Agenda item - Public Involvement

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Agenda item

Public Involvement

To consider the following matters raised by members of the public:


(a)           Petitions: To receive any petitions presented by members of the public;


(b)           Written Questions: To receive any questions submitted by the due date of 12 noon on 5 September 2023;

i. Sharing curriculum materials with parents – Mr Gary Vallier


(c)           Deputations: To receive any deputations submitted by the due date of 12 noon on the 5 September 2023.



(a) Petitions


18.1   There were no petitions.


(b) Written Questions


18.2    Jenny Smith presented Gary Vallier’s question, which can be found on page         13 of the agenda, to the Committee.


The Chair provided the following response:


          The council already encourages all schools to share their curricula and resources with parents and carers. Whilst it may not always be possible to publish all resources due to       commercial reasons, schools are encouraged to provide information through parents         and carers meetings where materials can be examined and discussed. This ensures        that parents and carers are able to view all curriculum materials, as per the DfE request.


          Jenny Smith asked the following supplementary question:


The Secretary of State’s letter went on to state, ‘this includes cases where an external agency advises schools that their materials cannot be shared due to restrictions and commercial law or a schools contract with the provider prohibits sharing material beyond the classroom.’ I’m sure you agree that its reasonable for parents to view materials in relation to sensitive topics. Do you agree that when an activist group enters a school, purporting to have qualified expertise, and proceeds to instruct children in beliefs about gender presented as though they were facts, potentially serving to influence adolescent girls, some autistic, to socially transition and ponder medical inventions. Parents are rightly concerned and must therefore be given full access to the nature of this instruction and all associated materials.


The Chair provided the following response:


As I’ve previously stated, we encourage schools to share their curricula and resources with parents and schools may not be able to publish it, but through parents and carers meetings, all materials can be shared and examined and discussed.


18.3    Lesley Hammond presented their question, which can be found on page 5 of addendum     1, to the Committee.


The Chair provided the following response:


The Trans Toolkit provides advice for schools in developing policies and approaches to support children and young people who have a different understanding of their gender to those around them. It recognises that every child and young person’s view, experience, needs and journey will be different and therefore is not steering toward a single outcome. It is clear in the underlying principles that there is no desire to steer but to allow all children and young people to be able to explore their own and others understanding of gender identity without discrimination or prejudice, with signposting to the help they need to make the right decisions for them. The Toolkit provides comprehensive information to help school leaders make the best decisions in creating safe learning environments to reduce and prevent potential harm. The Toolkit signposts schools to the statutory guidance on safeguarding. It provides clear guidance on how trained staff can safely support trans and gender exploring children and young people on a case-by-case basis, and whenever possible, in discussion with their parents and carers.


Lesley Hammond asked the following supplementary question:


When councillors have previously been asked by the public, if parental complaints about social transitioning in schools exist, we’ve been denied answers, told no and the leaders claimed that these are baseless smears. However, a member of the parliamentary Education Select Committee is now on record referring to Brighton parents who have raised complaints about schools social transitioning their children and also introducing their children to trans affirming GPs. These parents have escalated their concerns to Ofsted, so they must be recorded in the Brighton system. The Education Select Committee has seen these complaints, so either the officers and elected members don’t know they exist and have no grip on the situation, or they’re hiding them, so can you tell me which it is?


The Chair referred the question to the Committee Lawyer who provided the following response:


The Council needs to be extremely careful in circumstances like this, not to reveal personal information which would go towards revealing the identity of a young person or family, who are entitled to their privacy. This is not information that should be generally available to members of the public. The other thing I need to be clear about is that schools are responsible for their own complaints to schools, this is not necessarily information the local authority has and so I think that’s as far as we can go today without being more specific about what is needed as it relates to the Council, as opposed to every school that comes within the city.


18.4    Simone Birch presented their question, which can be found on page 6 of addendum 1,      to the Committee.


The Chair provided the following response:


The Council held weekly meetings with the contractor up to Director level at Cosmur once the project started on site. Despite the concerns we raised we were assured by the contractor that the deadline for Phase 1 work would be achieved. Unfortunately, the design team were only told on 13 August 2023 that this would not be the case.


As soon as the contractor confirmed that they would not be able to meet the deadline we have worked with the school and the Council’s SEN team to move quickly to identify and prepare an alternative premises for the pupils, which parents and carers have now had the opportunity to visit.


This is an unusual situation and our experience is that building projects are, on the whole, delivered on time. Therefore, we didn’t anticipate this delay or the impact of external market forces. However, we have learnt from this experience and will apply this learning to future projects.


We recognise how difficult this must be for the families concerned and I want to reassure you that the SEN Team has worked closely with the school who have liaised with the parents and carers to ensure that all of the children are receiving education, and that we are doing everything possible to limit the impact of the changes on the young people themselves.


It has been agreed that a weekly report on building progress will be shared with parents who have children on roll at the Hive, shared by the school. 


Simone Birch asked the following supplementary question:


What was it that was being discussed at these weekly meetings that the Council was so taken by surprise in the middle of August that the sit was nowhere near ready?


The Chair provided the following response:


So we were given those assurances in these meetings that it would be delivered on time and unfortunately as soon as we found out that it wasn’t able to be delivered on time, we did everything we could to put in some mitigating factors and parents will now have a weekly update on how the building work is progressing.


(c) Deputations


18.5    Aideen Smith-Watson presented their deputation, which can be found on page 6 of addendum 1, to the Committee.


The Chair provided the following response:


Thank you for raising your concerns directly to the Committee. Whilst the Council is rightly proud of the outcome of the SEND inspection and the culture of inclusivity in the city, the accurate and timely assessments of children and young people’s needs and the strength of co-production in the city, we also recognise the need to work quickly on developing the alternative provision offer to pupils, ensuring it meets their special educational needs and to cut down the wait for a specialist school place, when this is required.


Fundamentally we must ensure that we protect our children and young people. Therefore, first and foremost, if a family is concerned that the educational provision places their child at risk then I would ask that they make contact with officers directly so that the offer made can be re-assessed. Families should contact their usual link but otherwise send a message directly to the Front Door for Families details for which are available online or phone 01273 290 400 or email


We are clear that helping to improve the offer of Alternative Provision will require schools, families and the council all working together to ensure that what is available meets the needs of pupils and supports their education and longer-term aspirations. We have started the discussion with schools and are rightly proud that there is a clear recognition of the need for all of the city’s pupils to have a sense of belonging. Our work in developing an inclusion charter has had the engagement of PaCC but this work needs to be extended and involve more parents.


Because we are working in an environment of limited budgets, conflicting priorities and the impact of the pandemic, amongst other things, we need to ensure that what we do is right for the longer term, is cost effective and takes account of the provision we have available at this time. Homewood College remains under an Academy Order but the DfE have not been able to deliver a new solution. We have additional places for children and young people this year in The Hive but this has been delayed to issues associated with the construction company that you heard about earlier . The Council are having to look outside the city for maintained special provision but across the region local authorities are at capacity.


The Council recognises that whenever a child’s provision no longer meets their needs a personalised package of support should be put in place until the correct provision can be identified especially for those pupils who have Education Health and Care Plans. And whilst not ideal, in reality, there are lengthy timescales involved in securing new places for more specialist provision. In the meantime, the Council seeks to work proactively with the pupil’s current setting to ensure continuity of education for the pupil including additional funding where appropriate.     


As a Council we are facing unprecedented budget pressures and we need to ensure that we take a measured approach to using our budget effectively. We are committed to providing the resource to develop and enhance Alternative Provision in the city but we must also ensure that the council lives within its means. We are in the process of beginning the recruitment process to support the commissioning of Alternative Provision but it will take time to get the right person in post.


The Council agrees that we must all come together as a community to address the issues around suitable educational support for all vulnerable children. The Council is taking action to do this and I will ask officers to make direct contact with you so that you can discuss the progress being made and the steps you consider are needed going forward.


          RESOLVED: That the Committee agreed to note the deputation.



Supporting documents:


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