Agenda and minutes

People Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 16th March, 2023 10.30 am

Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall, Lewes. View directions

Contact: Rachel Sweeney  Senior Policy and Scrutiny Adviser


No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 145 KB

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32.1     The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 16 December 2022 as a correct record.


Apologies for absence

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33.1     Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Charles Clark, Kathryn Field (Councillor Murphy substituting) and Maria Cowler (Roman Catholic Diocese Representative).


Disclosures of interests

Disclosures by all members present of personal interests in matters on the agenda, the nature of any interest and whether the member regards the interest as prejudicial under the terms of the Code of Conduct.


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34.1     There were no disclosures of interests.


Urgent items

Notification of items which the Chair considers to be urgent and proposes to take at the appropriate part of the agenda. Any members who wish to raise urgent items are asked, wherever possible, to notify the Chair before the start of the meeting. In so doing, they must state the special circumstances which they consider justify the matter being considered urgent.


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35.1     There were no urgent items.


Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) Annual Report pdf icon PDF 402 KB

Report by the Chairperson of the East Sussex SACRE

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36.1     The report was introduced by the Chair of East Sussex SACRE. The Chair noted that SACRE was obliged to have an agreed syllabus for maintained schools which is revised every 5 years. A new syllabus had been developed in the last 12 months with training offered to teachers in primary and secondary schools on the content. The Chair noted that take up of training had been good and that most schools were adopting the syllabus, including academies who were doing so voluntarily.

36.2     There was ongoing work with schools, including special schools, and visits would be resuming in the Spring.

36.3     The Chair of East Sussex SACRE noted that the SACRE budget, which was historically increased in years when the development of a new syllabus was required, was set to return to its original budget next year and that he would like to seek a continued increase in the budget to fund activities including a teacher and student conference. 

36.4     The Committee welcomed the update and discussed the report. This covered:

·         Collective Worship – the Committee asked if the review of determination procedures had taken place yet. The Chair of East Sussex SACRE confirmed that it had and confirmed that collective worship should be applied in all schools and should be of a broadly Christian nature. In areas where there were large populations of other religions, schools could ask for determination for collective workshop to have a different focus. The Chair confirmed that there had been no applications for this in East Sussex, but there was a policy in place for future potential requests.


The Committee asked about a parent’s right to withdraw their children from collective worship in schools and to what degree this was being exercised. The Senior Manager for Support and Intervention Standards and Learning Effectiveness Service noted that this was a local issue which head teachers of individual schools would consult on with parents and that therefore the County Council did not hold any data on this.


·         Diversity of SACRE membership – the Committee asked for an update on the work of SACRE to support diverse representation in its membership in order to reflect the wide range of beliefs across the county, including humanist groups. The Committee heard that SACRE members included councillors, the Church of England, other faiths and teachers offering different views. SACRE had previously included humanist, Muslim and Buddhist representatives, but these representatives had stepped down. Maintaining representation across the religious spectrum was challenging and was an ongoing activity. The Chair of SACRE noted that there was not currently a large local Sikh or Hindu community in East Sussex, but SACRE would welcome any involvement from these communities.


·         Future funding of SACRE – The Committee asked what steps SACRE was taking to increase funding. The Chair of SACRE responded that additional funding had been previously generated before the pandemic through a paid conference and that other options for funding were being explored. The Committee agreed that religious education in schools was very  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.


Armed Forces Covenant pdf icon PDF 298 KB

Report by the Director of Children’s Services

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37.1     The Director of Children’s Services introduced the report which highlighted the work undertaken by the Council, including its recent application for Gold Accreditation under the Defence Employment Recognition Scheme. 

37.2     The County Council’s Armed Forces Champion, Cllr Bowdler, stated that he was pleased, as a veteran, to champion this work. He noted the enthusiasm of ESCC officers and members, although he recognised that there was still work to do, especially in supporting families of Armed Forces personnel. He also noted the varying level of engagement across the District and Borough Councils (D&Bs) and that this engagement was a work in progress. The Armed Forces Champion reminded the Committee about the training on offer to officers and members and that he hoped to see a continuation of training and an increase in attendance.

37.3     The Committee welcomed the update and discussed the report. This covered:

·         Engagement with the Armed Forces Covenant in local areas – The Committee noted the large number of events which had taken place and questioned whether this had included the Rother area, given the large number of veterans in the area. The Committee heard that partnership work in that area was still in progress.


The Committee noted the good work taking place across the county but recognised there was still work to do. The Committee asked if there were areas showing good practice and what the council could do to learn from this. The Armed Forces Champion stated the importance of support from both members and officers in supporting engagement with D&Bs.


The Committee asked if there was more ESCC could do to support Parish and Town Councils, including working with champions in the local authorities, recognising that although they do not have a statutory role to play, many areas were very passionate about supporting this work. The work of local British Legions in identifying veterans that need support was also noted by the Committee. The Armed Forces Champion responded to say he would investigate increased collaboration with Parish and Town Councils and informed the Committee that there was good support available to veterans and families but that it needed to be communicated through champions and officers so that people were aware of the support available.

·         Families of Armed Forces personnel or veterans – The Committee welcomed the recognition of families in the Armed Forces Covenant, including the impact that moving on a regular basis had on children’s education. The Committee asked for further information on how schools supported children with parents or grandparents in the Armed Forces given the significant number of children affected in East Sussex. The department stated that schools did offer support to children and families and were sensitive to needs, and that capacity to increase support would need to be considered alongside other Children’s Services priorities.

·         South East Reserve Forces and Cadets – The Armed Forces Champion noted that there were local reserve forces that attended barracks in Brighton and Eastbourne as well as cadets across the county and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 391 KB

Report by the Assistant Chief Executive

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38.1     The Chair introduced the report which outlined the Committee’s latest work programme.

38.2     The Director of Children’s Services was asked to comment on the recent Government budget announcement around provision of childcare. The Committee heard that the department awaited more detail on this but anticipated providing additional support to the Early Years sector in order to deliver the national commitments over the coming years.

38.3     The Committee asked about what communication was in place between schools and extra-curricular activity providers, including after school clubs, to ensure concerns and achievements are highlighted. The Committee heard that if an after-school club had a safeguarding concern, there was clear guidance on how to proceed. It would be at the discretion of the provider and the school to share other updates and information, however there were many examples where achievements were celebrated in school.

Prevention in Children’s Services

38.4     The committee noted that the Review Board for Prevention in Children’s Services had recommended that, as work on key projects and programmes was clearly under development and progressing at pace, the issue would be better considered by the committee through a Reference Group which could provide regular and timely scrutiny input.

38.5     The Director of Children’s Services presented a Quality Demand Reduction Diagram outlining the link between cost and quality issues, and the department’s ambitions to become both financially resilient and to improve outcomes for children needing the most intensive levels of care. The department’s approach was to prioritise reunifying children with their family where possible and increased focus on supporting birth families, so they are able to parent in the future, enabling children to avoid becoming looked after.

38.6     Councillor Geary, referring to her role on the East Sussex Fostering Panel, highlighted the need for more foster carers within the county. The Director of Children’s Services responded to say that the department could provide information for the Committee to disseminate to support the ongoing work to recruit foster carers.

38.7     The Committee RESOLVED to convert the Prevention in Children’s Services Scrutiny Review to a Reference Group.

School Exclusions

38.8     The Chair asked the committee to review the proposed Terms of Reference for the Scrutiny Review of School Exclusions.

38.9     The Committee discussed the following:

·         Exclusions and elective home education – The Committee asked for clarification about the distinction between exclusions and elective home education, citing that some parents view there to be an overlap between the two. The Committee heard that no parent should experience any pressure to make the decision to educate their child at home and there was no current evidence of this happening. The department was piloting attending some meetings with schools and parents around decisions to home educate. Work was also ongoing to support schools with issues around attendance and absence, including part-time timetables. The Lead Member for Education and ISEND informed the Committee that he had received a reply to his letter to Government regarding home education and that he would circulate this to the Committee.

·         Review Witnesses  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.


Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) pdf icon PDF 219 KB

Report by the Chief Executive

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39.1     The Chair introduced the report which reviewed the Committee’s input into the RPPR cycle for the 2023-24 financial year.

39.2     The Committee RESOLVED to note the report.