Agenda and minutes

Children, Families and Education Select Committee - Thursday, 1st February, 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 Stuart Mathers substituting.


Apologies were also received from Councillor Becky Haggar OBE with Councillor Ekta Gohil substituting.


Apologies were also received from Councillor Peter Smallwood with Councillor Kaushik Banerjee substituting.



Declarations of interest in matters coming before this meeting




Minutes of the previous meeting - TO FOLLOW pdf icon PDF 387 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


Learn Hillingdon Annual Report pdf icon PDF 149 KB

Additional documents:


Officers introduced the Learn Hillingdon Self-Assessment Annual Review.


A number of challenges and achievements were noted, including the move to a new site at the Civic Centre, and 91% achievement rates among learners.


The focus on vocational courses had resulted in 49% of learners gaining or maintaining employment. Officers highlighted the need to strengthen partnerships, particularly internal ones within the Council, aiming to collaborate with other services, such as mental health support, to better assist residents.


Capturing progression data had proved challenging, but efforts were ongoing. Despite the self-assessment identifying areas for improvement, the service's intention remained clear: targeting the most disadvantaged learners, primarily those with low skills, low-paying jobs, or unemployed individuals. The service aimed to emphasise learning as a transformative tool for adults.


Officers stressed the overall quality of provision, citing mechanisms in place for continuous improvement. Impact data reflected positive outcomes, with minimal behaviour and attitude issues reported, attributing this to the commitment of adult learners. The introduction of an Advisory Board in the last academic year marked a positive step.


In summary, the Learn Hillingdon annual report showcased achievements and challenges in providing quality adult education. The service's commitment to addressing disparities and continuously improving was noted.


Members noted the strong bias towards female learners. Officers explained that this bias stemmed from targeting the most disadvantaged residents, predominantly women facing part-time or low-paid work and a skills gap. The daytime provision was designed to accommodate their schedules, but efforts to recruit more men included specialised courses, such as cookery classes, which had proven successful.


The age profile of learners was primarily between 25 and 95 years, and reference was made to a former learner who was aged 100. The majority of learners were aged 30-65.


Members highlighted the ongoing issue of strengthening partnerships and raised concerns about the reduced use of printed material, the decreased building capacity, and the poor retention of individuals in mental health courses.


Officers addressed the concerns by first discussing the challenges related to the retention of learners in mental health courses. Retention was a significant issue due to the mild to moderate mental health issues faced by adult learners. Personal targets, such as getting to class on time, could be hindered by factors like depression, anxiety, or medication side effects. Despite efforts to structure courses differently and gradually increase their duration, the nature of mental health issues made retention difficult to address comprehensively.


Regarding the use of printed material, officers acknowledged the shift away from brochures, with the understanding that online platforms were more dynamic and allowed for more frequent updates. Learners, especially those in English, maths, and ESOL courses, often relied on word of mouth for information. Although some learners, particularly those interested in personal development courses, expressed a preference for printed brochures, the decision to prioritise online platforms was driven by sustainability and adaptability needs.


Concerning the reduced building capacity, officers highlighted the challenges faced due to changes in Harlington School. The team had adapted by relocating some provision  ...  view the full minutes text for item 63.




Officers introduced the budget proposals report. This was the second time that officers had attended the Select Committee for the new budget cycle, and this report contained detailed budget proposals within the remit of this Select Committee. The feedback from the Committee would be included in the budget report to be presented to the February Cabinet to approve the proposals to Full Council.


In terms of revenue monitoring for 2023/24, there was an underspend of £2,000, with the services within the Committee's remit forecasting an underspend of £236,000. The underspend was primarily driven by a reduction in the cost of supporting Looked After Children alongside a staffing underspend.


There were £1.44 million of savings to be delivered in 2023/24, with £415,000 recorded at Amber II, indicating potential issues in delivering the savings. £123,000 of this related to the adult education review and the remaining balance related to fees and charges.


Officers discussed the Medium Term Financial Forecast (MTFF) and the Council's budget strategy. The savings requirement up to 2028/29 was estimated to be £51 million, with a savings program of £33.4 million, leaving a residual gap of £17.6 million. Exceptional inflation was the single largest factor, forecast to add £48.1 million over the five-year period.


Of the £33.4 million, £15.8 million was required in 2024/25. Within this program £3.8 million fell within the remit of this Committee, with £1.7 million of that balance being required next year. The largest savings included in next year's proposals included:

·         £0.8 million for realigning Staffing budgets based on the current occupancy rates;

·         £0.5 million for improving and modernizing the fostering offer; and

·         £0.3 million for related to prevention work from the stronger families program with the balance coming from a number of smaller items set out in the report.


Children's social care placements continued to drive much of the inflationary requirement with a forecast uplift of 4.2% in 2024/25 before reducing down to 3% in the medium term. The total requirement for the remit of this Committee was £1 million for inflationary uplifts against the £48 million included in the overall strategy with children's social care placements accounting for £5 million of this value; forecast pay award accounting for a further £6 million; £2 million for other contracted expenditure and this is being offset by forecast increase of gross income of £2 million. Officers highlighted uncertainties beyond 2024/25, as Central Government had only provided funding up to that point.


Service pressures were forecast to add £24 million. This was predominantly from the impact of demographic growth. Services within the remit of this Committee accounted for £1 million of that balance. There was roughly £2.2 million from increases in demand for children's social care, being offset by a reduction in the funding required to support Asylum Seeker Services.


Corporate items added £14 million of the savings requirement, £7 million of which was driven by the Council's borrowing requirement for the capital program and a further £5 million related to TfL concessionary fairs as a result  ...  view the full minutes text for item 64.


Major Review - Updated Scoping Report pdf icon PDF 139 KB

Additional documents:


At the previous Select Committee, a draft scoping report on the review into persistent absenteeism was presented. Following updates from Members, an updated scoping report was presented to the Committee.


Members noted concern that the scoping report listed only four witness sessions and only one with schools, given the importance of obtaining feedback from these stakeholders.


Members also noted the possibility of tying this review in with the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s review into mental health.


Members noted the importance of tying in the witness sessions with the Terms of Reference and identified gaps in this. Specific gaps related to Terms of Reference 4 (‘to understand and explore the nature of partnership working in relation to persistent absenteeism in statutory school age children in Hillingdon, including parents/ carers, young people, teachers, officers and other stakeholders’) and 6 (‘to explore the measures in place for child protection and safeguarding in relation to attendance’). It was therefore noted that additional witness sessions may be required to fill these gaps.


The Chair noted the importance of the attendance of Members at witness sessions.


Members noted the importance of capturing the voice of the child and highlighted that there may be difficulties in securing the participation of young people at witness sessions. Members highlighted the need for careful and creative management of this, and further noted the possibility of utilising indirect feedback as an alternative to a formal witness session.


Members highlighted the draft date of 18 April 2024 for a witness session with teachers/ school attendance officers and noted that April was a particularly busy time for schools and that the timing of this session may need to be reconsidered. This may also aid in securing young people as witnesses.


Members suggested adding a consideration of demographic/ cultural and North/ South differences within the review.


Suggestions were made of reviewing school’s implementation of attendance policies; of ensuring that the review/ report does not solely focus on COVID-19 as the primary causal factor; and on the possibility of engaging the Youth Parliament within the review.


Members further suggested that there were a number of youth workers who may be able to engage with young people on the Committee’s behalf.


RESOLVED: That the Committee commented on and considered the scoping report to initiate the review.



Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 237 KB

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Members considered the Forward Plan.


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



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 139 KB

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Members noted that the Work Programme showed a heavy agenda for the March meeting and suggested moving the ‘Twice Yearly School Places Planning Report’ from the March meeting to April. This may aid in considering admissions to Year 7 for next September as well as Reception numbers.


Members also enquired about receiving an audit of pupil numbers from October 2023. This may aid in Members’ understanding and discussion on this topic.


RESOLVED: That the Children, Families and Education Select Committee:


1.    Considered the report; and


2.    Asked officers to investigate the feasibility of moving the Twice-Yearly School Places Planning Report from March 2024 to April 2024.