The report was presented by Michele Lucas, which highlighted the change to the educational landscape across Thurrock over the last five years. Most schools have joined Multiple Academy Trusts (MATs) or become standalone academies. The Education Support Strategy was developed in partnerships with Thurrock’s schools which sets out how Thurrock planned to further embed their partnership-working ethos to ensure that children and young people had access to educational provision with a well-rounded and balanced curriculum.
Thurrock had undergone some significant changes and had realigned some of their services to the schools in the borough to meet the changing demand and to build strong relationships. The Education Support Strategy aims to provide support from Thurrock and the key priorities included:
4. Employability and Skills
5. Wellbeing and Safety
6. Rigour and Partnership
Nicola Cranch said that Parent Governors were part of Academy Schools and she questioned how the service planned to gain the support of Parent Governors for the Education Support Strategy. Michele Lucas replied that Thurrock was proud of all the schools in the borough and understood that each school had its own priorities and this differed to another school. Thurrock had some strong stand alone academies and the service supported them but the one thing everyone had in common was the shared goal to ensure all pupils had the best start in education and continued throughout their time in education.
Following up, Paula Robinson asked about the service acquiring the support of standalone academies for the Education Support Strategy. Michele Lucas reiterated that the common goal was to ensure all children received the best education in Thurrock and that all schools in Thurrock were excellent whether they were standalone academies or part of a MAT.
Adding on, Roger Harris said that the service had recently met with the Chief Executives of MATs and although there was competition, there was also an underlying strong desire to work with Thurrock on a number of topics including the Free School Programme and on transport. Today’s education landscape was a different environment to what it had been five years ago when schools were council run but there was still the principle of working in partnerships to achieve the best outcomes.
Referring to page 77, the Chair questioned the category mentioned in bullet point four. Michele Lucas replied that the category was Ofsted and would amend the draft.
The Chair questioned whether performance data between schools were shared and how this was done. She went on to ask if the service encountered resistance from schools when forming partnerships. Regarding data, Michele Lucas said this was reported nationally and available for everyone to view. In Thurrock, there was an understanding of how data was shared even where there was potentially competition between schools. The service would send out data sheets once acquired from schools and annual meetings were held with schools. In some Local Authorities (LAs), some schools had found the new safeguarding criteria set out by Ofsted to be challenging so Thurrock had learned from this and set up training for schools in Thurrock to attend to help them understand the new safeguarding criteria.
For Thurrock children attending schools outside the borough, the Chair questioned if they were included in the Education Support Strategy and if this fell under the Virtual School. Michele Lucas explained that the Virtual School supported all children that attended Thurrock’s schools. Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) children attending out of borough schools were monitored and Thurrock was still responsible for them. This also included the children who chose to attend schools outside of Thurrock as well as Looked After Children (LAC).
Councillor Rigby questioned whether newly built schools would be set up as an academy. Michele Lucas confirmed that this would be the case.
Referring to bullet point 8 on page 77, Paula Robinson asked if it was from the age of 14 years old that a young person could attend technical college. In response, Michele Lucas confirmed this was the case but it was not easy to access because the challenge lay in the curriculum and there was a lot of work involved in T Levels. For 14-19 year olds, there were vocational pathways and the service was looking into this. There were also a number of schools that had developed vocational pathways.
Councillor Akinbohun asked whether there was still young people that were not in education in the borough. Michele Lucas stated that the service was proud to say that there were not many young people that were not in some form of training or education in Thurrock. The figure stood around 1.8% which equated to about 140 young people in that age range (following on from this meeting, Michele Lucas confirmed that the most recent figure was 2.1% in August 2019 and this equated to 77 16-17 year olds and that the 140 figure included 18 year olds). There were varying reasons why a young person may not be in education or training. In the eastern England region, Thurrock’s figures were positive in the Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET) figures and Thurrock had worked hard to achieve their targets.
Following up, Councillor Akinbohun queried the improvement percentage from last year’s NEET figures to this year’s figures. Michele Lucas answered that she would send the required data to the Committee.
Regarding year 6 pupils’ mental and physical health, Paula Robinson questioned how the service intended to ensure schools had the right targets and services to support this. Michele Lucas replied that the service had invested almost £1 million into the new School Wellbeing Service which would be launching next week. This would enable the service to work closely with schools on the wellbeing of pupils and an update would be brought to the next committee meeting.
1.1 That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee reviewed and offered feedback on the Education Support Strategy
1.2 That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended to Cabinet the key priorities set out in the Education Support Strategy to support schools across Thurrock.