This report details the areas covered by the Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools for the period from April 2020 until March 2021. In the case of education services, it covers the academic year 2019-2020 and activity during that year and then the first half of the current school year.
Members received a report providing an overview of progress on the areas within the terms of reference of this Committee and covered by the Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools. The Portfolio Holder responded to Member’s questions and comments, which included:
· Term 2 and Covid infection rates – the Portfolio Holder congratulated the leadership provided by officers and by schools and the resilience of schools and pupils. He felt Government guidance was sometimes difficult to respond to due to the swift changes made, largely due to the pandemic itself. He referred to the Education Recovery Cell and the collaborative working with schools and trade unions to support schools with the reopening on 8 March 2021.
· Medway Test – following reference made to a family who had been unable to register their child for the 2019 Medway Test the Portfolio Holder undertook to ensure there was no issue within the system regarding registering for the test.
· Oversubscription criteria – reference was made that all grammar schools in Medway were now prioritising by distance rather than by score. Clarification was given that this did not override other aspects of the oversubscription criteria, such as sibling links.
· Prevent training – in response to a question about the impact on effectiveness of the Prevent training, the Portfolio Holder undertook to provide a briefing note with more detail on this.
· Education MASH lead – in response to how this role had worked during the pandemic, the Portfolio Holder explained there had been very close working with schools and children social services to identify children that may have been vulnerable or at risk.
· School transport – transport costs for over 16s was raised and whether Medway would consider implementing a similar scheme as run by Kent County Council. The Portfolio Holder confirmed that the Medway Youth Pass was in place. Reference was also made in relation to possible rebates from bus companies for unused travel passes and it was confirmed this was being explored.
· Reduction in funding for BTECs – the Portfolio Holder confirmed that one provider had raised concerns with the Council about some BTECs being withdrawn and that there were concerns within the education sector nationally. He believed a wide curriculum should be maintained and therefore without something else being put in place he would have concerns there would not be the right provision available for some pupils.
· Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) – it was requested that in next year’s report, information be provided on the details of those that do not pass their training or have their induction extended and how those people accessed the profession and their training.
· Anxiety of returning to school – comment was made that many children and families were anxious about the return to school. The Portfolio Holder referred to the good return in September 2020 and added that support was being provided by Public Health in relation to mental health support and awareness. In relation to mental health and wellbeing of school staff, it was explained that a Government initiative was put in place to provide support and the local authority had helped raise awareness of that.
The Committee thanked the Portfolio Holder for his attendance.
In accordance with Council rule 12.6, Councillors Howcroft-Scott, Johnson and Osborne requested that their votes in favour be recorded.