Agenda and minutes

Children's Select Committee - Wednesday 8 June 2022 10.30 am

Venue: Council Chamber - County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, BA14 8JN. View directions

Contact: Matt Hitch Email:  Democratic Services Officer


No. Item


Election of Chairman 2022/23

To elect a Chairman for the forthcoming year.


Cllr Jon Hubbard was elected as Chairman for the forthcoming year.


Election of Vice-Chairman 2022/23

To elect a Vice-Chairman for the forthcoming year.


Cllr Jacqui Lay was confirmed as Vice-Chairman for the forthcoming year.



To receive any apologies or substitutions for the meeting.


Apologies for absence were received from:


• Cllr Kelvin Nash

• Cllr Kathryn MacDermid (substituted by Cllr Adrian Foster)

• Dr Mike Thompson


Minutes of the Previous Meeting

To approve and sign the minutes of the previous meeting held on 15 March 2022.

Supporting documents:




To approve the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 15 March 2022, as a true and correct record.


Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of disclosable interests or dispensations granted by the Standards Committee.



There were no declarations of interests.


Chairman's Announcements

To receive any announcements through the Chairman, including:


The independent review of children’s social care.


In 2019 the government’s manifesto committed to reviewing the children’s social care system to make sure children and young people get the support they need.


On 15 January 2021, the independent review of children’s social care was announced, and its terms of reference set out its wide ranging and ambitious scope. Its final report has recently been published and can be accessed on:


The following announcements were received through the chairman:


• Members were encouraged to read a summary of the recently published independent review of children’s social care. The Corporate Director People explained that Wiltshire Council was completing a self-assessment of whether it was meeting the recommendations of the report. They were also awaiting the government’s response to the independent report.

• Thanks were given to the Director of Families and Children’s Services, who was due to leave his role to take up a position at Ofsted.

• Congratulations were passed to the Head of Service of Support and Safeguarding, who would be stepping up to be Interim Director of Families and Children’s Services.

• It was explained that Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee had received a report about proposed changes in the way that it engaged with financial, corporate and organisational matters. The chairman then highlighted the following proposals that had been agreed at their meeting on 19 May:


Ø  The focus of the Financial Planning Task Group will remain on the council’s overall financial position, but it will also review, by exception, the financial implications of the council’s biggest contracts.

Ø  Select committees will continue to focus on the service impacts of proposals but retain their ability to query and flag any financial concerns they identify and to refer them to Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee for further investigation.


• The committee were encouraged to take into consideration the recommendations when looking at items within its remit.

• The following items in Cabinet’s forward work programme were highlighted as relevant to the committee:


Ø  21 June – Capital Strategy for Early Years provision

Ø  Children’s Centre Services Contract Extension

Ø  Public Health Nursing Services: future delivery model

Ø  12 July – Wiltshire Independent Living Strategy 2022-2027

Ø  Domestic Abuse External grant allocation – Year Two (2022-23)


Public Participation

The Council welcomes contributions from members of the public.



If you would like to make a statement at this meeting on any item on this agenda, please register to do so at least 10 minutes prior to the meeting. Up to 3 speakers are permitted to speak for up to 3 minutes each on any agenda item. Please contact the officer named on the front of the agenda for any further clarification.



To receive any questions from members of the public or members of the Council received in accordance with the constitution.


Those wishing to ask questions are required to give notice of any such questions in writing to the officer named on the front of this agenda no later than 5pm on Monday 30 May in order to be guaranteed of a written response. In order to receive a verbal response questions must be submitted no later than 5pm on Wednesday 1 June. Please contact the officer named on the front of this agenda for further advice. Questions may be asked without notice if the Chairman decides that the matter is urgent.


Details of any questions received will be circulated to Committee members prior to the meeting and made available at the meeting and on the Council’s website.


There was no public participation.


Regular updates

Updates on information valuable for the committee, but unlikely to require a decision. 


Members of the committee are therefore invited to indicate in advance of the meeting if they would like further information or have questions on these regular updates, so that relevant officers can be invited to attend the meeting.


The chairman reminded members that they were welcome to submit questions in advance of the regular updates.


Update from Wiltshire Youth Voice Representative

An update including a summary of recent activities of the Wiltshire Youth Union (WYU) and Children in Care Council (CiCC).


Report to follow.

Supporting documents:


The Child and Youth Voice team manager reminded the committee that the youth council had held elections across 22 secondary schools, as well as for home educated children. He reported that monthly hybrid meetings were taking place and a shadow youth cabinet had been chosen. He then outlined some of the achievements of the youth council, including an initiative for a ‘mufti day’ for Ukraine that had helped to raise £13,000. He then went on to outline some of the youth council’s plans such as training youth councillors as mental health first aiders


The Service Manager for Quality Outcomes for Children and Families gave an update on the Children in Care Council (CiCC). She explained that care experienced people in the team had been attending recruitment events as well as helping to improve the assessment process for young carers.


Members thanked the managers for the updates, praising the achievements of the youth council and CiCC for helping to embed the voice of the child in decision making. They also noted the importance of reflecting the voices of adopted children in recruitment process.


School Ofsted Judgements

An update including information regarding the most recent Ofsted Inspection reports, presenting an ongoing view of the effectiveness of schools as seen by Ofsted Inspection.

Supporting documents:


Members were invited to ask questions about the report contained between pages 29 and 32 of the agenda pack. During the discussion points included:


• Members requested a breakdown of the relative performance of schools run directly though the local authority with non-maintained schools.

• It was noted that there was a shortage of leadership candidates for some Catholic schools, but that support was in place for schools with Christian distinctiveness.

• Concerns were raised about the number of Wiltshire schools requiring improvement remained above the English average. The Director of Education and Skills reassured members that work was going on behind the scenes and offered to provide a briefing on the school improvement model.

• Members shared their varying experiences acting as school governors. They then considered the possibility of carrying out a scrutiny exercise into the role of and vacancy rates amongst governors at different types of schools.

• The Director of Education and Skills highlighted that a recruitment campaign was underway for school governors and encouraged members to promote the campaign. 

• It was noted that the government had published a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) white paper in April 2022 and that the importance of local governance was discussed in the paper.

• The Portfolio Holder for Education noted that discussions had taken place about how a Local Authority MAT could work in Wiltshire and emphasised that it was important to develop an understanding of what a good local authority MAT would look like.

• Members stated they would welcome the opportunity to scrutinise plans for developing a local authority MAT and to discuss the opportunities that this might bring. The director noted that the deadline for local authorities to register their interest to create a local authority MAT was 31 July 2022, so any scrutiny exercise would need to be carried out within an appropriate timeframe.




To establish a task group to scrutinise the development of plans for a local authority MAT.


DfE Changes - Update from Department for Education

An update on developments relating to children’s services arising from the Department for Education.

Supporting documents:


The Director of Education and Skills explained that new guidance was being issued to coordinate local authorities, academy trusts, governing bodies, and schools in their work to improve school attendance. She noted that the Targeted Education Head of Service was mapping requirements and a draft implementation plan will be ready for scrutiny in July 2022. She then offered to share information about the deadlines for providing schools with access to high-speed internet by 2025.


The impact of a declining birth rate on basic need funding was discussed and it was confirmed that planned large scale housing development had been considered in budget allocation.




To add a standing item on future agendas for a regular update on working together to improve school attendance.


The "new normal" - update

To receive a verbal update from officers on the “new normal”, including ways of working for services, demand levels and current workload levels following recovery from Covid-19.


Directors provided an update on the demand and current workload levels in schools following recovery from Covid. It was reported that the third and fourth terms of the current academic year had been particularly challenging in terms of sickness and staff absence, even when compared with the Covid lockdowns. The high levels of staff absence had also led to challenges in the recruitment of supply teachers. However, there was a general feeling of a return to normality since the lifting of Covid restrictions.


During the discussion, points included:


• Updated Covid guidance had been distributed to schools earlier in the week ahead of an anticipated spike in cases in the autumn.

• Best practice guidance about air circulation was being shared with schools.

• The number of children being home educated had increased by 19 percent since 2019-20, a rise of roughly 80 children. School attendance was broadly in line with pre-Covid figures.

• Exam results for the current academic year would be benchmarked against pre-Covid grades, as the figures from the previous two years were seen as not directly comparable due to the disruption in schools.

• Officers offered to provide additional information about measures to improve recruitment in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

• Members raised concerns about the number of children subject to a Child Protection Plan reducing, as there had been an expectation of pent-up demand being created during the pandemic. They also highlighted that the number of Children Looked After were around three quarters of the level of neighbouring authorities and a little over half of the national average at 39.4 children per 10,000.

• In response to concerns from members, the directors reassured them that they carried out detailed analysis of the figures, explaining that audit thresholds were discussed in a performance and outcomes board. They also noted that Wiltshire was a statistical outlier from the English average prior to the pandemic.

• Members expressed an interest in receiving further information about how the referral thresholds were set. The Director for Family and Children’s Services explained that the performance team were in the process of writing their reports for the end of the last financial year, which would help to inform the targets for the forthcoming year. Directors then offered to provide a briefing ahead of the July meeting to provide further information on how the targets were being set. 




To receive a briefing in advance of the committee’s July meeting on Wiltshire’s numbers of Children in Care and Child Protection Plans compared to benchmarks and expected ranges.


Canon's House and Aspire House - update

To receive a verbal update from officers on the council’s recent and future actions regarding  Canon’s House and Aspire House.


The Director of Families and Children’s Services provided an update on the actions being taken to improve the service offered at Canon’s House and Aspire House following inadequate Ofsted inspections in February and March 2022. The director reported that a number of concerns had been raised, including over staffing, medical attention, safeguarding practice and record keeping. He then went on to describe the remedial action being taken, including strengthening the relationship between the two homes with the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub. There was also a greater focus on the recording of suspected injury or illness through an online portal. Furthermore, a new recruitment plan was being put in place for Canon’s House.


 The most recent Ofsted monitoring visit to Canon’s House had found a significant improvement, with no safeguarding issues identified.  One finding was agreed that there had been an overreliance on rate 44 visits. The director also confirmed that Aspire House would only be reopened to offer respite placements.  It was explained that the lessons applied would be considered when at tendering process around new children’s homes and the operating model. Staffing sufficiency would also be built into this framework.


During the discussion points included:


• Members thanked the director for the update and welcomed the changes around rate 44 inspections.

• It was noted that it had been a disadvantage not having data from Canon’s House and Aspire House recorded on the Liquid Logic system, as it limited the line of sight available to managers.

• Observations were made about the importance of only customising data recording systems to a point where they were still compatible with future software updates.


Getting to Outstanding

To receive a report detailing the council’s plan, and timeline, to achieve Ofsted’s Outstanding rating.


Report to follow.

Supporting documents:


The committee considered a draft report outlining the council’s roadmap for how to achieve an outstanding rating in children’s social care.

During the discussion, points included:


• Members thanked officers for the draft report and welcomed the aspirations set out in the document.

• Directors welcomed requests from members to receive further information about timeframes for the aims sets out in the report so that key metrics could be established.

• In response to a question about whether a target to meet all eligible requests for support from CAHMS could be reduced from 24 weeks, it was explained that the new Integrated Care System would have a focus board on mental health which would consider the issue.

• When asked about recruitment issues in CAHMS, the directors spoke about the importance of establishing reasonable case loads for staff. It was noted that Wiltshire had a lower rate of agency staff than other local authorities in the region.

• The Director of Families and Children’s Services noted that there was no definitive timeframe in place, but the aim was to be in a position to deliver the strategy from around Autumn 2022.




To set up a meeting of the standing task group to consider this roadmap in conjunction with the service development plans and to determine the best way of reporting to the committee.


Disadvantaged Learners Task Group - Final Report

To receive the final report of the task group review of Wiltshire’s disadvantaged learners.

Supporting documents:


Cllr Jo Trigg, the lead member of the Disadvantaged Learners task group, introduced their final report including the recommendations on pages 51-52 of the agenda pack. The lead member explained that Wiltshire had far fewer pupils per capita than the national average classed as Disadvantaged Learners and that this had an impact in terms of the pupil premium funding available to schools. She noted that Disadvantaged Learners within Wiltshire had performance outcomes below the national average, so there was a need to narrow the gap.


Cllr Trigg underlined the importance of the first 1001 days in a child’s development and was pleased to report that take up for free education by eligible two-year-olds was at 80 percent, far higher than the national average of 68 percent. The council’s intention to promote the links between SEND practitioners and staff supporting Disadvantaged Learners was also welcomed. Highlighting some of the task group’s other recommendations, the lead member spoke about the importance of collaborating with colleagues in Public Health to work on the Virtual School attendance strategy and the adoption of the term educational neglect within Wiltshire Council to reflect the organisation’s efforts to tackle the issue.


During the discussion, points included:


• Members thanked the lead member for the update.

• A Co-opted member of the task group endorsed the lead member’s comments around early years, drawing the committee’s attention to the importance of language skills at the age of five being a key indicator a child’s short- and long-term prospects.

• The importance of school improvement advisors was highlighted, and concerns were raised about the impact of a reduction in their funding, particularly on non-maintained schools.

• The Portfolio Holder for SEND and Inclusion welcomed the comments about early intervention within the first 1001 days of a child’s life, especially for SEND children.




1. To adopt the eight recommendations of the Disadvantaged Learners task group (A-E) as outlined in the attached report.

2. To draw particular attention to recommendations E and H, as requiring action from this committee:


E. That further collaboration takes place between the council’s SEND and Disadvantaged Learners teams to further tailor the council’s support of Disadvantaged Learners, particularly those with SEND, recognising that quality of teaching is key to both. The Children’s Select Committee is invited to add this work area to its forward work programme.


H. That the Children’s Select Committee invites a future report from the executive detailing its transitional plans in response to the reduction in funding for school improvement advisers.


Overview and Scrutiny Activities Updates

The committee will receive updates from active Task Groups, Rapid Scrutiny exercises and the committee’s board representatives.


A report by the Senior Scrutiny Officers providing an update on Task Group activity since the last meeting is attached.

Supporting documents:


The chairman referred the committee to the report about task group activity since the previous meeting. He noted that the standing task group was due to meet on Monday 20 June to discuss the latest report from Traded Services. He also announced that it was planned to start work on the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Task Group in the near future.


The chairman thanked Cllr Caroline Thomas for her contribution to the committee over the last year and invited any members interested in replacing her as a member of the standing task group to contact the senior scrutiny officer.


Cllr Belcher left the meeting at 1:17pm.




To note the report.


Forward Work Programme

The Committee is asked to note the attached documents showing the relevant items from the overview and scrutiny forward work programme and the latest version of the strategy list for the Children, Education and Skills directorate.

Supporting documents:


The chairman referred the committee to their forward work programme and invited further suggestions for topics that members would like to see scrutinised.


Date of Next Meeting

To note that the next scheduled meeting is due to be held on Wednesday 6 July, starting at 10.30am (location to be confirmed).


The date of the next meeting was confirmed as Wednesday 6 July at 10:30am.


Urgent Items

Any other items of business which the Chairman agrees to consider as a matter of urgency.


There were no urgent items.