Children and Young People OSC – 2 September

The Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee has a busy meeting ahead on Tuesday 2 September, when members will be focusing on a number of important topics.

New contractors for the delivery of Children’s Centres

Barnardo’s and The Parenting Group will presenting short presentation on their vision for children’s centres in Warwickshire, their key priorities, target groups and areas of focus.  Changes to the delivery of Children’s Centres has been a key focus of the Committee over the past 12 months, following its Select Committee review of the consultation proposals in August 2013. The Committee will be looking for reassurance that the new providers can effectively deliver the Early Years service in the new ‘group and collaboration’ model and achieve each of the five outcomes that aim to improve the health and well-being of parents and their children.

Super Priority Areas – School Admissions

The Committee will be considering the outcome of its review of the principle and feasibility of implementing SPAs across the urban areas of Warwickshire, with the initial focus on Warwick and Leamington. The Committee first considered the SPA proposal in January 2014 as a potential solution to address the issue of siblings not been granted places at the same school. A Task and Finish Group was set up to examine the proposal in more depth and its findings and recommendations will be presented to the Committee at the meeting.

Shaping draft strategies

At the meeting, the Committee will also be asked to give its views on two draft strategies: a) Vulnerable Learners Strategy; and b) Schools Places Sufficiency Strategy. Considering the draft documents at an earlier stage gives scrutiny members a valuable opportunity to share their views and make recommendations regarding the draft content, before the documents are signed-off by Cabinet.

Other areas for consideration at the meeting include a) the annual performance in respect of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET); b) an update on the Committee’s previous requirements in regarding Academies and Free Schools; and c) a verbal update on the planned consultation in respect of Home to School Transport.

Do you want to know more?

The meeting will commence at 10am at Northgate House, Warwick – a copy of the agenda and the reports can be found here. If you have a question that you wish to ask at the meeting, please contact Georgina Atkinson at least 3 working days before the meeting. Otherwise, please arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of the meeting and ensure that the Chair is aware of the matter on which you wish to speak.

Schools Out?

There’s been lots of media coverage recently about the government’s reform of the education system. Secretary of State, Michael Gove MP, has been far from slow in driving forward his desire to give schools more freedom and independence. But what’s the situation in Warwickshire? Councillors are about to embark on a focused review to find out…

Following legislation in 2011, we are seeing more and more maintained schools converting to “Academies”, which receive their funding directly from central government – rather than via the Local Authority.

These Academies are free to manage all sorts of things in their own way:

  • The way they offer places to pupils (their “admissions” procedure)
  • How they deliver the curriculum
  • Management of the school, including who sits on their governing body and who they employ
  • School term dates and the length of the school day

The government has also made it far easier for parents and interested groups to set up their own “Free Schools”, which are essentially brand-new schools that have all the same freedoms of an Academy.

Posing questions

But what does this mean for the Local Authority? Until now, we’ve played a central role in the school system, with responsibility for all sorts of things, such as:

  • Distributing funding to schools, and monitoring how it is spent
  • Co-ordinating admissions and the number of places available at each school
  • Employing and advising school staff
  • Managing school facilities and sites

Traditionally, the Local Authority has also provided a range of services that schools “buy back” from us, such as catering, admissions appeals, school transport, maintenance and cleaning. What’s the future for these services in Gove’s new world?

As you’d imagine, there are many questions and unknowns for Local Authorities at this time regarding their relationship with schools. It’s one of the hottest topics across all of local government.

Seeking answers

A small group of our Councillors in Warwickshire are about to start work on exploring these questions in real detail. They’ll be meeting regularly over the coming months to examine evidence, interview witnesses, probe experts and review policy.

What will this achieve? Well, they will be aiming to put forward some useful and practical ideas for the Council to put into action. Perhaps around the type of information that parents have access to when considering a school; or maybe a protocol for how Academies could work with the Local Authority to maintain community engagement.

There is certainly lots to look at. And we’ll be reporting back here with updates from the review as it progresses.

If you have any views or suggestions for what the Councillors should consider, then do let me know via richardmaybey@warwickshire.gov.uk

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