Agenda item

Topic Selection


The Chairman recapped that at the previous meeting, a number of possible review topics were raised. These now required narrowing down. Further discussion on each proceeded as below:


Possible review ideas:

1)    Absenteeism in schools and related problems since COVID and its recovery

Officers had been invited to the next meeting to establish whether this would be a suitable review topic.


2)    Statutory pathways/ court system/ social work. How social workers work with the legal system

Officers had been invited to the next meeting to establish whether this would be a suitable review topic.


3)    Improving communication with schools

It was noted that this item may require some more narrowing down. It was also suggested that this may have been looked into recently, but officers would check on this.


Members further noted that this was linked to the Stronger Families Hub review and the recent agenda item on safeguarding. It was acknowledged that schools were very busy.


Through the move away from Local Authorities being responsible for schooling, and the move towards academies and trusts, connections with schools may have been lost. Looking at the impact of this was worth considering.


Members were minded to seek officer advise on the appropriateness of communication with schools as a review topic, with a focus on how communication may have changed with the move towards academies/ trusts.


4)    Impact on mainstream schools of additional SEND places

Members clarified that this should have read “Impact on mainstream schools of additional SEND children”. This was in relation to a strategy for mainstream schools to accommodate more children with SEND. It was noted that this had been a challenge for some schools. It would be useful to receive information from schools on this, but possibly not in a major review.


It was further noted that it may be worthwhile to wait until the Council’s SEND Strategy was in place, and when new school places for children with SEND has been established.


Possible information items:

5)    Youth Justice System/ secondary school children involved in County Lines

Members noted that topics within Youth Justice could be categorised into three areas:

a)    Prevention and early intervention – what programmes were in place for at-risk young people; how young people and their families were connected to these programmes; and what evidence-based approaches were used in these interventions.

b)    Diversion from the Justice System – how often were diversionary options (such as cautions or community resolutions) used instead of formal prosecution; what criteria determined eligibility for diversionary options; how were these outcomes evaluated; how could the Council collaborate with other stakeholders such as police, schools and social services; and were there were any formal agreements or partnerships in place with other organisations.

c)    Restorative justice – how could this be utilised and in what context(s).


Members noted that the above categories could be narrowed down to a County Lines/ drug use area. Links from drug use to other crimes such as theft or sexual exploitation were noted.


Members further noted that the above categories could be applied to vaping.


This could be explored with officers to see whether there was a potential review topic here.


Members noted that County Lines/ drug use was related to the first suggested review topic of absenteeism, especially with regards to being on the border with Buckinghamshire County.


6)    Children not in education/ permanent exclusions

Members noted that Hillingdon had a large number of children arriving in the country who were staying in hotels, particularly in the south of the Borough. A more specific definition of ‘children not in education’ may be useful in narrowing down an area of focus.


Hillingdon was possibly not dissimilar to other Local Authorities on permanent exclusions. However, Hillingdon may be unique in the number of children arriving with their parents, for whom the Council had a duty to educate. It was noted that hotels were not homes, and that living in hotels would likely affect education access.


A potential review topic on this could relate to how schools were coping with this or how the response differed across the Borough. It was noted that there tended to be a dispersion issue in that children were concentrated in certain schools. This could be an information item.


On permanent exclusions, a focus could be around what method of education was being provided to children who had been permanently excluded. This could be an information item.


It was noted that ‘children not in education’ could relate to absenteeism.


It was suggested that children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) be taken into consideration, and whether their needs were being met. ‘Not in education’ may include those who were suspended or not actively participating in school. Members further noted that this suggestion linked to the possible review topic of the impact on mainstream schools of additional children with SEND.


Ideas to further narrow down:

7)    Mental health

It was noted that the Health and Social Care Select Committee had been undertaking a review related to mental health and that this linked to absenteeism in schools. It was suggested that there may be an avenue whereby the Health and Social Care Select Committee and the Children, Families and Education Select Committee could establish joint recommendations, should their next review topics align.


Within the remit of the Children, Families and Education Select Committee, a review topic in this area could look at the accessibility of mental health services to young people, and what the barriers were to accessibility. Another area could be service effectiveness: how effective current mental health programmes and interventions were; and what the outcomes were. This could also look at the effectiveness of school-based interventions, including the role and training of school counsellors and teachers around mental health.


8)    School standards

Members noted that there had previously been a report to the Select Committee on this, and there was also a future report scheduled. There was a suggestion of an information item on how the Council supports schools with a view to improving standards, however, the Chairman noted that with a number of reports both previous and scheduled, Members needed to be mindful of officer time.


9)    Cyber-bullying/ mental health links

This could be monitored with a view to having a future information item on an area relating to cyber-bullying, or possibly a future review topic.


10) Social media/ mental health links


In summary, it was noted that a number of the above issues could be further investigated, following the discussion.


Members highlighted that absenteeism was within the eyeline of Central Government currently, and that it would be good to get ahead of the curve on this topic. The Department for Education and Local Government Association were also concerned with absenteeism.


RESOLVED: That the Committee:


1.    Noted the policy review topics raised at the last meeting set out in the report and suggested any changes;


2.    Agreed the topics to receive further information on, in order to determine whether a review would be possible, noting that on topics 1&2 listed in Table 1 of the report, officers had been provisionally invited to the next meeting; and


3.    Delegated to the Democratic Services Officer, in conjunction with the Chairman (and in consultation with the Opposition Lead) any further agreement on review topic selection as required.

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