Agenda item - Member Involvement

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Agenda item

Member Involvement

To consider the following matters raised by Councillors:

 

(a)           Written Questions: to consider any written questions;

 

(i)      School Exclusions – Councillor Hills

(ii)    Holiday Hunger – Councillor Nield

(iii)   Bullying – Councillor Clare

 

(b)           Letters: to consider any letters;

 

(i)      Home To School Transport – External Review – Councillor Wares

(ii)    Schools Funding – Councillor

 

(c)           Notices of Motion: to consider any Notices of Motion submitted directly to the Committee.

 

(i)     Sixth Form College Strikes – Proposed by Councillor Hills

(ii)    Make Your Mark – Proposed by Councillor Clare

Minutes:

(A)          Written Questions

 

(i)             Reducing School Exclusions in Brighton & Hove   

 

31.1      Councillor Hills put the following question:

 

             “The former Chair of this Committee, Councillor Nick Childs, said in the press earlier this year that reducing school exclusions in the City is a priority to the Council. Could the administration outline what steps are being taken in order to achieve this?”

 

31.2      The Chair gave the following response:

 

The latest comparative data on permanent exclusions shows that Brighton and Hove remains in the top performing 20% of authorities for low levels of permanent exclusions from school.

 

Permanent exclusions in the city continue to be amongst the lowest in the country.

 

In the 2018/19 academic year there were 8 permanent exclusions in the city; this was less than the 10 in the previous 2017/18 academic year.

 

This is considerably lower than the national, South East and Statistical neighbour average.

 

We have had no permanent exclusions from primary schools since the 2016/17 academic year, when there was 1 primary exclusion.

 

The total number of fixed term exclusions in primary and secondary schools in Brighton & Hove for the 2018/19 academic year is below the levels of 2017/18.

 

For secondary schools this reduction in exclusions would put us as a local authority below the 2017/18 national average rate of 10.1% (which is the latest available data).

 

Fixed term exclusions in secondary schools have reduced over the last three years against a rising national trend, with the reduction occurring in a majority of schools across the city.

 

Fixed term exclusions in primary schools continue to be lower than the national average and to fall against the national rising trend in exclusion.

 

The Access to Education manager supports the Behaviour and Attendance Partnership (BAP) in both primary and secondary schools. The BAP challenges fixed term exclusion through the sharing of data and challenges all schools to explore alternatives to exclusion. This meets fortnightly for secondary and every three weeks for primary schools.

 

Data is shared about fixed term exclusion on a termly basis; challenge is made on exclusion due to various characteristics including SEND and BAME. This also includes visits to schools by the Brighton & Hove Inclusion Support Service staff (BHISS).

 

There is a clear agreed protocol for all schools to consider a range of options prior to permanent exclusion. Staff in Brighton & Hove Inclusion Support Service work directly with schools to promote inclusion and challenge the use of exclusion.

 

Letters are sent to all Heads each year to ensure they are aware of their individual exclusion rates in relation to other schools in the city and to the national rate. The challenge for them is to make improvements for the following academic year.

 

Fixed and Permanent exclusion rates are included in the KPIs for both Access to Education and BHISS and are scrutinised on a quarterly basis by the Performance Board.

 

Joint planning continues with BHISS, public health, SEN and Front Door for Families on a citywide inclusion initiative.”

 

(ii)           Holiday Hunger

 

31.3     Councillor Nield put the following question:

 

             “What steps are the Council taking to reduce holiday hunger?”

 

31.4     The Chair provided the following response:

 

“For a number of years the school meals service has supported CHOMP holiday club with the provision of food and labour (at no cost to attendees). This has been held at  both West Blatchington & Benfield schools during the school holiday period ensuring access for families to activities and a nutritious lunch during the school break. The school meals team worked with CHOMP & schools to facilitate/support expanding the holiday offer to families in the west of the city, in “non religious” premises. Schools in the west of the city promote availability and awareness of the schemes to their families and all are welcome

CHOMP also run clubs at Moulsecoomb, Whitehawk and One Church Gloucester Place”

 

31.5    Councillor Nield enquired if BHCC would consider opening more venues for CHOMP or similar programs over this period.

 

31.6    The Chair confirmed a written response would be provided.

 

(iii)        Anti-Bullying Week

 

31.7    Councillor Clare put the following question:

 

“This meeting takes place on the first day of anti-bullying week. What support does the Council put in place for young people to reduce bullying?”

 

31.8    The Chair gave the following response:

 

“The Equality and Anti-Bullying Service (as part of the Standards and Achievement Team) provides the following to schools who buy into the service core offer (£250 per year):

 

·                Guidance (for example on recording and reporting bullying and prejudice)

·                Resources (including materials for anti-bullying week)

·                Termly central training

·                Telephone and email support

·                Regular newsletters and updates

 

Most schools in Brighton & Hove buy into the core offer. In addition, the service can provide training and consultancy to support schools who request as part of a buy back service.All maintained schools, Academies and Free Schools in Brighton & Hove have access to:

 

·                The Community Safety Team who can provide case working support to those who have experienced bullying or prejudice

·                Regular bulletins which provide updates and signpost to national materials and guidance

·               The PSHE Service which supports schools to develop a PSHE curriculum which prevents bullying and prejudice.”

 

31.9       Councillor Clare referred to the theme being “it starts with us” and enquired if Councillors had a commitment to anti-bullying.

 

31.10    The Chair stated the positivity in Councillors maintaining a professional and respectful ethic. It was further noted that there were standards for of behaviour expected in public life and that this was true for social media as well.

 

(iv)           Accountability For Long Term Staff and Pay Shortfall

 

31.11    Councillor McNair put the following question:

 

“Should schools be held accountable for the long-term staff pay shortfall when a) it is not a mistake of schools b) at least one other council has decided to make up the shortfall c) it will push many schools into deficit possibly leading to “restructuring” d) it leads to staff feeling pressured into not accepting their deserved pay increase knowing schools will struggle, e) special schools with the highest number of support staff may be asked to repay the most, and f) pupils will suffer?”

 

31.12    The Chair gave the following response:

 

Thank you for question regarding the payment of backdated pay for Term Time Only staff due to a change at a national level in case law and new national guidance on pay and conditions that has affected the way in which their pay is calculated.

 

Whenever there are fundamental changes in the basis of calculating or evaluating the remuneration payable to staff, excluding annual pay awards, there is always a possibility of claims for backdated payments coming forward where the change has caused an increase in pay. These claims can be driven by collective staff groups, Trade Unions, legal firms or any combination of these.Backdated payments arise for a very wide range of reasons including changes in national or European employment legislation, local or national legal challenges and subsequent case law outcomes, equal pay challenges and so on. Such claims are unfortunate but occur commonly and are a fact of life for all major employers.  Where there is a strong legal case for backdated payments, these are normally negotiated with Trade Unions to avoid very expensive legal processes including Employment Tribunals.

 

Accountability for backdated payments lies with the employing body and is chargeable to the funding source that would otherwise have incurred the increased remuneration had it been paid to the staff at the correct time. In this case, the employing body are the Schools and the chargeable funding source is the Schools Budget which is funded by the ring-fenced Dedicated Schools Grant.  This is distinct from the notion of the Council as the legal employer of staff as it is in many schools as regardless of this, responsibility for payment of remuneration is delegated to individual schools.

 

Councils can choose to use their General Fund budget to support schools if desired. However, this is very unusual, even more so in recent years due to the very substantial reductions in government Revenue Support Grant which has substantially reduced local authorities’ revenue funding since 2009/10 – this is over £100m reduction over this period for Brighton and Hove.

 

By contrast, the Dedicated Schools Grant has increased over the same period, although it is recognised that it too has not kept pace with inflation, increasing standards or the growth in pupil numbers and has also placed significant financial pressures on schools. Any decision by a council to support schools will therefore be based on local circumstances. However, Brighton & Hove City Council, as a unitary authority, has experienced lower settlement increases than most other classes of local authority and has been experiencing very large funding gaps for over 10 years with consequent impacts on important public services.We want Schools to know that we really do recognise the severe difficulties caused by backdated payments and our initial proposal was to meet half of the backdated payment liability and, further, to allow schools to spread their half of the cost over a 10-year period. This will result in average annual costs to Primary Schools of £2,500, Secondary Schools £6,250 and Special Schools £9,000. We recognise that these are unwanted additional costs.

 

No member of staff will be expected to forego their rightful pay claim. The local Scheme for Financing Schools provides mechanisms to aid schools in financial difficulty and allows them to run with a deficit budget for a period of years to give breathing space. This mechanism is used commonly and successfully by many schools to maintain financial sustainability and avoid destabilisation.

 

The local Scheme for Financing Schools will ensure that schools are not destabilised and that pupils do not suffer as a direct consequence of this liability. As noted earlier, the offer to part fund the backdated payments and to allow schools to spread their share over 10 years was designed to minimise the impact on school budgets.  However, we have listened and will continue to listen  very carefully to what Headteachers and Chairs of Governors are telling us about the challenge that this will represent.

 

Everyone know that politically things are in a state of flux right now and we believe it would be unwise to finalise any arrangements until there is greater certainty and more clarity about future funding for all involved.

 

So because the uncertainty and of what we have heard from schools, we think it is fair and sensible to put the proposed school’s repayments on hold until the 2021/22 financial year.  By this time everyone will hopefully have a clearer picture.”

 

31.13    Councillor McNair enquired if head teachers were made clear of the reason for delay and further enquired if the decision could be reversed following a delay.

 

31.14    The Assistant Director – Education & Skills stated that Head Teachers were made clear that no decision had been made yet and that details would be forthcoming. It was confirmed that they would also be informed of how they could feed in to future responses.

 

 

(B)            LETTERS

 

(i)              Home To School Transport

 

31.15    Councillor Wares noted the trauma brought on to people as a result of the events. He gave praise to the work carried out by the parent and carers council and that their views were vital.It was stated that the cross-party panel would be a positive move to address this issue. Concern was expressed regarding the scope of the remit afforded to schools views on this. Councillor Wares suggested that others should also be able to provide their views to the policy panel. It was stated that the Terms of Reference were necessary and that the policy panel must not have its wings clipped as this endeavour signalled an effort to re-establish confidence and trust with everyone.

 

31.16    The Chair gave the following response:

 

“In response to Councillor Wares and Councillor Mears’ letter, I wish to acknowledge their tenacious approach in highlighting concerns about home to school transport.

 

The report you are about to discuss addresses the issues raised in the letter and details how the independent review will be carried out. No stone will be left unturned.

 

Sadly, the councillors’ letter appears to cast a shadow over the good work done by PaCC. As PaCC eloquently responded in their open letter to all councillors of this committee, their group consists of dedicated advocates who are all well aware of their remit.

 

I would like to be perfectly clear that I do not question PaCC’s independence. I highly value their robust input and challenge, they’ve certainly rightly raised my awareness of the complexities faced on a daily basis and held me to account in a constructive way for which I am grateful.

 

I would like to reassure PaCC and other parent groups that we are committed to continuing our work to re-build a positive relationship with the community as we move forward.”

 

31.17    Mr Muirhead presented Amanda Mortensen’s statement in support of PaCC and requested that on behalf of her role, as a parent carer of PaCC, the extensive work they undertook be acknowledged.

 

31.18    AGREED – That the Committee note the letter.

 

(C)            NOTICE OF MOTION

 

(i)              Make Your Mark

 

31.19    Councillor Clare presented the Notice of Motion which called for the committee to request a report to a future meeting of the Children, Young People & Skills Committee detailing the Council’s action towards meeting the demands taken from the results of the national survey regarding the top five issues for young people.

 

31.20    The Committee were provided with a presentation that outlined a brief timeline of youth engagement with this program.

 

31.21    The Chair gave the following response:

 

“I agree that the Committee should note the five national issues identified as part of the campaign.  These are all important and wide-ranging issues.  One Committee report would not do justice to them, so I suggest we should consider these issues as part of agenda planning for the Committee over the next year.

 

We have heard that the priority that Brighton and Hove young people voted for is Protecting the Environment.   This was also the national issue chosen for the debate last week.   I suggest that that the young people should take their presentation to the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee to agree how their views can be fed into the Council’s strategy on the Environment.”

 

31.22  AGREED – that the committee note the Notice of Motion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting documents:

 


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