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Agenda and minutes

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

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from Cllr Neil with Cllr Kenny substituting.


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuninary interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 95 KB


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


Matter arising

The opportunity was taken at the beginning of the meeting to thank Yvette Stanley, the Director for Children, Schools and Families, for all her hard work and success in leading the Department.  This was her last appearance at the Panel before leaving Merton to take up her new role with Ofsted.


Cabinet Member priorities


Cllr Neep, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, provided members with an update highlighting the following:

·         Merton Children Safeguarding Board: this has recently held an away day to look at the changes that are forthcoming which will affect the operation of the board and arise from the newly passed Social Care Act.  This includes removal of the necessity to have an independent chair, ending statutory voluntary partner participation and whilst police and health services are mandated to be involved this doesn’t extend to school participation.  There are concerns about these changes;

·         Special Educational Need and Disability (SEND): highlighted that there is more to do for pupils with SEND especially around provision of support for emotional, social and mental health needs.  Judgements of success based on academic achievement miss these needs and potentially adds additional pressures;

·         Home schooling: this remains a concern given the authority doesn’t have statutory oversight of the education provision; and

·         Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) and Social Impact Bond (SIM): both these new initiatives have begun receiving referrals.  The operation of both reflects the Think Family approach which emphasises keeping the family unit intact to achieve better longer term outcomes.


In response to member questions, the Cabinet Member clarified:

·         There is a focus on understanding the issues around primary school exclusions including the role of emotional, social and mental health needs.  The Department is working to ensure pupils potentially at risk of exclusion have the support they need which is captured in individual plans; and

·         It cannot be assumed that children being home schooled have no contact with their peers as this can be achieved through other opportunities such as Cubs or youth clubs etc.


Cllr Cooper-Marbiah, Cabinet Member for Education, provided members with an update highlighting the following:

·         Harris Wimbledon: reported that contracts have been exchanged with the Elim Church and the funding agreement has been signed with the Education Funding Agency which means the development of Harris Wimbledon is now underway to open on the temporary site from September 2018; and

·         Secondary admissions: there has been a 13% increase in secondary school applications compared to last year.  For the first year Harris Wimbledon was not in co-ordinated admissions so on admissions day there were some pupils who had duplicate offers.  These will be reconciled over the coming months and allow more of those without a place to receive an offer.





Schools annual report pdf icon PDF 50 KB

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Jane McSherry, Assistant Director for Education, provided an introduction to the report:

·         Sacred Heart has recently received its Ofsted inspection and moved to a good judgement.  As a result 93% of Merton’s schools are now judged good or outstanding with 95% of Merton’s  pupils attending good or outstanding schools;

·         Merton’s schools are now  ranked 10th nationally for maths and reading progress at Key Stage 2;

·         At Key Stage 4, the results of Merton’s schools place it first in the country above both London and national averages;

·         There is a focus on post 16 performance and how Merton’s success at Key Stage 4 can be sustained for this older age group;

·         Numbers of those not in education, employment or training (NEET) are very low with Merton achieving in the first quartile for those in employment, education or training; and

·         School attendance is high meaning that Merton has moved from 10th to 8th nationally for its performance.


It was agreed that each section of the report would be detailed individually and members given the opportunity to ask questions.


Ofsted outcomes and school improvement

Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, Head of School Improvement, highlighted that for the period of the report (the last academic year, 2016-2017) there was a slight drop in school performance with 89% of schools judged good or outstanding.  However, Merton’s schools have been on an upward trajectory during the period following the report with significant amounts of support and challenge provided to the schools that were in the requires improvement category.  There are now only four schools that are judged to require improvement.


In response to member questions, the Assistant Director and Head of Service clarified:

·         The inspection of Benedict Primary School, included in the report, is its first inspection since it became an academy.  Whilst the overall judgement was requires improvement the inspection report noted some good features.  The sponsor is keen to work with the authority to achieve improvement.  This is a service for which the authority is making a charge;

·         The support provided by the authority for schools that require improvement is bespoke and based on a strong understanding of the improvement needed (provided by Ofsted and other sources).  This is guided and overseen by a designated Merton Education Partner.  Additionally, Merton is implementing Support and Challenge Groups for each school with a requires improvement designation.  The groups meet half termly to provide further oversight of improvement work and the progress of pupils in year is tracked amongst other indicators.  Accurate data is key with support provided to ensure this is adequate;

·         Highlighted that whilst there is a focus on those that have been identified through the Ofsted inspection process to require improvement, the Department also focuses on those schools that might be at risk of slipping; and

·         School improvement includes working with the governors.  Officers will attend governor meetings as required.  The work of the Governor Support Service was also highlighted.  Where required, there can be a review of governance with external support for this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Department update report pdf icon PDF 132 KB

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Cllr Brunt, in his capacity as performance monitoring lead for the Panel, raised the issue of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) to seek further clarity on this performance indicator.


Jane McSherry, Assistant Director for Education, highlighted that progress on EHCPs is tracked using two indicators although only one is reported in the basket of measures.  The first indicator is the transfer of SEN statements to EHCPs on which there is good progress with the target of transferring all by the end of March 2018 nearly achieved.  There are approximately 20 transfers that may not be completed by the 31st March 2018 deadline. This is for a variety of reasons including the child being overseas or in mental health provision (Tier 4).  This measure isn’t included in the basket of performance indicators.


The second indicator relates the provision of new plans within the 20 week deadline.  This measure is included in the basket of indicators. Currently, only 37% of new plans are being achieved in this target timescale.  However, it was highlighted that this compares with only 19% of plans hitting the 20 week target at the same point last year.  Additionally, the vast majority are actually achieved within 26 weeks, only just passed the target. 


The Assistant Director highlighted that this is against a backdrop of rising demand; the number of EHCPs maintained by Merton is increasing by 250 – 300 additional EHCPs per year. All require support from a variety of professional services (for example speech and language therapists, educational psychologist etc) which have limited capacity and therefore can cause delays.  However, whilst the 20 week target isn’t being hit in the majority of cases, there have been low levels of requests for mediation and tribunals which is seen as a positive indicator about the quality of the EHCP service.


The transfer to EHCPs has been supported by a small grant that has paid for some additional staffing.  It is also intended to consult on utilising a web-based system to start managing EHCP applications.  This will allow better tracking and enable parents to be kept informed of progress without having to be in contact with a member of staff, taking pressure out of the system caused by the large volume of telephone calls.


Once the transfer to EHCPs is complete, the team will be reconfigured to focus on new applications for EHCPs and continuity of oversight once the assessment process is completed.



Scrutiny topic suggestions pdf icon PDF 62 KB

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Panel members were encouraged to be in contact with the scrutiny officer with any topic suggestions.