Amidst fresh rows about free school meals and ever-changing national guidance, Mike Franks tuned into January’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee for CEM. The bulletin below – part of Operation Scrutiny – suggests a committee in fire-fighting mode.
What is the Children’s and Young People Scrutiny Committee?
According to the gospel that is the MCC website:
“The Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee challenges the Council and other public services to make sure that they give young people in Manchester every chance to live, happy, fulfilling and successful lives.
Areas of interest include education, looked after children, social care or children, provision for under 5’s, disabled children, special educational needs and activities and facilities for young people”
CHALLENGE – that word, right at the start of the official blurb – suggests something stronger than the ‘look at’ or ‘deal with’ that frames the remit of several of the other scrutiny committees. The possibility of challenge is there: future reports will assess how often it comes to pass.
But in common with so many of MCC Scrutiny’s Committees, the remit is vast. Under 5s through to 25s (the upper age of care leavers) is a whole swathe of society. It’s also important to note that this committee has a number of co-opted members (primary and secondary teachers, parent governors and representatives from two dioceses).
What were the major issues discussed?
Chair Councillor Bernard Stone’s welcoming remarks indicated no urgent business but alerted everyone to an email sent only the previous evening (!) outlining the latest position in schools relating to COVID-19. No appeals nor interests were declared, minutes of the last meeting were agreed without discussion, and there were no matters arising.
Paul Marshall (Strategic Director for Children and Young People) introduced Budget 2021/22 (item5) reminding members that a series of options had been tabled in November.
In a no doubt unintentional predictive text glitch, against the desired Our Manchester Strategy outcome of a “liveable and low carbon city” its contribution is summarised as increasing “the liability of the City”. It is a tribute to the tokenism with which the climate emergency is treated that no other reference is made in the report as to how its budget proposals address these issues, even though it is today’s younger people who will face the consequences of the climate emergency.
Councillor Garry Bridges (Exec Member for Children and Schools) explained that broken promises over COVID funding and rather than levelling up Government policy is forcing Manchester to raise Council Tax whilst also continuing to reduce services due to a £50m funding deficit. A 45-minute discussion of difficult choices ensued with a number of questions raised.
Amanda Corcoran (Director of Education) updated school responses to COVID-19 (item 6) with significant belated changes at the beginning of the spring term. Flow tests were now available in secondary schools. After a litany of pertinent Government failings, it was resolved that Gavin Williamson should go.
Only ten minutes remained to “cover” Our Manchester Strategy Reset and Overview Report (items 7 and 8).
I’m interested. What can I do?
Following the success of the Student Guide to the Climate Crisis, CEM will be launching a follow-up aimed at secondary students in the coming months. If you have any ideas or suggestions, or can help get this sequel find an even wider audience get in touch with the lead authors firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com