Agenda and minutes

Children, Families and Education Select Committee - Tuesday, 9th January, 2024 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 5 - Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Ryan Dell  Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies were received from Councillor Rita Judge with Councillor Kamal Kaur substituting.



Declarations of interest in matters coming before this meeting





Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 451 KB


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the previous meeting be agreed.



To confirm that the items of business marked as Part I will be considered in Public and that the items marked as Part II will be considered in Private


Ukrainian Children update pdf icon PDF 267 KB


The Committee received an update on education support for refugees from Ukraine. This was the second update provided to the Committee.


Officers highlighted the ongoing support for those displaced by the conflict in Ukraine, emphasising collaboration with various organisations, including schools, and the provision of housing by resident hosts in the borough. The Committee was informed about the extensive efforts to ensure that displaced families successfully integrated into the community.


Officers outlined support arrangements, with a particular focus on St Mary's provision. St Mary's, a Ukrainian School, played a crucial role in providing education support. The Education Improvement Team collaborated with schools to offer advice, guidance, and training to support Ukrainian children, especially those with trauma or suspected special educational needs. Importantly where English was an additional language, information was provided in different languages including Ukrainian.


Several support services were noted, including an educational psychology offer, school support, and a two-year service offer for an additional language and speech service available to all schools in the borough. Hub schools and a mentoring program for Ukrainian refugees were also highlighted.


The range of support available had reflected conversations officers had had with schools, particularly those in the south of the borough, about some of the need, not just about Ukrainian refugees, but in general.


Hillingdon employed three people on fixed term contracts with the funding including the program manager, who was a lawyer and a refugee parent; and another member of staff was also a refugee parent.


Some of the families from Ukraine were actually Afghani and so there were a group of Afghani refugee families from Ukraine who had been displaced twice and the program manager and a number of others actively worked with Afghani support groups across West London.


Officers expanded on St Mary's provision, explaining the collaboration with the Ukrainian school and the introduction of education support workers trained to address trauma and health pathways. The team successfully supported families, identified Ukrainian children in schools, and facilitated access to various services.


Members enquired about the long-term plans for St Mary's provision and the potential impact of Oak Wood School's full capacity (St Mary’s Ukrainian school had opened a supplementary school based at Oak Wood School). Officers shared information about the initial one-year arrangement and the need for future discussions about funding continuation.


The Homes for Ukraine group were the sponsored group for funding. In total there had been 118, and currently there were 64 children under this scheme. Members enquired about the capacity of St Mary's provision, and officers provided information about the fluid situation. St Mary’s had identified 148 Ukrainian children in Hillingdon schools, not all of whom were under the Homes for Ukraine programme, some were under the Friends and Family scheme. Support for Ukrainian children was advertised in every school and a number of key documents were translated into Ukrainian. Families did not want documents translated into Russian.


The Committee discussed the potential return of Ukrainian families to Ukraine and the availability of online learning  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.


School Admissions Arrangements - Whitehall Infant/ Junior pdf icon PDF 255 KB

Additional documents:


Officers presented a report on changes to School Admission Arrangements. The focus was on the proposed reduction in Published Admission Numbers (PAN) for Whitehall Infant School and Whitehall Junior School, suggesting a decrease from 120 to 90 in both schools. The reasoning behind this recommendation was related to the financial viability of classes, as it was deemed necessary to have around 25 children per class to achieve this. Continuous reviews of PAN and admissions arrangements were conducted to ensure schools can manage financially while meeting local demand.


The School Admissions Code mandated consultation on all changes for a minimum of six weeks. The consultation period for this proposal took place between 23 October and 18 December, with no responses received. The report emphasised the importance of monitoring changing numbers over time to align with demand.


Members raised concerns about the available spaces in primary planning area six, citing the census from the previous year. Members highlighted the limited spaces between schools, especially in reception classes (based on the Census May 2023 Roll). Expressing concern about the proposed reduction for Whitehall, Members urged consideration of current year numbers instead of relying on last year's data. Officers noted that the confirmed entry numbers for September 2023 for Whitehall Infant School was 93 and for Whitehall Junior School was 87, which represented a significant reduction. This decline was attributed to a projected decrease in roles. Officers were monitoring to ensure that PANs were in line with demand. Officers were also creating a School Organisation Plan with more detailed projections. It was noted that if schools reduced their PAN, they could increase them later if required.


Members noted the overall decrease in primary numbers across the borough. Officers clarified that the decrease was a pan-London issue, and the primary goal was to be responsive to changes to avoid financial challenges for schools. Officers assured that they were closely monitoring numbers and creating a detailed School Organisation Plan for projections over time. The flexibility within the system allowed schools to adjust their PAN according to demand.


Members enquired about the seven empty classrooms between the two schools and suggested considering the utilisation of vacant classrooms for other purposes, such as temporary SEND provision or Council initiatives. Officers acknowledged the challenge of setting up temporary provisions and emphasised the need for careful decision-making. Officers noted ongoing collaboration with schools to explore creative ways to support them. It was noted that creating SEND provision had to comply with regulations.


Members raised a question about teacher redundancies due to decreasing roles. Officers noted that schools would gradually reduce staffing over time, avoiding large-scale redundancies.


RESOLVED: That the Committee:


1.    Reviewed the proposed changes to Hillingdon’s Admissions Arrangements detailed in the Cabinet report;


2.    Noted the NIL response from the consultation on a PAN change to a community primary phase school; and


3.    Delegated to the Democratic Services Officer in conjunction with the Chairman (and in consultation with the Opposition Lead) to agree comments to be submitted to Cabinet.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53.


DPS for Alternative Provision - Education and SEND pdf icon PDF 149 KB

Additional documents:


Officers introduced a report on the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for alternative provision, which was presented to Cabinet in December 2023 and was due to be launched in Hillingdon in April 2024. The DPS aimed to create an alternative provision directory, allowing officers from various local authority services to commission alternative provision for children with diverse needs. This could range from those who had been permanently excluded to those with special educational needs or disabilities.


Previous arrangements for commissioning alternative provision were quite individualised, where officers could make individual decisions on packages of support for children and young people. The DPS sought to streamline the process; enable greater quality assurance; ensure better safeguarding; and to hold providers more accountable for outcomes. Previously, there was not a particular service that had oversight of this. Now, there was a Vulnerable Learners Support Manager to do this and officers would be monitoring all outcomes. Officers had already launched a tracking system ready for the system’s launch in April.


Officers added that alternative provision was one of the key ambitions of the SEND Strategy, which had been presented to a previous Select Committee. As part of the governance framework there was an alternative provision group that would have strategic oversight of progress and development.


Members suggested, and the Chair agreed, adding an information item on alternative provision to the work programme, given numerous questions on the topic.


Members expressed concerns about negative comments received during the consultation and questioned if the new system would deliver better outcomes, especially regarding good academic attainment. Officers explained that officers will still have input as they would complete a referral form and be able to be more specific about their aims – thinking about alternative provision as an intervention as opposed to a destination. This profile would go out to one of four ‘lots’ of providers included in the DPS, providing options for children, ensuring better value for money. Providers would come back with an offer if they feel they can meet the needs of the child in the profile and then officers could make a decision on what was best for that young person based on the offers that had come in. Monitoring and tracking systems were in place to assess outcomes, and strategic oversight was ensured through the SEN strategy governance framework.


Members asked about the confidence officers had in having a diverse range of providers. Officers noted that they had already held two stakeholder events where providers were invited to come in. These were both very well attended and officers were confident that, just with the interest in those events alone, that there would be a good range of providers. These events included providers that Hillingdon was already working with as well as potential new providers. The tendering process opened on the previous Friday and providers were already showing interest.


Members asked about safeguarding where more than one provider was required. Officers noted that typically they would not expect a young person to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 54.


Major Review: Scoping - Absenteeism pdf icon PDF 271 KB


The Chair noted that the previous major review report on the Stronger Families Hub had been presented to, and recommendations agreed at, Cabinet in November 2023.


It was summarised that at the previous meeting, a number of potential review topics had been discussed. This had led to a general consensus that absenteeism would be a good topic to review, with a focus on persistent absenteeism.


Following this, a scoping report on the topic of persistent absenteeism was drafted and brought to the current meeting. Members considered the scoping report with a view to confirming a review topic.


Officers noted that the bulk of the introduction to the topic of persistent absenteeism had been presented, along with the other potential topics, at the previous meeting.


Members sought to refine the draft Terms of Reference within the scoping report:


The first suggested amendment was to Term of Reference 1, to include a reference to primary planning areas.


The next suggestion was to ensure that there was not just a focus on the impact of COVID-19 but also other factors.


A further suggestion focused on Term of Reference 4 and the reference to partnership working to ensure that there would be engagement with parents/ carers, young people, teachers, officers and other stakeholders.


Furthermore, an additional Term of Reference was suggested to look at what other Local Authorities, including statistical neighbours, were doing to tackle the problem of persistent absenteeism.


Members further noted the escalating prominence of absenteeism, both as a result of but also outside of the impact of COVID-19.


Members asked about the possibility of including a look at what the Council had been doing previously to tackle the issue of persistent absenteeism, and how this had been impacted by COVID-19.


Members further noted the possibility of refining the review into cohorts, age groups, and geographical areas.


Members asked about the baseline figures for absenteeism and especially persistent absenteeism. It was noted that within the scoping report, the figure for persistent absenteeism within Hillingdon for the 2022/2023 academic year was 33.96%, and at the beginning of the 2023/2024 academic year the figure was 17.3%. Officers noted that the figure for 2023/2024 was lower in part because it was taken from a snapshot of just the Autumn term. It was estimated to be around 19% currently, and it was further noted that the figure for this point during the current year was lower than this point in the previous year. In summary, the baseline figure was the end of the academic year.


Members further noted that potential that the review had to make positive change. Members further noted external issues and risks, and the potential to look to the future, with a view to prevention.


Members noted that some actions had already taken place, as noted within the report and suggested that it would be beneficial to get updates on these actions.


In summary, the Committee agreed to undertake its next review into the topic of persistent absenteeism. Next steps, including identifying potential  ...  view the full minutes text for item 55.


Minutes of Corporate Parenting Panel pdf icon PDF 483 KB


Members considered the minutes of the previous Corporate Parenting Panel meeting.


RESOLVED: That the Children, Families and Education Select Committee noted the minutes.



Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 237 KB

Additional documents:


The Chair noted the ‘Staying Close Support for Care Experienced Young People’ report would be going to Cabinet in February, and that this was referenced at the previous Corporate Parenting Panel meeting in November 2023.


Members asked about the budget report. Officers noted that this report along with the Adult Learn annual review had been moved to the February Committee agenda. Members further asked if the budget report would include the consultation document that referred to schools funding. The Chair noted that this did not usually come to Committee.


Members asked if the School Organisation Plan would be coming to Committee. Officers noted that this was due to come to the Select Committee in March before going to Cabinet in April.


RESOLVED: That the Children, Families and Education Select Committee noted the Cabinet Forward Plan



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 139 KB

Additional documents:


Members requested a future item on Alternative Provision.


Members requested a future item on Higher Education in the Borough and suggested inviting witnesses from Brunel University London and other providers.


Members noted that this Select Committee was the only Select Committee due to receive the budget report after the public consultation had closed, suggesting that any members of the public who may watch/ attend the Committee would not have a change to incorporate that into their response to the public consultation.


RESOLVED: That the Children, Families and Education Select Committee considered the report and agreed the above amendments.