Early Years Projects funded from allocated Dedicated Schools Grant reserves
To provide information around the planned use of reserves for Early Years projects from the Dedicated Schools Grant.
Sue Gates introduced the report which proposed that allocated Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) reserves were used to fund three Early Years (EY) initiatives.
The first one was the establishment of a development grant to support providers who were facing challenges related to supporting children with higher levels of development needs with ensuring their business sustainability. The grant would be put in place for one year to relieve cost pressures faced by providers and allow time for renewed business sustainability to be explored. The grant would be calculated at 20p per hour for each Nursery Education Grants (NEG) for three- and four-year olds free entitlement hour delivered by settings in the previous year. Subject to confirmation from the Schools Forum, this grant would be made available to all settings offering the free entitlement and guidance would be made available outlining any terms and conditions relating to the administration and the spend of the grant.
The Progress for all project addressed issues which were impacting all settings such as lower than national average take-up rate of the EY free entitlement and lower attainment rates by priority groups. Ms Gates said that Brent’s Early Help service had been awarded a £50,000 grant from the Department for Education for the project and the money would be used to fund a pilot covering three ward areas. If funding was to be allocated from the DSG reserves, it would be used to put in place more widespread, long-term projects with clear measurable objectives aiming for a sustainable impact. In addition, work would take place to support home learning and raise awareness of childcare options. Outcomes of the pilot were expected to be available following the completion of the pilot in September 2018 and if ‘Progress for all’ was to be implemented, this would take place from September 2018 to December 2020.
The Superheroes project related to the exploration of an early years and primary age prevention programme that emphasised early identification and intervention to support young people to not get involved with gangs. Members heard that the issue of the role of superheroes in play had been explored at the Brent Early Years Conference in January 2018 and settings had been keen to access support to equip practitioners to develop practice in this area. The project would draw on best practice across EY settings and schools and would be focused on early identification of vulnerable children and supporting them to develop skills to avoid dangerous situations.
In relation to expenditure, Ms Gates said that the reserve amount allocated to Early Years by the Forum would cover part of the two projects and all the cost of the Development Grant (for more details, please see section four of the report (page 63 of the Agenda pack)).
Members of the Forum enquired how the outcomes of the Superheroes project would be measured and Ms Gates explained that predicting the impact of EY interventions was challenging. She suggested that effectiveness would be measured by assessing children’s attributes and understanding of issues such as gangs, knife crime and aggressive and disruptive behaviour before and after they had participated in the project. Furthermore, there would be various initiatives aimed at engaging families and, in the long-term, the project was expected to help the Local Authority create an Early Intervention Strategy.
An Early Years PVI member noted that EY budget and the Early Years Task Group were mainly focused on Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) settings so primary schools with receptions or nurseries had little contact with Early Years Team. Brian Grady noted that actions would be taken to increase the engagement of the Team with nurseries and primary schools.
In relation to the scope of the Superheroes project, Ms Gates said that it was expected that it would continue until mid-primary stage. It would be led by Early Help and Early Intervention and direction and guidance would be provided through the Early Years Task Group, while schools would be involved in measuring impact. Members of the Schools Forum queried how the project would be governed. They also asked how children could be clearly tracked as they progressed through the education system so the number of children associated with gang activity who had been identified in the early years declined. In response, Ms Gates said that the project had not been sufficiently developed to enable this, but once it was, the 2015 Home Office and Early Intervention Foundation practice review could be used to support the evaluation of impact.
The Schools Forum discussed what other key stakeholders could be involved in the project. Ms Gates noted that a mapping exercise would be conducted to gather information and identify best practices that could be included in a systematic approach to early identification of vulnerable children. Forum members requested that existing groups in the Borough were engaged with rather than initiate a new series of groups to support a stand-alone project.
A Forum member questioned whether it was feasible to attempt to roll the Superheroes project out across the whole of the Borough as its complexity could have been underestimated. They proposed running a small-scale pilot, involving one or two schools, and identifying lessons learned before expanding the geographical coverage. In addition, Members expressed concerns in relation to the lack of clarity what the programme would involve and its cost.
As the report outlined three separate proposals, the Chair decided to take separate votes on each one.
The Development Grant (as set out in paragraph 3.1 of the report (page 61 of the Agenda pack)) was then put to the vote by a show of hands and declared CARRIED.
The Progress for all project (as set out in paragraphs 3.2-3.5 of the report (pages 61-62 of the Agenda pack)) was then put to the vote by a show of hands and declared LOST.
The Superheroes project (as set out in paragraph 3.6-3.11 of the report (pages 62-63 of the Agenda pack)) was then put to the vote by a show of hands and declared LOST.
(i) The contents of the Early Years Projects funded from allocated Dedicated Schools Grant reserves, be noted;
(ii) A revised version of the paper be presented at a future Schools Forum meeting, containing additional information on the scopes of the Progress for all and the Superheroes projects as per the discussion at the current meeting; and
(iii) The Early Years Task Group would meet to reflect on the discussion at the current meeting.