To receive a report from the Director of Children and Families which provides a summary of the recent Schools Bill for the Scrutiny Board’s consideration.
The Board considered the report of the Director of Children and Families regarding the government’s recently published Schools Bill.
The following were in attendance for this item:
· Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education
· Councillor David Jenkins, Deputy Executive Member
· Dave Clark, Head of Service Learning Improvement
· Val Waite, Head of Service Learning Inclusion
· Erica Hiorns, Leadership and Management Lead
The Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education and the Head of Service Learning Improvement gave a brief introduction to the report and in doing so, had reminded the Board that the Schools Bill remains subject to amendment as it continues its journey through Parliament. It was also noted that the council is still awaiting more detailed information from the Department for Education, particularly in terms of academisation plans locally.
The Board discussed several aspects of the Schools Bill, including:
Ø Academisation and the Leeds specific picture – It was noted that, while it will no longer be a mandatory requirement, the government still had ambitions for all schools to be part of a strong multi-academy trust by 2030. Linked to this, the Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education had referred to councils being able to initiate academy conversion (subject to parliamentary approval) but informed the Board that he would not be inclined to use this power.
Ø A register of children not in school – linked to the Board’s earlier inquiry work which had focused on elective home education, Members noted the government’s intention to legislate a duty on councils to keep a register of children not in school. While the council has historically aimed to maintain such a register, the proposed new duty on parents and out-of-school education providers to provide information to the council should help improve the accuracy of this register. However, it was noted that the council is still awaiting further details surrounding this matter.
Ø Defining what is suitable education – while acknowledging that the council has always sought to provide support to registered home-educating families in delivering a suitable education for their child, forthcoming legislation will be making this requirement. The Board therefore asked whether further clarity was expected in defining the term ‘suitable education’ and was informed that there had been no suggestion from the government that this would be forthcoming.
Ø Appropriate Bodies – linked to the DfE plans to make Teaching School Hubs the main providers of Appropriate Body services to replace the role of local authorities, it was felt that this removal of local authority oversight may lead to conflicts of interest.
Ø Funding implications for existing maintained schools – the Board was assured that work is already underway by the council’s finance team in considering any potential funding implications stemming from this new piece of legislation.
Ø Penalties for breaching attendance orders – while it was noted that the maximum penalty for breaching an attendance order will increase to a £2,500 fine or up to 3 month’s imprisonment, the Board was assured that the council would firstly look to offer support to families and that the use of such penalties would be aimed at those who do refuse to engage.
In conclusion, the Chair thanked everyone for their contributions at this stage and suggested that a further update is brought to the Board’s February 2023 meeting, when the Board will also be receiving an update on the Leeds 3As Plan.
(a) That the report and the Board’s comments be noted.
(b) That a further update report on the Schools Bill be scheduled for the Board’s February 2023 meeting.