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Suffolk County Council faces fresh calls to form dedicated education scrutiny committee

Issues such as home schooling, special educational needs and school transport have prompted fresh calls for a dedicated council committee scrutinising education issues.

A task force assessing home schooling in Suffolk said that a specific education scrutiny committee should be formed at Suffolk County Council to adequately drill down into those issues.

That has now come forward as a recommendation from the scrutiny committee itself, which currently assesses education issues, but also looks at other issues such as finances, transport and highways among others.

Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House (38437173)
Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House (38437173)

The authority does however have a dedicated health scrutiny committee.

Conservative cabinet for children’s services and education, Mary Evans had previously chaired the council’s scrutiny committee, and said dedicated task groups may be better, but did not rule out a potential education scrutiny committee in future.

She said: “I am really very supportive of scrutiny.

“I will talk with the [scrutiny] committee chair and administration to see what is the best way forward, but the task and finish groups have demonstrated they can go into more depth investigating something.”

Mrs Evans said her one reservation about a scrutiny committee dedicated to education issues were that they usually only spent one meeting discussing an issue, when task groups could meet a number of times to go into much more detail.

The council previously had a dedicated education scrutiny committee, but that was scrapped in June 2017.

Opposition groups at the council called for the committee to be re-formed in March last year, with council leader Matthew Hicks stating that he would keep an eye on education scrutiny and assess the situation this year.

Among some of the issues which the main scrutiny committee has assessed since the education scrutiny committee was scrapped include changes to school transport, provision for special educational needs, and a rise in parents home schooling their children.

Labour education spokesman at the county council, Jack Abbott, said: “I do not believe that a regular, robust and transparent scrutiny of children’s services and education has materialised since I put forward a motion to reinstate the education scrutiny committee, last year.

“Subjects such as school transport, SEND and mental health provision and children’s centres, require consistent and forensic attention and that is why I have again called for a specialist scrutiny committee focused on education and children’s services.

“I am pleased that this view has been strongly supported by councillors from across the political spectrum and I look forward to the re-establishment of this important committee in the near future.”

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