Agenda and minutes

Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 15th July, 2014 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL.

Contact: Stephanie Cox, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email:


No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 142 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 18 March 2014.


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The Minutes of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, held on 18 March 2014, were approved as a correct record.


Items of Urgent Business

To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.

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There were no urgent items of business.


Declaration of Interests

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Councillor Curtis declared a non-pecuniary interest in the general business of the meeting as he had grandchildren attending Bulphan School and was a Governor at the Ockendon Academy.


Councillor Ojetola declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to the general business of the meeting as he had children attending the Gateway Academy, Belmont Castle Academy and was a Governor at Palmer’s College and Gateway Academy.


Reverend Barlow declared a non-pecuniary interest in the general business of the meeting as he had children attending St Thomas Primary School, Grays Convent and Palmer’s College. He was also a trustee and corporation member at Palmer’s College.


Budget Update and Savings Proposals pdf icon PDF 92 KB

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The Director of Children’s Services introduced the report which set out the savings that the Council was required to make over the next three years. The Committee were advised of two key points:


·         That a further £5.3 million of savings needed to be found during the 2015/16 financial year that went beyond the presented savings, as these were not yet the full set of savings.

·         Officers had been working hard to put forward the proposed savings and include the appropriate level of detail for the Committee to scrutinise.


The Director of Children’s Services drew the attention of the Committee to

Appendix 1, which set out the totality of proposals, and explained that the first 3 savings proposals were those which Cabinet had requested be referred to the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee for further consultation and scrutiny.


The Chair of the Committee proposed that officers explained in more detail the proposals set out in Appendices 2a, 2b and 2c for further comment and discussion, to which the Committee agreed.


Officers introduced the savings proposals outlined in appendix 2a in relation to School Effectiveness. It was reported that there had been a steady improvement in school performance over the past two years, as recognised by Ofsted, and that during this time there had been a gradual move in schools converting to academy status. As a result of these changes the school improvement strategy had also adjusted to a system of school to school support.  It was explained that this meant that the Council was able to reduce the volume of resources which it commissioned directly, thereby saving on cost.


A Member questioned why the proposed savings were only being suggested now, one year on from the implementation of the school improvement plan and after a number of schools had successfully converted into academies. He felt that these savings could have been found and implemented earlier, noting the earlier February budget setting process.


In response officers explained that they had been working hard to support schools to become independent and that they worked with the whole community of Thurrock Schools, both maintained, free schools and academies. The Director of Children’s Services felt that sometimes better value for money could be achieved from smaller teams, which was the case with the School Improvement team, which had undertaken focussed work and witnessed school results in Thurrock go on an upward trajectory. It was reported that the team always worked hard to realise savings wisely and not resist them.


Officers further reported that the money had been used wisely and the number of primary schools in Thurrock that achieved a good or outstanding rating by Ofsted had increased from 32% to almost 70%.


The Committee were advised that the funding had been used to put Thurrock schools on a good footing, and that this meant that schools were now in a strong position to support each other.


A Member was concerned that money was being taken away from Children’s Services and questioned where  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Education Commission Update pdf icon PDF 93 KB

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Officers introduced the report which outlined the developments regarding the Education Commission and provided an update to the associated action plan. Key achievements to date included:


·         The launch of the Thurrock Education Awards, the next was scheduled for November and nominations were already being received.

·         Success in recruiting and retaining both Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT) and experienced Head teachers in Thurrock.

·         Strong Governance was a significant feature in Education Commission reports.


A Member questioned what support was being offered to schools and academy partners if they experienced a change in circumstances. Officers assured the Committee that the Local Authority was responsible for safeguarding in Thurrock, even though academies were self governing, and offered support as and when required. It was felt that there was strong local intelligence in Thurrock to schools changing circumstances.


Councillor Morris-Cook arrived at 8.05pm.


A Member referenced the financial implications and welcomed the fact that the Council had committed £1 million of reserves to support the Education Commission, but asked for clarification regarding accountability and sign off as to how the money was spent.


The Committee were advised that the Thurrock Education Alliance and Thurrock Excellence Network held into account the spending of reserves that supported the work of the Education Commission.


A Member suggested that a regular back check should be undertaken to ensure value for money and evaluate the impact of the work. Officers welcomed the proposal and stated that a regular update would be provided to the Committee, particularly in relation to the spending of the funds and achievements. It was reported that the funding had already made significant progress to date, which included:


·         The introduction of the Cultural Entitlement for Young People in Thurrock.

·         The recruitment and retention of teachers.


A brief discussion was had on the recruitment and retention of Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) and how this compared with other local authorities. Officers stated that there was an event held recently to celebrate the achievements of NQT’s in Thurrock and that the vast majority were staying on in employment in the Borough. It was felt that the retention rate was very good and that NQT’s had a positive impact to education in Thurrock.




1.         That the progress and achievements of Thurrock Schools and Partners be noted.


2.         That the Committee’s comments on the content of the report be noted and that a further update to be provided on the statement of drawn down funds from the Education Commission reserves.


Councillor Morris-Cook took the position of Chair for the remainder of the meeting.


Troubled Families Programme pdf icon PDF 81 KB

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Officers introduced the report which provided an update on the successes of the Troubled Families Programme.


A Member asked whether officers faced any difficulties, particularly in relation to data security, to which officers stated that they did not as applicants signed consent forms to release their personal information.


The Committee were informed that to date all cases that had been referred had been accepted into the Troubled Families Programme.


A brief discussion was had on the success of the payment by results scheme. Members were advised that it took time for the payment by results scheme to filter through, and that there was a 3 term timescale for education cases and 6 months for youth offending cases before claims can be made.


The Committee requested that a bi-monthly update be provided by briefing note as to the progress of the Troubled Families programme, the success of the payment by results scheme and any support that officers felt that was required in order to assist them in the ongoing development of the programme.


Members commended the work of officers on the excellent report and work that had been undertaken.


A Member acknowledged the good work of the Committee but asked if residents were discouraged from coming forward to receive support because of the name of Troubled Families scheme. Officers stated that in their experience this was not the case in Thurrock and that people had not been deterred in coming forward, noting that there had recently been 3 self referrals.


A Member requested that in future the financial implications should not be included within the main body of the report, to which officers agreed.


Rev Barlow left the meeting at 8.32pm.




That the contents of the report be noted.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 57 KB

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Members requested that the two parent governor representative vacancies on the Committee to be filled as soon as possible, to which officers confirmed that the Governor Services team were working to appoint to the roles.


There was a brief discussion on work placements and the pathway into work for young people in Thurrock, following which Members requested that an item be added to the work programme for October. Key points that were discussed included:


·         Interview techniques and guidance for young people

·         Pathway into employment in Thurrock

·         Work placements scheme and the schools offer

·         The business offer – what local companies were doing to assist young people in Thurrock.

·         That with increased education attainment and regeneration schemes creating a wider jobs market in Thurrock, how these opportunities were being realised by young people.


Members also requested that in future budget items to include details of budget outturn for the previous financial year in order for comparisons to be made.


The Chair also requested that in future items ‘to note’ to be provided in the form of a briefing note to the Committee, rather than a formal report and agenda item.




1.         That an additional item on work placements and the pathway into work for Young People be added to the work programme for October.


2.         That the work programme be noted.