Agenda item

Attendance of the Portfolio Holder for Education

This annual report provides an account of the role of the Portfolio Holder for Education. It details their ambitions for their areas of responsibility, how they have and will undertake political challenge and leadership and what their priorities and ambitions are for the year ahead.




Councillor Tracy Coombs, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services was in attendance and took questions from the Committee.


Members raised several questions and comments which included:


Promoting Medway Youth Council – it was asked how the Cabinet Member promoted the Youth Council, the Cabinet Member said that she enjoyed working with the Youth Council on projects. It was vital that the Council continued to hear and take into consideration the voices of young people in Medway. Children from schools under the Westbrook Trust had recently been welcomed to attend and hold their own full Council meeting which was chaired by the Mayor.


School estates - in response to a question that a recent survey highlighted that some school buildings and facilities were inadequate The Cabinet Member said that 80% of schools in Medway were Academies and responsibilities for estates lied with the Department for Education. Schools were able to apply for additional funding for maintenance. In terms of Local Authority Maintained schools, there was a rolling programme of maintenance in place.


Elective home education - in response to a question on what support was provided at children’s hubs to address gaps in attainment, the Cabinet Member said that parents and carers had the right to educate children at home. There were currently approximately 870 children out of 50,000 receiving this form of education. Prior to taking children off the school roll, discussions took place to ensure the right decision was being taken. Work was underway to strengthen social inclusion and offer more support to families to encourage them to keep children in school. Home education advisors contacted parents to arrange visits at home and this service was also available at the hubs.


Sufficiency – it was asked what provision was made for early years, the Cabinet Member said that the Early Years Strategy was in place to ensure sufficient places for all young children in Medway and additional funding was being sought to address shortfall in overheads.


It was further asked what progress had been made to address challenges with primary school places in areas of Medway such as Gillingham, the Cabinet Member acknowledged the increase in demand for school places which was driven by inward migration and recruitment by the Hospital which had contributed to an increase in families moving into Gillingham. A few schools had provided bulge classes and there was ongoing work with schools and the regional schools director on how to address the increase in demand.


School attendance - it was asked what more was being done to tackle attendance issues and the Cabinet Member said there were several factors that contributed to low attendance which then led to gaps in attainment. This continued to be an area of priority for schools as well as the Council. The attendance advisory service, as well as dedicated DfE advisor continued to provide support.  Medway was part of the Kent and Medway Attendance Alliance, and all this contributed to the efforts to return, in the immediate future, to pre pandemic attendance levels.


Adolescent mental health – concern was raised on the increase in mental health issues in young people and the transition support in place from primary to secondary school. The Cabinet Member acknowledged the rise in mental health needs since the pandemic and that this remained an area of concern and high priority for all partners, The capacity of health services had been stretched due to increase in demand which meant that schools had to commission more inhouse support for pupils. Transition from primary to secondary was a daunting time for children but secondary schools were well equipped in preparing children through various visits and taster days. There were also additional support measures in place for SEND children.


Post 16 support for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) - it was asked what apprenticeship opportunities were available for SEND children. The Cabinet Member said that a recent review into post 16 provision had been undertaken. Information was gathered from young people that in some cases they felt their options were limited and as a result, an action plan was being devised to ensure that young people were equipped with information on all options available including T levels. More recently, officers had worked with, and expanded, the post 16 offer for all young people including those with SEND, at Mid KENT College. The offer included more apprenticeships, vocational courses, and opportunities for work experience.


The Cabinet Member added that she wanted there to be more opportunities for young people to remain in Medway when they completed their education, and the relevant Cabinet Members were working to develop opportunities though investment.




The Committee noted the report.


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