Agenda item

The impact the pandemic has had on children and young people

To receive a verbal update to provide assurance to the Committee on the highlighted recovery objective considered at a recent meeting of the Recovery Committee.


(a)       That the verbal update be noted; and


(b)       That the Committee remained concerned on the pressure being put on Officers and Schools but supported and appreciated that the Chief Officer Team were doing everything in their power to manage the risk.


The Chief Officer (Education & Youth) provided a verbal update on the three highest risks identified during the recent meeting of the Recovery Committee. 


            The Chief Officer provided an update on the risk around managing uncertainty and operational changes which may need to be implemented for the start of the new term.  She advised that schools had been open for half a term and continued to face significant challenges in managing the impact of Covid-19 cases on pupils and staff. Changes to Welsh Government (WG) to allow learners to remain in school, even if they were in contact with a positive case had resulted in high numbers of infections within both the pupil and staff population. The very limited availability of supply staff for a range of school posts was stretching schools’ operational capacity and keeping anxiety levels amongst staff and school leaders at an elevated level. Changes to guidance for Specialist Schools has been particularly problematic. Guidance for the TTP process has also been recently reviewed and updated with a view to streamline information sharing and reduce workload for both TTP and schools but this was only just being introduced so it was too early to assess impact. The Education Portfolio, Environmental Heath Officers and the TTP team continue to provide high levels of support to schools, however, the resilience of school leaders was stretched and the ongoing risk of disrupted education for learners remained high.


            Councillor Dave Mackie raised concerns around the difficulties in recruitment of supply school staff and referred to a recent television programme which had highlighted this as a national problem.  The Chief Officer agreed that this was challenging and not only included teachers but classroom assistances, caretakers, cleaners and other staff too.  All schools had been impacted by this and it was not something the authority could solve.  With regard to the RRRS funding she confirmed that schools had had this for some time now and felt confident that if schools had secured those staff members then this additional funding would enable the continuation of the contracts.  The Chief Officer also reported that WG had identified a cohort of newly qualified teachers (NQT) who had not had sufficient school experience.  WG had funded 20 NQTs to gain experience in schools to achieve their qualified teacher status and also provide that extra support in schools. It had been advised that this funding was likely to be extended to the spring term which would enable schools to keep their NQTs. Hopefully this may mitigate some of the challenges and it was pleasing to see that the WG recognised the success of the programme and support this was providing to schools.


            The Chief Officer provided a verbal update on the risk around the impact the pandemic has had on children and young people.  She explained that regular contact was maintained with schools and that she had recently met with the secondary and primary Head Teachers Federations to enable a better understanding of the pressures being faced by schools.  Feedback from schools was that many learners were clearly evidencing the impact of having missed long periods of teaching. This was reflected in their knowledge, skills and concentration but also in their behaviour. Schools were also reporting higher levels of pupils struggling to re-engage and that some were also having difficulty conforming to appropriate behaviour expectations whilst in school because of the lack of structure for a long period of time. Schools reported that these behavioural challenges, which were an obvious exemplification of the impact of the pandemic on learners’ emotional well-being, were taking a great deal of time to manage and resolve, and this coupled with staff absences, were adding to the current pressures.


The Chief Office also reported that the regional pilot for the national framework for Emotional Health and Wellbeing was now underway with a small number of Flintshire schools involved.  Schools not in the pilot continue to be supported to use the effective materials in the Health Schools Scheme alongside other mental health strategies. This risk remained high.


            The Senior Manager reported on the training provided around well-being with head teachers commenting positively on the quality of training provided to schools.  She reported on the WG Well-being Grant which had increased the counselling capacity and also the training programmes delivered to schools on emotional literacy support. Work was ongoing with Social Services and CAMHS to support parents who were unable to cope with the young people because of their behaviours.   


            The Chief Officer reported on the service areas for the older teenage group who received support from the Youth Service and Youth Justice teams to assist with their challenging issues.  She added a lot of the behaviour in schools was emanating from home or the community and it was important to look at all of the services that could support the young people and schools.





(a)       That the verbal update be noted; and


(b)       That the Committee remained concerned on the pressure being put on Officers and Schools but supported and appreciated that the Chief Officer Team were doing everything in their power to manage the risk.