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LEARNING AND CULTURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 23rd January, 2017.

 

Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor R.A. Penrose (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. J. Aviet, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, C.P. Franks and T.H. Jarvie,

 

Co-opted Members: Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor – Secondary Sector), Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church) and Mrs. J. Lynch-Wilson (Parent Governor – Primary Sector).

 

Non-Voting Observers: Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education) and Mr. N. Want (Vale Youth Forum).

 

Also present: Councillor L. Burnett.

 

 

708     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillor Ms. R.F. Birch, F.T. Johnson, A. Parker and Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector). 

 

 

709     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 12th December, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

710     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

Mrs. J. Lynch-Wilson declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 8 – Summary of School Inspection Reports for Autumn Term 2016 of St. Athan Primary School in that she was a Parent Governor and left the room when the item was being considered.

 

 

711     PROPOSAL TO CHANGE THE CHARACTER OF FAIRFIELD PRIMARY SCHOOL TO A 3-11 YEARS SCHOOL, BY CREATING A NURSERY UNIT WITHIN THE SCHOOL (REF) –

 

Cabinet had, on 31st October, 2016, referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.  Approval was sought to consult stakeholders on a proposal to open a Nursery unit at Fairfield Primary School from January 2018.

 

The Council had a duty to review the number and type of schools in the area and to make the best use of resources to raise standards in schools.

 

Fairfield Primary School was last inspected by Estyn in November 2010 with the school's current performance and prospects for improvement both judged as good.  In November 2015 during a monitoring visit of the Council, Estyn identified Fairfield Primary School as one in which the Council should have taken a more direct approach to challenging performance.

 

Cabinet subsequently requested that the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee hold an individual School Progress Panel at Fairfield Primary School and a Panel meeting was held on 22nd June, 2016.  At the Panel meeting, the Headteacher highlighted that Fairfield Primary School did not have its own Nursery class and that children transferred from a number of different nurseries into the Reception class of the school.  This meant that the school was not always fully aware of the numbers due to come into the Reception class and pupil transition was a challenge.  A number of children came into Reception from other areas and in some instances the level of social skills was very low.  The starting point for children varied with children possessing different degrees of social skills and mobility.  However, significant progress had been made by the school with a recent report of the Joint Education Service stating that pupils made good progress at Fairfield.  Outcomes in the Foundation Phase were generally strong, although performance in language, literacy and communication was less so.  There was no doubt that the school’s leaders were in a strong position to be able to introduce a Nursery provision in the school and ensure it provided a high quality learning experience for all children. 

 

The Operational Manager for Strategy and Resources advised the scrutiny committee that current facilities at the school were acceptable to house a Nursery provision, with some adaptations, to the sum of £20,000 being required. 

 

In response to a Member’s query about reaching admission targets within the new facility, the officer confirmed that other local provisions had refused applications in the past so the new provision at Fairfield was easy to fill and he was confident that this would be sustainable in the future. 

 

The Member also queried whether there was any possibility for the opening deadline to take place earlier than advised, to reflect the start of the next academic year, in September 2017.  Due to the turnaround schedule for this provision, the officer however confirmed that this was not feasible. 

 

The Chairman acknowledged that the provision was a positive boost for Penarth and a great opportunity for the school to build a more organized future.

 

After full consideration of the report and reference from Cabinet, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the resolutions of Cabinet be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the contents contained therein.

 

 

712     CHILDREN’S COMMISSIONER FOR WALES – INTRODUCTION (REF) –

 

The Committee considered a reference from the Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee that outlined the role of the Commissioner and her work programme. 

 

The Commissioner had advised that her main role was around promoting and safeguarding the rights of children and young people and she was responsible for three individual teams, these being the ‘Policy and Public Affairs Team’, an ‘Investigation Team’ and a ‘Participation Team’. 

 

In terms of going forward into the forthcoming year, the Commissioner had highlighted some of the key priority areas:

 

  • Mental health with a particular focus on bullying around which a lot of work was ongoing with schools.
  • Access to play and culture in order to enhance children’s social opportunities
  • Care leavers. 

 

The Commissioner advised that some Local Authorities had formally adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, although this did not necessarily mean that those Local Authorities were fully following them.  It was therefore important for the Commissioner to look at how Local Authorities were implementing the UN Convention and whether children’s rights were fully embedded into their plans. 

 

The Commissioner’s report also summarised key projects:

 

  • Transition into adulthood of care leavers and the change in legal status when a young person turned 18 years of age.
  • Ongoing engagement project with care leavers in order to understand what worked and what did not. 
  • Care leavers who were not in education, employment or training (NEET).  The Commissioner outlined the importance of meeting the holistic needs of these young people, which related to having a stable place to live and having emotional support available.

 

The Commissioner highlighted the importance for a whole Council approach and hoped that by Spring 2018 she would be able to outline to all Councils her aspirations for care leavers.  The Commissioner would also be looking to share best practice among Local Authorities and was keen for Local Authorities to act like a family, treating Looked After Children as their own children and creating the right opportunities for them.

 

In referring to a slow fall in waiting lists and the challenge of recruiting to key staffing positions the reference highlighted that she had expressed the view that more work needed to be progressed in regard to early intervention and preventative work.  Reference was also made to the new performance targets in respect of waiting times which were the most ambitious in the UK, which all Health Boards hoped to meet by April 2017.  The need for more work to be undertaken around wellbeing and early intervention in respect of schools was also highlighted.

 

In considering the reference and the detail contained within the report of the Director of Social Services the committee welcomed the information and

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the reference and the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the contents contained therein.

 

 

713     REVIEW OF TY DERI (REF) –

 

At its meeting on 12th December, 2016, Cabinet had been provided with an overview of the provision at Ty Deri, including the level of usage and the key factors impacting on that usage, and its approval was sought to develop a business case to ensure the long term sustainability and success of the Ty Deri facility.  Cabinet had subsequently referred to the scrutiny committee, for consultation purposes, the options for Ty Deri as part of the development of a business case.

 

The report advised that Prior to the opening of Ysgol Y Deri and Ty Deri in November 2015, specialist provision in the Vale of Glamorgan was provided by three individual special schools:

 

  • Ashgrove School
  • Ysgol Maes Dyfan
  • Ysgol Erw/r Delyn.

 

Ty Deri was a valuable newly built well equipped Council facility which had the potential to provide residential and respite care for Children and Young People (CYP) from within the Vale of Glamorgan and other Authorities.  However, the service use had decreased significantly in recent years with the excellent, purpose built facility, being underutilised for the following reasons:

 

  • The costs of placements at Ty Deri were currently uncompetitive and therefore unattractive to service users / commissioners.
  • The current model of service delivery did not meet the current requirements of service users who required provision availability for 7 nights a week, 52 weeks a year.
  • Children’s Services had commissioned provision from Third Sector providers to provide respite placements that met their level of need.
  • The large increases in the cost of placements in September 2015 were likely to further reduce demand for placements.
  • Children’s Services in the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Councils have developed a range of interventions including the increased use of direct payments to support families in meeting the needs of their children.  These have successfully enabled more families to support their children at home and has reduced the need for residential / respite provision.
  • Declining placements at Ysgol Y Deri commissioned by other Local Authorities have also impacted on Ty Deri.  In the past a number of these pupils accessed tea stays, respite or residential provision.  Due to the declining number of these CYP being placed at the school from outside the Vale of Glamorgan, there was also a decline in the CYP who were most likely to access some additional provision.

 

The Head of Achievement for all, in presenting the report, advised that in September 2016, measures had been taken to reduce the staffing at Ty Deri in order to align this with current usage and this had reduced the level of overspending and the provision was forecasting a surplus for the year.  The strategy in the short term was to ensure the 2016/17 projected surplus was achieved by securing the level of utilisation forecast by the school.

 

In order to ensure the long term sustainability and success of Ty Deri it was proposed that whilst the short term actions described in the report were underway, work to develop a business case for Ty Deri should commence.  It was further proposed that due to the scale, complexity and immediacy of this work, an external resource should be commissioned for a time limited period to undertake this work and be funded from the Council's Reshaping Services reserve.  This business case should explore a range of options, adopt a strategic Council-wide approach and identify the future demand for services that could be operated from Ty Deri to meet the Council’s current and future needs.

 

A Member commented on the liability that still remained, on the Council, even if the building was left empty.  Having the building empty was not an option and a visit to the site would be useful to understand the building and its key functions.

 

The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Education agreed that a visit was appropriate but would be more constructive after the Committee had received input from the external consultants employed to build the business case.  The Head of Achievement for All reassured Committee he was in no doubt that there was a use for the building and also stressed that the key issue was the long term success of Ty Deri and the best method of ensuring this was to consult with outside consultants to develop a business case. 

 

A Member sought clarification in respect of the cost of the business case and what the figure drawn from the Reshaping Services budget would be?  In response, the Head of Achievement for All confirmed that the brief for the business case would be distributed to consultants who were able to deliver a case at the appropriate level. 

 

The Chairman welcomed the input from external consultants, however, expressed concerns that when the scheme at Ty Deri was first approved, the Committee was presented with background data to justify the scheme and evidence of Cardiff Council’s involvement.  It was now evident from the report that Cardiff’s figures had significantly dropped which had had an impact on the Council’s own budget. 

 

The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Education added to the Chairman’s comments by saying that the Council needed an external view, from people who were experts in the field, to challenge the Council’s views so that the right business case could be developed.  The scheme that had been approved six to seven years previously had been approved in a very different climate and as a Committee, advised that Members were skilled enough to challenge consultants when required. 

 

Committee, having considered the report and all the issues and implications contained therein,

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the Cabinet reference and report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the consultant’s report exploring a range of options that could be operated from Ty Deri in a fully costed business case, be presented to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration in due course.

 

(3)       T H A T arrangements be made for the Scrutiny Committee to undertake a site visit at Ty Deri, at an appropriate time, following receipt of the consultant’s report. 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure that Members continue to have an overview of the Ty Deri facility and the nature of its current and future use.

 

(2)       For Committee’s consideration and comments.

 

(3)       To undertake a site visit to apprise members of the issues.

 

 

714     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 30TH NOVEMBER 2016 (IDLS) –

 

The Principal Accountant presented the report bringing to the attention of the Scrutiny Committee the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 30th November, 2016 regarding the revenue and capital budgets which formed the Committee’s remit. 

 

The Revenue Budget for the Directorate was projecting an adverse variance of £716,000 at year end, however, proposals to mitigate this position are outlined in the report.

 

Strategy, Culture, Community Learning and Resources – This service was projected to outturn with a favourable variance of £204,000 after a transfer from reserves of £446,000.  The net underspend was as a result of early implementation of 2017/18 savings, a reduction in the number of supported non-maintained nursery settings, a number of vacancies throughout the department, an increase in ICT support packages purchased by schools and a projected underspend on the catering service of £71,000.  The catering underspend was based on projected school meal take up which could change throughout the year.  The transfer from reserves would be £251,000 from the Libraries reserve to cover any legal costs and costs relating to the implementation of the service review, £43,000 from the Adult Community Learning reserve to assist with the new Welsh for Adults contract and a previous years funding reduction in Schedule 2 / Cardiff and Vale College Franchise and £152,000 from the Early Retirement and Voluntary Redundancy Reserve to fund redundancy and retirement costs in schools.

 

Achievement for All – This service was projected to outturn with an adverse variance of £114,000 after a transfer from reserves of £716,000.  This was as a result of an adverse variance of £822,000 on the recoupment income budget and an adverse variance on pupil placements of £268,000.  The service had a £2.4m recoupment income budget in respect of out of county pupil placements purchased at Ysgol y Deri and 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 4 new starters would enrol, in the previous financial year there had been 17 leavers and 3 new out of county enrolments.  The main reason for this reduction in out of county pupils was reported as other Local Authorities seeking to educate their children within county and to source cheaper alternatives due to budget reductions.  However the school was still operating near to capacity due to an increase in demand from Vale pupils requiring placements.  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.  The pupil placements budget was a volatile budget that could be significantly impacted with changes to packages of one or two pupils.  Therefore, as an initial measure £500,000 had already 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.  However, if this shortfall of £216,000 could not be mitigated further in the year, other reserves could be utilised to balance the shortfall made up of £93,000 from the Excluded Pupils reserve, £45,000 from the Youth Service reserve and £78,000 from the Adult Community Learning reserve.

 

School Improvement – This service was projected to overspend by £122,000 as a result of a one off redundancy and pension strain cost as a result of restructuring.

 

With regard to the Capital programme in respect of Ysgol St Baruc, a dedicated area was required at the school to improve dining facilities, with it being requested that £27,000 be added to the Capital Programme to purchase benches and partitioning, which would be funded from the Schools Investment Strategy reserve. 

 

The officer further highlighted that the majority of the capital projects, as shown in Appendix 2 to the report, were labelled as “Works Complete”.  Within Appendix 3 of the report, Committee was informed that the works being carried out at Barry Comprehensive were due to finish in April 2017, which was slightly later than the original forecast date in March.

 

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

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2016/17 revenue and capital monitoring relevant to this Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

715     SCHOOLS BUDGET FORUM REPRESENTATION (IDLS) –

 

The report was presented to Committee to seek nomination of a Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee Member to the Schools Budget Forum. 

 

All Councils were required to have a Schools Budget Forum in accordance with Section 47A of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 as amended by the Education Act 2002 and The Schools Budget Forums (Wales) Regulations.

 

Committee was advised that the Schools Budget Forum must have a minimum of 15 members to ensure that the membership of the Forum was not too limited and the interests of schools were properly represented.  The Forum needed to be kept to a manageable size in order to facilitate constructive discussions.  In view of this, the Vale of Glamorgan's Schools Budget Forum had a maximum of 21 members.

 

Section 47A of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998, described school forums as representing the views of Governing Bodies and Head teachers.  The majority of the Forum, is made up of school members who were elected to represent Governing Bodies or Head teachers of maintained schools.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T Councillor R.A. Penrose be nominated to sit on the Schools Budget Forum until the next local government election.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order that the membership of the Schools Budget Forum include a Member of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

716     SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR AUTUMN TERM 2016 (IDLS) –

 

The Lead Officer for School Improvement / Senior Challenge Advisor presented a report to update Members on the outcomes of school inspections for the Autumn term 2016 and on the outcomes of recent Estyn monitoring visits. 

 

Ysgol y Deri, St. Athan Primary School, Palmerston Primary and Ysgol Gwaun y Nant were inspected during the Autumn term 2016.  The inspection findings were as follows:

 

 

Inspections

School

Performance / Improvement

Ysgol   y Deri

Good

Good

St.   Athan Primary

Good

Good

Ysgol   Gwaun y Nant

Good

Good

 

With regards to Palmerston Primary, the committee was advised that the findings of the report were not yet publicly available.

 

Barry Comprehensive School was re-visited by Estyn in September 2016.  Overall, Estyn judged the school to have made sufficient progress in relation to the recommendations following the core inspection in March 2013.  As a result, the school has been removed from the list of schools requiring significant improvement.

 

Local Authority monitoring was removed as a follow-up category by Estyn from September 2016.  However, at the end of the autumn term 2016, the Vale of Glamorgan had 3 schools in Local Authority monitoring as a result of inspections prior to the summer. These were  St. Andrews Major CiW Primary, Ysgol Pen-y-Garth, and Rhws Primary

 

Albert Primary School had been removed from Local Authority monitoring in September 2016. 

 

Schools identified as requiring Estyn monitoring had their progress reviewed by Estyn inspectors and the Vale currently has one school in Estyn monitoring namely Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant.

 

At the end of the autumn term, the Local Authority had one school requiring

significant improvement and action plans had been prepared in respect of Bryn Hafren Comprehensive school.  A school progress panel had also taken place in December 2016, which the democratic services officer advised, would be reported to the scrutiny committee in due course.   The Lead Officer for School Improvement / Senior Challenge Advisor in conclusion informed members that she had up to date  information in relation to the report that was confidential in nature as the Estyn report  was not currently in the public domain.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the inspection judgements about the schools inspected during the Autumn term be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the judgements made by Estyn in its monitoring visits regarding the progress of schools in addressing inspection recommendations be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the judgements made by Estyn with regard to schools in Local Authority Monitoring be noted.

 

(4)       T H A T letters of congratulation be sent to Ysgol y Deri, St. Athan Primary and Ysgol Gwaun y Nant on behalf of the Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1-3)    In order that Members are aware of Estyn judgements about local schools.

 

(4)       To ensure the schools that the Committee are aware and congratulate them on their inspection achievements.

 

           

717     EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC (PARAGRAPH 14.10.2 COUNCIL CONSTITUTION) -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part 4 of Schedule 12A (as amended) of the Act,

 

 

718     SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR AUTUMN TERM 2016 (IDLS) –

For reason of the need to apprise Members of up to date confidential information received by the department in relation to school Inspections

 

The Committee agreed to exclude the Public and Press from the meeting in order to receive confidential information relating to school inspections. The Committee was advised, by the Lead Officer for School Improvement that the Council had received details of the Inspection in relation to Palmerston Primary school which was not yet publically available until the information was published by the Estyn Inspectorate. It was however, noted that the information was to be made publically available in the very near future.