The report on pages 5 – 64 of the Agenda was presented by Sarah Williams.
The Chair noted that appendix 1 highlighted a higher number of red cells Tilbury regarding the Published Admission Numbers (PAN) and questioned if discussions or plans were in place to resolve this. Sarah Williams explained that most of the schools in Tilbury were part of the gateway learning community and the service had been in conversations with schools to consider bulge classes and potential expansion where land was available.
Councillor Muldowney sought clarification on the data within the report as she noted an inconsistency in data in regards to children arriving into Thurrock from outside the country and from other parts of the country. Sarah Williams explained that the Pupil Placement Plan (PPP) was produced in the summer and the service had worked on the plan after this. The most up to date data had been used so was different to what had been published in the PPP. Sarah Williams would look back at the data at the time the PPP was produced and the current data and clarify this back to Committee Members.
The Committee asked that the report be brought back to Committee as an annual report. Councillor Muldowney questioned whether the two new primary inclusion bases were fully subscribed and the extent of the exclusion issues in Thurrock and if there were enough resources to meet that need. Michele Lucas explained work was being undertaken around predictive indicators and that exclusions were relatively low for this term but could change. She went on to say that schools had been doing well since pupils had returned after lockdown and in following government guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools would continue to be monitored and supported. The need for inclusion places were met last year and there were good partnership arrangements in place with schools.
The Vice-Chair questioned if there was a contingency plan for pupils arriving in Thurrock who had no available school places and if they were placed in schools outside of the Borough. Sarah Williams answered that the service aimed to keep children within Thurrock’s schools and was continuously monitoring the number of children in Thurrock against the number of school places. Schools were supportive and this academic year, some schools were able to open bulge classes where there had been an extra number of children without school places.
Councillor Okunade asked how schools were managing to fit children into primary schools considering the social distancing measures that were currently in place. Sarah Williams answered that schools had taken risk assessments to ensure children were able to fit into classrooms safely and within their bubbles. If there were no available spaces, the next nearest school place would be offered but children were in the school places that parents had requested.
Sally Khawaja asked whether siblings had been separated due to no available school place in the same schools. Sarah Williams answered that the service tried to place siblings together particularly where it was part of the school’s admissions criteria but where it was not possible, parents chose to stay on the school’s waiting list or they were offered an alternative nearby school that would be able to take siblings in.
The Committee discussed giving schools recognition of their work and officers confirmed that schools were appreciated and that the service had an important partnership with schools. The service was in regular contact with Headteachers and recognised the school’s hard work.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee was asked to review the PPP recognising the additional schools places that will be required going forward.