Agenda item

Addressing Poverty Issues and the Impact on Learning - An Update

In respect of the Scrutiny Panel's 2020 review of Addressing Poverty Issues and the Impact on Learning, the Head of Achievement, Education, Prevention and Partnerships will provide an update on the progress made with the implementation of the agreed recommendations/actions.


In respect of the scrutiny panel's 2020 review of Addressing Poverty Issues and the Impact on Learning, the Head of Achievement, Education, Prevention and Partnerships was in attendance to provide an update on the progress made with the implementation of the agreed recommendations/actions.


It was advised that, as a result of the scrutiny panel’s investigation, there had been a review of current practices and new initiatives had been developed.


The following points were made:


·         The mapping exercise concluded that partnerships were already established. It had been found that collaborative practice was already in place, which was led by Middlesbrough Council’s Financial Inclusion Group (FIG). In addition to the FIG, the Employment Network Group (ENG) and Northern Skills Group led by Middlesbrough College brought together the expertise and experience to focus on routes to employment.

·         The Local Authority’s Community Learning Team was working hard to establish links to employment, such as 50 Futures. It had been recognised that families had been accessing support from the Community Learning Team, throughout the pandemic, to develop I.T. literacy.

·         Carmel Research School (a network of schools that supported the use of evidence to improve teaching practice) was developing a program to support disadvantaged pupils. The program was tasked to break the link between family income and educational outcomes, improving success and life chances for disadvantaged pupils in particular. Work was scheduled to be started in September 2021 and numerous Middlesbrough schools had been selected to engage with the program.

·         The mapping process had provided reassurance that multi-agency working was already in place and relevant stakeholders were working together to collectively mitigate the impact of poverty on learning.

·         To mitigate the impact of poverty on pupils, each school had been encouraged to produce a bespoke poverty proofing policy.

·         Monitoring tools were used to measure poverty rates and trends. Education monitored Pupil Premium outcomes and the percentage of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) from Early Years to Key Stage 4. Pupil Premium data was regularly monitored and analysed to assess the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

·         The Local Authority’s Learning & Education Strategy prioritised achievement gaps for disadvantaged pupils looking at their progress and attainment over time, from pre-school through to work readiness.

·         The welfare reform report (produced by the FIG) monitored access to financial advice, including housing support.

·         The Revenue and Benefits Team had implemented systems, which ensured that those families who were entitled to benefits received them and that the correct amount of benefit was received.

·         Education tracked every pupil cohort, including the most vulnerable children, and data was readily available. The data enabled the Local Authority to identify and prioritise schools and deliver targeted support.

·         The Local Authority had recently brought the Unclaimed Benefits Campaign and Hub Advice Service under one project. That collaboration had been developed by the FIG and was led by the Welfare Rights Unit. Partner organisations were Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Age UK, Cleveland Housing and Advice Centre (CHAC) and Achieving Change Through Enterprising Solutions (ACTES).

·         Parent support advisors worked diligently in school to ensure the appropriate information was received by parents.

·         The FIG addressed issues in respect of parental concern, whereas from an education perspective, the Local Authority challenged and supported schools to promote pupil outcomes and ensure inclusion.


In response to Members’ queries, it was advised that, in terms of the FIG membership, previously there had been no education representation. The Head of Achievement, Education, Prevention and Partnerships now attended meetings, provided input and engaged with the group. It was also added that, regardless of a pupil’s eligibility in respect of Free School Meals (FSM), schools continued to support each pupil and offer parents subsidised food and clothing.


In response to a Member’s query regarding the use of data to challenge schools, it was advised that school review monitoring visits took place. There was a categorisation process that enabled the Local Authority to identify the support and challenge that was necessary. Prioritisation was fundamentally dependent on whether a school was developing, emerging or secure. It was also added that:

·         reading, phonics and mathematics were key areas that had been identified when analysing data;

·         mathematics and English hubs had been re-established to support schools; and

·         reviews of schools professional development were undertaken by the School Readiness Manager and the Ethnic Minority Achievement Team (EMAT) Manager.


It was also commented that the Head of Achievement, Education, Prevention and Partnerships held discussions with governing bodies to determine the impact of training and other professional development opportunities.


In response to a Member’s query regarding assessing the impact of school poverty proofing policies and practices, it was advised that pupil outcome data was tracked, monitored and analysed. It was also conveyed that there was a constant oversight of vulnerable families.


A Member raised a query regarding holiday provision for pupils eligible for FSM. It was advised that 10 secondary schools were providing summer holiday provision, which was being funded by the DfE. Although pupils could not be required to attend, the Local Authority was able to promote the offer to increase participation. In addition to that, there was the Holiday Activity Fund (HAF), managed by Public Health, which provided the opportunity for all disadvantaged and SEND pupils to access free activities during the summer holidays. In terms of primary schools, two schools (Park End Primary School and Captain Cook Primary School) had delivered holiday activities over the Easter break. It was clarified that, although primary schools were not providing summer holiday provision, the HAF was delivering activities over the summer break.


A Member raised a query regarding the Carmel Research School in Darlington. It was advised that 12 Middlesbrough schools, covering both primary and secondary sectors, had been invited to engage with the program. Carmel Research School had assessed school-level data to determine which schools would benefit most from engaging with the program.


In response to a Member’s query regarding remote learning and support for English as an additional language (EAL) learners and their families, it was advised that guidance had been translated and circulated by the EMAT.


A Member commented that it would be beneficial for the scrutiny panel to be notified of how many schools had signed up to the school uniform pledge.


The Executive Director of Children’s Services advised that the Local Authority was taking a corporate approach to tackling poverty and the work would be taken forward by the wider leadership team.




That the progress made with the implementation of the agreed recommendations/actions be noted.

Supporting documents: