Agenda item

Education National Drivers: Schools White Paper, SEND & AP Green Paper, Levelling Up, Skills Act, School Admission and Attendance Guidance


The report was introduced by the Assistant Director for Education and Skills.

In relation to the Schools White Paper and the proposed measure that schools will offer a minimum school week of 32.5 hours a week by September 2023, the Assistant Director for Education and Skills confirmed that having spoken to Schools most of them are already offering this in one way or another already.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills also referred to the proposed measure that by 2030 all schools will be part of a strong multi-academy trust and commented that Thurrock has a number of multi-academy trusts but also has some stand-alone Academy’s. The Assistant Director for Education and Skills noted that the stand-alone Academy’s are happy in how they currently operate and they are all currently rated as ‘Good’. The Assistant Director for Education and Skills and Corporate Director of Children’s Social Care have met with their stand-alone academy schools already and are due to meet with them again in a few weeks to talk them through this.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills Access referred to the plan for funded training for a senior mental health lead, she explained that the School Mental Health Wellbeing Service has been in operation for two and a half years and Thurrock have almost led the way with some of this work.

Moving on to the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper, the Assistant Director for Education and Skills commented that in her opinion it is positive that SEND and Alternative Provision will be included under one framework as many children in Alternative Provision have got a range of SEND requirements. They announced the framework yesterday and therefore the Assistant Director for Education and Skills has not had the opportunity to go through this yet.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills updated the Committee that they have managed to secure the resources to move forward with the plan for an online portal and hopefully it will create a digital solution for people to review their plans.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills noted in relation to The Skills and Post 16 Education Act Thurrock have been very positive in improving skills development. A possible challenge to ensuring adults have maths skills to progress in career opportunities is that schools are struggling to recruit maths teachers and she therefore confirmed that Thurrock are looking at how they can build capacity locally in this regard.


In relation to the Working together to improve school attendance guidance, the Assistant Director for Education and Skills informed the Committee that they hold fortnightly meetings regarding children who are missing education and confirmed that they are monitoring and tracking those children.


Councillor Coxshall commented that Thurrock should be proud of what they can offer as a skills hub and we should be promoting it. He has seen friends pushed down education pathways and for one friend it has taken him 5 years to get his life back on track.

Councillor Worrall questioned if we go down the route of every school being part of a multi-academy trusts what role will Thurrock Council continue to have?


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills confirmed that the Council will have a role as all their schools are already multi-academy trusts and stand-alone academy trusts and they continue to have a large role in working in partnership with them. The Local Authority has a strong role in driving up attainment in schools. Skills is another area where the Local Authority have a key role as they have to submit data to the Government regarding children who are not in education or training. The Local Authority are also responsible for SEND, EHCP plans and Alternative Provisions.


Councillor Worrall queried what the backlog of outstanding schools to be inspected is.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills confirmed that we don’t have a big backlog. They are finding a lot of the early years providers have gone through Ofsted inspections recently and they have very few providers that are not rated as good or better.


Councillor Worrall requested an update with regard to the recruitment of teachers.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills confirmed she regularly meets with the CEO’s of the multi-academy trusts and although there was some challenges, this is not something they have raised recently. Recruitment for support staff and learning support assistants is more of a challenge. She confirmed they do have a recruitment and retention group who work with the schools. They have a number of Early Career teachers coming through the system however, retention is a challenge and it cannot be underestimated the challenges teachers have faced over the last two years.


The Church of England Representative referred to the register for children not in school and queried how that is managed as she has had over the past year as a teacher two children from foster care coming into her class from other Local Authority areas, one was on her register for 6 weeks before being moved out of the area again and another one for 8 weeks who is still on her register despite also moving out of the area. She highlighted that it makes her class attendance look poor but also that these children are missing out on weeks of their education and it looks like they are still in her school as they remain on her register.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills clarified that if a Thurrock child moves somewhere else it is the responsibility of the virtual school to look into this and ensure a smooth transition. For those moving into the area the admissions team try to place them in a school nearby.


The Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help explained that where children are looked after they do try and keep them in their own school so they can maintain links with their community and family even if they have moved to another neighbouring borough. If a child is placed miles away then they would have to look at changing their schools.


Councillor Snell commented that he was recently privy to a survey completed by a master’s student regarding Newly Qualified Teachers and it asked them about their knowledge around SEND education and he was surprised to learn that a lot of SEND teaching modules are optional and therefore going back to the issue regarding the challenges around provision of SEND training he noted that there are likely to be a lot of teachers who don’t have any relevant SEND training.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills confirmed that they have discussed this issue with the Harris Academy Teaching Hub and they have completed a lot of work with the SENCO in schools in training and supporting them. They have also looked at what they can offer to teachers too. They have recognised that there is a real challenge in the early years sector in that little ones have lost a lot of early language development opportunities over the last two years such as attending playgroups and they have looked to put in additional training for the early years providers to help with this. Health have also contributed to the training as there has been a significant increase in the number of little children on EHCP plans. They are looking at language delay and what can be done to enable these children to catch-up.


Councillor Snell queried what the Local Inclusion Dashboard is.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills confirmed they have a SEND dashboard at the moment but they need to work out how they are going to capture Alternative Provision data into that too. Ofsted did comment when they visited that they had a robust set of data.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills raised in relation to the green paper there is not much written about home to school transport and that is an area that is significantly overspending and in her opinion it is a policy that needs a review. They are pulling together a response to the paper.


Councillor Worrall highlighted that Tilbury is an area of high depravation and they have lost two nurseries recently and she questioned if there will be enough places for all children in the area to attend nursery as vital skills are learnt at nursery in preparation for school and previously children who didn’t attend nursery were holding others back in the infant’s schools.


The Assistant Director for Education and Skills responded that there are nurseries in that area that have availability and they are working with other providers to see if there is any more availability. Currently the work is being done and the Committee will be updated on the progress of this in the future.


RESOLVED: That the Committee:

1.       Recognises the amount of change and amendments to education over the next few years.


2.       Provided challenge around how the proposed and new changes to the educational landscape support Thurrock children and young people


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