Agenda and draft minutes

Education Scrutiny Commission - Tuesday 24 May 2016 6.30 pm

Venue: 110 Union Road (Springfield Community and Health Centre), London, SW8 2SH

Contact: Gary O'Key, Lead Scrutiny Officer; tel. 020 7926 2183; email  gokey@lambeth.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

Welcome, Introductions, Apologies and Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 141 KB

    Commission scope attached: Education Commission: Reviewing issues affecting children's education.

    Minutes:

    Councillor Ed Davie, co-chair of the commission, welcomed everyone to the meeting and all present introduced themselves. Councillor Davie explained that this was the second annual Education Scrutiny Commission, whereby a number of officer reports would be received and scrutinised and commission members would have the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.

     

    Councillor Max Deckers Dowber, co-chair, declared that he had recently had an application for an Education, Health & Care (EHC) plan for his son declined by Lambeth and had entered into discussions regarding deferring his first year at primary school.

     

    Apologies for absence were noted.

     

2.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 161 KB

    To agree the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 29 June 2015.

    Minutes:

    The minutes of the meeting held on 29 June 2015 were agreed as an accurate record of the proceedings. It was noted that various matters arising would be picked up during the course of this meeting.

     

3.

Raising Educational Achievement in Lambeth Schools 2014-15 pdf icon PDF 944 KB

    Minutes:

    Cathy Twist, Director of Education, Learning and Skills, and Feyisa Demie, Head of Research, Schools Research and Statistics Unit, introduced the report, which looked back at the previous year’s achievement and attainment in Lambeth’s schools, and made the following points:

     

    ·         The report provided an analysis by gender, ethnicity, English fluency and mobility (noting that Lambeth had a particularly mobile population) and also discussed the achievement gap

    ·         The report was generally positive, with attainment above the national average at Key Stages 1 and 2

    ·         GCSE results were also above average and had been for some time; however, this progress was not reflected so much post 16. It was noted that the post 16 cohort was generally quite different due to pupils changing schools to go to 6th form, or pursuing vocational or other pathways

    ·         Portuguese pupils remained among the lower attaining groups but were making progress

    ·         The picture regarding Black Caribbean pupils – another traditionally underachieving group – was varied, with the gap narrowing at KS1, no further progress at KS2, and GCSE results falling back slightly. Some good progress had been made in recent years but this cohort did remain a concern

    ·         African pupils were at or above the borough average and were the highest achieving at GCSE

    ·         Somali pupils were previously underachieving but now in line with borough averages

    ·         White British pupils achieved well at KS1 and KS2, and had improved at GCSE level over the past 2-3 years

    ·         Girls outperformed boys in every year, and for all GCSE indicators

    ·         Fully bilingual pupils were consistently the highest attainers; this demonstrated that becoming fluent in English was a good indicator of future success for those who spoke English as an additional language (EAL)

    ·         Pupils eligible for free school meals did better in Lambeth than nationally, though were still below the borough average

    In response to questions from commission members, the following points were made:

    ·         The underachievement of Black Caribbean pupils was a national issue and had been for decades. In order to explore the reasons for this and identify the key issues, a study was underway involving around seven Lambeth schools. Over 120 teachers, heads, parents, governors, pupils and educational psychologists had been interviewed, and focus groups had been held with first and second generation Black Caribbeans. The detailed findings were expected to be published in November or December 2016 but preliminary recurring issues identified included poverty, single parent families, low wage factors and perceived institutional racism related to disaffection with the system. There would be two reports – one on underachievement and the other on best practice – and there were plans to run a national conference post publication. The reports would contain recommendations for Lambeth, central government and schools, and would be available for next year’s education commission to scrutinise

    ·         Black Caribbean pupils were also disproportionately represented in the exclusions data (see also item 6)

    ·         A report was produced by the Head of Research in 2002 on raising achievement in Black Caribbean pupils; this had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Lambeth School Inspection Outcomes 2014-15 pdf icon PDF 300 KB

    Minutes:

    The Director of Education, Learning and Skills introduced the report, which showed the results of the previous academic year’s school inspections. The picture was very pleasing but it was noted that the inspection framework often changed and was constantly getting tougher; this meant schools were working hard to always be “Ofsted-ready”. Furthermore, the Schools Improvement Monitoring Group (SIMG), which met three times a year, oversaw the improvement of all schools in the borough, providing challenge and intervention whenever they were struggling for whatever reason.

    In response to questions from commission members, the following points were made:

     

    ·         The report was very reassuring and it was pleasing to see departmental challenge and support in place via SIMG independent of the Ofsted process. Congratulations were offered to all involved, recognising that positive inspection results were hard won

    ·         It was asked how many inspections had been triggered by either safeguarding concerns or parental complaint, and how schools were subsequently supported. Officers replied that no such triggered inspections had occurred. Ofsted did provide feedback if either of these situations arose but did not investigate complaints itself; instead concerns were passed to the LA to investigate or if less serious picked up at the next inspection. At this stage in the meeting, Councillor Davie thanked Annie Hudson, the newly appointed Interim Strategic Director of Children’s Services, for attending, and invited her to introduce herself.

    The Interim Strategic Director for Children’s Services explained that her primary focus was providing additional capacity to help with the pace and momentum of the children’s social care improvement journey, though she was also responsible for education matters. She informed members that her background was in social work and she had worked as Director of Children’s Services in Bristol and as Chief Executive of the College of Social Work before joining Lambeth. She expressed a view that the education and schools agenda was critical for delivery of good social care and vice versa.

     

    Councillor Davie agreed there was a strong crossover between education and social care and highlighted the high number of looked after children who were not in education, employment or training as a particular issue which needed addressing, though this was being looked at via the Children’s Services Scrutiny Commission. He concluded this item by congratulating all concerned at the very positive picture painted by the report, whilst acknowledging that continuing hard work would be necessary to maintain such high standards.

     

5.

Pupil Place Planning and Capital Projects pdf icon PDF 683 KB

    Includes Appendix: Pupil Place Planning Peer Review in Lambeth

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Director of Education, Learning and Skills introduced the report and stated that:

    • This was an annual report which would also go to Cabinet later in the year, looking at pupil place planning and school building to ensure the number of school places in the borough was adequate. It explained the methodology, the history and background to the additional places which had been provided via bulge classes or new buildings, and future projections
    • Primary school places had been expanded by about a third over the last 6-7 years to accommodate a baby boom, most of whom were now expected to transfer to secondary schools in the borough; planning was therefore focusing on increasing secondary places
    • The scrutiny commission had challenged officers last year to have Lambeth’s methodology peer reviewed; this review was conducted by a peer from Hounslow Council and the resultant report was included as an appendix to the main report. This exercise was very helpful in providing reassurance that Lambeth’s methodology was sound, while also offering recommendations for future improvement

     

    Councillor Davie explained that the peer review was carried out in response to a request from a group connected to Archbishop Sumner (ABS) School, who had concerns pupil place planning was not being dealt with properly. ABS had chosen to take a bulge class in 2015, though this was not authorised by the Council and had also caused some ill feeling among other schools in the Oval cluster. A discussion on this took place and the following points were made:

     

    • Members were pleased that the peer review had shown Lambeth’s methodology was sound
    • Officers confirmed that ABS had again chosen to take an unauthorised bulge class in 2016 despite the previous concerns which had been raised and the results of the peer review, which had been reported to the school
    • The majority of members believed this was unfair on other local schools, who might have their financial viability undermined, and questioned what sanctions, if any, the Council could impose. Officers responded that the Council had made its feelings clear but since the school was its own admission authority, it could choose to take a  bulge class
    • Councillor Briggs stated that he did not agree with the rest of the commission on this point and wished to note his support for ABS, which was an outstanding school and was responding to demand for extra places from local parents
    • Councillor Davie stated that the whole commission acknowledged ABS was outstanding and this was not a question of supporting the school but rather about being fair to all schools in the area; indeed, last year the other 11 schools in the Oval cluster had written to say the ABS bulge would undermine their ability to continue to be outstanding. It was also noted that the diocese did not approve of the unilateral decision to take a bulge class. The commission, when agreeing to recommend a peer review last year in the face of accusations of shortcomings in the pupil place planning  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

School Exclusions

    Report to follow.

    Minutes:

    The Director of Education, Learning and Skills introduced the briefing paper which had been circulated to members, noting this was still in draft form. It was explained that the Inclusion Team dealt with exclusions, children missing education, home education, teenage pregnancy, safeguarding and alternative provisions, including those that may be unregistered.

     

    In response to questions from members of the commission, the following points were made:

    • The exclusions reported related to Lambeth residents, though some were excluded from out of borough schools. However, it was then Lambeth’s responsibility to find a place of education
    • It was noted that it was very difficult to get a clear current picture as exclusions were reported in retrospect and reporting was not always accurate
    • On fixed term exclusions, these could sometimes be very short and the data may also refer to multiple fixed term exclusions of the same child
    • The information in the report was what was reported to the Department for Education (DfE) and used the DfE’s descriptors; it was for schools to summarise the reasons for the exclusion to meet these criteria, and this could explain why so many were grouped under “Other”. Ideally Lambeth would have as much information as possible in order to try to determine whether, for example, “disruptive behaviour” referred to the same or multiple issues, whether an EHC plan was needed, or whether Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) needed to be involved. Schools were meeting DfE requirements, however
    • When permanent exclusions took place, documentation was received including a letter from the head and supporting information with more detailed reasons
    • Managed moves were agreements between heads, who then notified the Council. They operated on a trial basis; if the trial failed then the pupil would return to their home school where they could then face exclusion
    • Regarding the geographical picture of exclusions, the majority related to the south east of the borough as this was where the most schools were situated
    • The Inclusion Manager worked with schools and across boroughs to try to ensure advance warning of any potential exclusions and look at alternatives. This could include managed transfers – this was where all parties agreed on a transfer and resulted in the permanent exclusion being withdrawn – 17 of which had occurred this year. This could only happen when a school could demonstrate they had put all possible measures in place, and almost all schools considered this as an option. Parents had no right of appeal against managed transfers as they only took place with parental agreement
    • Regarding ethnicity of excluded pupils, the figures for Black Caribbean children stood out, as did Mixed White and Black Caribbean; these two groups combined comprised the vast majority of permanent exclusions. It was important to work with schools to be notified when there were issues in order that appropriate intervention could be put in place. This could include the police allocating charity-based positive mentors or use of the aspirational families support scheme, where the appropriate criteria were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Update pdf icon PDF 409 KB

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Families and Young People introduced the item and stated that two major pieces of work were being undertaken; expansion of special schools for autism and speech and language difficulties, and the move from SEN statements to Education, Health & Care (EHC) Plans. This move was progressing at pace and was on target. Following up on an issue from last year’s commission regarding communications, she believed this was still an issue but had improved considerably. She also met with parents of children with disabilities regularly in various forums and relations, though not perfect, had improved.

     

    The Director of Education, Learning and Skills explained that the Council’s responsibilities had widened under the Children and Families Act to cover young people up to the age of 25 who were on EHC plans, and attempts were being made to increase the number of SEN places following a programme of building. Sixth forms had been added, resource bases existed in 10 mainstream schools and new units had been opened; in addition the Vanguard Free School was scheduled to open in 2018 and cater for 78 pupils with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). In was hoped that this would, in time, also reduce the cost of SEN transport. A SEND area inspection was expected by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, and preparations for this were being put in place.

     

    In response to questions from members of the commission, the following points were made:

    • It would be good to begin thinking about how effective pre-decision scrutiny could be carried out with regards to such issues as SEN transport, children’s centres, adventure playgrounds and One O’clock Clubs in order that scrutiny members and the public could input into the thinking at an appropriate stage. The Cabinet Member for Families and Young People stated she would consider this and suggested autumn may be an appropriate time, though this would be confirmed in due course
    • SEN transport was reviewed annually to ensure it was fit for purpose. It was quite costly to provide and the Council tried to support people to make their own journeys wherever possible
    • With reference to the seven key issues related to the Children and Families Act listed on p74 of the agenda pack, it was queried how personal budgets were working and how many families were opting to manage their own budget. Officers responded that there were currently just four families doing this, for such purposes as providing additional support for home education, additional physiotherapy and early years hearing impairment support; however, there were many more families who took direct payments for transport
    • The EHC plan conversion process constituted a significant workload and was very time consuming to begin with but was now being done more efficiently. A change had been made to enable EHC coordinators to work closely with families going through the process and this had made it more person-centred
    • The change in funding arrangements for schools had been challenging as there was no additional funding for those without EHC  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Update on Central Government Reforms to Education pdf icon PDF 249 KB

    Minutes:

    The Director of Education, Learning and Skills introduced the report, which sought to capture the implications not just of the new government white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, but also a range of other central government initiatives which would affect schools and their relationship with the local authority. The following key points were made:

     

    • The Education and Adoption Act was now law; this allowed the Secretary of State to force failing or coasting schools to become academies. The definition of “coasting” would be provided in forthcoming regulations following consultation late last year but would be based on pupils’ progress over a three year period which could be retrospective
    • Whilst it had been announced on 5 May that schools would no longer all be forced to become academies, the general direction of travel still appeared to be very much towards the academy model
    • Proposals for the national funding formula for schools would give rise to a flatter funding settlement across the country, and this could have a negative impact in Lambeth
    • New national and regional schools commissioners would be in charge of academy conversion and oversee academy chains
    • A new national curriculum and revised assessment arrangements were being introduced – including a change in gradings from a letter to a number-based system from 2017 – and there would be new definitions of what success and failure looked like
    • Lambeth’s schools had been moving towards greater autonomy over the last few years and worked in 10 clusters. These clusters were geographical and included schools of varying governance type and phase
    • Half of the secondary schools and three primaries in the borough were academies currently. Quite a lot of networking and mutual support took place and the Council planned to continue supporting this approach
    • If clusters wished to convert to multi-academy trusts (MATs) in future, they were in a good position to do so. Whether this happened or not, there was still a desire to work together as a borough
    • Local Authorities could not currently sponsor academy chains but were able to set up a trading arm and create a subsidiary which then could do so
    • The Council was working with schools on exploring the possibility of an overarching partnership or trust which all schools would be part of regardless of governance

     

    In response to questions from members of the commission, the following points were made:

     

    • Regarding funding, Lambeth currently did well due to its high levels of deprivation and high proportion of EAL pupils, but it was likely these factors would be given less weight in future
    • More deprived areas would still get higher levels of pupil premium but there was no plan in the new formula to differentiate between different schools within an area
    • Currently, funding went via the Local Authority and was scrutinised by the schools forums; under the new plans budgets would go directly to schools from the DfE so there was no opportunity for the Council to influence or adjust the money given to individual schools (though MATs would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.