment by 3.4% was almost double the girls so had narrowed the gender gap. As a consequence of an increase by boys (4.8%) in meeting the standard the Birkenhead locality had closed the gender gap completely. West Wirral had narrowed the gender gap by 1.9% ... view the full minutes text for item 13.
The Assistant Director for Education introduced a report about children being Electively Home Educated and provided information around the reasons why parents choose to educate their children at home. The Committee noted that the Education Act 1996 stated it was the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children had a suitable full time education. Where a parent decided to electively home educate their child the parent must inform the Headteacher of the school that the child attended.
The Education Social Welfare Service maintained a register of these children. A visit took place within two weeks of the parent’s decision to electively home educate, followed by a visit to determine the educational progress the child was making.
Members noted that the numbers of children registered as Electively Home Educated continued to rise, both locally and nationally. There was a 28% increase in the number of children registered as Electively Home Educated in Wirral in comparison with the previous year.
Over the last ten academic years, the number of children electively home educated had increased. At the end of the academic year 2017/18 there were 207 children home educated (108 secondary and 99 primary). The main reasons given by parents for educating their children at home were philosophical/religious reasons (68) followed by health reasons (31).
The report included a summary of the issues around children electively home educated in Wirral which could be used to measure the impact of work undertaken in the following Wirral Plan pledges:
· Children are ready for school
· Young people are ready for work and adulthood
· Vulnerable children reach their full potential
Members asked a number of questions which were answered accordingly. Matters highlighted included the following:
· Department of Education Guidance specifically advised that schools should not suggest Elective Home Education as an alternative to permanent exclusion but this did happen at times. In such cases officers would check out parents understanding of their choices and if appropriate would challenge the school to accept the student back. In some cases this had meant escalating the discussion so that the Director of Children’s Services wrote to the Chair of Governors. Such challenges had generally been successful in resolving matters. The Director wrote to all schools regarding this issue earlier this year.
· A new Elective Home Education Notification Form introduced earlier this year facilitated initial communication between schools and the Education Social Welfare Service when a child became home educated.
· There were more applicants than places available at the Hospital School.
· Officers challenged back at schools asking what they could do to support children suffering from anxiety. Figures to be provided.
· Keeping track of children to ensure they received an education. Quarterly visits to monitor the quality of the education being provided. If the standard was not adequate parents were told and a second visit was booked to ascertain if there had been any improvement.
· The report had been requested by Members seeking assurance that the spike in Elective Home Education was not as a result of something schools ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
The Senior Manager Corporate Finance introduced a report that set out the projected revenue and capital monitoring positions for 2018/19 as at the close of quarter 1 (30 June 2018). The report also provided details of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2019/20 -2022/23 and preparation of the budget for 2019/20.
Appended to the report were the Revenue Monitoring 2018/19 Quarter 1 Report (Appendix 1) and the Capital Monitoring 2018/19 Quarter 1 Report (Appendix 2).
The Senior Manager Corporate Finance also provided the Committee with a presentation on the Children and Young People’s Department the 2017-18 Outturn in relation to Capital and Schools. and the 1st Quarter Revenue Forecast 2018/19.
The Committee noted that capital had been used for the following:
· Meadowside Special School – hydrotherapy
· Town Lane Infants expand/modernisation
· Elleray Park Special School – new classrooms
· Heygarth Primary School – new classrooms
· Woodchurch Primary – new roof
In respect of the 1st Quarter Revenue Forecast 2018/19 the Committee noted that
· The Budget Forecast was balanced
· The cost of Looked After Children continued to be a pressure. Numbers and complex cases
· New investment helping to embed new practices and enabling reactive expenditure to be diverted to prevention
The Senior Manager Corporate Finance informed that the role of the Committee was to focus on the 2019/20 Budget gap of £45m and review and challenge Budget proposals proposed by the Cabinet. The Committee could also recommend budget proposals. They could be wide ranging from income generation and reviewing services to identify efficiencies.
It was noted that the key dates were as follows:
· 26 November 2018 – The Cabinet will agree its budget proposals
· December 2018 – Overview &Scrutiny Committees review the budget proposals
· 18 February 2019 – The Cabinet will approval its budget and updated MTFS
· 4 March 2019 – The Full Council will consider the budget and the Council Tax
Following his presentation the Senior Manager Corporate Finance was questioned on its content by Members and responded as appropriate.
One particular concern raised was the provision of a hydrotherapy pool at Meadowside Special School when just around the corner the Lyndale Special School was scheduled for demolition.
It was proposed that in future the Committee should receive the detail of actual monthly expenditure and the Senior Manager Corporate Finance agreed to provide this information for consideration at meetings going forward.
That the content of the report and its appendices be noted.
The Committee was aware that key to the success of scrutiny was the ability of Members to check evidence from a variety of sources. Whilst Members routinely received reports from senior management and had access to performance monitoring reports, it had been proposed that greater access to frontline staff and service users would enable scrutiny Members to triangulate evidence with other sources and would give Members greater confidence in the outcomes of their scrutiny work. It had, therefore, been agreed at the Committee’s meeting held in July 2017 to establish a programme of Reality Check Visits through which scrutiny Members could engage independently and directly with frontline staff.
The Chair introduced a report that detailed a visit by a small group of Members to the Cheshire Lines building on 30 July 2018 to enable direct engagement with frontline staff. Attached to the report as Appendix 1 was the full report for this Reality Check Visit. It was reported that Members had found the visit to Cheshire Lines useful and informative. The benefits and effects of co-location and agile working were in evidence during the visit, as well as the challenges faced.
Moving forward, the following recommendations had been proposed:
· SLT to make enquiries to ensure that teams who have experienced a lack of communication now feel informed and continue to have information cascaded to them; and
· Standardised Pathways and processes have been requested by staff for all online forms, to ensure standard practice within the borough.
(1) the content of the report and its appendices be noted; and
(2) the following recommendations be agreed:
· SLT to make enquiries to ensure that teams who have experienced a lack of communication now feel informed and continue to have information cascaded to them; and
· standardised Pathways and processes be put in place in respect of all online forms, to ensure standard practice across the Council.
The Chair introduced his report advising that this Committee, in co-operation with the other three Overview and Scrutiny Committees, was responsible for proposing and delivering an annual scrutiny work programme. The work programme should align with the corporate priorities of the Council, in particular the delivery of the Wirral Plan pledges which were within the remit of the Committee.
The Committee noted that it was envisaged that the Work Programme would be drawn up from a combination of scrutiny reviews, standing items and requested officer reports. The report provided Members with an opportunity to plan and regularly review its work across the Municipal Year. Some initial ideas for a Work Programme were appended to the report, based on issues which were of interest to Members of the Committee in the Municipal Year 2018/19.
(1) the content of the report be noted; and
(2) the proposed Children and Families Overview & Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2018/19 be approved.