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Information from the London Borough of Sutton

Education service provider Cognus set to move into Sutton Council ownership

Published Friday, 9th October 2020

Cognus shareholders (including Sutton schools) have voted for new arrangements to move ahead to bring the company into Council ownership.

The arrangements also give schools and families a greater voice in the direction of the company and support the delivery of the best possible education services in the borough. The vote was taken on 29 September 2020.

This is positive news for both the Cognus and the Council’s partnership. Cognus is central in delivering the Council’s ambitious plans for education in Sutton and provides 27 services to children, young people, families, schools and specialist education providers. The services include an autism and social communication service, educational psychology, occupational therapy, school admissions, speech and language therapy and a virtual school for Children Looked After. This partnership has received positive endorsements over the last year from Ofsted, the CQC and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP as well as positive feedback from other local partners - schools, education settings and some families. 

The proposed changes will strengthen the partnership further, and enable Cognus to further focus on service delivery, while the Council will support the management of the company and continue to provide strategic oversight through the appointment of three Council officers to the Cognus Board. This outcome responds to recommendations made by the independent expert Sharon Scott, who reviewed Sutton’s education services practice and governance in 2019 and the Ofsted and CQC report, by including representatives from the special, primary and secondary education sectors. The proposed change in governance will also ensure that all schools and education settings have a greater voice in the direction of the company.

Councillor Marian James, Chair of the People Committee at Sutton Council, said:

"This is good news that we have been able to secure a strong future for Cognus and therefore for the children and young people of our borough. 

“These changes present opportunities for greater alignment between the Council and Cognus, which we know is something that the Council, local families and schools and education settings want to see.

“Cognus provides high quality services in Sutton and beyond, generating an important resource that we reinvest into children’s services locally.   

“We are committed to working closely with our partners in the education sector, parents and families and our wider community to ensure that they have a strong voice in the future development and direction of our education services in Sutton, as we all strive to deliver the best possible outcomes for our children and young people.”

The Council will also recommend to the People Committee on 15 October, that Cognus be recommissioned as the education services provider for Sutton for a further three years, once the existing contract expires in November 2021. The recommendation is made based on the quality of service provided already by Cognus and reinforced by the opportunities to further build on these under the new arrangements. 

Ian Comfort, Chair of Cognus said:

“I welcome this move for closer alignment and the opportunity it brings for future working between the Council and Cognus. The quality of services that Cognus provides to Sutton and the surrounding areas has built solid foundations and grown over the years, which will only continue with this closer change. Cognus is committed to working closer with the Council, schools and settings and most importantly parents, children and young people to ensure an ever better service provision.”

To find out more about Sutton Council’s People Committee, please visit sutton.gov.uk.