When it was suggested to me that I put myself forward to chair the ‘spy committee' I couldn't resist the notion. Would it lead to glamorous locations, secret deals, double dealing and exotic meetings? I found out last week when I went to Islington to meet up with my fellow members. Unfortunately, the ADCS Standards, Performance & Inspection (SPI) Policy Committee didn't quite live up to the Le Carre type scenarios that I had played out in my head, but it was extremely interesting in other ways.
The committee was a joint one with our colleagues from the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee and I was glad to see Debbie Barnes there to co-chair it with me. As ever, we started to consider carefully planning how we would co-chair the meeting before deciding ‘nah, we'll wing it'.
We were joined by Ofsted to discuss safeguarding children attending a range of non-mainstream education settings, the inspectorate has been doing some work to understand how local authorities fulfil their duties within existing legislation. The group discussed examples of local practice and highlighted key challenges, noting that the importance of children missing education cannot be overstated given what is known about links to CSE, gangs and other child protection issues. The group expressed concern about exclusions, off-rolling and illegal exclusions and the disproportionate impact these practices may have on children with SEND or those with unmet or undiagnosed needs. Discussions also touched on elective home education, illegal schools and the Prevent duty. I must say that I thought that it was a really constructive session.
Representatives from the National Audit Office also attended the meeting to discuss two forthcoming value for money studies, the first on the costs associated with academy school conversions and the second, serendipitously, on Ofsted. In relation to the first study, the group raised the significant and unforeseen costs to local authorities when a school converts to academy status e.g. in writing off debt and buying out existing contracts. The focus of the Ofsted study has yet to be determined and the group put forward several suggestions including measuring the impact of inspection activity on outcomes for children and young people.
The group then discussed an emerging model for the creation of a sustainable, self-improving system for children's services which builds on the strong commitment to collaborative working in each of the nine regions. Finally, the group discussed workshop topics for the forthcoming ADCS annual conference, suggestions included: the evolving role of local authorities in the education landscape; school improvement strategies; safeguarding in education; SEND inspection results; sector-led improvement; modelling future demand for services; funding of children's services; inclusion; and, academisation.
So, whilst not exactly the SPI that came in from the cold, it was good to pick up the chairing of this committee at such an important time and I look forward to doing so again.
Steve Crocker is chair of the ADCS standards, performance and inspection policy committee and director of children's services Hampshire County Council and the Isle of Wight. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website