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LEARNING AND CULTURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 19th September, 2016.

 

Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor R.A. Penrose (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. R. Birch, Ms. K.E. Edmunds, T.H. Jarvie, F.T. Johnson and  A. Parker.

 

Co-opted Members: Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church) and Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor – Secondary Sector).

 

Non-Voting Observers: Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education), Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector) and Mr. N. Want (Vale Youth Forum).

 

Also present: Councillor L. Burnett.

 

 

330     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. C.L. Curtis and C.P. Franks.

 

 

331     MINUTE’S SILENCE –

 

Prior to the commencement of the meeting, the Chairman paid tribute to the late Ms. Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills, and Members stood for a minute’s silence in remembrance.

 

 

332     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 18th July, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

333     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

Ms. T. Young declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 7(i) – Individual School Progress Panel Report – Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School in that she was a teacher at the School and would leave the meeting when the item was being considered.

 

 

334     CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE SERVICES – ANNUAL PLACEMENT REVIEW (REF) –

 

The Operational Manager for Children and Young People Services presented the report, the purpose of which was to outline the actions taken by Children and Young People Services during 2015/16 with regard to placement provision for Looked After Children (LAC) and the priority actions for 2016/17. 

 

The Health Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee had referred the report on 18th July, 2016 for the Committee’s consideration.  The report outlined that Local Authorities across Wales faced considerable challenges in managing their overall Looked After populations, finding appropriate placements, meeting children’s support needs and ensuring the most effective use of placement resources.  In addition, the report advised that the number of children with complex needs was increasing and meeting those needs within appropriate placements was placing significant pressures on Council budgets. 

 

Officers had analysed the financial position, the demand for placements and spending patterns, and their report was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  The report demonstrated the volatility of the placement budget and the significant impact individual cases could have on overall expenditure.  Key influences included:

 

  • increasing complexity of children’s needs
  • Welsh Government’s “When I am Ready” policy which had extended the time children could remain in foster placements beyond the age of 18 and
  • the use of remand placements where Local Authorities had become responsible for the costs of LAC who were not allowed to live at home while they were the subject of criminal proceedings.           

 

It was further noted that the Children and Young People Services Division had made good progress in delivering the actions agreed in the Budget Programme and the Commissioning Strategy.  Appendix 1 to the report also highlighted the considerable activity that had been undertaken to date in response to the challenges associated with children’s placements and the work streams for the year ahead. 

 

Following the presentation of the report, the Chairman, in conclusion, advised that it was a good report and that he was grateful to the Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee for referring it for consideration, with it subsequently being

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be noted and that the Committee receives a further Annual Placement Review report in 2017.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having considered the contents of the report and to ensure that the Committee receives an Annual Placement Review report in 2017.

 

 

335     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY 2016 (MD) –

 

The Principal Accountant commenced by advising that the revenue budget for the Directorate was projecting an adverse variance of £672k at the year end, with, proposals to mitigate the position being outlined within the report.

 

For Schools the delegated budget was expected to balance as any under /over spend was carried forward by schools.

 

With regard to the School Improvement and Inclusion service an adverse variance of £885k was projected as a result of an adverse variance of £817k on the recoupment income budget and an adverse variance on pupil placements of £245k.  It was however, noted that this position could be partly offset by projected salary underspends of £177k which had resulted from vacant posts in the service.  The service also had a £2.4m recoupment income budget in respect of out of county pupil placements purchased at Ysgol y Deri.  However, over the last few years a trend had occurred where more out of county pupils had left Ysgol y Deri than new pupils had enrolled.  In the current financial year it was anticipated that 15 out of county pupils would leave the school and only four new starters would enrol.  In the previous financial year there had been 17 leavers and three new out of county enrolments.  The main reason for this reduction in out of county pupils was due to other Local Authorities seeking to educate their children within county and to source cheaper alternatives due to budget reductions.  Whilst the Directorate had been successful in identifying reshaping savings for the Inclusion Service, the Directorate had been unable, to date, to identify further savings to cover this gap on recoupment income.  This adverse variance could reduce if there were new out of county enrolments in September 2016.  The pupil placement budget was a volatile budget that could be significantly impacted with changes to packages of one or two pupils.   £500k had been set aside in a Schools Placements reserve.  This sum would be used as a one off contribution in 2016/17 to mitigate part of the shortfall while further Reshaping Services work was undertaken by the Directorate.  Should the shortfall  not be mitigated further in the year, further reserves could be utilised to balance the shortfall made up of £50k from the Excluded Pupils reserve, £44k from the Youth Service reserve and £78k from the Adult Community Learning reserve.

 

For the following services the report outlined :-

 

Service Strategy and Regulation – A favourable variance at year end of £21k was projected due to reductions in office expense for the Directorate.

 

Strategic and Resources – The budget was currently projecting to outturn with a favourable variance of £116k as a result of vacant posts, an increase in ICT support packages purchased by schools and a reduction in the number of supported non-maintained nursery settings. 

 

Children and Young People’s Partnership – It was anticipated that this service would outturn with a favourable variance of £23k as savings had been identified in running costs.

 

Provision had been made within the budget to make unsupported borrowing debt repayments in relation to the Schools Investment Strategy of £698k per annum and any favourable variance on debt repayments would be directed into the Schools Investment Strategy.

 

Libraries – This service was currently projecting to outturn on budget after transferring any legal costs and costs relating to the implementation of the service review out of the Libraries reserve.  A judicial review had delayed the implementation of the Community Libraries and as such the delay would have an impact on the service's ability to achieve budget savings in 2016/17, however, any shortfall would be funded from the Libraries Reserve.

 

Youth Service – It was currently anticipated that the Service would outturn with a favourable variance of £49k due to part year vacancies within the service.

 

Adult Community Learning (ACL) – It was anticipated that the Adult and Community Learning Service would outturn at budget after a £45k transfer from the ACL reserve.

 

Catering – It was also currently anticipated that this service would outturn at budget, however, variations in school meal income would affect this position.  School meal uptake would be carefully monitored throughout the year.  A clearer projection would be available after the September intake. Arts Development was also anticipated to outturn with a favourable variance of £4k.

 

Attached at Appendix 2 was a list of savings to be achieved in the year and Appendix 3 detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st July, 2016. 

 

Following queries regarding outstanding works to schools over the summer period, the Principal Accountant stated that the Gwenfo project had been completed and handed over to the school that day and the Barry Comprehensive refurbishment had been completed during the summer holidays.  In referring to delays in projects over the summer holidays, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that the delay in relation to Gwenfo School was due to the fact that the scheme had to be retendered.  For Colcot, Members were informed that the car parking scheme would not commence in 2016/17 which would result in a slippage in capital funding.  This being due to the fact that there had been a delay in the design in relation to Highways and the Department had not been able to commence work during the summer period as it would take approximately eleven weeks for the works to be completed.  In thanking the officers for the information contained within the report and provided at the meeting, the Committee subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2016/17 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Following consideration of the report to apprise Committee of the position with regard to the 2016/17 revenue and capital monitoring relevant to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

336     GOVERNOR TRAINING REPORT FOR THE 2015/16 ACADEMIC YEAR (MD) –

 

The report, which had previously been requested by the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning), had been agreed to be presented as an annual item to the Committee to provide details of Governor training for the preceding academic year.

 

The Head of Service for Strategy, Community Learning and Resources provided the background to the report, advising that there were approximately 1,000 Governors managing 57 schools within the Vale of Glamorgan.  Mandatory training for School Governors had been introduced under legislation from September 2013, with the mandatory elements covering Induction, Data, Chairing and Clerk training and as such were a major focus of the Governor training programme.

 

In the 2015/16 academic year a total of 31 courses were held covering 11 different topics ranging from the twice yearly education update and briefing sessions for Chairs and experienced Governors to Induction training for newly appointed Governors.  All courses were run at the Civic Offices, Barry, and were delivered at various times, mostly during the evening, to maximise attendance as many Governors worked during the day.  Courses lasted around two hours each and whilst the method of delivery varied by course and trainer, interaction and sharing of good practice was positively encouraged to ensure the maximum benefit for attendees.

 

From September 2016 the Central South Consortium (CSC) Directors of Education had decided that the CSC would delivery all the mandatory training elements and the CSC had recruited staff for this purpose.  The courses would continue to be developed on a local basis i.e. within each Local Authority.

 

E-learning for all the mandatory training elements continued to be available to any Governors who could not attend training sessions, so every opportunity was being provided for Governors to fulfil the mandatory requirements.  Termly briefing sessions for Governors on topical areas of interest would also continue to be run by the CSC with details being circulated direct to Governors when available.

 

Following a query regarding costs, Committee was reminded that all training was delivered by the Council or CSC employees at Council or CSC venues, there being no additional costs for delivery, although there were nominal costs for basic refreshments as most Governors attended training sessions straight from work.

 

The Head of Service reiterated that the Council was not paying any extra for the training and although the Consortium was undertaking some of the duties previously under the remit of the Governor Support Team, the Team was now responsible for a number of other duties for example Welsh in Education Strategic Planning, Complaints for the Directorate and other policy areas.   

 

The Scrutiny Committee, in welcoming the report, subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T a copy of the report be referred to all Members of the Council for their information.

 

(2)       T H A T the report be noted and that the presentation of an Annual Report on Governor Training (for the preceding academic year) be presented to the Committee in September each year.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order that all Members are advised of the Governor training being undertaken throughout the Vale of Glamorgan and in conjunction with the Central South Consortium.

 

(2)       To provide detailed information in relation to the Governor training programme each year and in order that the Scrutiny Committee can monitor and scrutinise the training that has been provided.

 

 

337     INDIVIDUAL SCHOOL PERFORMANCE PROGRESS PANEL MEETING (MD) –

 

The report provided the Committee with an update of the School Progress Panel meeting that had been held at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School on 12th July, 2016. 

 

The Chairman, in presenting the report, advised that a meeting had been convened as a result of the recommendations of the Panel in January 2015 to revisit the school following GCSE results in August 2015.  The letter from the Director of Learning and Skills dated 20th August, 2015 had placed on record the agreed targets for 2016.  At the previous Panel meeting in January 2015, the Chairman stated that at that time the Panel concluded that there was a measure of confidence that the school would meet the target in English, but had limited confidence in the school meeting the Mathematics target.

 

The Panel also welcomed all the measures and procedures that the school had put in place, i.e. new initiatives, the pods, the lesson observations and the ME+3 project that had been introduced.  The Panel had also been pleased with the decision of the Governing Body to appoint a Standards Committee and were aware that meetings were taking place with the level of challenge as mentioned by the Chairman of Governors and as reported to the Panel at the meeting.  In referring to attendance, the Panel wished to see this improved upon and would urge that further work was pursued to seek that improvement.

 

During the latest Panel meeting held in July 2016, the Headteacher had outlined that at Key Stage 3, results for 2016 at Level 5, showed the school in a positive position, with the school being placed in quartile position 1 for all of the four key subjects and also for the core subject indicator.  With regard to Level 6, he had advised that the main challenge facing the school was within Mathematics, for which, the school was in benchmark quartile 4.  Level 7 performance data for the school showed a strong position with the school in benchmark quartile 1 for English, Mathematics and Science.

 

Data for Level 7 non-core subjects were also positive, apart from Information Technology which was in benchmark quartile 4.  This would therefore be a key priority for the school during the next academic year, with actions for improvement included within the school’s Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP).  The Headteacher further advised that the school compared favourably to its family of schools and that the school had some of the best Local Authority averages for girls.

 

In terms of Mathematics, the Panel was advised that the school had evaluated its strengths and weaknesses within this subject and a number of improvements had been initiated.  This included an increase in the amount of curriculum time for Year 11, with pupils now having eight hours per fortnight rather than the six hours that had previously been provided.  The school had also undertaken early entry examinations in November 2015.

 

The Panel, in conclusion, acknowledged the improved level of attendance and the work that had been undertaken for free school meal pupils, but the Panel was mindful of the school to be properly focused on positive outcomes for its pupils. 

 

The Panel asked the school to note the shared disappointment following the GCSE results in August 2015 and also a fall in performance in Mathematics at Key Stage 4.

 

The Panel recognised the positive achievements at Key Stage 3, but also understood the amount of work required to improve the quality of marking.  The school’s PIAP formed a useful basis for the future work required by the school and the Panel was encouraged by the plans in place.

 

The Panel commented that challenges would continue ahead of Estyn’s next monitoring visit which was critical to the school’s future.  Other challenges included the GCSE results for this summer and the need for further work on marking.

 

The Panel had also heard of the improvements in the Mathematics department and the Panel hoped these would come to fruition and that the new staff employed were also successful to the school’s plans.

 

A follow up visit would be considered sometime during the Autumn term 2016, following the publication of the GCSE results in August.  These results would be the subject of a report to Cabinet, following which determination would be made as to whether a follow up visit was required.

 

Following full consideration of the report, the Chairman gave thanks to the Members, officers and all involved in the process and for the very positive meeting that had taken place.  The Chairman further advised that Performance Panels sought to give a level of confidence in whether the school would achieve their targets and were keen that a follow up visit following GCSE results would take place.  The recent results that the Chairman was aware of had shown improvements in Mathematics but unfortunately the results had been disappointing for English.  He therefore suggested that the Cabinet be urged to allow the Panel to carry out a follow up visit early in the school year.  The Head of Service advised that a report had been prepared for 3rd October Cabinet with a recommendation that Cabinet approve that a follow up visit does take place at Bryn Hafren, following which the Committee subsequently

 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 37 to 42 of the report be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and / or approval.

 

(3)       T H A T the Cabinet be requested to consider that a Scrutiny Progress Panel follow up visit is undertaken early in the school year.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Committee of the findings of the Progress Panel.

 

(2)       For Cabinet’s consideration.

 

(3)       In order that a further follow up visit can be arranged if approved by Cabinet.

 

 

338     INDIVIDUAL SCHOOL PERFORMANCE PROGRESS PANEL MEETING (MD) –

 

The report detailed the outcome of a School Progress Panel meeting that had been held at Fairfield Primary School on 22nd June, 2016. 

 

The Chairman, in presenting the report, gave thanks to the Members of the Panel and the officers who had been in attendance, it also being noted that the Cabinet Member, Councillor Burnett, had also been present at that meeting.

 

The report outlined that the need for individual School Progress Panel meetings can be triggered by a number of events such as the publication of weak results in external examinations, the outcome of an Estyn inspection placing a school in a statutory category or the outcome of national categorisation process identifying that the school is in need of higher levels of support in order to improve. 

 

In April 2016 Cabinet had received a report and agreed that a Scrutiny Committee School Progress Panel be established for Fairfield Primary School due to the fact that although many positive aspects had been identified, further development needs had been identified. 

 

At the Panel meeting the Headteacher relayed that since 2011 the number of pupils on the school roll had increased from 202 to the current level of 292.  Of note was the fact that for the school, many children often arrived at Year 6, whereas for other schools most pupils arrived at Nursery.  Pupil transition from Nursery was therefore considered a challenge for the school. 

 

It was highlighted that Fairfield Primary School did not have its own Nursery provision and this meant that the school was not always fully aware of the numbers coming into the Reception Year and that they came from several different Nursery provisions.  Therefore, within the school, social relationships had to be a focus on entry to Fairfield as they were not coming from one Nursery in which pupils would already know one another.    The school had also recognised that a number of children came from out of area and in some instances the level of social skills was very low, so the starting point for some of the pupils varied, with children possessing varying degrees of social skills and mobility.  The Headteacher had advised that difficulties also existed due to the various approaches to learning undertaken by a number of Nurseries within the area.  The school had found it difficult to access information on pupils from out of catchment or county.  Therefore, the school sometimes had gaps in knowledge background of pupils and the school considered that the free flow of communication could be improved.  The Panel was informed that out of the 43 children within the current Reception Year, the school considered that 30 pupils had the necessary core data with them on arrival from the respective Nurseries.

 

The Panel was made aware that the catchment area of the school was quite small and pupils came into the school from a diverse range of backgrounds and communities.

 

In relation to 2016 outcomes for the Foundation Phase, it was noted that three pupils had not achieved the Foundation Phase Outcome 5+.  This was due to their special educational needs and also issues around attendance.  The school had been able to work closely with these individual pupils and they had been supported through several interventions.

 

An analysis carried out by the school during 2015 of the Foundation Phase, identified that the number of children attaining Outcome 5 had increased over the past three years across Language, Literature and Communication (LLC), Mathematical Development (MD) and also Personal and Social Education (PSE).  In addition, the school advised that boys were performing in line with girls for all subject areas and the school compared favourably to its family and to the Local Authority averages.

 

Improving the attainment levels for pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) was a specific area of development for the school.  It had been identified that non FSM pupils were outperforming FSM pupils in most areas.  In detailing progress, the Challenge Advisor explained that performance of FSM pupils was improving, but the small number of pupils did make the data unreliable.  In the Foundation Phase for 2016, there were only four pupils on the FSM register, while at Key Stage 2, there was only one FSM pupil on the register.

 

In terms of pupil attendance, although this had increased over time, in 2015 the school had dropped into benchmark quarter 4.  During that year, the school exceeded the attendance target of 94.9% by 0.9%, which had been impacted by four children.  In order to support these families, referrals had been made to the Educational Welfare Officer.  The school had also introduced the Callio system which had resulted in improvement.

 

The Challenge Advisor outlined progress in relation to leadership and teaching and he confirmed that progress had been made in most areas and at both Key Stages, particularly at the higher levels.  Pupil level data indicated that all Special Educational Needs (SEN) pupils had made at least two levels of progress between Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2, with some making three levels of progress.  The Challenge Advisor also reported that, although a variety of assessment for learning strategies were being carried out, the evidence suggested that these could be further developed.  In addition, the school would further evaluate the impact of its strategy for FSM pupils.

 

The Chairman advised that there was a high proportion of SEN needs and that progress had been made with the Callio project in relation to the school improvement plan.  A school’s Standards Committee was a fairly new role and the Governing Body had also identified a number of other committees by establishing a new structure that included three new sub-committees, Standards, Provision, and Leadership and Management.  The Panel was particularly keen to request that Governors undertake learning walks and the Chairman stressed these provided Governors with essential information and detail of school learning as part of the improvement agenda.  Governors were also keen for the school to promote itself wider in the community and to consider further data analysis of the common cohort. 

 

Overall the Panel had considered that the school was working hard but that there was still some work to do. 

 

The Head of Service also reiterated that an important factor for the school was that the Governing Body was improving its self-evaluation and was challenging its own performance.  The Cabinet Member concurred that all Governing Bodies had to be strong in self-evaluation and they also had to become increasingly skilled.

 

The Chairman concluded by advising that the Panel had considered that it would be important to undertake a follow up visit to the school following the publication of the school’s categorisation and benchmarking positions and would therefore recommend Cabinet to agree a visit is arranged.

 

Following the presentation of the report by the Chairman, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 38 to 41 of the report be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and / or approval.

 

(3)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider approving a follow up visit by the School Progress Panel within the next six months following publication of the progress in the Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2, together with school categorisation and benchmarking details.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Committee of the findings of the Progress Panel.

 

(2)       For Cabinet’s consideration.

 

(3)       For Cabinet’s consideration following the publication of the documents outlined above.

 

 

339     SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT MAY 2015 TO APRIL 2016 (MD) –

 

In accordance with Section 7.4.4 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Constitution, Scrutiny Committees must report annually to Full Council on their workings and make recommendations for their future work programmes and amend their working methods if appropriate. 

 

The Chairman, in presenting the report, referred to the fact that a draft report had been submitted to the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group on 19th July, 2016 where a number of suggestions relating to the style / format / layout and length of the report had been discussed.  It had subsequently been concluded that the work of the Scrutiny Committees be described in a far more concise way, for example simply alluding to a few highlights rather than a detailed description and narrative which currently featured.

 

Attached to the report at Appendix 1 was a revised version of the draft Annual Report which was now a more concise document and considered to be more user-friendly in terms of the likelihood of engaging the public. 

 

For the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) service specific areas that were covered in the report related to the improvement in educational attainment in the Vale, transforming secondary education in the Barry area and value for money.  The Annual Report was to be submitted to Full Council in September 2016 and would then be available on the Council’s website.  Members were advised that the Annual Report was only to be reported to Council, as opposed, to requiring actual approval.  The document would also be submitted to the Graphics Officer prior to publication to be presented in a more user-friendly way. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the draft Annual Report for the period May 2015 to April 2016, subject to any further minor amendments being agreed in consultation with the Chairman, be submitted to Full Council in September 2016.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow the Annual Report to be submitted to Full Council in September 2016.

 

 

340     ANNOUNCEMENT -

 

The Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer referred to the extraordinary meeting due to be held on 3rd October, 2016 to in the main consider proposals to establish new mixed sex secondary schools in Barry. A number of speakers had been invited to attend for example, representatives from the Governing Bodies of the schools involved, including the feeder schools, members of the public, trade union representatives etc.  The meeting was to take place at 6.00 p.m. in the Council Chamber, thereafter the next scheduled meeting of the Committee would take place on 17th October, 2016 at 6.00 p.m. in the Council Chamber.

 

 

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