Agenda and minutes

Education and Local Economy Scrutiny Commission
Monday 26 October 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Online/Virtual. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting. Please contact for a link to the meeting.

Contact: Everton Roberts 020 7525 7221  Email:

No. Item







    Members to declare any interests and dispensations in respect of any item of business to be considered at this meeting.


    Councillor Jason Ochere declared that he was a school governor in the borough of Lewisham for which a significant number of Southwark residents attended.





    To receive a brief overview from the cabinet member for Jobs, Culture and Skills on the development of the proposed plan for revitalisation of high streets and town centres.


    To also hear from other stakeholders and to consider scrutiny preparations for forthcoming meetings.

    Supporting documents:


    The chair explained that as part of the scrutiny review the commission was particularly interested in understanding the current challenges that high streets and town centres are facing both long standing and in the context of Covid.


    Nicole Gordon outlined the experiences of businesses in the Bankside area in the current climate.  Nicole reported on footfall which was down 50% for the time of year, impact of people working from home, area heavily reliant on office workers, occupancy of hotels and impact on the hospitality sector and consumer facing businesses, such as pubs, restaurants and gyms of which 91% were now open.  Theatres still remained closed.


    Nicole also reported on redundancies, particularly in the hospitality sector, businesses downsizing as not needing as much space or trying to reduce costs, end of furlough and grants scheme and business rate holidays coming to an end.


    Nicole informed the meeting of the main concerns coming from businesses which was whether they could survive over the coming months due to the long period where businesses, particularly hospitality sector would not see customers at the levels that they are used to and need in order to continue.  There was also confusion for office based businesses around guidelines from central government on what businesses can and can’t do, and concerns around employee wellbeing, for those who need to come into the office due to not having right working environment at home.


    In respect of challenges that may be facing high streets like those in Bankside, there was the worry of empty spaces on high streets, impact of permitted development rights legislation which would see commercial properties being lost to residential.


    Opportunities to explore – next generation businesses that can fill gaps created by larger companies reducing property portfolio or moving out of central London locations may provide opportunities for next generation businesses, entrepreneurs , young people and community organisations who may be able fill those spaces to make sure high streets remain animated.  She stressed that she did not think this would be possible without intervention from bodies such as local authorities who would be able to work with landowners and developers and be able to think creatively about a sustainable recovery to the high street and to breakdown barriers for groups who might not otherwise have opportunities.


    The commission also heard from Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Culture and Skills who provided an overview of the Council’s action plan on revitalising high streets and town centres.  The commission also heard from Danny Edwards, Strategy and Partnerships Manager and Aileen Cahill, Head of Culture.


    Questions and discussion arose around the following:


    ·  Recreating spaces to provide opportunity for creative industries to thrive on the high street

    ·  STRIDE - Work being undertaken alongside Lewisham, Lambeth and Wandsworth (4 borough strategic investment pot bid) to provide affordable workspace, training and startup support in the Tech and creative industries and to look at how to get more diversity into those sectors. Formerly called South London Innovation Corridor,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.



    To receive an update from the deputy leader and cabinet member for children, young people and schools on council activity in respect of children returning to school.


    To also hear from teacher representatives and young people on the experience of returning to school and the impact of covid-19 on education.


    The commission received a progress update in respect of children returning to school from Councillor Jasmine Ali, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools.  The commission also heard from Cassie Buchanan, Headteacher of Charles Dickens Nursery and Primary School in Borough and lead on a Trust which covers the two Charter Schools in Dulwich, and Helen Ingham, Headteacher of Ivydale School, Suley Muhidin, officer lead for Southwark Youth Council and Sydney and Peter, from Southwark Young Advisors.


    Councillor Jasmine Ali reported that school children for primary, nursery and secondary schools all returned at the beginning of September.  Attendance was around 90% which was higher than anticipated and children were pleased to be back.  Councillor Ali reported that the local authority had widened some pavements and closed some streets in order to help schools implement new ways of working in light of Covid.


    One of the issues that had let the system down was the lack of track and trace and some teachers had been sent to Leicester to get testing.  Councillor Ali reported that she had written a number of letters to Government but none of them had been answered.  She was confident that now track and trace and testing came under the remit of Public Health that there would be improvement.


    There had been caution with parents around coughs and colds, but these concerns were being addressed by schools, clinical assessments and GP referrals.  Schools were following up on absences, calling and visiting homes along with, early help back school teams and social workers.


    There had been an increase in parents opting for home education but schools were working hard to dissuade parents from this option.  Attendance monitoring was being undertaken by DFE through daily submissions and information was being reported back weekly.


    In respect of pupil behaviour and wellbeing all schools had prepared carefully for welcoming pupils back and had a significant focus on mental health and wellbeing as part of the enhanced PHSE curriculum.  In the beginning phase of Covid a free mental health service had been opened online, in August a drop in service became available.


    A number of measures had been put in place to reduce contact between individuals, including bubbles, staggered start and finish times and staggered play and lunch times.


    In terms of Covid cases, whilst there had been an increase in numbers, the majority of schools had had no cases and the numbers in primary schools were significantly lower than secondary schools.


    Education advisors were in place to provide advice and support where appropriate.  The education department was helping schools with communication and there were weekly updates going from the council to the schools and the Director of Education was meeting regularly with the regional schools commissioner.


    The council had purchased laptops and delivered to disadvantaged children due to delay in government issuing laptops.  Following the allocation of the laptops from government it was found that more were still needed.


    In terms of concern over the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.



    To note the work programme as at 26 October 2020 attached as Appendix 1 and to consider the addition of new items or allocation of previously identified items to specific meeting dates of the commission.

    Supporting documents:


    The following issues arose during the discussion on the work programme:


    ·  Special educational Needs and vision for people with disability

    ·  What help the council can offer young people around exams – for children taking exams and increased home learning

    ·  Providing space for young people to study (online and or physical)

    ·  Helping schools to deliver online learning – provision of devices and broadband access (possibly mobile access)

    ·  Funding and provision of special educational needs

    ·  Role of Council in partnership working – bringing people together and making connections (education and businesses)

    ·  Care leavers provision for higher education

    ·  Equalities and Diversity Programme

    ·  Follow up on school exclusions work




    That the work programme as at 26 October 2020 be noted.