The Chief Executive was in attendance and provided an update to the Board in respect of the following:-
· LMT ‘hot topics’
· School exclusions
· Executive decisions update
In terms of LMT ‘hot topics’ it was advised that the key issues for consideration were reoccupation and the move to Fountains Court; values and staff engagement including the embedding of the values in the political makeup of the Council; the strategic workplan and priority actions for 2022/23; locality working and strengthening the strategic element as well as expanding the scheme into Hemlington; health and safety and in particular violent incidents towards staff; the town centre and school exclusions.
Reference was made to school exclusions and data was presented in relation to the number of permanent exclusions that had taken place to date in Middlesbrough for 2021/2022 when compared to the numbers for the previous two years. It was advised that at the end of quarter three there had already been 43 permanent exclusions, which equalled the total number of exclusions for 2020/21 and there were a number of months still to go. It was acknowledged that potentially those numbers were slightly skewed owing to Covid, however, the figures remained much higher than the local authority would want them to be.
In terms of temporary exclusions the figures over the last three years had been fairly consistent and fairly high. Comparative data with the local authority’s statistical neighbours was provided, which showed that in 2018/19 the rate of permanent exclusions for Middlesbrough’s statistical neighbours was at 0.46 and Middlesbrough’s rate was at 0.5. In 2019/20 (the latest data available) those rate amongst our statistical neighbours were halved and went down to 0.21, Middlesbrough’s decreased but not by as much. Therefore from being in line with our statistical neighbours Middlesbrough was now 50 per cent above.
Reference was made to fixed term exclusions and it was noted that in 2018/19 Middlesbrough’s rate at 46.63 was double that of its statistical neighbour’s rate of 19.66. In 2019/20 Middlesbrough’s statistical neighbour rate had dropped to 11.95 but our rate was 32.83. Almost 200 per cent more than our statistical neighbour’s rate. In Middlesbrough children were far more likely to be temporarily or permanently excluded from school and as the authority with responsibility for education it was an issue that needed to be addressed.
In terms of the Council response it was advised that there had been the implementation of a new Outreach and Inclusion Model in January 2022, supporting children to remain in school through early intervention and support. However, the question remained as to whether it was the case that behaviour of children in Middlesbrough was much worse than elsewhere in the country or if there was a lower level of tolerance and support. Ongoing and tailored challenge, support and training was provided to schools. In addition a new special ‘wrap around’ project had recently commenced with two secondary schools, which involved the Police and Social Care / Early Help partners. The most recent figures also indicated that 34 per cent of children in Middlesbrough that were temporarily or permanently excluded from school related to children with a special educational need.
Further action taken by the Council included recruitment of an additional Access to Education Officer, providing greater challenge at the point schools notify the Local Authority with an intention to exclude. Working with unregistered education providers to support them to become registered to work with our children. Working with commissioners to increase the range and number of places in our Alternative Provision. As well as targeted mental health support for children and young people, although there was a need for a much wider and deeper CAMHS service, as there was in many other areas.
In relation to Executive decisions a number of reports were expected to be considered by the Executive in April 2022 and these included; a refresh of the Strategic Plan for 2022-2024; the schools capital programme 2022 including increased provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities; approval of the local cycling and walking implementation plan for Linthorpe Road corridor Phase 2; highway improvement works for 2022/23; approval of the Tees Valley Energy Recovery Facility Local Authority Special Purpose Vehicle and Tender Pipeline for 2022/23.
During discussion Members of the Board expressed the view that it would be of real benefit to hear directly from Head Teachers across Middlesbrough in respect of the high level of exclusions in an effort to understand it from their perspective. With a view to working collaboratively with schools to address the issue and reduce the numbers of children temporarily and permanently excluded from school in Middlesbrough.
The Chair thanked the Chief Executive for his briefing and contribution to the meeting.