Agenda and minutes

Children, Families and Education Select Committee - Thursday, 14th March, 2024 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 6 - Civic Centre, High Street, Uxbridge UB8 1UW. View directions

Contact: Ryan Dell  Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies were received from Councillor Kishan Bhatt with Councillor Kaushik Banerjee substituting.


(Apologies were received before the meeting from the Corporate Director of Children’s Services).



Declarations of interest in matters coming before this meeting





Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 480 KB


Members highlighted that the resolution of the Budget Proposals item noted that the Opposition Lead would be consulted. The Chair clarified that the Opposition Lead’s comments were received, and some of the points included.


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


School Organisation Plan pdf icon PDF 440 KB

Additional documents:


Officers presented the draft School Organisation Plan.


Officers noted the usefulness of the School Organisation Plan for schools in planning around pupil numbers and in strategic development. The draft Plan was divided into three sections: Introduction, Context and Strategy. These sections provided an overview of the education landscape in Hillingdon; a summary of current pupil numbers and projected demands in primary, secondary and specialist provision; and the options for the Local Authority to consider when determining the need to increase or reduce school places. It was emphasised that it was a statutory duty of the Local Authority to ensure a sufficiency of school places.


Members expressed their satisfaction with the comprehensiveness of the report and thanked officers for their hard work.


Members asked about PAN reductions and asked if the reductions were sufficient.Officers noted that they regularly reviewed census information. Alongside this, officers looked at preference data and had ongoing discussions with schools. The pupil roll had been declining in primary schools and there was pressure in secondary schools. PAN reductions were not always concentrated in a particular school. Schools were monitored and supported by education advisors and the admissions team. The recent occurrence of nine PAN reductions was noted as something that was not the norm, and it was noted that maintained schools and academies were supported in the same way.


Members asked about the timing of the creation of the School Organisation Plan. Officers noted that there was no longer a statutory requirement to publish a School Organisation Plan, but it was good practise to have one. Officers further noted the alignment with other strategies such as the SEND, AP (alternative provision) and Education strategies and the need for timely dissemination of information to schools. There was pressure around primary places and the knock-on effect this would have on secondary places. The School Organisation Plan would help schools to have as much data and information as possible so that they were in the strongest position to be able to make appropriate plans.


Members suggested this was a simplistic way of planning secondary places. When the School Organisation Plan was statutory, headteachers were consulted and noted that planning was very complex in the middle of the borough. There were formerly three secondary planning areas, north, central east, and central west, which gave a detailed idea of where the pressure was. Having separated north and south, it appeared that the pressure was in the north, when it was coming from the centre. Members suggested reverting to the use of former planning areas. Officers noted that any changes to planning areas had to go through the SCAP process so any changes would have to be requested. Officers highlighted that this suggestion may have been explored previously and rejected but would look into it.


Members asked about the forecasting process and the error margin around long-term forecasting. Officers suggested they could refer to the data team on this but suggested a variance of around 3%.


Members asked about the timescale for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 72.


Annual Education Standards report pdf icon PDF 139 KB

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Officers presented the Annual Education Standards Report. Officers highlighted that there was work to do on Key Stage Four and Five outcomes; a healthy growth in primary education; and some work to do in early years.


Members enquired about the significant increase in good level of development in early years and sought explanations for it. Officers noted that coming of the back of the pandemic, while there was some settling down, schools were working effectively with children in early years. There was also good support from colleagues to support schools. It was noted that outcomes in later years were affected by what happened in early years.


Members further noted that for early years, Hillingdon was in line with statistical neighbours and outer London Boroughs, however this was not the case for Key Stage One and Two.


The discussion shifted to Key Stage 4 and 5 outcomes, with Members noting the challenges faced, especially in comparison to statistical neighbours and outer London boroughs. Members raised questions regarding the efforts to address these challenges, noting the role of the Regional Schools Commissioner. Officers noted school-to-school support and peer support with schools which was an ongoing strategy. Officers highlighted the Hillingdon Secondary Headteachers Association as an active tool of disseminating best practise. There were also conversations ongoing with colleagues in the academy sector. It may also be that the instability of the previous few years was now appearing in Key Stage 4 and 5, and mental health of young people was an overarching consideration. There appeared to be a trend whereby early years showed a high level of achievement which did not translate to later years. This was something that officers were aware of.


Officers noted that the differences between Hillingdon and statistical neighbours in Key Stages 1, 2 and 4 were minimal. Progress was being made on this and it was hoped that this progress would feed into Key Stage 5 as cohorts moved through the system.


Members asked about schools that ‘required improvement’ and sought clarification that these were not the same schools that went down to inadequate. Officers noted that they could come back to Members with this information. It was noted that these were private nurseries.


Members noted the discrepancies between Hillingdon and statistical neighbours and outer London, and asked about course provision and whether sixth formers can access the right courses for their skills. This was something that was constantly under review. There was a blend of academic with vocational opportunities for children. This was crucial because that was about intrinsic motivation and a desire to learn. Members raised the possibility of comparing students based on valued added.


Members referred to exclusions and suspensions and asked if there was a bias or over-representation in exclusions and suspensions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds or certain ethnic backgrounds. Officers would be able to provide this outside of the meeting.


Members further asked if there was anything in place in terms of ‘near-misses’ of permanent exclusions. Officers noted that they were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 73.


Persistent Absenteeism review: Witness Session 1 pdf icon PDF 162 KB

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Officers provided a briefing note with an update regarding the current situation regarding persistent absenteeism in the academic year. The data showed a current absenteeism rate of around 19.5%. While this was slightly lower than the national average of 20.6%, on the current trajectory the figure for the end of the year would be around 26-28%. While this would be higher than desired, this rate would still be an improvement from the previous year's nearly 34%. This meant that there was some initial positive impact of the work that officers had done.


Officers planned to delve deeper into the data concerning vulnerable groups of children in the future.


There had been several initiatives undertaken since November to address absenteeism, including implementing a revised borough-wide protocol for penalty notices. However, recent changes in government guidance regarding penalties may necessitate further revisions. This showed that what the Committee had chosen as its review topic was being scrutinised nationally.


Officers had undertaken EBSA training for team members and lots of colleagues across the Local Authority. This had also been offered to key colleagues in schools.


Four members of the Attendance Support team were now doing training for working with children with complex trauma – this was a seven-day training course that took place over six months. This would help officers working with families with adverse childhood experiences and intergenerational trauma, which was linked to potential persistent absenteeism.


Attendance hubs in Hillingdon had been launched. These were also known as clusters and were located in West Drayton, Hillingdon and Ruislip, with an additional hub planned for later in the academic year. These involved getting clusters of schools together to talk about common issues and to think about how to tackle them together.


A newly recruited project manager worked in the Virtual School looking at work around children with the social worker. This project manager had been recruited for 12 months and was currently in their third month. Officers were also currently advertising for a 12-month education project manager who would focus on attendance. These project managers would help with deep dive analysis which would aid with the review.


Members thanked officers for the briefing note.


Members asked about having some geographical analysis around data on vulnerable cohorts. Members further asked about having some historical analysis around the number and type of penalty notices, and around the size of the attendance team. Officers noted that penalty notices would be a big feature of the report that they would ask the project manager to pull together. Penalty notices could be issued for holidays or for non-attendance. Officers noted that they would be able to pull together a historical picture of this. This was a big part of the issue of persistent absenteeism as Hillingdon issued a lot of particularly holiday penalty notices. Officers would also be able to provide some geographical analysis. The size of the team had remained very similar but its functions had changed. The team was previously called the Participation Team and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.


Minutes of the Corporate Parenting Panel pdf icon PDF 537 KB


Members considered the minutes of the Corporate Parenting Panel.


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the Corporate Parenting Panel were noted.



Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 237 KB

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The Opposition Lead requested to see the comments that would be made to Cabinet.


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 considered the Work Programme.


Members asked for an update on school admissions to be added to the Work Programme for the next meeting. It was requested that this update specifically reflect Year 7 and Reception; any surplus places; and any information on unfilled places, particularly in Year 8 and Year 9.


RESOLVED: That the Children, Families and Education Select Committee considered the report and agrees any amendments.