Agenda item

Verbal update by the Cabinet Member and Corporate Director


1.          The Cabinet Member, Mr Gough, and the Corporate Director, Mr Leeson, gave their verbal updates.


2.          Mr Gough began by given Members his early observations in his new role as Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform and this agenda. 


3.          Mr Gough highlighted 3 areas in which Local Authorities had a vital role to play as a model for Kent to follow:


·    Securing places by ensuring that there was adequate provision

·    Support for vulnerable learners

  • Support for Families and Standards by acting as a champion for  parents and providing better standards


4.           Mr Gough then mirrored items on the agenda to those 3 areas where improvements were being made to services including the work being carried out through the Standards and Improvement Team working in partnership with schools to produce improvements.


5.          Mr Gough then gave an update on the Sevenoaks Grammar School Satellite proposal advising that he had chaired a public consultation meeting on 20 June, held at Invicta Grammar School, Maidstone, to discuss its proposals and vision for the Sevenoaks Grammar School Satellite. Parents from Sevenoaks were present.   The consultation was due to close on 19 July and it was anticipated that an application would be presented to the Secretary of State shortly after.  


6.          He advised Members of a recent additional proposal received from The Weald of Kent Grammar School, Tonbridge, for the Sevenoaks Grammar School Satellite which would be considered seriously. 


7.          Mr Gough stressed that his ambitions were not only for the most academic pupils but for the entire population of young people in Kent which would be met through; improving standards and closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged groups which included the raising of the participation age to ensure that young people Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) and those not getting that extra element of learning built into their experience post 16.


8.          Mr Gough was keen to pursue the joining up of services both internally and externally, particularly with health. This would be carried out through building on the progress that had already been made; he gave the example of the Integrated Adolescent Support Service, which was a major theme of the Children’s Bill. 


9.          Following on, Mr Leeson advised that the local authority continued to sustain and develop a sense of community and family among all schools in Kent.  This was carried out through the various ambitions set out in Kent’s strategic documents.  There were over a hundred schools which were academies in Kent and 500 schools that continued to be maintained directly by KCC.  He stressed the importance of Kent being very ambitious as the largest County in the Country for Kent’s children and for Kent to be the best place to be educated.  There had been significant success but there was still a long way to go.


10.      One of the roles of the local authority was to change, modernise and develop its own approaches and services which were currently being undertaken in areas that included; Special Educational Needs, Pupil Referral Units (PRU) where more formal arrangements were being put in place and working in collaboration with schools.  The 500 schools in Kent were working in collaborative partnerships.  There were 60 groupings/hubs of schools which had agreements to work together and support each other in their collaborative groups and with schools outside their groups.  Work was also being undertaken to integrate KCC services ensuring that the integration had a visible presence on the ground.   He gave the example of the Integrated Adolescent Services which brought all the services of the County Council together including; Education and Social Care and partners in Health to support more vulnerable adolescents in Kent to avoid then being involved in crime and substance misuse etc and more involved in positive activities and continue in education and have positive destinations post 16.


11.      Mr Leeson stated that providing school places where they were needed was an ongoing challenge.  Over the next three years KCC would need to provide an additional 10,000 primary school places when children start school at 5 years.  Every child that needed a school place had a place in September 2013.  KCC had already expanded 22 schools and provided an additional 400 temporary expansions to give parents greater preference.  This was evidenced by more parents receiving their first or second choice of school preference this year.


12.      Mr Gough and Mr Leeson noted the comments and responded to questions regarding the information given in their verbal updates by Members which included the following:


a)         In response to questions on the several sites reported in the press for the Sevenoaks Grammar School Satellite, Mr Gough advised that KCC identified the Wilderness site in January 2013 as the site most suitable for the Sevenoaks Grammar School Satellite.  There had been communication received from Lord Nash, Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Schools that this site had been identified for a proposed Free School, Trinity.  KCC responded to Lord Nash making its position clear that the site was being used by the Knole Academy until 2015 and then by the Sevenoaks Grammar School provision.  Meetings had taken place at officer level with the DfE to establish KCC’s position on the Wilderness site being the preferred site. 

b)         The Knole Academy had made progress and was a successful school.  There were two issues; 1. West Kent had growing pressures for school places in particular selective school places.  2.  A whole school cohort of secondary children left Sevenoaks each day to make the journey to school therefore there was clearly a need by parents for that provision.  There was plenty of scope for the Knole Academy and for the additional selective provision too with the increasing demand for school places.

c)          Mr Gough clarified that the proposals by Valley Invicta Academies Trust, Maidstone, and Weald of Kent Grammar School, Sevenoaks were submitted to the Secretary of State for Education as they were Academies.  The decision on their proposals would be made by the Secretary of State for Education as academies and not the Local Authority however because of many factors including the site etc the local authority had a role and view which would continue to remain critical. 

d)         Mr Leeson reminded Members Sevenoaks 2,500 parents who petitioned the County Council and the County Council decision to support this project under the current legal framework.  With the significant increase in pupil numbers in the West Kent area by 2016-17 the number of secondary school provision would need to be increased and a commitment to maintain the balance of the selective school places.  The most recent Academies Act and Education Act 2011 allowed schools to expand and provide more choice for parents.  If the school was directly maintained by KCC it would the KCC’s proposal to expand. As an academy it would be their proposal to expand and they would have to consult and their application would be made to the secretary of state because it would be serious amendment to their funding agreement.

e)         KCC wrote to the Secretary of State supporting Valley Invicta Academies Trust’s proposal as the sponsor of the Sevenoaks Grammar School Annex.  There had been previous discussions with the Weald of Kent Grammar School.  Mr Leeson advised that he had received a letter from the Governors of the Weald of Kent Grammar School in January 2013 saying that they did not wish to pursue the proposal.  The governors have had a change of heart and wish to put forward their own proposal for an annex in Sevenoaks.


f)           In reply to a question, Mr Gough refuted that a grant had been offered to Valley Invicta Academies Trust to develop their playing fields.  The Trust had made an application for finance from the Secretary of State which KCC had supported.


13.      RESOLVED that the responses to comments and questions by Members be noted with thanks.

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