To receive a report from the Executive Member for Children’s Services and the Lead Member for Education.
The Lead Member for Education introduced the report that had been circulated to the Committee. The Lead Member for Education stated how quickly the environment was changing as there had been a number of changes in the short time since the report had been written. Central government had stated that all schools were to reopen in September and Trafford had seen good levels of attendance since the reopening although there had been a rise in the number of children who were home schooled. The Lead Member for Education assured the Committee that there was an officer dedicated to support to children who were home schooled. Many children were attending early year’s provision and all nurseries across Trafford were open. There continued to be issues around breakfast and afterschool provision as it was difficult to deliver those services safely and this was something that the Council would continue to monitor closely.
The Committee were assured that if there was a case of COVID 19 at a school and a bubble had to be sent home the relevant ward Councillors would receive a report. When the report was written there had been 23 COVID 19 incidents in schools which had risen to 35 incidents as of the meeting. 10 of those were at secondary schools with one school sending the whole of year ten home. The government had announced that there would be a national helpline but Trafford were asking schools to continue to use the local helpline set up by Trafford public health so that they could keep an eye on the local picture. There was a lot of support available for schools, which was detailed within the report, with maintaining the clusters of Sencos being particularly important. The catch up funding would be released in three tranches and the Lead Member for Education encouraged all Councillors who were governors to scrutinise how that money was used.
The final part of the report looked at school transport. The Lead Member informed the Committee that the Council had struggled to provide transport at the start of the new school year. The Council arranged 175 runs which carried 578 children and young people to school and further 18 runs which carried 45 adult. Part of the issue was that the Council did not have adequate numbers of passenger assistants due to many of the passenger assistants needing to shield themselves during the pandemic. Trafford had 130 staff, 10 volunteers from other Council services and 9 volunteers from a special school. A large recruitment drive was planned to increase the number of passenger assistants but it would take time for the new staff to start.
The Chair asked out of the number of children and teachers listed as being off due to COVID 19 how many had tested positive and how many were self-isolating. The Lead Member for Education responded that the number of children who tested positive was very small but whenever it happened their entire year group bubble had to isolate. The Director of Education Standards, Quality and Performance added that a question and answer session was being held with head teachers the following day which would be an opportunity to ask them to re-evaluate their risk assessments to ensure they were still fit for purpose. The Committee were assured that children who were at home in self-isolation were continuing to receive lessons at home and the Director of Public Health informed the Committee that Trafford were using the national symptoms list for when a child needed to self-isolate.
Councillor Blackburn asked if there were any public health concerns about using supply teachers to fill in for those who were self-isolating. The Lead Member for Education responded that it was a concern and schools were trying to minimise the amount of supply teachers used. The Director of Education Standards, Quality and Performance added that the national guidance did allow for supply teachers to be used as long as they followed safe working practice.
Councillor Winstanley asked whether the additional wellbeing and education grant was provided to academy schools as well as state schools. Councillor Winstanley also asked when the report mentioned the 5 local experts were they a new resource or a deployment of staff from other areas. The Director of Education Standards, Quality and Performance responded that the funding would be available to all schools and the 5 experts were current Trafford staff who would gain training to pass onto to schools, along with a wealth of resources provided by the Department for Education (DfE), to increase capacity across the system. As Trafford already had a comprehensive toolkit in place they were using this resource as an additional support package for schools when they needed it.
Councillor Thompson asked why 13% of children with EHC plans had not attended school. The Director of Education Standards, Quality and Performance responded that there were a number of factors which could have impacted the figures. The figures provided were not wholly accurate as they were reliant upon schools completing the DfE portal, which not all had done. There were a number of children on EHC plans who had been sent home due to risk of infection with one specialist school being closed entirely and there were a number of parents who had anxiety about sending their child back to school. Trafford were meeting with the network of Sencos and head teachers of special schools to ensure that, whether a child was attending school or not, the right level of support was being provided. The Director of Education Standards, Quality and Performance stated that it was a complex picture as to why the figures were at those levels and that a focused report could be brought to a later meeting. The Chair agreed that such a report would be welcomed by the Committee at a later meeting.
Councillor Dillon asked whether any families were being fined for none attendance, whether laptops had been provided to all of the children who needed one, and whether there were any children who were not receiving all of the provision listed in part F of their plans. The Lead Member for education responded that they had not fined anyone for none attendance. The Director of Education Standards, Quality and Performance responded that laptops had been first provided to children in care and some additional laptops had been available and were offered to year 10 pupils. The DfE had also opened up additional resource that schools could apply for to aid pupils.
The Director of Education Standards, Quality and Performance stated that further analysis would be done by the service to be picked up within a report looking at annual reviews for children on EHC plans and a detailed response around the Council’s expectations of schools, the guidance that the Council is giving schools, and how therapies and health were administrating their duties and meeting Children’s needs accordingly would be provided. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services added that the Council had shared their approach to school attendance with the RFC and DfE at their fortnightly react meetings. The Council’s approach was to be supportive and encouraging of all children and families during this time regardless of the performance levels.
1) That the report be noted.
2) That a focused report on the level of children with EHC plans attending school be provided at a later meeting.
3) That a report on EHC Plan reviews be provided at a later meeting.
4) That a detailed a detailed response around the Council’s expectations of schools, the guidance that the Council is giving schools, and how therapies and health were administrating their duties and meeting Children’s needs accordingly be provided to the Committee.