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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Via Zoom

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No. Item



Members are asked to declare any interests in the items under consideration and in doing so state:


(1) the type of interest concerned either a


(a)    personal interest

(b)   prejudicial interest

(c)    disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI)




(2) the nature of the interest concerned


If any Member requires advice on declarations of interests, they are advised to contact the Head of Democratic Governance in advance of the meeting.



There were no declarations of interest on this occasion.



To agree the minutes of the last meeting of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee held on 19 November 2020 as a true and correct record.


The Committee agreed that the minutes of the last meeting held on 19 November 2020 be signed by the Chairman as a true and correct record.



To consider any applications from members of the public to speak at the meeting.


The Committee noted that there were no applications to speak by members of the public on this occasion.



To provide an update on the progress of the Blackpool Youth Justice Service Improvement Plan theme area of Transitions.


Ms Sara McCartan, Head of Adolescent Service updated the Committee on the progress of the Blackpool Youth Justice Service Improvement Plan theme of ‘Transitions’. She explained that early in 2020 the Youth Justice Board (YJB) had requested that all Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) complete a self-assessment based on the updated Standards for Children in Youth Justice Services (2019). Five self-assessments had been completed, one of which had focused on Transitions. The Committee was informed that the Transitions theme was a child first approach which focused holistically on the variety of transitions a child might make. The Youth Justice Board had acknowledged that Transitions was a new area for YOTs to develop and as such would require a substantial commitment from partner agencies to achieve progress and practice development. The YJB planned to undertake moderation and validation visits to authorities where needed and in January 2021 Blackpool Youth Justice Service had been notified that the YJB assessment team felt that Blackpool had given an honest National Standards assessment of Blackpool's improvement journey. The YJB acknowledged that Blackpool was now at the stage of implementing and adopting tools, systems and processes and therefore no further action from the YJB was needed.


Ms McCartan reported that at the end of December 2020 the Council had been informed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) that Blackpool had been chosen to be part of a Northwest area pilot thematic inspection of youth to adult transitions across criminal justice agencies. The inspection would set out to see what influenced the decision to transition a young person and what a good transition looked like for them at each stage. In response to a question from the Committee as to the anticipated date for the inspection, Ms McCartan informed Members that the inspection would begin on the week commencing 17 May 2021 and that the requested data had already been submitted to the Inspectorate.


With regards to the Youth Court, the Committee sought clarification over when the new Court building would be opened and whether specific facilities for the Youth Court would be provided. Mrs Diane Booth, Director of Children’s Services confirmed that the need to provide suitable facilities to accommodate young people had been made clear and she anticipated that the new arrangements would be an improvement on the previous facilities.


In relation to the areas identified by the self-assessment as requiring improvement, the Committee asked whether these would be fed into the YOT Improvement Plan. Ms McCartan assured Members that the Improvement Plan was a robust framework for improvement which focused on five themes in line with the Youth Justice Board’s National Standards for Youth Justice, with each of the themes identifying a designated lead person from the YOT partnership:


·      Out of Court (led by the Head of Criminal Justice, Lancashire Constabulary),

·      In Court (led by Legal Team Manager, Blackpool Magistrates Court),

·      In the Community (led by Service Manager Targeted Intervention Service, Blackpool Council),

·      In secure (led by Business Development Manager, Blackburn with Darwen,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.



To provide an update on the Children’s Services Medium Term Financial Plan – its aims, the contributing work underpinning the plan and the progress to date.

Additional documents:


Ms Jeanette Richards, Assistant Director of Children’s Services introduced the Children’s Services Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP). She outlined that the MTFP called for significant additional investment into Children’s Services over a two year period and that the focus would be around the five work programmes underpinning the plan as follows:


·       Fostering Service Transformation;

·       Edge of Care Services;

·       Therapeutic Children’s Home and Step Down;

·       Placement Stability; and

·       Discharges from Care.


In relation to the therapeutic children’s home, the Committee sought clarification around the cited delays as well as questioning where the children would be recruited from and where they would be placed following completion of the 16-week placement. Ms Richards advised that the children identified for the therapeutic children’s home project would be carefully selected for their suitability and during the 16-week period they would be supported to step down into foster care. The aspiration being for a reduction in placements within residential children’s homes and a supported move into foster care.


The future plans for the former children’s home located on Bispham Road were questioned. Mrs Booth, Director of Children’s Services informed the Committee that the Council was in talks with Blackpool Coastal Housing to examine the feasibility of converting the building to supported accommodation for care leavers.


The Committee requested additional information around the reported numbers of children discharged from care, specifically seeking clarification around where they had been discharged to. Ms Richards reported that the majority of the children had stepped out of public care via a special guardianship arrangement order which added permanency to their care as provided by either foster carers or family members. She added that a small number of these children remained as Looked After but under the care of their parents whilst under supervision and review and with the provision of support as necessary.


With regards to the Council’s preference of keeping children with their families or within the local authority area wherever possible, the Committee questioned whether appropriate training had been provided to the Planning Committee in order to ensure cohesion of policies across the Council. Mrs Booth advised that she was aware that this had been identified for inclusion on the programme of training for the Planning Committee and would seek clarification of when the session had been scheduled to take place. Mr Robert Arrowsmith, Performance, Systems and Intelligence Manager clarified that the intention was not for the addition of more residential children’s homes within Blackpool but for more children to be looked after within family homes, for example via foster carers.


In response to a question seeking clarification around the cited tighter management of the fostering service, Ms Richards explained that part of the fostering transformation programme had included the creation of three bespoke teams in the following areas:


·       Recruitment and training of foster carers;

·       Supporting carers and children through to permanence of placements;

·       Supporting foster carers.


Ms Richards advised that the purpose of the bespoke teams was to create a more structured approach to the recruitment, assessment and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.



To provide an update on the implementation of the current Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Strategy.


Additional documents:


Mr Philip Thompson, Head of SEND and Early Years provided an update on the implementation of the current Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Strategy. Within his accompanying report, Mr Thompson had highlighted that one of the priorities of the SEND Strategy was to develop a continuance of local provision and services to meet the needs of children with SEND and he outlined that the consultation with mainstream schools to open SEN provision units within their schools had resulted in five successful applications from primary schools. The Committee requested an update in relation to the provision of SEN units within Blackpool’s secondary schools, with Mr Thompson reporting that talks were currently ongoing with one of the town’s special schools. The proposals centred around the potential of two classrooms being made available within one mainstream secondary school to be accessed and utilised by pupils attending a special school. The plans included proposals for the pupils to gradually transfer to the mainstream school fully over a period of two years.


With regards to the five successful applications for the SEN units, the Committee sought additional information on the consultation and recruitment process. Mr Thompson explained that all schools had been included in the consultation and had been asked to submit expressions of interest to be included in the project. As all applications had successfully met the suitability criteria, the decision had been taken to approve all five schools.


In response to a question around the status of the Oracle building, Mr Thompson reported that the current timescale aimed for completion by September 2021 with the building to be used as a sixth form SEN provision from that date. He advised that the building had undergone appropriate building surveys to assess its suitability and to provide estimated costings for any necessary modifications. The Committee was informed that a total budget allocation of £100,000 had been reserved for the work from the SEND capital works budget but that if costs exceeded this amount then funds would need to be allocated from alternative sources.


Mr Thompson reported that the Lotus free school for children aged 10 to 16 years was now open and had 21 pupils across years six, seven and eight. The Committee questioned whether this was as planned for this stage in the school’s development, with Mr Thompson confirming that a total of 24 places had been commissioned for the first year, as agreed with the Department for Education. He outlined that from September 2021 this number would be expanded to 40 places and that 36 children had already been identified as looking likely to be suitable for most of those. By year five of the school, Mr Thompson anticipated that up to 67 pupils could be in place. He advised that the pandemic restrictions had impacted the settling in period for some of the pupils, with teaching staff reporting that the disruption of repeated periods of lockdown had been difficult for some of their children and advising that the pandemic might delay  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.



To inform the Committee of the headlines in relation to end of Primary Phase assessment, GCSE equivalent assessment and A-Level equivalent assessment in the 2019-2020 school year and to share the current thinking about how the exams and assessments that were scheduled for summer 2021 will be replaced.



Mr Paul Turner, Head of School Standards, Safeguarding and Inclusion updated the Committee to inform Members that GCSE, A Level and AS examinations for summer 2021 would not be going ahead and that the Office of Qualifications and Examinations (Ofqual)and the government were now beginning a consultation on how best to proceed. In addition, all primary school assessments scheduled to take place between April and July 2021 had been cancelled, which included KS1 teacher assessments, KS2 tests and teacher assessments and phonics screening checks. Mr Turner added that schools would not be required to complete any further activities to prepare for these assessments and that local authorities would not need to undertake monitoring or moderation activities.


When asked whether Blackpool pupils were adequately equipped to undertake appropriate home learning, Mr Turner reported that a rolling programme of laptop provision was underway but that not all pupils had as yet been in receipt of the necessary computer equipment, however no child in Blackpool would be unable to complete any school work during this time. Councillor Benson, Cabinet Member for Schools, Education and Aspiration informed the Committee that schools had been working in innovative ways to source the necessary equipment and suggested that should Councillors wish to support their local school then they might want to consider utilising some of their ward budget towards contributing to school equipment.


In response to concerns over the long-term academic impact of pupils being unable to adequately access home schooling provisions, Mrs Diane Booth, Director of Children’s Services assured the Committee that dialogue was ongoing with the Department for Education regarding the unacceptable delays in the delivery of laptops to schools and she highlighted that the most deprived areas should have been prioritised. The Committee acknowledged the Department for Education’s responsibility in providing IT equipment and internet capabilities to pupils but also noted the duties of schools to ensure that devices were promptly delivered to all pupils and where possible to utilise available school budgets to purchase additional equipment.


With regards to the potential impact on pupils’ attainment, Mr Turner advised that future strategies, for example the Literacy Strategy which was currently in the process of being developed, would aim to address the impact of the pandemic on learning and would look for ways in which to incorporate methods by which pupils could catch up for any learning missed. Mr Turner praised the efforts of all the school leaders and staff for their dedication to their pupils throughout the pandemic and assured the Committee that efforts would be made to address any remaining issues once pupils were permitted back to school.




To consider the contents of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee’s Workplan for 2020-2021.

Additional documents:


The Committee reviewed the contents of the Workplan for 2020/2021. As part of its monitoring of the implementation of recommendations and actions, the Committee received a progress update from Mr Paul Turner, Head of School Standards, Safeguarding and Inclusion on the recommendations resulting from the reviews of the School Response to Covid-19 Pandemic and Inclusion in Education. Mr Turner advised that all recommendations were ongoing and were achievable and he agreed to provide a full progress update at the next meeting of the Committee in April 2021.


The Committee considered the scoping document for the scrutiny review of Blackpool Better Start and agreed to approve the document.


Consideration was given to the proposed addition of SEND Funding and Capacity as a future topic for scrutiny, as suggested by Councillor Hobson, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change. Due to the number of existing items within the workplan, the Committee agreed that the proposed item be included for consideration as part of the programme for work for the next Municipal Year.


The Committee agreed:

1.     To approve the addition of SEND Funding and Capacity to the Committee workplan for consideration as a scrutiny topic in the following Municipal Year;

2.     To approve the scoping document for the Blackpool Better Start scrutiny review;

3.     To receive a full progress report on all outstanding recommendations resulting from the School Response to Covid-19 Pandemic and Inclusion in Education Scrutiny Reviews from Mr Turner at the next meeting of the Committee on 22 April 2021.



To note the date of the next meeting of the Committee as Thursday 22 April 2021 at 6pm.


The date of the next meeting of the Committee was noted as Thursday 22 April 2021, commencing at 6pm.