Agenda item

Attendance of Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools

This report details the areas covered by the Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools for the period from April 2021 until March 2022. In the case of education services, it covers the academic year 2020-2021 and activity during that year and then the first half of the current school year.





Councillor Martin Potter, Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools was in attendance and took questions from the Committee.


Members raised several questions and comments which included:


  • Workforce – a question was raised on what measures had been taken to ensure that the teaching workforce on term time only contracts received the settlements they deserved through the annual pay award. The Portfolio Holder said that negotiations with the GMB was ongoing, and an agreement had been reached with Unison. It was important to maintain political agreement on issues as complex as pay.


It was highlighted that Medway Council was not engaging in training of Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT) and it was asked what impact this would have on retention of staff. It was alluded that this may (might) have had an impact on the number of NQTs that successfully completed their induction in 2020/21. The Portfolio Holder said that Medway had no provision in place as a training provider as they would have to partner with a university to ensure availability of expertise for delivery of training programmes. 


  • Schools COVID Recovery – in response to a question on what steps were being taken to stabilise the workforce post COVID, the Portfolio Holder stated that the Council continued to work closely in partnership with headteachers and school leaders to discuss issues and provide support.


  • COVID Recovery Spend – it was asked what was being done by schools on COVID recovery extra provision for pupils. The Portfolio Holder said that the decision on utilisation of the additional catch-up funding was left to individual schools. One of the schemes that was currently in place was a Medway wide literacy scheme to address issues with literacy which had been identified as a national cause for concern. The outcome of schools working together and sharing best practice through a system led programme that was not directed by the Council was yet to materialise but the work to date was encouraging.


  • Assessments – in response to concerns raised regarding assessments in primary schools which had not taken place since the pandemic, the Portfolio Holder assured members that the focus and aspiration were to return as soon as permittable to a stage of resuming assessments as the data currently in use was 2019 data which was extremely out of date.


  • Mental Health Practitioners – in response to a question on the impact the eight mental health practitioners that were being trained and would be based at schools across Medway would have, the Portfolio Holder said that it was too soon to provide a detailed answer. The possibilities were however welcomed, and it was encouraging that practitioners would be based in schools at the frontline working directly with teachers and providing support to children and young people.


  • School Transport – it was challenged that responsibility for payment of school transport to the temporary Maritime Academy site in Stoke should not lie with the Council and responsibility should lie with the Department for Education in this instance. The Portfolio Holder stated that the school should already be open and there had been delays due to various complex issues. The situation as it stood was to commence provision at a temporary site, which was the best solution for children and prevented putting pressure on schools to make provision through bulge classes which would have incurred higher costs to the Council.


It was asked if Looked after Children (LAC) were included in the 1337 children that had been assessed as eligible for school transport. Officers said that all LAC children were assessed for transport and were included in the figures in the report.


  • Support for Eastern European Children – in response to what support was being provided, the Portfolio Holder stated that it was still early days in terms of response, but provision would be made available to ensure school provision for children where necessary. There was support in place for children in schools affected by the events that were taking place. The school’s forum would be a place to discuss all issues and responses as they arose.


  • Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) – it was asked what impact the Kickstart programme aimed at 16–25-year-olds on Universal Credit at risk of long-term unemployment had on young people of Medway and how many had benefitted from the programme. The Portfolio Holder stated that the skills team, youth service and education all worked with NEET and strategic work was being done to integrate those services. Detailed work was underway to tackle the issues of high NEET instances amongst young people in various ways such as events for care leavers, careers advice and training events. It was suggested that the leader of the skills team should provide a briefing note to the Committee on the work of the scheme.


The Vice - Chair thanked the Portfolio Holder for his attendance and engagement with Members.




The Committee noted the report.


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