Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 13th March, 2012 1.30 pm

Venue: Oakenclough Children's Centre, Wilmslow

Contact: Mark Grimshaw  Scrutiny Officer

Items
No. Item

149.

Apologies for Absence

150.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 76 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 14 February 2012.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting held on 14 February 2012 be approved as a correct record.

151.

Declaration of Interest/Party Whip

To provide an opportunity for Members and Officers to declare any personal and/or prejudicial interests and for members to declare the existence of a party whip in relation to any item on the agenda.

 

 

Minutes:

Councillor David Neilson declared a personal interest with regard to item 6 on the grounds that a letter he had written was referenced in the report.

152.

Public Speaking Time/Open Session

A total period of 15 minutes is allocated for members of the public to make a statement(s) on any matter that falls within the remit of the Committee.

 

Individual members of the public may speak for up to 5 minutes, but the Chairman will decide how the period of time allocated for public speaking will be apportioned, where there are a number of speakers.

 

Note:  In order for officers to undertake any background research, it would be helpful if members of the public notified the Scrutiny officer listed at the foot of the agenda, at least one working day before the meeting with brief details of the matter to be covered.

 

 

Minutes:

There were no members of the public who wished to address the Committee.

153.

Summary of actions resulting from the Announced Inspection of Children & Family Services pdf icon PDF 72 KB

To consider a report of the Strategic Director of Children, Families and Adults.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Fintan Bradley, Head of Service: Strategy, Planning and Performance, attended to provide an update on the progress which had taken place across a range of service areas as a result of the Announced Inspection of Children & Family Services in June/July 2011. The published report from Ofsted had outlined a series of areas for improvement within specified timescales and these had been distilled into a specific action plan by the Children and Families senior leadership team. Fintan Bradley noted that actions from the April 2011 Unannounced Inspection had been merged into the plan and that it was being monitored through the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) Performance Management sub group.

 

It was queried whether the department had been surprised with the number of actions that had emerged from the inspection. Fintan Bradley confirmed that the department had not been surprised as they were already aware of the service gaps. He stated that it was important for the department to be self aware and self critical and that it would have been more of a concern if the actions had come as a surprise. Following from this point, it was stated that considering six out of the seventeen areas required immediate attention this demonstrated that the self assessment processes must not have been robust. Fintan Bradley acknowledged that this was partly due to the flux as a result of being a new Council but continued to assert that the service would need to improve the systems around ‘deep dive’ self review.

 

It was questioned if there were any processes in place for feedback to be provided to residents/professionals who had made a referral to the Council on a child safeguarding issue. Fintan Bradley confirmed that feedback systems were in place and that the Council would always seek to offer the referrer alternative routes for dealing with the issue if it was not escalated to the Common Assessment Team.

 

Attention was drawn to the action which recommended that the Council ‘Ensure that service users are actively and consistently engaged are able to contribute to service development’. It was noted that there were ‘still issues’ with this action and it was queried what these were and whether the service was confident that improvements could be made. Fintan Bradley acknowledged that the department needed to get better at listening to service users and then doing something positive with that information. Whilst this practice was going on, there were still issues of consistency. The Committee was reassured that the performance management sub group of the LSCB were looking at this issue carefully and that a report could be brought to scrutiny in three months to provide an update on progress.

 

It was noted that a 16 plus working group had been referenced in a number of action points. Bearing in mind that a recent Task Group had been established to look at the issue of care leavers, it was queried whether the Committee was duplicating work streams. Fintan Bradley confirmed he would seek clarification on this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 153.

154.

Determination of Local Authority Coordinated Scheme and Admission Arrangements pdf icon PDF 60 KB

To consider a report of the Strategic Director of Children, Families and Adults.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Barbara Dale, School Admissions and Organisation Manager, attended to present a draft Decision Paper which outlined the outcome of the statutory consultation undertaken during the Sprint Term 2012 on the Council’s proposed admission arrangements and co-ordinated admission scheme for 2013. She explained that the paper sought Cabinet approval to determine these arrangements prior to the 15 April 2012. The Committee was asked to consider the paper and offer advice to officers regarding the proposed changes and procedures implemented.

 

Attention was drawn to point 10.7 in the draft decision paper which described how several comments received during the consultation had requested that a number of successful schools be allowed to grow their pupil admission number (PAN) in order to meet demand and foster parental choice. Barbara explained that the Council had a responsibility to manage such requests carefully as expanding capacity could have significant knock on effects on the viability of other nearby schools.

 

A discussion was had as to whether this was the policy that the Council should be implementing. It was asserted that the Council should not be giving priority to keeping open schools and rather be rewarding good performing schools with more places. In response to this, a number of comments were made which argued that the Council had a responsibility to improve the standards of all schools and take a long term view of placement strategy. Indeed, it was stated that a system that responded to the preferences of a particular set of parents at a particular year could be unworkable as communities could lose their local school. It was also noted that increasing school capacity could bring with it traffic congestion issues.

 

The Chair asserted that a difficult policy balance needed to be sought – one which firstly addressed the issue of parental choice and secondly made sure that local communities were served by improving the standards of all schools.

 

It was queried whether there were any examples of children who had to travel a significant distance as they could not access a local school. Barbara Dale explained that if this happened the Council would look at school placement allocation in order to try and get all children attending a school within a ‘reasonable’ distance from their home. ‘Reasonable’ in this context might be 2 miles for a primary school child and 3 miles for a secondary school pupil, although this could not be guaranteed. In all cases, arrangements would be administered fairly for all families. She also described how the Council occasionally used some of the held back dedicated schools grant money to supplement any staffing issues arising from further admissions.

 

RESOLVED – That the report be received.

 

155.

Work Programme update pdf icon PDF 130 KB

To give consideration to the work programme.

Minutes:

Members considered the work programme. It was suggested that the following items be added to the work programme:

-       Strategies to improve underperforming schools

-       Finance and performance reports on a quarterly basis starting from June 2012

-       SEN policy

 

It was also suggested that a ‘workshop’ session could be arranged in May in order to plan the 2012/13 work programme.

 

RESOLVED –

 

a)    That the work programme be noted with the following additions:

a.    Strategies to improve underperforming schools

b.    Finance and performance reports on a quarterly basis starting from June 2012

c.    SEN policy

 

b)    That the Scrutiny officer explore organising a ‘workshop’ session in May 2012.

 

 

156.

Forward Plan - extracts pdf icon PDF 151 KB

To note the current Forward Plan, identify any new items and to determine whether any further examination of new issues is appropriate.

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the extracts of the forward plan which fell within the remit of the Committee.

 

RESOLVED – That the forward plan be noted.