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Agenda item

Executive Member Questions


The Committee discussed the questions put to the Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families. Written copies of the responses provided to these questions were circulated to the Committee which were as follows:


Questions from Cllr Sheila Chapman:


1. What can be done to help give social workers a deeper understanding of the day-to-day challenges (practical, emotional, financial) of being a foster carer? Could social workers and prospective foster carers do training together?


All CLA and fostering social workers are provided training in Level One Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) and all foster carers are offered PACE for Parenting training (DDP for all foster carers) to develop understanding of our Practice Model and encourage a deeper understanding between social workers and foster carers.   


Joint training used to be in place but is being re-launched, starting with joint training for foster carers, social workers and YPAs in managing professional relationships, positive endings and child protection, with a view to opening others up as appropriate.  


Fostering staff are co-located with CLA staff, which has assisted with a greater level of working together across teams in the interests of foster carers and the children they care for.    


The fostering team has two ‘fostering champions’ who attend the group supervision of CLA social workers on a rotational basis in order to bring a foster carers perspective to any cases presented.  


The Service Manager raises the fostering perspective at all meetings she attends with colleagues across senior management.  


Trauma formulation meetings are encouraged prior to matches being agreed and at other times where a joint approach is needed.  


Fostering managers regularly invite themselves to other team meetings to keep the perspective of foster carers active in other professionals’ thinking.  



2. When a foster carer adopts a child, they lose a carer's allowance which makes sense but they also lose the support and benefits of being a carer (for example quicker access to mental health support for their young person). Does it make sense for this non-financial support to fall away? Does this disincentivise foster carers from adopting?  


In relation to adoption vs fostering:  


Education: as adopted children, they do still receive priority school places (as with CLA). However, the only other support offered to adoptive families by the Virtual School is at the level of ‘advice and guidance’. For example, the Virtual School Head can advise the school on how best to support the individual child from exclusion and/or how best to use the pupil premium to which they are entitled. Similarly, adoptive parents can contact the Virtual School Head for advice or to answer specific queries.   



Health: whilst there are no specific health offers available to adopted children, Dr Evanson confirms we can support with some things, e.g., waiting lists, on a case-by-case basis but there is no standard offer.   


CAMHS: as with other aspects of health noted above, there are no specific health offers available. However, on a case-by-case basis we can consider support with waiting lists. This would not necessarily result in a faster service given how stretched CAMHS services are already.  


Adopters are entitled to seek support with applying for and financing therapeutic intervention via the Adoption Support Fund, which Special Guardianship carers are not.  


People who express a wish to adopt are more often than not seeking to parent a child without a high level of state intervention, either financially or from social workers. There is however, a means-tested adoption allowance, dependent upon the child and family’s level of need.   


In theory, this retraction of support does not make sense given the needs of the children remain the same post-adoption order that they were upon placement.   


This is why comprehensive support plans are an essential part of the planning process to ensure a child’s individual needs are considered in the immediate, short- and longer-term.  


There is no evidence that the above disincentivises foster carers from adopting as they still receive better support than if going down the SGO route, where families are not entitled to support from the Virtual School in the same way, for example.   



Questions from Cllr Ernestas Jegorovas-Armstrong:


3. May we have an update on the implementation of the school organisation plan?


Further to the approval of the School Organisation Plan in October a6 week consultation was carried out during November and December 2022 on a proposal to amalgamate Copenhagen and Vittoria schools.   


The outcomes of this consultation and the recommended next steps will be considered by the Council’s Executive at its meeting on 9th February.    


The Local Authority admissions consultation also took place during this period to consult on the reducing the Published Admission Numbers of:  


Highbury Quadrant, Pooles Park and Montem Primary Schools, alongside which the Learning in Harmony Trust also consulted on reducing the Published Admission Number of New North Primary Academy.     


Supplementary: When did the council first become aware that the school population numbers at Primary will be decreasing?   


In 2019, the GLA identified problems of overestimation in the official ONS migration estimates, this is particularly acute in areas of London with high international flows and can lead to inflated numbers of children in the projections. Falling EU migration is a recognised factor driven by the decrease in immigration, particularly for work. 



4.What is the council doing to ensure that schools make the most of the National Tutoring Programme?   


Schools receive regular reminders and updates from the DfE on National Tutoring Funding. Schools are responsible for the implementation of the funding. Many schools have now opted to access the school led tutoring route, which means that school staff are delivering the programme, rather than relying on external providers.  


All schools must now complete a financial return to the DfE to indicate which pupils have received tutoring and the number of hours the pupil received. If schools do not spend the money, it is now returned to the DfE.    


Supplementary: What percentage of the NTP subsidy has not been spent?  


In 2021-22 academic year, the grant was called School-Led Tutoring. During this period, the local authority distributed a total of £ 1,617,581.25 to schools including academies, free schools and special schools.  In the summer term of 2022 all schools were requested to record and report on the total cost incurred and the number of tuition hours delivered.  


The National Tutoring Programme commenced in 2022-23 academic year.  During this period, it is estimated that the local authority will have distributed a total of £1,249,037.78 to schools including academies, free schools and special schools.  In the summer term of 2023, all schools were requested to record and report on the total cost incurred and the number of tuition hours delivered.  


As the recording is completed at school level, the LA does not receive the year-end statement information submitted per school. 



5.What work has the council done to increase the attendance of children to school?   


Reducing levels of persistent absenteeism at school is one of six priorities identified within the Councils’ ‘Putting Children First’ Education Plan 2023-30.  We are currently co-ordinating school attendance support resource across the Children’s Services partnership (including Health Partners) to form a virtual School Attendance Support Team in line with new guidance issued by the Department for Education, and which will be made a statutory requirement by September 2023.   


We are currently delivering training to those identified as part of that team to enable a consistent response.  We have categorised all schools based on three levels of need using persistent absence and other contextual data.   


This term we will begin Targeting Support meetings with those schools in the highest category (eight primary and four secondary schools).  Termly meetings which all schools will have in place by April 2023.   


The Department for Education Adviser has commented favourably on our local plans to date and will be carrying out a deep dive later this month to further assist.   


6.What is the council doing to support schools to raise awareness of the climate emergency?  


School Improvement are working with partners to plan an event with schools in the summer term.   This will be an opportunity to showcase what schools are doing to respond to the climate emergency.    


This will build on and the previous work that was celebrated through the Great Science Share, which has focused on the climate and the environment.    



7.What is the council doing to ensure there is ongoing provision for young people to learn watersport skills?  


It is a statutory requirement that all primary schools provide swimming provision. Schools must report on this through their annual PE and Sports Premium report.  These reports are published on the school website. By the end of Key Stage 2 pupils are expected to swim 25 meters of any preferred stoke.


In additional to this, is a significant focus on developing rescue ready skills. Many Islington Primary schools are now conducting intensive10 day swimming programmes to ensure that these skills are secure.    


In addition to the teaching of skills, Islington runs swimming carnivals for Key Stage 2 pupils to further develop water skills and resilience.    


 Islington’s Secondary Schools 


In secondary schools, Islington has been at the forefront of offering “Active Row” for secondary schools. This is another opportunity to develop water sports skills.    


There is a strong promotion of the wider curriculum across every secondary school in Islington which is broadly themed into adventure and sport; community and culture; the creative arts; public speaking and debate; science and technology. These wider curriculum opportunities expose students to experiences that extend beyond the studied curriculum and enables them to practise and apply skills across a wide spectrum of contexts.  


These opportunities are delivered as part of an extensive programme of out of school hours learning activities which includes before school, lunchtime and after school, activities. All schools also organise trips abroad, and trips to outdoor activity centres that provide a range of water sport activities. In many schools, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DoE) scheme also gives students the opportunity to engage in water sport activities through the Bronze Award (Year 9) and Silver Award (Year 12) pathways. 

The wide range of water sport activities enjoyed by Islington students includes: 

  • Canoeing 
  • Sea Kayaking 
  • Dinghy Sailing 
  • Rowing 
  • Surfing 
  • Swimming 
  • Rafting 
  • Windsurfing 
  • SUP – Stand UP Paddle boarding 


Disadvantaged students access these activities through the schools’ Pupil Premium fund allocation and support from third sector organisations like the Jack Petchey Foundation. 


Active Row Islington 


London Youth Rowing Website 


In September 2022, London Youth Rowing (LYR) expanded its flagship programme, Active Row, launching a new inner city rowing programme called Active Row Islington. 

Every secondary school in Islington, two special schools and New River College are now involved with this exciting programme delivered by LYR at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP). 


Active Row Islington provides over fifty Concept 2 rowing machines to secondary schools in the Borough of Islington, with funding also supporting the allocation of an LYR Active Row coach to oversee the project, set up indoor rowing clubs in each of the schools and run on-water rowing sessions for participating students. Students are given the opportunity to take part in extracurricular indoor rowing clubs, before getting out on the water at QEOP, where they can hone the skills, they have learnt in the indoor rowing club in boats. The programme will focus on working with Year 8 pupils, many chosen by their schools from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as young people at risk of exclusion or NEET later in their school careers. Although primarily an early intervention strategy for some of the borough’s most vulnerable students, as the programme develops, opportunities will be given to all age groups and all students. 


An LYR Open Club has been set up on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to provide the Islington students taking part the opportunity to train and compete in rowing independently, beyond their school. The pupils will also be able to try canoeing, SUP, and other paddle sports through new partnerships with British Canoeing, Sport England, and LYR Active Paddle, all based on the Olympic Park. 


Supplementary: What mitigations are in place for the loss of Islington Boat Club and their service to Islington's young residents?  


The lease came to an end on the 14th January 2023 and we are arranging to take back formal possession of the main building. We are liaising with the new bord of Trustees of the club to put in place a licence to enable access to the basin to support existing activities. Options for a longer-term solution are being explored with the club. 


8.May we have an update on the work of Early Help Services?     


Early Help is an approach to supporting children/young people and their families at an early stage to prevent problems from occurring, and/or as soon as problem emerges to prevent it from getting worse. This is sometimes also referred to as early intervention and prevention.  


Many services adopt an early help approach in their work (schools, health visiting service, play and youth work settings, children’s centres). This means families benefit from a strong preventative offer from a range of partners in universal services who can provide the help families need in the first instance and know how to link them in to other services if this is needed.  


Bright Start, Bright Futures and Targeted Youth Support provide a range of council run services that are part of the early help offer to children, young people and families 0-19. This includes family support, case holding of young people and outreach into schools, children’s centres, play and youth settings and on estates. The purpose of these services is to intervene early to improve outcomes and reduce escalation of needs. Outcomes they work on include improving school attendance and attainment, improving family finances, making progress towards employment, improved family relationships, improved health and wellbeing, stable and secure housing, reduced offending and anti-social behaviour, improving children’s safety.  


Last year (21/22) Bright Start and Bright Futures worked with 1860 families, up from 1120 in 20/21. The majority of referrals to the Childrens Services Contact Team (CSCT) come to Bright Start, Bright Futures or Targeted Youth Support (between April 21-August 22 6605 contacts compared to 3141 passed to Children’s Social Care). Around 10% of families worked with in Bright Start or Bright Futures are stepped up to Children’s Social Care.  


Bright Start and Bright Futures currently sit across both Fairer Together and Children’s Services within Early Intervention and Prevention. Targeted Youth Support currently sits within Childrens Services under Young Islington. Following consultation in December 2022, Bright Start and Bright Futures will move back into Children’s Services with Bright Start going to Learning, Schools and Culture and Bright Futures to Safeguarding and Family Help. There are no changes to Targeted Youth Support.  


Islington is one of 75 local authorities who have been selected by central government for funding to advance our early help ambition by implementing a Family Hubs model. Building on our Bright Start model, we will be taking the integration of support around families with children aged 0 – 19 (25 with SEND) to the next level through the family hub model to solve whole family issues, so children and young people are starting well, growing up well and progressing to adulthood well 


The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (May 2022) proposed 80 recommendations including the introduction of ‘Family Help’ which would bring together the work currently undertaken at targeted early help and Children in Need, to form a new single offer of Family Help, delivered in local areas by multi agency teams. Currently a timeline has not been produced for implementation of the recommendations set out in the review.  


The Early Intervention and Help Strategy 2015-2025 set the strategic direction for Early Help in Islington. The implementation of the multi-agency co-ordination of early help outlined in the strategy is currently overseen by the Islington Safeguarding Children’s Partnership (ISCP) Early Help Sub-Group.    


Supplementary: Early Help-Families worked with is rising, Q2 192 families worked with 2021-22 compared with 339 Q2 this year. 


Although it is an increase on previous year when up to full staffing our capacity is about 400/450 depending on delivery of targeted parenting programmes. 

Where cases are pending allocation, this is more to do with staffing situation- sickness etc 


Managers triage all cases on the pending list and keep in touch with families and where appropriate link them into Bright Start or Bright Futures outreach workers 


Supporting documents: