Agenda and minutes

Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 17th January, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: CR2,CO3, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex RM17 6SL

Contact: Rhiannon Whiteley, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email:


No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 127 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 17 November 2022.

Additional documents:


The minutes of the meeting held on 17 November 2022 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. To agree any relevant briefing notes submitted to the Committee.

Additional documents:


There were no items of urgent business.


Declaration of Interests

Additional documents:


No interests were declared.


Youth Cabinet Update pdf icon PDF 156 KB

Additional documents:


The Youth Cabinet representative presented the report. She explained that The Mayor Councillor J Halden and Councillor B Johnson attended the Youth Cabinet’s November meeting to explain their roles and answer any questions the Youth Cabinet Members had. The Mayor offered the Youth Cabinet the use of the Council Chamber for their monthly meetings.


Councillor M Coxshall joined the meeting at 19.02


The Youth Cabinet Representative stated that the article that went out about the Member of Youth Parliaments visit to the House of Commons (see Appendix 1) resulted in 85 clicks to the Thurrock Council Youth Cabinet webpage. This was the second highest link click stat in that week’s edition. Members were very pleased with the stat result as it indicates that 85 people are interested in what they are doing.


The Youth Cabinet Representative explained that they are still looking to grow the number of members of the Youth Cabinet. The Youth Cabinet Representative highlighted that another wellbeing walk will be taking place in February half term.


Councillor Kerin thanked the Youth Cabinet for the work that they do and confirmed that he supported the recruitment of more members as the more voices they hear, the better. Councillor Kerin noted the priority campaign is the cost of living and health and asked what support they needed to push the campaign.


The Youth Worker stated that they are currently building the campaign and it will be released in March, she thanked Councillor Kerin for the offer of help.

The meeting discussed the Youth Cabinet Members involvement in working with the Local Plans Manager regarding the local plan.


The Chair queried how accessible the information on the Local Plan was for Youth Cabinet Members.


The Youth Cabinet Representative responded that it did take her a while to understand and how it impacts the environment and commented that she is grateful to be working on it. The Youth Worker added that the Local Plans Manager had really broken it down for them. She used slides which were easily accessible and they played games and used mind maps to get Youth Cabinet Members really engaged.



Overview of Responsibilities of Portfolio holder for Children's Services - Verbal update

Additional documents:


Councillor B Johnson gave a verbal update as Portfolio holder for Children and Education.


Councillor B Johnson confirmed there is only one school that remains under the direct control of the Local Authority and that all other schools in Thurrock are Academies or Multi-trusts. However, the Local Authority continues to be closely involved with all schools and the Director and Assistant Director attend fortnightly meetings with the CEO’s and School Headteachers. The Schools Appeals process for admissions remains with the Local Authority and Home to School transport. He urged members to become familiar with Thurrock’s Home to School transport policy.


Councillor B Johnson highlighted that he is looking forward to being a Judge on Thurrock’s Next Top Boss. He also noted that the Summer holiday activity programme is continuing and they have 13,000 spaces on offer.


Councillor B Johnson stated that one of the hardest decisions that has come across his desk was the necessary closure of 2 nurseries in Tilbury which could have caused a problem for the Community. He was pleased to confirm that they have not received any complaints from parents that they haven’t been able to obtain a nursery place for their child.


Councillor B Johnson confirmed that Home to School transport remains a real challenge, they continue to look at ways they can reduce the spend whilst not putting children at risk. A further challenge is the increase in Educational Healthcare Plans (EHCP’s), Thurrock currently has in excess of 2000 plans.


Councillor B Johnson explained that the Social Care and Early Help service are in a constant state of alert to be prepared for external regulatory Ofsted inspections but continues to support children, young people and families to ensure they receive the right the service at the right time. Councillor B Johnson reminded the committee that as elected members they are all corporate parents.


Councillor Johnson commented that he is very proud that in April 2022 Thurrock was chosen as one of 75 Local Authorities to join the Start For Life Family Hubs programme.


Councillor B Johnson highlighted that some of the challenges the service face is that they are now required by the Home Office to accept 45 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker children which is up from 31. They are also having difficulty recruiting more foster carers which is a national issue too.


Councillor B Johnson recalled attending an enjoyable evening event in October to celebrate foster carer’s achievements and met a foster carer who had been fostering children in Thurrock for 40 years which he described as a humbling experience.


The Youth Offending Service was inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) this year and was rated as Good.

Councillor Anderson asked about gang activity and queried what Councillor B Johnson is doing within his own portfolio to help tackle that issue in the borough.


Councillor B Johnson responded that it does cross over into other portfolio areas in terms of stopping it but the main job in this portfolio is identifying the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Verbal Update on Family Hubs/ Start for Life

Additional documents:


The Strategic Lead for the Youth Offending Service and Prevention provided a verbal update. The Committee were updated that they have completed the required delivery plan and submitted it to the Department of Education on 6th January 2023 and they are currently waiting for the funding to be released. The feedback received from the Government is that they have a good understanding of the programme. A multi-disciplinary board has been set up to monitor the delivery of the programme and a number of work streams to oversee the delivery of the programme. A recruitment process has also started for the additional staff.


Councillor Kerin thanked the Strategic Lead for the Youth Offending Service and Prevention for the update.



Educational Attainment Data 2021- 22 pdf icon PDF 496 KB

Additional documents:


The Strategic Lead for School Effectiveness and Special Educational Needs / Disabilities presented the report and confirmed that it is a good news story. Thurrock’s Looked After Children and SEND children have done very well compared to their peers nationally. The early years children have not done as well as they have done previously, and this has been put down to the pandemic and lost opportunities for socialising and attending early years settings.


Councillor Anderson asked about the virtual school.


The Director for Children’s Services confirmed they have a Statutory duty towards all Thurrock Looked After Children and therefore the Headteacher of the virtual school is another layer of looking at what these children need and they will go into the children’s schools to support and challenge them to ensure the children get what they need.


Councillor Kerin queried why disadvantaged children aren’t beating the national average.


The Strategic Lead for School Effectiveness and Special Educational Needs / Disabilities confirmed they are slightly behind the national average. They will attract the pupil premium and the national tutoring funding too.


The Assistant Director for Education stressed that attendance is a key priority and children need to be in school. They are having termly meetings with schools to look at attendance.


Councillor G Coxshall queried what is being done to support early years children.


The Strategic Lead for School Effectiveness and Special Educational Needs / Disabilities responded that the Council is working with all early years settings delivering free training on speech and language to upskill practitioners and improve outcomes for children.


Councillor Arnold queried the work being done to improve young children’s social skills.


The Strategic Lead for School Effectiveness and Special Educational Needs / Disabilities confirmed that after the pandemic schools quickly realised children’s physical fitness and social skills had been affected and children are not ready to learn until they are happy in school. Therefore, the two terms after that were used to work on the development of children’s social skills.


Councillor Panjala queried what is the action plan to improve Key Stage 4 levels as they are below the national average.


The Strategic Lead for School Effectiveness and Special Educational Needs / Disabilities confirmed they are closing the gap. The Teaching School Hub looks at school improvement and are identifying schools that need extra support. Leadership support and teacher training can be provided. The Assistant Director of Education also highlighted the need to give children at that age options such as apprenticeships and skills as not all of them will go down the further education route.




1.1          Children’s Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee receive the provisional outcomes of the summer 2022 tests and examinations and commends early years’ settings, schools, pupils, and parents/carers on their achievements.


1.2          Children’s Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee recognises the impact of Covid on our youngest children and how we are looking to support our early sector.


1.3      Children’s Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee formally thank our early years, school and colleges settings for the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.


Progress Update on Peer Review and Case Review - Action Plans pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Additional documents:


The Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Business Manager presented the report to the Committee.


Councillor Arnold stated that he attended the Walk Online Roadshow and commented that it was very informative. He urged anyone who has not been to attend it as he was shocked to hear what children were exposed to and it is really important for parents to be engaged.


Councillor Kerin queried the progress of the actions from the thematic review on Serious Youth Violence.


The Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Business Manager confirmed there are 6 recommendations, and each recommendation has sub-sections. Agencies are starting to work on the actions pending this being signed off in March. The Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Business Manager confirmed she doesn’t have the action plan with her so she cannot elaborate on the detail further tonight but progress is being made.




1.1      That the Committee note the update on the work of the LSCP and the progress made on Action Plans to date.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 76 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee discussed the items to be added to the March work programme which will be the Portfolio holder report, an update report on the Government’s response to the Independent Social Work Review and a report on the budget and savings.


The Chair decided that an extraordinary meeting will be necessary for the reports on the Re-procurement of the Homes to School Transport Contracts and the Capital Schools programme as these will need to be heard before the Cabinet meeting on the 15th March 2023.