Agenda item - Chair's Communications

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Agenda item

Chair's Communications

Minutes:

71.1 The Chair gave the following communication:

 

Welcome to this virtual meeting of the Children Young People & Skills Committee. Please note that this meeting is being webcast and is capable of repeat viewing.

 

Today, many of our city’s children went back to school. I want to thank everyone for their hard work in managing the return to school safely and to who children with home learning during this difficult period. Nobody wants to be in a position where not all children are in school. So I will say this. While we have been presented with a roadmap out of the pandemic, we are not out of the woods yet. The best way to prevent another long period where not all children are in school, and the best thing for our children and young people’s wellbeing, is to remain vigilant. Please remember to wash your hands, cover your face and keep to a 2m distance.

 

Since the last meeting, the council has approved it’s annual budget. While we saw some cuts to our directorate in this budget – I am pleased to say that also came with some investments. We invested funding into Brighton Youth Centre, which we will address later on this agenda. We invested £100,000 into our anti-racist schools strategy – agreed by this committee in November. This important work can now continue to progress with the level of investment it needs. We invested with the climate crisis affecting the lives of our city’s young people in the years to come, I’m pleased we have nearly £100,000 to support with projects to educate and involve young people in the solution. A report on this funding will come to a future meeting of this committee. We invested £25,000 into a city disadvantage strategy too, which will give us the space to get to the root of the issues that we need to address. The class divide deputation on this agenda highlights part of this – and I look forward to reporting back in upcoming meetings with our plans and ideas. And finally, £15,000 into youth voice, to make good of our commitments to support young people.

 

While we are on the topic of youth voice, may I highlight that our Youth Council are currently looking for more members. If you know a young person aged 13-19, or up to 25 if they have SEND, then please encourage them to get in touch.

 

Young people are facing more challenges now than ever; and this includes with unemployment. We know that the youth unemployment figures throughout the pandemic have risen. That’s why I’m pleased to repeat the news I gave at policy & resources recovery subcommittee last week; that we have been successful in a funding application to open both a physical and virtual youth employment hub. This hub will also include work on the kickstart scheme – providing real-life placements for young people to get into work. All of this is part of the city employment and skills plan, that was presented to the same committee last week. I am looking forward to seeing this plan as it progresses and want to thank our skills team, along with other partners, for all their work on this.

 

At the next meeting of Policy & Resources Committee in 10 days time, Councillors will also vote on our plans to spend our winter grant funding, that we have recently secured from Government, to provide food support over Easter. This is different to the Holiday Activities and Food Plan on today’s agenda.

 

I know there are some questions ahead on today’s agenda, and I wanted to express again how I know and understand that it some families are facing stressful, upsetting and difficult time as a result of national offer day last week.

 

Our pupils projections suggest that demand for places next year (2022) in the Dorothy Stringer and Varndean catchments will again exceed supply, but by fewer than this year. The extent to which it will be appropriate for the schools to absorb  this will depend on the circumstances and factors at the time. Varndean has already permanently increased their PAN by 30. Our expectation is that both schools will still be operating to the maximum number of pupils allocated under the admissions arrangement. The forecast from 2023 is very different. This is something we need to take into account. From 2023 the projections for places needed in the catchment will be below the current PAN of 630. In 2023 the projection is for 601 pupils within catchment. From then the projections continue to be under the PAN, and in 2025 the numbers currently projected are well under the PAN at 581. 

In due course the council will need to think about reviewing the catchment areas for all schools to take into account that new reality.

Continually expanding two schools beyond the capacity for which they were constructed, against the analysis of the schools, is not the right approach for the schools or the city.

This is particularly the case in the context of:

·       a global pandemic where overcrowding presents a health risk;

·       other good schools in the city having spare capacity; and

·       knowing that it is projected that any such expansion will not be needed from 2023.

 

However, I do appreciate that understanding why the decision has been taken offers small comfort for the young people and families involved.

With this in mind we’ve asked BHISS to link with the schools concerned and explicitly check if any of the 62 children need specific support. We will also be also looking at any transportation issues with families.

Of course, all these pupils still have a right of Appeal. There may be some pupils where there are exceptional circumstances that weren’t apparent to us from their application forms. Those cases can be considered by the independent Appeals Panel on their merits.

In previous years some pupils have been allocated places from the Waiting List. But I recognise that it is going to be the case that some pupils will have to attend the school they have been directed to.

These are good schools who will welcome them with open arms. I hope that the council, schools and families can support those pupils together to embark on this new chapter of their school life.

It would be remiss of me to not end on a point of reflection. Today is International Women’s Day, and I’m pleased we have a fantastic Families, Children and Learning Directorate led by a team of brilliant women and this committee is lucky to have some brilliant women supporting it to.

 

To Natasha Watson, our committee lawyer, thank you for keeping us straight and narrow!

 

To Lisa Johnson, our Democratic Services Manager who services this committee, for not only minuting this meeting but doing all the preparation work too and making it run flawlessly.

 

To Carolyn Bristow, our Service Manager, thank you for keeping the directorate on track with our plans and strategies.

 

To Louise Hoten, our Head of Finance, thank you for managing the complexities of the large amount of funding this directorate covers.

 

To Jo Lyons, our Assistant Director of Education and Skills – thank you for everything you do, not in the least having supported our city’s schools through many a challenging period over the last year.

 

To Georgina Clarke-Green, our Assistant Director of Health, SEN and disability, thank you for your ambition, passion and drive to improve the lives of our city’s families, adults and children with SEND.

 

To Anna Gianfrancesco, our Interim Assistant Director of Safeguarding and Care, thank you for keeping our children open to social work safe and well.

 

And last but not least, Deb Austin, our newly appointed Executive Director of Families Children and Learning. May I use this opportunity to publicly congratulate you on your appointment. Your passion, expertise and drive to improve the lives of all children, young people and families in our city will be key to addressing the challenges they face going forward.

 

There are many more brilliant women in our team and across the council; too many to name – but there are some more of our brilliant women who will be presenting reports today too. You all give me great pride in working with you and seeing how every day you make a difference. We will later on this agenda hear a presentation on some of the work done to support young women in our city. 

 

With regard to the order of the agenda I have agreed to move two items:

Item 84 ‘International Women’s Day’ will be taken as the first substantive item after Public and Member Involvement

Item 82 ‘How The Council, Schools and Other Providers Response To The Pandemic is Proceeding and What Could Be Done Better’. Will be taken after Item 75

 

 


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