To receive a report from the Director of Children and Families which provides an overview of outcomes and service performance related to Council priorities and services within the remit of the Scrutiny Board (Children and Families).
The Director of Children and Families submitted a report which provided an overview of outcomes and service performance related to Council priorities and services within the remit of the Scrutiny Board (Children and Families).
The following were in attendance:
- Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment
- Councillor Fiona Venner, Executive Member for Children and Families
- Sal Tariq, Director of Children and Families
- Julie Longworth, Deputy Director of Children and Families
- Tim Pouncey, Chief Officer Strategy and Resources
- Val Waite, Head of Service Learning Inclusion
- Dave Clark, Head of Service Learning Improvement
- Chris Hudson, Planning, Policy and Procedures Lead
The Director of Children and Families introduced the headline performance issues, as set out in the report. While recognising positive performance across a number of areas despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Members discussed a number of specific matters, including:
· Structure and quality of online learning. Members recognised the significant challenge faced by schools in relation to providing online home learning packages for pupils as a result of school closures and bubble collapses, however also noted the variance in approaches between schools, and sought clarity on how the Council will continue to monitor the quality of online learning moving forward. Members were advised that the Department for Education (DfE) have released further guidance around expectations for the structure and quality of online learning, for school leaders and governors to continuously monitor throughout the school year, along with support and sharing of ideas through the COVID-19 Bronze Group meetings.
· Availability of devices to support home learning. Members noted reports of schools unable to provide devices to children for the purposes of home learning due to insurance restrictions, and sought clarity on whether this is a widespread problem across Leeds. Members were advised that maintained schools are usually insured under the Council’s "Balance of Risks" insurance scheme which covers all devices, including off the premises. However, academies may have their own insurance policies which may not protect devices outside of school.
· Vulnerable children and safeguarding. Members expressed concern for the wellbeing of children during periods out of school, and sought clarity as to whether reduced numbers of referrals to social care are as a result of the reduced contact with children and their families. Members were advised that referrals increased when schools reopened in September which shows the importance of vulnerable children attending school. However, Members were also advised that identifying vulnerable children continues to be a constant priority as vulnerability is not static, and during periods of school closure, a multi-agency approach is taken with early help services, the voluntary sector and other key agencies to ensure that families are identified and supported.
· Early Years and other childcare provision. Members recognised the challenges faced by Early Years providers throughout the pandemic to continue to be viable with declining numbers of children attending. Members were advised that the decline in the Early Years sector will disproportionately impact employment rates of women, and that a research study has been launched by the University of Leeds, with a particular focus on the impact on women. Related to this, Members also noted the concerns of other childcare provision such as childminding services, in relation to supporting school aged children with home learning.
RESOLVED – That the contents of the report, along with Members comments, be noted.