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 from users particularly elderly people. Andrea Winstone, Strategic Lead for School Effectiveness and SEND, replied that the system were monitored by the Customer Service team and that there had been a 46% reduction in calls which indicated that customers were happy. She went on to say that the service did not tend to liaise with elderly people but mainly children’s parents or carers.
With the EHC plans, the Chair sought clarification on the number of completed plans. Andrea Winstone answered that last year, 52% of the plans had been completed within statutory timescales. This year, 76% EHC plans had been completed which was an improvement compared against the national standard by 16%. The services aim was to complete 100% of EHC plans to target which may be possible with the improvement in staffing capacity.
The Chair thought that 300 caseloads for one person seemed excessive and questioned this in comparison to other Boroughs. Andrea Winstone said that with the increased members of staff, the service would be aiming to reduce the caseload to 150 cases per case worker which was the optimum number suggested by Ofsted.
Councillor Redsell noted that the key responsible people highlighted within the appendix did not include corporate parents for looked after children. Michele Lucas recognised that there was a crossover of responsibility in that area and explained that the children within the report did not fall under the responsibility of a corporate parent.
The Chair sought clarification to recommendation 1.2. Michele Lucas explained that the Committee had previously agreed for future WSoA updates to be brought back to the Committee as a verbal update and asked whether the Committee still wished for a verbal update or more of a written report. The Committee felt that a written update would be best with the relevant information within the remit of the Committee. This would help to inform officers for future meetings and additional wording was added to recommendation 1.2 to highlight this.
1.1 O&S noted the updated WSoA and the work that has been undertaken to address the areas of weakness.
1.2 O&S considered how they would like to be kept informed of progress relating to the WSoA to help inform Officers for future O&S meetings.