Nicky Dixon and Helen Delaney of ParentENGage will address the committee. ParentENGage is an education network group for parents and the community in Lewisham.
5.1 The time being 9:20pm, it was MOVED, SECONDED and RESOLVED that standing orders be suspended to allow for the completion of committee business.
5.2 The Chair proposed, and it was agreed that the items: Lewisham Learning Partnership, Provisional Secondary School Results and Elective Home Education would be considered together.
5.3 As regards the results, the committee noted that a more detailed report would be available in March, and would provide a breakdown of results by several categories such as eligibility for Free School Meals, gender, ethnicity, school by school. Officers had that day received the validated results and assured the committee that there was very little difference between the results as presented and the validated results.
5.4 The Chair invited Nicky Dixon and Helen Delaney of local parent education network ParentENGage to address the committee.
5.5 Ms Dixon informed the committee that:
· ParentENGage had over 100 members and 500 followers on Facebook. It considers itself to be a group of positive parents trying to promote Lewisham’s schools, with the aim that every Lewisham school should be good enough for every Lewisham child, whatever their needs.
· In her view, Lewisham Learning needed to engage more with parents. She argued that it was not transparent and needed better communication.
· In her view, GCSE results did not entice parents to apply for schools. Rather they wanted to know about the culture and ethos of schools.
· ParentENGage had arranged coffee mornings for prospective parents to meet parents of Y7 students to find out about the schools. This had not been sustainable so they had come up with the concept of a Lewisham Education Week, where all of Lewisham’s secondary schools could gather in one location and set out their stalls. This would happen in Year 5 as the time between Year 6 term starting and the deadline for applications was too short.
· Her view was that doing GCSEs over 3 years was not in the best interests of the child, and she was not in favour of Saturday catch-up tutoring.
· ParentENGage were involved in a parent resilience programme. They were training with MIND to teach resilience skills to parents in schools. They had secured some funding and were working with a primary school and 11 parent volunteers. They were keen to work with the council.
5.6 The committee then heard from Helen Delaney, also representing ParentENGage. Ms Delaney is a Trustee of Signal, a parent support group for autistic children and their families in the borough of Lewisham. Ms Delaney informed the committee that hers was not an exceptional case, rather it was similar to the experiences of many families that she had encountered at Signal.
5.7 Ms Delaney explained how her autistic son became so depressed and anxious upon transitioning to secondary school, that he required CAMHS support. She asserted that the school had failed to protect him from bullying and had not provided the SEN support described in his EHCP. She alleged that he had been punished for behaviours directly related to his autism, and felt that the school and its SENCO had had a very poor understanding of autism.
5.8 The committee heard that while the family could ill afford to electively home educate, Ms Delaney felt she had no option as the school as her son’s needs were not being met by the school. She reported that she home educated him for one year, and he now attends a large mainstream school out of the borough, where she feels he has been well supported and is happy. She commented that the measures that have helped him at that school have not necessarily had budget implications.
5.9 A discussion followed in which the following points were noted:
1. The terms Electively Home Educated and Educated Otherwise Than at School are not interchangeable. The latter is used where a child the local authority cannot provide an appropriate place but retains responsibility for the child’s education. The Hospital Outreach Programme was given as an example.
2. Results are important to many parents, who do consider outcomes when looking at schools, including Ofsted reports.
3. Ofsted’s recent announcement to change the framework of inspection to focus on the quality of education would help parents to understand the work of schools more widely.
4. There are also families with SEND children who have had very positive experiences in Lewisham schools.
5. The new Assistant Director for Education had already arranged to meet with both ParentENGage and Lewisham Education Group and was encouraging of positive parental involvement.
6. In addition to losing pupils with high prior attainment to schools out of the borough, Lewisham has high numbers of pupils with no documented prior attainment joining its secondary schools. The current Ofsted inspection regime looks at attainment between KS2 and KS4 but many pupils come to the borough in Y7 with no prior data. Therefore looking at attainment data alone is an insufficient indicator of the work that schools do.
7. The committee felt that parents do have a strong voice in schools and on the CYP Select committee, as they are represented by parent governors.
8. Officers were adamant there was no secrecy around the work of Lewisham Learning Partnership. Its business was partnership working between schools and therefore communicating the detail of its work to the wider population was not its top priority but the information was available in the public domain.
9. LLP was discussing a communications strategy and working with parents to promote schools continuously, and not just in the lead up to primary to secondary transition.
10. LLP was also promoting good governance and quality teaching.
5.10 Referring to the provisional secondary results, it was noted that:
1. The focus to improve maths results had paid off
2. Lewisham had the lowest Progress 8 figure in London. Research recently launched by the University of Bristol highlighted the shortcomings of Progress 8 as a measure, recognising that it favours schools in advantaged areas.
5.11 Referring to elective home education, it was noted that:
1. Some members had heard anecdotes of parents that had been encouraged to electively home educate as an alternative to prosecution for non-attendance. Officers were clear that this was unacceptable and gave assurances that if they were aware of any such cases, they would stamp down on it.
2. Members asked for detail on schools where parents had removed a child because they felt the education provided was inadequate. In particular they wanted details of where EHCP and SEND support plans were not being implemented properly, to see if this was a pattern in particular schools.
3. Officers advised that the SEND Advisory team works with schools where SEN provision needs strengthening.
5.12 The Chair thanked Nicky Dixon and Helen Delaney for their contribution to the discussion.
5.13 It was RESOLVED:
1. That the report be noted
2. That information would be circulated of schools where parents had removed a child because they felt the education provided was inadequate, and where EHCP and SEND support plans were not being implemented properly, and any identified patterns.