Agenda and minutes

Informal, Children and Education Policy and Accountability Committee - Monday, 31st January, 2022 6.30 pm

Venue: Online - Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: David Abbott  Email:

Link: Watch the meeting on YouTube

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were received from Matt Jenkins and Eleanor Allen.


Declarations of Interest

If a Councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a particular item, whether or not it is entered in the Authority’s register of interests, or any other significant interest which they consider should be declared in the public interest, they should declare the existence and, unless it is a sensitive interest as defined in the Member Code of Conduct, the nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.


At meetings where members of the public are allowed to be in attendance and speak, any Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest or other significant interest may also make representations, give evidence or answer questions about the matter.  The Councillor must then withdraw immediately from the meeting before the matter is discussed and any vote taken.


Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance and speak, then the Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration. Councillors who have declared other significant interests should also withdraw from the meeting if they consider their continued participation in the matter would not be reasonable in the circumstances and may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.


Councillors are not obliged to withdraw from the meeting where a dispensation to that effect has been obtained from the Standards Committee. 



There were no declarations of interest.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 250 KB

To note the minutes of the meeting held on 16 November 2021.



Members noted the minutes of the meeting held on 16 November 2021.


Public Participation

This meeting is being held remotely. If you would like to ask a question about any of the items on the agenda please contact:


You can watch the meeting live on the Council’s YouTube channel:



No questions were received.


2022 Medium Term Financial Strategy pdf icon PDF 585 KB

This report sets out the budget proposals for the services covered by this Committee. An update is also provided on any proposed changes in fees and charges in the budget.


Additional documents:


Jacqui McShannon (Director of Children’s Services) and Tony Burton (Head of Finance for Children’s Services and Education) presented the report. Emily Hill (Director of Finance) was also in attendance to answer questions on the corporate budget.


Jacqui McShannon gave an introduction, presenting the Children’s Services vision for all children in the borough. She also highlighted the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children and families, the achievements of the department, and the whole system approach to budget management that had enabled those achievements within a constrained financial environment.


Tony Burton explained that the 2022/23 draft budget consisted of total planned expenditure of just under £156m, of which £109m was spent on education services. £87m of the money for education was from the dedicated schools grant and would go to the borough’s schools. A further £14m was from other Government grants. The department was proposing £533k of savings and £534k of growth.


Tony Burton informed members that the Council had negotiated £20m of funding from the Department for Education (DfE) to address historic deficits in the High Needs Block. The DfE had agreed a plan to pay off the deficit over the medium term to enable the Council to focus on future investment. Children’s Services had also secured a £1.2m capital grant from the DfE to support the High Needs Block strategy and invest in the placement strategy.


Jacqui McShannon summarised the budget presentation and said the Council was committed to delivering high quality services, improving outcomes, and protecting key services.


The Chair asked about the impact of budget cuts. Jacqui McShannon said the department had three key tenets for services – providing quality services, delivered locally where possible (either designed with the community in mind or co-produced), and intervening early.


Nandini Ganesh asked about progress on the High Needs Block safety valve arrangement with the DfE and if the demand for Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) was decreasing. Jacqui McShannon said the arrangement was negotiated a year ago. It would be a huge transformation and was being co-produced with partners and schools. There was still a lot of work to do to develop confidence amongst stakeholders. The department was also going to be investing in new posts to monitor effectiveness of services and develop a performance management culture. Demand hadn’t decreased but the plan was still in the early stages and the numbers weren’t expected to decrease yet.


Nandini Ganesh asked if officers could evidence the outcomes at the next meeting. There had been some concerns from parents about inclusion. Jacqui McShannon said officers could talk through the programmes and services that had been put in place.


ACTION: Jacqui McShannon


Tony Burton noted that the safety valve funding covered the historic deficit, but the department’s assumptions involved increasing expenditure on the High Needs Block over the medium term.


Councillor Larry Culhane (Cabinet Member for Children and Education) explained that the Government had been underfunding special educational needs for many years. Reforms in 2014 increased access to services but reduced  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Adopt London West – Assurance Report pdf icon PDF 447 KB

This report provides a briefing on the progress and activity of Adopt London West, adoption performance data, and how good outcomes are being achieved for children.


Amana Gordon (Operational Director, Children and Young Peoples Service) and Debbie Gabriel (Adopt London West) attended to present the item on the progress and activity of Adopt London West including performance data and how good outcomes were being achieved for children. They were joined by adoptive parent Sonal Thakrar who spoke about her experiences of the process.


Debbie Gabriel informed members that the Adopt London West (ALW) Regional Adoption Agency became operational on 1 September 2019 with a formal launch in October 2019. A comprehensive partnership agreement forms the basis of the ongoing partnership arrangements. H&F’s Director of Children’s Services sits on the partnership board which provides oversight to ensure that the shared service is appropriately scrutinised and supported to deliver improved outcomes for children and adopters.


SonalThakrar, a newly adoptive parent, addressed the Committee to discuss her experiences of adopting through Adopt London West. She spoke about her initial fears of prejudice, being in a same-sex, ethnic minority couple – but those fears were quickly allayed, and she found the service to be warm and inviting, saying they understood inclusion and embraced adopters from diverse backgrounds. Communication was clear and consistent. She appreciated the mentoring made available from other same-sex couples who had adopted from ethnic minorities. She highlighted the high-quality training and said she benefitted from access to the national training network. She felt well supported by social workers through the matching process, considered to be the hardest part of adoption. And the level of support remained high even when services went remote.


The Chair asked about post-adoption support and if there were things that stood out that others should take on board. Sonal Thakrar said the mentoring and checking-in were both vital. Adoption was a complex, challenging process so education and discussion around the issues faced by first-time adopters was important. Open conversations were valuable. She said contact was well managed and good partnerships were made with health visitors. She was helped to apply to an adoption support fund for play therapy. She felt it was a ‘total care package’ and felt ‘emotionally held’ at a critical time.


The Chair asked what Sonal would change about the process if she could. Sonal Thakrar said ALW should promote best practices to other local authorities. She added that the time from match to placement was a real challenge outside of ALW.


The Chair asked Debbie Gabriel about the Black adoption project at ALW – how adopters were recruited and how successful it had been. Debbie Gabriel said there had been lots of enquiries – the challenge was understanding what adopters have to offer. The overall number of adoptions and children placed for adoption was falling so the challenge was finding the right families. Amana Gordon said the Council wanted a diverse range of carers who were not just a cultural match but also met the needs of the children.


Councillor Mark Loveday asked Sonal what, if anything, she would change about ALW. Sonal Thakrar said she  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Education Outcomes Update pdf icon PDF 339 KB

This report covers educational outcomes for key stage 4/5 for 2021 with extra information on destinations and young people not in education, employment, or training.



Jan Parnell (Director of Education), Matthew Coulbeck (Secondary Adviser and 14-25 Development), and Keith Tysoe (Principal Adviser SEND and Inclusion) attended to present the report. Matthew Coulbeck highlighted the good outcomes across schools, including special schools and alternate provision. The 2021 cohort have generally experienced better GCSE outcomes than those in 2020 and 2019, though due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the summer exam series was replaced by teacher assessments.


The Chair noted that BTEC students hadn’t benefitted from the exam inflation seen in other exams and asked if there was anything more the Council could do to help young people who had done BTECs. Matthew Coulbeck said it may have already affected University applications this year, but he hoped it would be a one-off year, with exams returning next year. He noted that officers didn’t have evidence at this stage that young people with BTECs hadn’t been accepted where they wanted to go.


The Chair noted the reduction in fixed term exclusions from 21 to 5 and asked what was behind that. Matthew Coulbeck said schools had put in a huge effort during the lockdown to support students, and young people were not in the same situations they would have been before that could lead to exclusions. Jan Parnell added that young people received excellent support from the Virtual School who nurture and supported young people in their academic and social wellbeing. The Chair highlighted the achievements of children in care, saying it was a testament to the wrap-around care provided in the borough.


Councillor Mark Loveday discussed the difficulty of assessing progression during the pandemic and asked how useful the data from the pandemic would be useful in future years – and at what point could officers compare it with pre-pandemic figures. Matthew Coulbeck said it would be difficult, but he was more concerned with those young people who would be taking exams in the next few years. They had missed out on key years of in-person teaching and may fall behind if there isn’t sufficient catch-up in place.


The Chair thanked officers and the borough’s schools on their achievements, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.



The Committee noted the report.



Update on Afghan Families pdf icon PDF 3 MB

An update on the support provided to Afghan families resettled in the borough.



Satwinder Saraon (Strategic Lead for Early Years and SEND Transformation) and Simone Melia (Head of Homelessness Prevention) presented the item on the support given to the 190 refugees who arrived from Afghanistan in 2021.


The Chair asked if there was more the borough could do around integration, and how residents could get involved and support the process. Satwinder Saraon said the voluntary sector had provided a lot of support. 3 young boys had been selected for professional coaching from Middlesex County Cricket Club. People had been invited to shows, dances, and a whole range of afterschool activities. The focus now was on helping to integrate these residents into UK society. It was also necessary to manage expectations about resettlement as not all could be resettled all in the borough.


Nadia Taylor asked if the adults could be given employment opportunities to help boost their confidence. Officers said three people had been employed by a local hotel. All residents had bio-metric cards now and officers were helping them apply for jobs. Officers had worked with the Department for Work and Pensions to support job matching and applications.


The Chair thanked officers for their important work in this area.



Winter 2021 Holiday Support for Children pdf icon PDF 982 KB

This item provides an overview of the support for children over the 2021 winter holiday.



Alistair Ayres (Head of Programmes) introduced the item.


The Chair invited members to submit any questions on the item by email.



Date of Next Meeting

To note the date of the next meeting: 28 March 2022



The Committee noted date of the next meeting on 28 March 2022.


Councillor Mark Loveday suggested moving the start time of meetings back to 7.00pm.