Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People Select Committee - Tuesday, 13th October, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Remote Meeting. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services 

Note: Watch the meeting here 


No. Item


To note the appointment of County Councillor T. Thomas as Chair


Councillor Tudor Thomas was confirmed as chair of the committee.


Appointment of Vice Chair


Councillor Jo Watkins proposed Councillor Louise Brown. Seconded by Councillor Maureen Powell and accepted by Councillor Brown.


Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations of interest.


Public Open Forum


No members of the public were present.


Social Services Support for Vulnerable Children pdf icon PDF 757 KB

To provide members with an update of the support being provided during the Covid 19 pandemic.


Officers Jane Rodgers and Rebecca Stanton delivered the presentation and answered the members’ questions, with additional responses from Will Mclean.



During lockdown, one would have expected an impact from schools not making referrals to your team? Where did the referrals come from at this time?


The referral rate did not drop significantly during lockdown. Many referrals were from the Police, usually concerning domestic abuse. There were also self-referrals from parents struggling with the issues that were affecting their family during this period. Early help provision didn’t stop, nor did school-based counselling; so, although we weren’t getting referrals directly into Children’s Services, we had that open communication with all the early help and support services. Therefore, when problems did emerge, we were able to have the referrals. Issues within families come to light even though the schools might be closed – school is a big referrer, but so are Health and Police. When schools did come back we saw a steady increase, but Police remained the largest referrer.


Is there evidence of an increase in domestic violence during lockdown?


Unfortunately, we don’t get to all domestic abuse. The more we can create conditions whereby children and young people can share what’s happening at home through services provided by the family support team, the more we can try to tackle those issues early. As mentioned already, the level of police referrals has gone up – the majority of these concern domestic abuse.


Regarding supervised parental meetings, if two families meet will there be a risk of virus transmission? But if we return to virtual meetings, will that affect the children’s resilience?


We have been clear about not switching digital off completely – we have continued to offer both approaches. Part of the rationale for that was that if we go back into a full lockdown, children won’t be wrong-footed; we will simply increase the digital element. Doubtless, however, it will have an impact on children who want to see their parents that they don’t live with. Our contact centres and family time centres have been risk-assessed in detail, and the management that goes on with how families play with toys, the cleaning regime, etc., is all in place. Therefore, where we can still have face-to-face contact, the necessary steps have been put in correctly.


How many of your staff were vulnerable and needed to isolate, and what was the pressure of absence rates? As an authority, can we support that?


The social and emotional pressures on staff have been considerable. We continue to do whatever we can to support their resilience. Going into this phase is very daunting. Our absence rates over this period have not been to the extent where there is a real impact on the service; in fact, they have been remarkably good. Some individuals needed to shield, or were in households with someone shielding – we have worked carefully with them, and risk-assessed them to see what they can do. Many of those people were able to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


School-based Support for emotional Well-being pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Discussion with our lead Educational Psychologists on the support being provided in schools to assist emotional wellbeing during Covid 19 pandemic.


Educational Psychologists Morwenna Wagstaff and Lucie Doyle delivered the presentation and answered the members’ questions, with additional responses from Will Mclean and Sharon Randall-Smith.



Is the service Gwent-based or Monmouthshire-based?


We are Monmouthshire Educational Psychology Service, although we work increasingly at a network level with our regional colleagues.


ALN covers different conditions, requiring different approaches. How are teachers trained in these different areas?


Yes, we encompass all of the ALN needs. Alongside the work described in the presentation, there are many other strands to the work that we are involved with, in regards to the ALN strategy. In particular, our focus on children that have ALNs, social communication, autism, challenging behaviour, etc. As an EPS we offer layers of work: if it’s a complex pupil, we would engage around that child individually, with other professionals, staff and the parents. We then might work at a school level, identifying what each school needs – if a school would benefit from whole school training in a particular area, for example. We also think on a systemic level about what we can offer in that area across the authority.


As we don’t have a designated special needs school in Monmouthshire, some children will go to school outside the county. How do you ensure that the private school children benefit from the same training and support as those in state schools?


We are in the process of exploring how to deliver training. While we no longer have a specialist school, we do have four special needs resource bases. We (Drs. Wagstaff and Doyle) are part of the special needs resource base network across Monmouthshire, which brings together professionals from ALN, our service and each of the bases to develop the training and skills to support our children with the most complex needs. When a child has a statement of special educational needs, we are often involved with those children who attend a school outside the county, whether it is being part of reviews, updating support. These can be some of our most complex cases. We have a high level of work in supporting those children, with the ALN team and other colleagues such as Social Care, to ensure that placements are appropriate, staff are well trained, and the quality of education is what we would want for them.


The hubs are based in the state schools, but is the same support available to non-state schools?


Our service would get involved at an individual level, i.e. if there were an individual training need around a Monmouthshire child at one of those schools. The process we go through before placing a child in an out-of-county school is extensive. The team will be heavily involved in working with the school, parents and health professionals to arrive at a diagnosis that leads to a statement of ALNs. We then go through an extensive process by which we commission a place in a special school for that child, if we can’t meet their needs in one  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Blended Learning in Schools

To report on the Local Authority and Education Achievement Service - A support for blended learning and to discuss the quality assurance processes in place.

Additional documents:


Sharon Randall-Smith presented the report and answered the Members’ questions, with additional responses from Will Mclean.



Recent research from the National Foundation for Education Research shows Wales bottom for the effectiveness of learning at home. What is being done to address this?

Longitudinal studies show that, over time, there is not as great a difference between learning face-to-face and distanced learning as was originally thought. As always, the impact and effectiveness will be from the quality of the teaching. Since lockdown, EAS has supported our schools with a lot of advice and access to research and a range of professional learning, including the general skills that teachers and teaching assistants need to develop and deliver effective blended learning. Also, how to audit their skills, consider what good distanced learning looks like, and maintaining good professional learning to support that. Teaching assistants in one school have been heavily engaged in that, and are now disseminating it across other local clusters. In addition, as a region we are developing a Quality Assurance toolkit that will help schools to identify where their strengths and weaknesses are, but also evaluate what that quality begins to look like. Compared perhaps to other regions, we have made great strides in determining what the quality looks like.

One piece of research by the Education Policy Institute last week picked up the number of contacted hours during lockdown in Wales, recognising that the steps Wales had taken in providing IT kit was the best of the four nations. There was a range of different measures in the report that were differential, depending on which one was being considered. Hopefully, we can take both pieces of research together and learn from them.


Has there been an assessment of how well FSM children are doing compared to non-FSM children? And how much homework is being completed compared with the norm pre-Covid?


During the summer term, schools were very keen to track the engagement of all learners, with a particular focus on vulnerable and FSM pupils. Schools maintained regular contact to ensure that they had the necessary equipment, information and support. For vulnerable learners not engaging quite so well, we looked at engaging through attendance at hubs, or different kinds of support that we could give them. Certainly, we are tracking FSM pupils and engagement closely. We have meetings soon with schools to go through their development plans, and to look at their Accelerated Learning plans, as to how those will support the FSM pupils. Much of the best learning is the feedback given to pupils – that is still very possible with a distanced or blended learning model. Some schools have been using a technique called Blip learning: where a lot of learning happens independently or in small groups, and then brought to a general classroom for the teacher to give feedback. The feedback is therefore more positive and immediate for the learners. Very early on, teachers were trying to give formal feedback the way they always  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Children and Young People Select Committee Forward Work Programme pdf icon PDF 498 KB


An extra meeting is proposed for November, in which to cover an update on the former pupils of Mounton House, and ALN provision in the authority. The meeting in December will cover a paper on homelessness and a review of Play Provision. We also need to cover Welsh provision in Monmouth: it is proposed that this is also covered in the December meeting.


Officer Will Mclean questioned the validity of covering the former pupils of Mounton House, as it has been addressed previously, and the matter concluded. Councillor Brown suggested that an update would be beneficial to the committee, fitting in with scrutinising ALN provision, and they would be interested to hear about the different approaches e.g. alternative living in Newport. Officer Mclean welcomed detailed scrutiny of ALN but expressed concern that following up on the progress of former Mounton House pupils would potentially violate their anonymity. Councillor Groucott asked for regular updates regarding Welsh provision in Abergavenny. Officer Mclean agreed and noted that the item in December would cover broader aspects of Welsh provision, not strictly limited to Monmouth.



Council and Cabinet Work Plan pdf icon PDF 557 KB


To confirm the minutes of the previous meeting held on 8th September 2020 pdf icon PDF 338 KB


The minutes were confirmed and signed as an accurate record.



To confirm the date and time of the next meeting


8th December 2020 was confirmed as the date of the next meeting, pending confirmation of a meeting in November.