Agenda and draft minutes

Family and Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 1st April, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Remotely

Contact: Lesley Little 

No. Item




Apologies for absence were received from Cllr D Campbell, P Rickeard and L Houghton.




Unless already entered in the Council’s Register of Members’ interests, members are required to disclose any personal interest (which includes any disclosable pecuniary interest) they may have in any of the items included on the agenda for the meeting in accordance with the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council on 4 July 2012, and are reminded that if they have any personal interests of a prejudicial nature (as defined under paragraph 17 of the Code Conduct) they must not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter and must leave the room. NB Any member needing clarification must contact the monitoring officer by email at Please refer to the guidance on disclosures at the rear of this agenda letter.



Councillor Dunn advised that she was a Member of the North of Tyne Scrutiny Committee.



FORWARD PLAN pdf icon PDF 107 KB

To note the latest Forward Plan of key decisions for April to July 2021.  Any further changes made to the Forward Plan will be reported to the Committee.


RESOLVED that the Forward Plan of key decisions for April to July 2021 be noted.




The report provides the Committee with an overview of the ongoing projects and work in the Inclusive Economy portfolio within the North of Tyne Combined Authority.


The report provided an overview of the ongoing projects and work in the Inclusive Economy Portfolio within the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) with a comprehensive introduction and overview provided by the Service Director, Education and Skills.  Councillor Dodd as the Portfolio Holder was also in attendance and commended the report to the Committee.


During discussion of the report, the following information was noted:


·       A lead support officer from the NTCA who undertook all the development work was now working with the Directors of the three constituent local authorities to accelerate the school improvement timetable. There was now a 12 month calendar of work to be achieved as a team and this was the first phase which nested within the school improvement agenda.

·       The biggest challenge within Northumberland was the secondary schools performance, as the first and primary schools performances had improved significantly. Unfortunately this was being hampered at the current time as no judgements were being changed, however work was continuing on delivering improvements.  Eleven very brief focussed inspections had just taken place and all eleven schools were deemed to be taking effective action. It might be useful to have School Improvement Plan update report presented to the Committee which would provide assurance that work was still ongoing in Northumberland.

·       In terms of a cost analysis, it was at a very high level as the Education Challenge was planned around £10m for 10 years and there had been confidence that this would make a significant difference.  Existing funding was targeted to where it would have the greatest impact.

·       There was a strand of both the Joint School Improvement Strategy and the Education Challenge which was around  retention and recruitment across leaders at all levels and some suggestions for the way in which these could work were provided.

·       There was already an education outcome deficit within NTCA and Northumberland with a challenge to address even prior to Covid, which  potentially could impact on life chances for young people. With Covid the focus was even more important after the struggles being encountered during the previous year with home schooling and children and young people not being able to attend schools.

·       The NTCA Education Challenge funding was written into Parliamentary Statute and it was very clear that NTCA should continue to push Government to make sure this happened, following the success of this in London and the improvements it achieved.

·       The possibility of changing term time and holidays was raised as there was always a deficit when children and young people returned to school following the 6 weeks summer break, and whilst the 13 weeks holiday in total could be retained, these could be more spread out. This was an area that DfE were currently looking at.

·       The importance of training, sharing good teaching practices and support for teachers across subject networks was highlighted, especially in relation to maths, physics and computer science and a greater focus on the STEM subjects would see improvements being made in these areas.


The Executive  ...  view the full minutes text for item 142.



The report informs the Committee about the current offer of mental health support available to students and staff in schools across Northumberland. It  offers a comprehensive overview of support provided across NCC and partner agencies and summarises the position with regard to services usually available, and the additional offer in place to support during the COVID 19 pandemic.


The report informed the Committee about the current offer of mental health support available to students and staff in schools across Northumberland. It had been written in conjunction with Helen Bowyer, CYP Operational Commissioning Manager, Northumberland CCG, with contributions from Yvonne Hush, Public Health Manager and Kay Vincent, Professional Lead and Clinical Manager within Northumbria Healthcare Trust responsible for School Health. The report offered a comprehensive overview of support provided across NCC and partner agencies and summarised the position with regard to services usually available, and the additional offer in place to support during the COVID 19 pandemic.  A comprehensive introduction to the report was provided by the Head of Inclusive Education Services with the aid of a Power Point presentation.  Councillor Renner-Thompson, Cabinet Member was in attendance and commended the report to the Committee. 




Members welcomed the comprehensive report and the significant reduction in the waiting times for access to help.


In respect of early identification of behaviour patterns in pre-schools, and private settings it was explained that a lot of work had been done on the interaction with early years family teams and the incorporation of mental health workers in family centres to work with pre-school children and families. However due to Covid it had not been physically possible to access the buildings, but a lot work had been undertaken in the background so that this could be driven forward quickly when they were able to do so. It was also confirmed that early identification was pushed all the time from the Early Years Teams, who were very responsive to queries.  In terms of work within private settings this had not been undertaken but it was on the radar to do and it would possibly be undertaken using a stepped approach.    In terms of support for parents and carers, there was a lot of self-help information on the BeYou portal for parents and as part of the Trailblazer funding money was provided to Cygnus to develop parent/carer support.  This work had been started before Covid and it had slowed during this time, however some work had been done digitally and would be able to move quickly when circumstances allowed.


In respect of the suggestion of a Governor at each school being responsible for mental health and it being on all Governing Body agendas, this would be picked up with the Education and Skills Governing Body Team to see if it could be taken forward.


In response to the suggestion from the Chair that the report should be shared with all Members of Council to assist them to be able to respond to queries from residents, the Executive Director stated that a briefing note had previously been provided, but this could be updated and circulated to Members as a refresher.




1.    The contents of the report be noted; and

2.    The Committee recognised the support on offer to staff and students in Northumberland Schools.




Members are asked to review and note the Family and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme and Monitoring Report.


RESOLVED that the information be noted.





The Chair advised that the role of this committee was to monitor, review and make recommendations about education, social care, training, safeguarding, youth, family, and children’s services – to name just a few things. Also to oversee and monitor school improvement.  It was not always easy, but the Committee was prepared to tackle and address those issues that did arise and work towards improvement.  He recognised the hard work and efforts of the officers, and all staff and partners involved to deal with changes that were required and it was their efforts and flexibility that had helped Northumberland rise from near bottom of the table up to 79th in the education results in the last few years, and to the top of the tables in the North East; to set up its own Social Worker Academy, producing 44 ‘home grown’ qualified Social Workers for Northumberland, with another 12 due to start; the huge achievement of apprenticeships in this last year at 19% above the National average; a significant reduction in the level of exclusions; and being the top authority in the country for offering school placement. 


He offered his thanks first to the officers and their teams for the hard work for this committee and the work that they did for Northumberland.  He also thanked all of those involved in all areas of the Council and Schools, including support staff, for helping the people in Northumberland every day.  He also thanked Ken Stow, Vice-Chair; Chris Angus, Lesley Little and all of Democratic Services; and all committee members for their input to this scrutiny committee, which was one of the few that met on a monthly basis due to the volume of work it was required to undertake.