Agenda and minutes

Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 4th February, 2020 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Wendy Le, Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 124 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 8 October 2019.


The minutes of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 8 October 2019 were approved as a true and 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.


There were no items of urgent business.


Declaration of Interests


Lynda Pritchard, Church of England Representative, declared that she was working with the SEND Team in Thurrock.


Councillor Redsell declared that the SEND school, Treetops, was within her ward.


Youth Cabinet Update

Verbal update


Since the last Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the Youth Cabinet had had two meetings. At the recent meeting, the Youth Cabinet had been planning events and tasks for the year and had been considering how to promote the Youth Cabinet through the use of social media.


The Youth Cabinet had their annual conference back in December 2019 which had seen a turnout of 9 schools and 80 pupils where a number of issues had been discussed including drugs. Next month, the Youth Cabinet would be looking to hold their elections and would be looking for candidates in schools including Treetops to ensure a varied pool of candidates.


Nicola Cranch, Parent Governor Representative, queried whether the turnout of 9 schools were good. Lucia Lucioni, Youth Cabinet Member, answered that the turnout was good as 6 schools had been expected. However, the Youth Cabinet had the capacity to accommodate the extra guests. Councillor Redsell asked if the Youth Cabinet notified schools and what discussions had been held. Alicia Jones, Youth Cabinet Member, confirmed that invites were sent out to all secondary schools within the Borough and it was for the schools to confirm attendance. Adam Shea, Youth Cabinet Member, said there had been two discussions on feminism running simultaneously and other discussions had revolved around Brexit, drugs and the use of social media.


Councillor Redsell felt that Members should be invited to the Youth Cabinet Conference as well as meetings to offer support and questioned whether Members had been invited. Lucia Lucioni confirmed that Members were still invited and Members were also welcome to go to Youth Cabinet meetings. She went on to say that the Conference had included guest speakers on certain topics and that the Council had attended to speak to young people about apprenticeships.


The Chair commended the Youth Cabinet for their hard work and was pleased to see young people doing well in Thurrock. She asked that the Youth Cabinet continue to involve Members.


Items Raised by Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Partnership

Verbal update


This item was not heard as the Officer was unable to attend due to sickness.


Ofsted Inspection of Local Authority Children's Services (ILACS) pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Additional documents:


The report was presented by Sheila Murphy. The report outlined that the last inspection of 22 February to 16 March 2016, had been undertaken under Ofsted’s previous Single Inspection Framework (SIF) and that the recent inspection of 4 to 22 November 2019 had been undertaken under the new Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) Framework. The outcome from the inspection showed that Thurrock Council was providing a ‘Good’ service that had been improved upon for vulnerable young people and in continuing to provide excellent services to vulnerable children and their families.


Referring to recommendation 1.2, the Chair asked that an additional recommendation revolving around a future update be added as she felt the Committee needed to learn more of the 3 areas of improvement mentioned. Sheila Murphy, Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help, suggested that the additional recommendation as, “That the Committee have oversight of the refreshed development plan including the Ofsted areas of improvement, and that the development plan be presented to the Committee.” The Committee agreed to this.


Lynda Pritchard praised the service for their hard work. She questioned whether the Committee could have sight of the development plan before the next Committee meeting in the new municipal year. Sheila Murphy answered that a development plan had been in place prior to the Ofsted inspection but had been refreshed since then. An update of the actions and timescale for outcomes would be brought to the next meeting. The Chair asked that an update be provided via email before the next meeting.


Nicola Cranch also gave praise to the service and thought the Ofsted comments provided within the report were positive. Councillor Muldowney echoed this praise and agreed that sight of the development plan before the next meeting would be good. Councillor Redsell was pleased to see how much the service had changed over the years and congratulated the service on the Ofsted rating obtained.


Sheila Murphy mentioned that Ofsted had sent the service a young person friendly report and asked the Youth Cabinet how the service could make this publicly available in the best way possible to reach young people whether it would be through the Council’s website or another pathway. Alicia Jones admitted that young people did not often look at the Council’s website or the Council’s social media channels. However, she felt that the Council’s website was still the best method of communicating the report to young people as some may still look on the website.


The Committee further discussed pathways to reach out to young people through reaching out to schools, libraries and social media.


Referring back to the update of the development plan, Sheila Murphy said the draft of this could be sent out to the Committee in March 2020 and then again before the next meeting in the new municipal year should the Committee membership change.


Councillor Rigby asked how the achieved Ofsted rating compared to the last inspection rating. Sheila Murphy explained that the last inspection had been  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.


SEND Inspection Outcome - Written Statement of Action Update pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Additional documents:


Presented by Michele Lucas, Assistant Director of Education and Skills, the report outlined that the Written Statement of Action (WSoA) plan had been approved by Ofsted on 8 October 2019 and that a re-inspection would take place 18 months from that date. Appendix 1 of the report highlighted the 3 key areas for improvement and their progresses in detail. As part of this, a significant training programme had been provided to staff who were now fully trained and a new telephone system had been implemented. There was no longer an answerphone system and calls were returned within timeframes given.


Councillor Muldowney noted that there had been a change in the Portfolio Holder for Education and sought clarification on the transition of this. Michele Lucas reassured the Committee that the service had met with the new Portfolio Holder for Education and would be holding further meetings.


Referring to appendix 1, Councillor Muldowney noted that some of the actions highlighted had already passed its targeted completion dates. She sought more detail on this. Michele Lucas explained that the action plan had been approved by Ofsted in October 2019 and that the actions had been completed to target but were left on the action plan to provide a snapshot of what actions had been undertaken.


Nicola Cranch was pleased to see the passion that officers had for their work. She went on to say that a common factor highlighted within the report was the staffing levels and stated the importance of retaining current staff to ensure the consistency of work. She asked what the service was doing to ensure that staff was retained. Michele Lucas explained that investment in staff was critical and that the service had looked into training current staff to improve skills. Because of this, the service’s recent recruitment round had been successful in recruiting a number of staff. She went on to say that she and other Senior Officers would walk around the office to engage with staff and support where possible.


Referring to the appendix of the report, Councillor Redsell noted that one of the SEND priorities were to prepare young people for adulthood and thought this would be hard to achieve as the service would not be able to see the outcome of this. Michele Lucas explained that this priority was an important part of the SEND key priorities and the critical work that the service undertook. She went on to say that the service worked closely with the Adult Social Care team in the Council and had developed a range of programmes through Joint Commissioning to ensure the best outcomes. She added that Education and Health Care (EHC) Plans continued until the age of 25 years old and would see the outcomes of a young person’s transition into adulthood through these. The service ensured that there was a strong pathway of support for young people through this transition.


Regarding the new telephone system in place, Councillor Akinbohun asked whether there had been any feedback  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.


Schools' Performance pdf icon PDF 136 KB


Presented by Andrea Winstone, Strategic Lead for School Effectiveness and SEND, the report stated that most of Thurrock’s children and young people in the early years and primary settings continued to achieve well and that a higher percentage of children at the end of year 6 achieved the age related expectations.


Councillor Muldowney was pleased to hear of the improvement in primary schools but was concerned to hear performance dropping in secondary schools in Thurrock. Andrea Winstone explained that the performance of schools this year was a different picture compared to last year. All schools were academies and the Local Authority had no power within an academy. However, the service had a good working relationship with the teaching schools and helped to identify where support could be sought to help lower attaining schools.


Councillor Redsell thought that schools should consider an officer to look into funding options. She went on to say that schools used to set up fundraising events such as fetes and should consider these. Andrea Winstone said that the service sometimes received grants notifications from a subscription to grants website and that these were sent onto schools. Schools that had an Ofsted rating of ‘Requires Improvement’ were in a better position to acquire the funds needed through the teaching schools and hubs. The Committee further discussed funding options for schools and how there was a lack of communication between schools. The Committee discussed the importance of schools communicating with each other and supporting each other.


Councillor Muldowney commented on the year on year funding cuts and questioned how these impacted upon schools in the Borough. Michele Lucas answered that the central government had invested money into supporting schools. There was a significant pressure on SEND services and this had been recognised which saw a significant increase in the Dedicated School Grants for Thurrock that had been approved by the Schools Forum. However, this pressure was common across all boroughs and not unique to Thurrock. There was a challenge in obtaining the right staff and schools now had to be looked at as a business for education.


Lynda Pritchard commented that the performance of key stage 2 had been low in the past with key stage 4 performing well. She sought clarification on the change in performance levels. She also stated that schools needed more than just funding to improve performance, it was important to have the right staff with a passion for education. Andrea Winstone explained that the change was due to the investment into Early Years learning. This helped to prepare children going into primary schools who were ready to learn. She went on to say that recruitment for primary schools were easier and had a better retention rate for staff. It was harder to recruit secondary school teachers and there was a national shortage seen.


Councillor Rigby thought the issue of performance were more from a shortage of teachers rather than funding. She mentioned that the learning equipment for pupils used to be a notebook,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.


Fees and Charges Pricing Strategy 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Additional documents:


The report was presented by Michele Lucas. The report set out the charges in relation to the services within the remit of Children’s Service Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The charges would take effect from 1 April 2020.


Referring to paragraph 4.2 of the report, Councillor Muldowney sought clarification on whether the delegated power to the Director had ever been used. Michele Lucas replied that she was not aware that this delegation had been used but was given in the event that charges required altering throughout the year in order to meet service demands and changes. Across Children’s Services, there had not been any changes made with the exception of the Thurrock Adult Community College that had moved across into Children’s Services.


The Committee discussed the music service available to schools that was funded by another organisation but provided across Thurrock. Comments highlighted the importance of music and arts education as some schools did not incorporate this into their curriculum.


The Committee discussed the facilities of Grangewater Outdoor Education Centre and concluded that it was not comparable to Stubbers Adventure Centre as Grangewater offered educational qualifications whereas Stubbers operated on a commercial principle. However, the Youth Cabinet had suggested that Grangewater could offer a Young Leaders Scheme to engage the young people community.




1.1      That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the revised fees and charges proposals including those no longer applicable.


1.2      That Children’sServices Overview and ScrutinyCommittee noted that director delegated authority will be sought via Cabinet to allow Fees & Charges to be varied within a financial year in response to commercial requirements.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 80 KB


The Chair thanked the Committee for their contribution in this municipal year and thanked officers for their work.


The following items were added to the next meeting of the municipal year:


  • Ofsted Development Plan; and
  • SEND Written Statement of Actions Update.