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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee rooms C, D & E - Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden SM4 5DX. View directions

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from co-opted member Colin Powell and Councillor Holmes (for whom Councillor Bush was substituting).


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuniary interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 86 KB


The minutes were approved as a true and accurate record of the meeting.


Matters arising

·         Officers clarified that reductions in SEND transport costs are being achieved through the implementation of a new ‘dynamic purchasing system’.  This has resulted in a number of new taxi companies now being able to bid for contracts.  Of those that meet the requirements, the cheapest is selected. Costs are also being managed through increasing the numbers of clients in receipt of direct payments. The impact of these measures is demonstrated through the reduction in the overspend; previously there had been a £350K overspend at the midpoint of the year but this has been reduced to £200K this year; and

·         Work is on-going to provide the right placements for care leavers. Officers are reviewing use of semi-independent accommodation and the focus is on providing the right housing options with the department working with the housing team within the Council. 



Responsible Cabinet Member review

Updates against portfolio priorities will be provided by:

·         Cabinet Member for Education (Councillor Cooper-Marbiah); and

·         Cabinet Member for Children’s Services (Councillor Neep).




The Cabinet Member for Education, (Councillor Cooper-Marbiah), highlighted the following:

·         Harris Wimbledon admissions consultation: a consultation on admission arrangements for the new Harris Wimbledon School has been launched.  Due to demand for places, it is proposed the admissions policy will use nodal points to prioritise places.  The council intends to give its views on the proposed nodal points and members were encouraged to participate in the consultation which closes on 31 March 2017;

·         School performance: this is strong as demonstrated by Merton’s results using the new Attainment and Progress 8 measures and local and national benchmarks.  These are detailed in full in the schools annual report (Agenda Item 5); and

·         Ofsted inspections: 91% of local authority schools in Merton are currently judged to be either good or outstanding.  The Cabinet Member reported that she visits schools weekly giving her the opportunity to explore the issues they face.


The Cabinet Member for Children Services, (Councillor Neep), highlighted the following:

·         Focus on vulnerable cohorts: whilst the overall performance of Merton’s schools is strong, there is a need to focus on the attainment and attendance of more vulnerable cohorts such as those on SEN Support;

·         Recruitment and retention of teachers (and other key workers such as social workers): Cllr Neep is concerned about the degree of change currently affecting schools (and Children’s Services) and if this is causing burnout amongst workers;

·         Mental health: Cllr Neep is concerned about the impact of stress on young people; and

·         Employment of vulnerable cohorts: Cllr Neep expressed keenness to learn more about the work of the task group and to look at alternative ways to support vulnerable cohorts into employment.



Update report: schools annual report pdf icon PDF 50 KB

The Panel will be addressed by Jane White, Headteacher at The Priory Church of England Primary School, regarding difficulties in recruitment and retention of teaching staff.

Additional documents:


Jane White, Head at Priory Primary School

The Panel was addressed by Jane White, Headteacher at Priory Primary School, on issues around the recruitment and retention of teachers.  She highlighted:

·         This is a generic issue for schools in Merton as well as for other groups of key workers in the borough such as social workers;

·         NfER research published in September 2016 (Engaging Teachers) highlights that there has been a significant increase in the number of teachers considering leaving the profession (up from 17% to 23%).  Also, that teacher training targets have been missed for the last four years;

·         The extent of the issue was demonstrated last year, when five teaching staff were on maternity leave at Priory Primary.  This forced a reliance on expensive agency staff and teachers from overseas on two year visas.  The school had to make significant investment in their training in order that they were up-to-date despite the fact that they were agency staff or could only work in the UK for a limited time;

·         Given it is such a significant issue across a number of public sector positions, a corporate response from the Council was recommended including better promotion through the Council’s website, more creative approaches to temporary housing solutions etc; and

·         Noted that NfER recommends engagement as the best route to retention and that Priory has established a wellbeing team looking at securing teacher retention for a minimum of five years.  This includes giving an extra day of leave in recognition of service of five or more years, sports packages etc.


In response to member questions, it was further clarified:

·         Corporate marketing by the Council promoting the benefits of working in Merton generically would be advantageous;

·         Merton’s Continuous Personal Development offer is known to be attractive.  Providing teachers with parking (given carrying numerous pupil books) would also be beneficial;

·         Difficulties around teacher recruitment isn’t a national issue but is concentrated in areas linked to housing supply; and

·         There has been a growth in teachers applying for positions through agencies despite schools making it clear a direct approach is preferred.  It is thought that agencies provide enticements and that this generation of teachers like the benefit of making numerous applications through an agency as opposed to applying for each post individually.


RESOLVED: to consider the recruitment and retention of key workers as part of the topic selection process for 2017/2018.  It was suggested that this might be the focus of a task group or a deep dive by the Commission as an overarching subject.


Update report: schools annual report

The substantive item was introduced by Jane McSherry (Assistant Director of Education) who highlighted the report is for the academic year September 2015 to July 2016.  This period is characterised by changes in assessment methodologies making it difficult to provide trend information.  However, comparisons have been made throughout the report with national averages, London boroughs and outer London boroughs.  On this basis, Merton is performing better than national averages.  For reading and maths  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Performance monitoring pdf icon PDF 57 KB

Additional documents:


Councillor Brunt, as the performance lead for the Panel, noted the following:

·         Indicator 8 (the percentage of quorate attendance at child protection conferences): noted that the percentage for the third quarter is incorrectly reported as 67% and should be stated as 83%.

·         Indicator 3 (the percentage of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) issued within statutory 20 week timescale): highlighted that this measure is showing a worrying trend.  This is a cumulative measure with 153 plans having been completed over the period but only 31 completed within the 20 week target (20% in total against a target of 85%).  Also, noted that the indicators do not provide an overall number for those plans newly requested in the period which would be a helpful context.  It was also noted, that whilst some comfort is taken from Merton’s performance on the completion of transfers from statements of SEN to EHCPs, being seventh in London, this data is from January 2016.  Officers noted that this measure, in focusing on reaching the 20 week target for new requests to have ECHPs, misses that there is also an existing 1,080 to be transitioned.  Merton has taken a thorough approach to this process which has resulted in positive feedback from parents and very few tribunals or the need for mediation;

·         Indicator 15 (average number of weeks taken to complete care proceedings against a national target of 26 weeks): questioned why this is higher than the national target.  Officers highlighted that the average time taken for care proceedings is around 30/31 weeks, is routinely reviewed, can be skewed where proceedings are contested by parents through the courts and that any care proceeding taking longer than the average is reviewed in detail; and

·         Indicators 29 and 30 (the percentage of reception year and year 7 surplus spaces): this is an annual measure, with data available for publication in February 2017.  It was agreed that whilst this should be reported on the performance index in the month to which is refers (September 2016) as opposed to when it becomes available.  Additionally, it was requested that if it is possible, without causing officers more work, that termly estimates of surplus places be provided to give indicative information in year.  Officers agreed to look at this further.


RESOLVED: to look in greater depth at indicator 3 to understand:

1.    the progress being made on transitioning existing plans (total numbers, average time taken to transfer, total completed to date);

2.    by how much the 20 week target has been missed on issuing newly requested plans (for the remainder of the 80% of completed plans); and

3.    The total number of new plans being requested.


It was suggested that this become the focus of a deep dive at the meeting in June.



Task group draft report: Routes into Employment for Vulnerable Cohorts pdf icon PDF 61 KB

Additional documents:


RESOLVED: the Panel accepted the report of the routes into employment for vulnerable cohorts task group.  This will now go to Cabinet for a formal response to the Panel within two months.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 124 KB


The Chair noted the motion to Full Council and its essence.  It was highlighted that it is the responsibility of the Panel for it to consider its work programme at every meeting.


Yvette Stanley, Director of Children, Schools and Families also noted that that there is a shared ambition for the Panel and what it aims to achieve. 


Paul Ballatt, Assistant Director for Commissioning, Strategy and Performance, highlighted the importance of the Panel scrutinising the work of the partner organisations, with which the department is working to deliver services.  For example, CLCH, its community health partner as achieved at the last meeting.


RESOLVED: to consider the points highlighted in the Full Council motion as part of the topic selection and work planning process for the next municipal year with specific focus on the use of external experts.


RESOLVED: the Panel took the opportunity on the occasion of his attendance at his last Panel meeting before retirement to thank Paul Ballatt for all his hard work on behalf of children and young people in Merton.  Councillors Pearce, Taylor and Cooper Marbiah also noted and thanked Paul for the support he provided to them personally.