Report to follow
Following the presentation of the report, Members were given the opportunity to ask questions.
A Member asked a question on what measures were being taken in case of future lockdown measures to support the education of children as a result of school closures, in particular disadvantaged children. Officers said that schools were working to improve their blended learning offer which included virtual learning for children who had to isolate at home to ensure minimum disruption in their education when not able to attend school and learning from the experience of this during the lockdown assisted with preparation.
Concerns were raised about children not having access to equipment when working at home, with it advised that conversations were taking place with regional schools director to address this. Schools were currently reviewing the requirements to deliver blended learning including identifying the families that did not have access to Wi-Fi and how best to support them.
In response to a question on what support was in place to address challenges arising from the physical constraints of school buildings in order to maintain Covid compliance, officers said that schools worked together closely to assist one another during lockdown when there were closures. Now that schools had resumed full time it was more difficult as there should not be instances of children from different schools going into the same bubble. Information was being gathered on cases and the potential impact to build an understanding of any schools disproportionately disadvantaged due to their physical surroundings, with any response provided on a public health basis.
It was asked what the process was for making a decision on whether to shut schools or classes in instances of identified cases. Officers said that schools had to email the Interim Director of Education as well as the Director of Public Health, guidance on what to do must be obtained from the London Coronavirus Response Cell (LCRC) as any cases must be reported to them. There had been instances of delay when trying to get through as it was a national number. Local advice can be given and communication between schools and the Council has been good but instruction from LCRC must be sought and followed.
In relation to the Recovery Curriculum, it was asked whether head teachers had started work on this. Officers said work had been taking place since the beginning of the summer holidays with the education department providing support to school leaders where appropriate.
Further concern was raised in particular for children reaching the examination age this year due to missed learning. It was agreed this would be a point of discussion for the next meeting as it was a national issue due to pupils missing crucial GCSE and A level education for four months, the impact of which will have to be looked at in more detail.
Concerns were raised on EHCP and it was asked how the completion of statutory assessments had been affected by the constraints of responding to Covid-19. Officers acknowledged that there had been challenged over the period. There had been extensive work with special schools to support families as fewer children with SEN had attended school for a variety of reasons. A curriculum to support home learning was devised and further work was carried out on the Local Offer during lockdown with information sent out to support families. It was agreed that a detailed briefing would be provided to Members following the meeting on the impact.
A question was raised on the financial pressure on schools as a result of Covid, in particular schools already running at a deficit. Officers said this remained a priority and has been raised at national level. The Council will continue to monitor where possible and conversations continued to take place on how to best support schools.
It was asked if there would be a model of provision to support counselling in schools for children. Officers said that the focus was on recovery curriculum and that mental health and well-being was also a point of priority. The Council was working with children in school as part of the Young Londoner Fund work to support their mental health well- being. Comments of the Sub-Committee would be taken on board to use the element of the Grant to support mental health services in schools in the way suggested.
A Member questioned whether the health and safety executive had carried out any inspections nationally to check schools reopening plans and if any lessons had been learnt. Officers said that as far as they were aware, no Croydon schools had received an audit but the Council had received feedback from schools that they had been inspected in terms of the questions that had been asked, in particular engagement with families and how children were able to maintain social distancing. One of the Co-opted Members informed officers that he was aware of a school that had been audited and agreed to discuss this with officers after the meeting to share learning.
It was asked how comfortable the Council was with the procedures to manage any potential outbreaks. Officers said that they were working closely with public health to scenario plan for any eventualities. There was confidence in schools and the procedures they had in place to manage as effectively as possible
Officers were thanked for their engagement with the Sub-Committee and responses to questions
The Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusions: