Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (DEF/22/09), attached.
The Forum considered the report of the Education & Learning service (DEF/22/09) on:-
(a) The White Paper - Opportunity for All
The Schools Bill was currently at Committee stage in the House of Lords: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3156 with the Bill policy statements at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/schools-bill-policy-statements
Government was expected to bring forward the policies and principles in the White Paper relatively quickly. Discussions were being held with the Department for Education and Regional School Commissioner with local authorities (LAs)/Devon County Council regarding the White Paper. Devon was also keen to understand the learning from England LA’s expressions of interest in establishing a multi academy trust as part of a test and learn exercise.
Devon was committed to working with schools on the White Paper delivery, including the challenges in supporting SEND and the most vulnerable students.
(b) School Attendance Guidance
New non-statutory Guidance had been published:
A greater focus on school attendance/breaking down barriers to attendance was to be welcomed and was critical to meeting the White Paper aspirations.
(c) Homes for Ukraine
To date 330 applications for Devon school places had been received (with 204 pupils on roll). In view of the widely spread rural geographical locations (with no concentration in urban areas) Devon was looking at mapping and at schools working collaboratively within areas. No Government funding had yet been received for Ukrainian (or also Afghan) children and young people.
The very recent Government announcement regarding accepting unaccompanied children and young people could have quite significant implications for Local Authorities.
Members suggested that Ukranian support groups may also be able to provide data to assist school admissions and that figures may well be higher that Devon may currently have anticipated.
(d) Chittlehampton CE Primary Closure and Demographics across Devon
This school closure wef September 2022 demonstrated the impact of falling demographics on falling rolls and surplus places. Devon was working with schools over school places and was in discussion with the DfE regarding strategically managing peaks and troughs and in particular, secondary sector falling rolls in the medium to long term.
(e) Other Matters
A range of questions/comments (together with Officer responses), in summary included:-
(i) any further consideration given of the budget settlement for September 2022 to August 2023 following the increasing costs of utilities, catering and the increase in the minimum wage by 6.6% with the possibility of an increasing number of students on Free School Meals? - Officers advised that funding for 2022/23 has already been given through the DSG Settlement and supplementary funding agreed as part of Autumn Statement;
(ii) whether Devon was getting an increase in the sum to fund Education, Health & Care Plans (EHCPs), to meet increasing costs? - Officers advised that the High Needs Block’s considerable pressures were being mitigated through the Deficit Management Plan. Supplementary funding had been given as part of Autumn Spending review to deal with the National Insurance and Social Care Levy;
(iii) School funding for a Mental Health lead in Devon schools? - Officers advised that Devon did not hold records on what schools bid for from national programmes;
(iv) any update on Devon’s improvement measures for Children’s Services? - Officers advised that a report back to the Forum would be made following the Ofsted monitoring visit on 22/23 June 2022;
(v) establishment of ‘hubs’ made up of various agencies/interests to improve the support given to young people and their families and MASH’s consideration of referred students? - Officers advised this was currently ongoing and requested clarification on the issues raised;
(vi) any further Government funding lobbying by Devon in liaison with schools via Devon MPs? - Officers advised this would be referred to the Cabinet Member School & Skills; and
(vii) in relation to re-evaluating future reports under this standing agenda item, in a renewed Devon commitment to work with schools, Members would welcome strategic data including school exclusions/ suspensions and SEND, as the Forum brought together the understanding of the Devon view as it emerged. Devon’s strategic plan objective of making a Child Friendly Devon was welcomed as would data/risk analysis for the Forum to support the lived experience of Devon children and key vulnerable groups to improve outcomes.
(a) that Members advise Education & Learning* of any standing or periodic data they would wish to receive within future written Head of Education & Learning Update reports (in addition to that discussed above);
(b) that the Early Years PVI representative be advised as to the funding available to the sector for Ukrainian refugees, as opposed to statutory school age children;
(c) that Education & Learning progress actions as discussed at
(e)(iv) and (vi) above; and
(d) that in relation to significant ongoing matters of relevance to the Forum, further consideration be given to a Forum Member’s briefing being held to update Members and/or a special Forum meeting before the next scheduled meeting (23 November 2022).
*Education & Learning - Simon Niles (a) – (c);
Acting County Solicitor (Fiona Rutley (d)).