To receive a report from the Head of Democratic Services reflecting the request made by the Chair for the Board to receive a briefing on the Council’s understanding and position relating to a decision to cease the Post 16 Meadows Park partnership arrangement.
The report of the Head of Democratic Services referred to the Chair’s request for the Director of Children and Families to give the Board a briefing on the Council’s understanding and position in relation to a decision to cease the Post 16 Meadows Park partnership arrangement made between the North West Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre (SILC) and Benton Park High School.
The following were in attendance for this item:
- Phil Mellen – Deputy Director for Learning
- Val Waite – Head of Learning Inclusion
- Victoria Coyle – Statutory Assessment and Provision Lead
The Board was initially briefed by the Statutory Assessment and Provision Lead officer who explained that the North West SILC has informal partnerships with four mainstream schools to enable their pupils to enjoy mainstream opportunities. However, it was also stressed that such pupils still remained on the roll of the North West SILC and therefore were considered as guests within the mainstream school settings.
It was reported that the current Meadows Park partnership is housed in 3 classrooms within Benton Park High School, with each class having pupils from one key stage in it. It was also reported that the decision to cease the Key Stage 5 (post-16) partnership arrangement had primarily been made due to general capacity demands at Benton Park High School as well as factoring in the overall value and future viability of the Post 16 provision compared to the increasing demand needs of those pupils in Key Stages 3 and 4.
In implementing this decision, it was also highlighted that a phased approach was being adopted to enable the majority of current post-16 students to complete their three years at Benton Park. However, as there would only be three Year 14 students remaining by September 2020, this was not considered to be a viable group. As such, it was reported that the SILC is currently working with these relevant students and their families to find alternative post-16 provision for them.
The Chair addressed the meeting to highlight that whilst the agenda report indicated that consultation had been carried out, it had been brought to his attention that no consultation had been undertaken with families prior to the decision being made. It was, however, noted within the appended letter to the report that engagement opportunities had subsequently been made by the SILC to discuss the implications of the decision with affected families.
During the Board’s discussion, the following key points were made:
· Responsibility for the students’ learning pathway - It was highlighted that the SILC maintained overall responsibility for their own students in terms of their learning pathways.
· The implementation of the decision – The Board was reminded that informal partnership arrangements made between schools fall outside of the Council’s statutory decision making processes. However, it was the view of the Children and Families directorate that the phased implementation of the decision offered current families a reasonable period of time to consider alternative destinations and pathways.
· The broader Leeds offer to post-16 students with SEND - the Board sought clarification of the alternative options open to post-16 students with SEND and particularly within the context of promoting inclusive learning.
· The widening of learning gaps during Key Stage 5 – Linked to the decision, reference was made to the learning gap between pupils with SEND and their mainstream peers widening as their enter sixth form education. The Board sought further clarity in terms of the evidence supporting this statement.
· Communication with students and families – The Board emphasised the importance of ensuring that the students and their families feel fully supported in making informed and appropriate choices regarding their learning pathways and recognised the important role of the Council in this respect too.
· Undertaking further scrutiny work – The Chair explained that the Scrutiny Board’s function is not to act as a formal complaints process linked to decisions made by individual schools. However, it was agreed that the Board would undertake further scrutiny to better understand the circumstances and rationale associated with the decision to cease the Post 16 Meadows Park Partnership arrangement within the broader context of reviewing the city’s Post 16 offer for individuals with SEND.
RESOLVED – That further scrutiny is undertaken to better understand the circumstances and rationale associated with the decision to cease the Post 16 Meadows Park Partnership arrangement within the broader context of reviewing the city’s Post 16 offer for individuals with SEND.