Interview with Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member Councillor Jasmine Ali including a holistic overview of key strategies and projects under the Cabinet member portfolio for Children, Young People and Schools with a focus on key aspects:
· Aspects of school funding impacted by rising cost of living crisis
· Data on reception cohorts across London councils, PAN London Place Planning Group.
· Health and safety around bringing up children in London air quality- health and leisure and climate change
· Progress and delivery of the inclusion Charter in schools across Southwark.
· Inclusion of Black children and anti-racism in schools
· Green Energy for schools
· BAME staff disciplinary in schools
· From previous year 2021-2022 Education and Local Economy Scrutiny commission- Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision in Southwark especially the new SND strategy due to be out in the summer of 2022. Written updates, follow up response to cabinet.
The commission then heard from Councillor Jasmine Ali on the following points
The commission then asked questions on the following topics
The commission heard from Councillor Ali and Nina Dohel (Director of Education, Southwark) that the new SEND strategy aims to increase provisions in primary schools. Current post-pandemic trends indicate rise in children with SEND needs and EHCP nationally, although pupil numbers are falling, these trends are indicative of socio-economic factors like financial pressure on families and the mental health effects on children. The new SEND strategy aims to work with teachers in all schools to develop their knowledge, understanding, confidence and capacity in working with SEND children across varying degrees of need.
Nina explained to the commission that as a part of the new SEND strategy the council has been working with SEND co-ordinators (SENCo) to develop a framework for early identification and assessment which put in place support and training needed rather than referrals and assessments in later years. Non-verbal children have been getting social skills programme and speech therapy work.
Councillor Ali explained to the commission that independent consultants have been appointed to analyse impact of falling rolls in schools and the results are expected in March 2023. The commission heard from Nina that the schools code of practice ensures that SEND children are receiving necessary support in all schools and should not be at a detriment by having to leave good schools.
The commission noted that there is a need to look at more detailed data on the impact of falling rolls in schools having more SEND children, as this can be disruptive for children with special needs.
Councillor Ali informed the commission that issues of exclusions and off-rolling of SEND children is at the core of the inclusion charter and the SEND strategy, council has conducted extensive discussions with Headteachers’, primary and secondary school teachers on the difficult transition of SEND children moving to different stages in their education.
On Southwark Stands Together training, Nina explained to commission that we are still in early days of training programmes for teachers, the council has been in discussion with Headteachers on modifying, developing and improving their curriculum through feedback such as inclusion of Black History Month whilst ensuring that it includes the national curriculum as set by the DfE.
The commission noted that it would be useful to have sight of the falling rolls school data and report from the independent consultants before any plans and recommendations are made for closure of schools to help inform the scrutiny commission’s own recommendations to Cabinet on falling rolls in schools.
Councillor Ali and Nina informed the commission that the independent consultants report and recommendations is expected to be ready between March and April 2023 and could possibly be shared with the commission in time for the next meeting on 19 April 2023.
On bringing exclusions to zero and the schools inclusion charter the commission learnt that it’s important for all the schools, services and agencies involved with children to sign up and there are plans for a sign up event in the summer of 2023 at Southwark Council.
The commission also learnt that 17 Schools have signed up to the ‘Let’s go net Zero’ network which is the Green Energy for Schools plan, experts from the field have been talking to schools about the physical building and also with students about combating the climate emergency.
The commission noted that although pupil numbers are falling due to housing costs, housing regeneration schemes, Brexit, Covid during which families had moved out of London, falling birth rates etc. however the need for pupil places and provisions for children with special needs is rising.