Agenda item - Chair's Communications

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Agenda item

Chair's Communications


3.1     The chair delivered the following communication:


          I'd like to start by reiterating our thanks to the people of Brighton & Hove for putting their trust in Labour and electing the first majority council in over two decades. We see it as an honour and privilege to serve the city. It is also a significant responsibility, and nowhere more so than in the policy area of Children, Families and Schools.


          I'd also like to start by extending our genuine thanks to the fantastic officers within the directorate – particularly Deb Austin, and her team of Assistant Directors, who have been extremely responsive, helpful and supportive in our first month in administration. Lucy, myself and the whole Labour team have all been struck by their knowledge, passion and dedication to the children and young people in this city. I'd also like to thank our Democratic Services Officer, Emma Thomson, and our lead lawyer, Natasha Watson, for the efficient and knowledgeable way in which they made preparations for the first Committee of the new administration.


          I'd like to say a few words about our priorities as an administration in the vital policy area of Children, Families and Schools. There is no greater responsibility for a local authority than our duty to act as Corporate Parents for young people and Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children. That’s why I was delighted to attend the first Corporate Parenting board of the new council last week, where the leader of the council, Councillor Sankey, demonstrated the importance this administration places on Corporate Parenting, by co-chairing the meeting with Sophie, one of our brilliant care-experienced young people. It was fantastic to see a large number of Councillors from all parties at that meeting, and I hope that will continue. 


          It’s worth noting that almost every type of public service in this country is creaking under the weight of Tory government under-funding, inflationary pressures, and a society that is orientated around market forces and private interests, as opposed to one that is built around fairness and social justice. The provision of care placements for children is one such area that is under increasing pressure. As such, I am pleased that this Committee will be considering a proposal to increase allowances for foster careers, to bring us in line with neighbouring local authorities, and help to incentivise more foster parents to come forward. Placing children with foster families is the preferred outcome for those young people and is also considerably less expensive than residential home care placements. This administration recognises the vital importance of successfully placing children with foster parents, or in residential homes, and will focus on developing measures to support the effectiveness of that provision.


          I would also like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the many fantastic social workers in Brighton & Hove. It is a difficult job, with huge responsibility and pressure, and we are clear as an administration that we want Brighton & Hove to remain an authority where social workers are keen to come and work. 


          We must also acknowledge that some of the schools in our city are under pressure, including many of our primary schools. It is no secret that primary age pupil numbers in the city have fallen in recent years, partly as a result of how unaffordable the city is for working families. Falling pupil numbers results in significant challenges for school budgets. This administration will approach this issue carefully and seek to provide solutions that are best for pupils and parents – using creative ideas and pragmatism where possible.


          We have some fantastic schools in the city that we should all be proud of. We are also acutely aware that some secondary schools in the city are under pressure from falling pupil numbers, and that this closely aligns with the issue of educational inequality and the gap in attainment for disadvantaged pupils. This administration strongly believes in a ‘family of schools’ in Brighton & Hove, and we know that certain secondary schools will require increased support to help them improve, and thus attract higher pupil numbers. It will be a priority for this administration to improve attainment outcomes for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we believe this objective can only be achieved by the whole city taking responsibility for this issue, as well as schools and the local authority.


          In the area of special educational needs and disabilities, I was pleased to see the recent Ofsted report on Brighton & Hove City Council and NHS Sussex, which concluded that services for SEND children ‘typically lead to positive experiences and outcomes’. However, I know I speak for officers and the whole administration when I say that Brighton & Hove City Council will work tirelessly on the areas of improvement that were highlighted and continue to engage with parents groups to ensure our services for SEND children are the best they can be.  


          In the coming months we will be setting out how we’ll implement the bold policies in our manifesto. We will be listening to parents, to teachers, to social workers, and most importantly of all, to our children, so that we can understand what they think is needed to strengthen education and children's services in the city.



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