Venue: Online via YouTube - any member of the press and public may view the proceedings at this virtual meeting via this weblink https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7DDSVoAIgTnwgp0Ku8iFLQ
To receive any apologies.
There were no apologies.
Declarations of Pecuniary or Conflicting Interests from Members
To receive declarations of interest from Members.
There were no declarations of interest.
Questions and Deputations
To deal with any questions or deputations received.
Two requests to make deputations were received – one by Sajida Golby, on behalf of the North Solihull Additional Needs Support Group, in regards to agenda item 6, Update on School Exclusions; Elective Home Education; School Attendance; Part-time timetables and Off-rolling. Councillor Blunt read out the deputation on behalf of Sajida Golby, where a number of points were raised, including the following:
· Families were requesting more accountability, due to the rise of
o Children struggling within school, resulting in school refusal.
o Part time timetables.
o The need to go to tribunal and mediation to source suitable provision.
o Concerns around Education, Health Care Plans – including content, delays in procedures, as well as reviews of existing plans. There were also concerns around legal policies and guidance not being adhered to.
o Families feeling they had to pursue home education.
o A need for more specialist and appropriate placements, to help prevent young people struggling, as well as enable reasonable adjustments.
o Instances of expensive placements being funded, including where the child did not attend.
· It was important for the Local Authority, local support groups and Councillors to all work together to ensure all children with additional needs received the support they required. It was stressed how it mustn’t take years for this to be achieved, short term solutions were required also, for the children being affected today.
Parent/carer meetings had been held with Councillors, Saqib Bhatti MP, the Director of Children’s Services and Skills, as well as the Assistant Director for Inclusion and SEND, where a range of issues were raised, including the following:
· There were concerns that parents were having to pursue Elective Home Education, to protect their child’s wellbeing and mental health. There were also concerns this was being suggested as an option to parents.
· They were seeing a rise in children experiencing serious mental health issues – this was before Covid and had risen since. The importance of more and earlier mental health interventions was stressed, including via Schools.
· The need for greater specialist and suitable provision within the Borough was emphasised. The proposals regarding the new free school in the Borough were welcome; however there needed to be clear processes and support in place locally, to ensure Solihull children benefited.
· The volume of children with SEND being excluded was also raised.
· There were concerns that EHCPs were not being followed, completed in time and reviews were not being done in a timely fashion, in accordance with statutory requirements.
· It was recognised the LA was meeting the 20 week deadline for new plans; however the need to focus on the backlog of existing plans and reviews were also emphasised.
· The volume of parents having to secure placements via educational tribunals and the cost implications of this were raised – concerns were highlighted again, that this appeared to be being suggested as an option to parents.
· It was stated that young people were on part time timetables for longer than 6 weeks – the longest ... view the full minutes text for item 16.
To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 17th September 2020.
The minutes of the previous meeting, held on 17th September 2020, were presented. It was requested for an amendment to be made, to reflect Councillor Allen’s attendance at the meeting.
That the minutes of the previous meeting were approved as a correct record, subject to the amendment above, to ensure Councillor Allen’s attendance was recorded.
This report sets out the priorities of the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for 2020-21 in relation to his responsibilities and the services provided by the Children’s Services and Skills Directorate.
The Cabinet Member presented his priorities for 2020-21, in relation to his responsibilities and the services provided by the Children’s Services and Skills Directorate.
Members raised the following points and questions:
· The Chairman highlighted how a number of priority areas of work and strategies were identified in paragraph 3.7. He questioned how the delivery of these strategies could be reported to future Scrutiny Board meetings, to help ensure Member input and oversight.
· The Cabinet Member detailed how the approval of these Strategies had been reported to his Cabinet Decision Sessions. He stated that Members representing the Opposition Groups would have attended these Sessions and he also noted the reports were on the Council website. He also stated how there could be additional reporting to Scrutiny if Members requested this.
· Members highlighted how the report detailed the youth offer in Solihull, where it explained many activities for young people took place in LA run youth centres at Castle Bromwich, Coronation and Hatchford Brook. It was stated that Coronation had not been available as a youth centre for some time and was subject to on-going renovation. Members requested further details of the plans to enhance the youth offer within the Borough, as part of the Council’s wider Recover and Reset strategy.
· The Cabinet Member emphasised that a long standing challenge with youth centres had traditionally been that they were only used in the evenings when the youth clubs met. He explained how, for some time, they had been looking at better use of these centres as a community facility. The Cabinet Member also detailed how the youth offer had, for many years, been focused upon engaging young people who would not typically participate in traditional youth activities. It was explained how the Voluntary Sector provided a range of universal youth services, including via the Muslim Youth Association, the Scouts, as well as through the Colebridge Trust. In terms of future provision, the Cabinet Member detailed how they were pursuing a range of options, including the refurbishment of Coronation, whilst the youth provision in Kingshurst would be linked to the regeneration project there. He also noted they were looking at the potential for further day time provision at Castle Bromwich for vulnerable young people.
· Members highlighted how, as part of Sajida Golby’s deputation, reference had been made to the increasing numbers of successful SEND tribunals, pursued by parents. Clarification was requested as to the volume of such cases for last year and the one prior. They also asked for the costs implications, as well as confirmation as to where the funding for this came from.
· The Director of Children’s Services and Skills noted a similar question on this topic had previously been raised at Full Council – she confirmed she would look to get the data updated and shared.
· The Assistant Director for Inclusion and SEND explained there had been 22 tribunals in 2017, 18 in 2018, and 40 in 2019. It was noted this increase reflected trends across the country. The Assistant ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
To update members of the Children's Services, Education and Skills Scrutiny Board (CSESSB) on school exclusions, elective home education, school attendance, part-time timetables and off-rolling following a report for Scrutiny Board in November 2019.
The Assistant Director for Inclusion & SEND and the Head of Alternative Provision presented the report, updating Members on current trends, as well as on-going work with Schools regarding school exclusions, elective home education (EHE), school attendance, part-time timetables and off-rolling.
Heather Delaney was invited as a witness for this item, on behalf of the Solihull Parent Carer Voice, the new Parent Carer Forum for Solihull. Heather Delaney explained how, as parents and members of the Solihull Parent Carer Voice, they were acutely aware of the challenges SEND families were experiencing in the areas covered by the report, and she responded to them in turn:
· It was noted the majority of students permanently excluded from schools had special educational needs, which raised concerns regarding existing SEND provision.
· It was requested for audits to be carried out, to detail where children with SEND were being excluded, the child’s needs and the reason for exclusion.
· It was also suggested that these schools were asked to provide extra details of the existing SEN provision, particularly what support they were providing for children at risk of exclusions, as well as consideration of the support the child and the school were receiving from the LA.
· It was noted that the main reason for permanent exclusion was persistent disruptive behaviour – it was questioned what reasonable adjustments were being made for these children and young people, as well as what support were the schools seeking from SISS or the Educational Psychology Team. It was also queried whether they were applying for EHC assessments.
· It was requested for the LA to produce a guidance sheet for schools, detailing what was expected from them before they considered a permanent exclusion.
Fixed term exclusions:
· It was suggested that the number of fixed term exclusions was higher than reported.
· Heather Delaney detailed how the Forum frequently heard from parents explaining how they had been called to collect their child, with the schools citing reasons such as we can’t calm them, they are upset, and we can’t get them into the classroom. It was noted these cases were not being recorded as fixed term exclusions.
· It was explained how many of these children struggled with school anxiety – Heather Delaney emphasised how it was critical for the schools to work with families, Educational Psychologist’s, SOLAR and SISS to support the child.
Elective Home Education:
· Heather Delaney stressed that many parents turned to Elective Home Education (EHE) due to negative school experiences. It was explained this could include negative experiences with the school, challenges ensuring their child’s SEND needs were fulfilled, as well as being unable to secure suitable provision.
· Home education had a significant financial impact on families.
· Heather Delaney stated that, at present, home educating families felt they did not have a good relationship with the EHE Team. She explained they had a meeting booked with the Assistant Director for Inclusion & SEND and the Head of Alternative Provision and members of the Home Educating Community, and it was hoped this ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
To update Scrutiny Board on the support provided to young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) during Covid-19.
The Employment and Skills Manager presented the report, which updated the Scrutiny Board on the support provided to young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) during Covid-19. In considering the report, the Board agreed the year-on-year figures were positive, taking into account the impact of the pandemic. For instance, it was noted that 98.6% of Year 11s received an offer for September 2020 – in 2019, the position was almost the same, with 98.8% of Year 11s receiving an offer.
Members raised the following queries:
· Members highlighted how many local employers faced serious challenges recovering their businesses, due to the pandemic – they queried how, in the current circumstances, they could be encouraged to offer placements to young people.
· The Employment and Skills Manager explained how they looked to sell the benefits to employers of having a diverse workforce, as well as making them aware of funding options that could be explored. She also detailed how they helped employers through the process, looking at options such as ‘job-carving’ where roles were broken down into various part-time elements. The Employment and Skills Manager also explained how they pursued a number of measures to ensure the young person was as ‘job ready’ as possible, for instance, exploring mentoring opportunities where possible.
· Members queried what the biggest challenge was in supporting young people not in education, employment or training. The Employment and Skills Manager emphasised there were multiple challenges. It was explained that, specifically in the context of Covid-19, engagement was more of a challenge, especially as face-to-face meetings weren’t possible. The Employment and Skills Manager detailed how it was disappointing the newly opened Recruitment and Training Centre had to close; however she explained how the outreach team had continued to support young people who were NEET, including managing referrals from the Job Centre as well as from other Council departments. It was also emphasised how they looked to increase awareness of the support available, via social media.
The Children’s Services, Education and Skills Scrutiny Board:
(i) Noted the update on NEET figures and support in place for those who are or are at risk of becoming NEET.
(ii) Noted the contribution of this of work to tackling health inequalities and the Health and Well-being Strategy objective around adulthood and work. It was recognised that employment was a key determinant of long-term health and life expectancy and that focusing on this was essential to mitigate the longer-term economic impacts of Covid-19.