Agenda item

Verbal update by the Cabinet Member and Corporate Director


(Mr S Bagshaw, Head of Fair Access was present for this item)


1.          The Cabinet Member, Mr Whiting, and the Corporate Director, Mr Leeson, gave their verbal updates  advising of the following:



·  Mr Whiting began by thanking the Skills and Employability Team for the “Kent Choices for You” live event held at the Detling Showground, Maidstone, which gave young people the opportunity to explore work and career opportunities Apprenticeships before they made decisions about their future.  Over the two day event, 2000 young people attended as well as numerous employers from many sectors.  His Royal Highness the Duke of York was in attendance at the event following his visit to the Swale Skills Centre, where 190 people were currently studying engineering.

·  Following the launch of the 14-19 Strategy there were now over 10,000 apprenticeship sign ups coupled with 147 apprentices starting in Kent schools and 70 apprenticeships at KCC.  Mr Whiting looked forward to receiving the report from the Select Committee for Apprenticeships, chaired by Mr Kit Smith.


National Offer Day

·  The 2011 secondary admissions round had been the most successful in recent years with 97.7% receiving one of their preferences and 84.2% receiving their first preference.  Changes to government policy giving schools the freedom to expand and admit above admissions number had created the flexibility to provide greater choice for parents this coupled with KCC working with schools to see where school capacity could be increased to give children their preferred schools.

·  There were projects by the Recruitment Team with 16 students from St Mary’s and Minster Colleges, Belfast with 2 weeks of work experience, which was being financed by Mutual Understanding Fund [A fund from the Northern Ireland Office].  This was beneficial with students having the opportunity to experience teaching in the much wider context and schools making links with students they may wish to recruit in the future.


Sevenoaks Grammar Provision

·  Mr Whiting referred to the press release regarding Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Schools that cast doubt on the Wilderness site location for the new grammar provision.  Mr Leeson had written a clear response to Lord Nash that this County Council would strongly oppose any attempt by the Department for Education to improperly or irrationally remove the land from KCC’s ownership given that it was required currently by the Knole Academy and in the future by the grammar provision after the Knole Academy vacate in 2015.  He would update Members in the future of further details.


2.          Mr Leeson reflected that 84.2% of parents received their first preference of school was a significant achievement as many other authorities were achieving around 60%. 

·  There was continued progress in Ofsted inspections in Kent, more schools were receiving a good outcome compared to previous trends.  Nearly 50% of those schools were previously judged satisfactory and were now judged good.

·  Since the last meeting the 14 -19 Strategy had been published which was leading to; the commissioning of various new provision for young people in that age group to have more success and employment with training, more cooperation between schools and FE colleges and helping KCC to provide more support to the more vulnerable students.

·  A report would be submitted to this Cabinet Committee on the progress on the commissioning and a Pilot “Kent Integrated Support Service” a programme for adolescents, which would bring together all services that KCC provided as well as services provided by the Health Service, Youth offending etc as a single access point, multi agency response for vulnerable adolescents.  That service had begun to make a significant difference and plans were in hand to role out the service in other districts including; Swale, Canterbury and Shepway.


3.          Mr Whiting and Mr Leeson noted comments by Members and responded to  questions  on the information given in their verbal updates which included the following:


a)    In reply to a question, Mr Bagshaw advised on the breakdown of the primary and secondary school preferences received as follows:



Primary Preferences

Number of pupils











LA Allocations




Secondary  Preferences

Number of pupils














LA Allocations





b)    Mr Whiting agreed to provide the response from Mr Leeson to Lord Nash to Members.


c)     Members praised the achievement of 84% of pupils receiving their first school preference.


d)    Concern was raised regarding misreporting on social media sites regarding local authority services and how the local authority needed to be prepared to respond authoritatively and quickly.


e)    In reply to a question, Mr Leeson explained that the Department for Education (DfE) had written two letters, one to the Director of Planning in Sevenoaks District Council about the Wilderness site land and consideration of its future use without KCC knowledge or warning and it was the first communication that the government was minded to use the powers that the Secretary of State had under the Academies Act to designate a piece of land for a free school.  There had been previous correspondence with the DfE and Mr Leeson’s office requesting that they consider the use of the Wilderness site for the proposed Free School, Trinity School.  The response from KCC was that it had future educational use for the Wilderness site and it was not available.  Mr Leeson received a letter from Lord Nash saying that the DfE was minded to start using the powers the Secretary of State had in the Academies Act.  Mr Leeson advised that the DfE had not made a decision to initiate the process of using those powers hence his robust response on the plans for the land and therefore not available.  Should the Secretary of State pursue the legal route KCC’s legal team of advisors would look at the detail of the proposal and form its own legal position.


f)      In reply to question, Mr Whiting agreed that the 10,000 apprenticeships need to see future job prospects and he would be looking to see what more could be done.  He looked forward to receiving the report by the Select Committee on Apprenticeships.


4.          RESOLVED that the comments and responses to questions by Members and the information given in the verbal update be noted with thanks.



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