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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 10th October, 2011.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. K.A. Kemp (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, C.P.J. Elmore, J.F. Fraser,  E. Hacker, F.T. Johnson, C.L. Osborne, Mrs. S.I. Sharpe, J.W. Thomas and S.T. Wiliam.

 

Co-opted Members:  Mr. P. Lewis (Parent Governor - Secondary Sector).

 

Non-voting Observers: Mr. G. Beaudette, Mr. T. Cox and Mr. D. Treharne.

 

Also present: Councillors N.P. Hodges and G.C. Kemp.

 

 

501     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillor Ms. V.L. Ellis and Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church).

 

 

502     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 12th September, 2011 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

503     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

504     REVIEW OF THE CORPORATE PLAN 2010-14 (REF) -

 

Cabinet had, on 7th September 2011, considered the above matter and referred the same to all Scrutiny Committees for comment (Minute No. C1411).  Cabinet had endorsed the Plan as appended to the report which would be submitted to Council in December 2011 for final approval.  The Director of Learning and Development presented the report to Committee and advised that a more comprehensive review of the Plan would be undertaken following the Local Government elections in May 2012.  The Plan had also been amended to include reference to a number of new initiatives, for example work with Bridgend County Borough Council, greater emphasis on partnership working and area working.

 

In considering the report Members referred to LL3 (improve the education attainment of more able and talented pupils especially those from deprived families) and suggested that the word “including” be also inserted to read “improve the education attainment of more able and talented pupils including those from deprived families”.  Reference was also made to when the Council would receive the monies for St. Cyres School and the Director advised that the contract for grant funding had recently been signed and the consultation process would commence within the next week. 

 

Members queried whether a traffic impact assessment had been undertaken on the lower school site and were informed that any assessments required would be undertaken by the Highways and Planning Department.  Members also urged that a briefing note for all Members of the Council be forwarded when the final details were known.

 

Members congratulated all officers and staff who had been involved in the process to date following which it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the draft revised Corporate Plan for 2010-14 be endorsed and the comments of the Scrutiny Committee referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order to apprise Cabinet of the views of the Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

505     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2011 TO 31ST AUGUST 2011 (DLD) -

 

The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2011/12 was detailed at Appendix 1 to the report.  With regard to Education there was a projected overspend against the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) budget of £72,000.  The ALN overspend had been made up from a £10k less than budgeted contribution from Vale Schools for the Pupil Referral Units which was offset by £5k savings against the LSA Budget.  In addition there was a projected overspend of £150k for LSA support, and additional Independent Schools expenditure had been incurred in the year of £116k.  As part of the efficiency savings implemented for 2011/12 and 2012/13 £56k had been incurred for redundancies in the year.  A further overspend of £33k had been due to the reduced funding from the Families First grant for the Cowbridge Pupil Referral Unit.  The overspends had also been offset by increased Recoupment Income and reduced Recoupment Expenditure totalling £245k and £42k found from a vacant post in the Primary Behaviour Support Team. 

 

Members were advised that the ALN budget was a volatile budget that was demand led but that the position would be monitored closely throughout the year.  The virement of £84k from Schools to the Additional Learning Needs budget was to be actioned to reflect the cost of educating pupils within the Pupil Referral Units.  In addition, following the virement in month 2 of £204k from Catering, the budget had been adjusted to show this amount against Schools rather than Strategy and Performance.  It was anticipated that actions taken by the Directorate would bring overall expenditure on Education and Schools to within budget by the year end.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st August 2011.  In referring to paragraph 5, Members requested the detail on the additional Independent Schools expenditure be e‑mailed to all members of the Committee for information as soon as possible and that a further report be presented to the Committee in December 2011 on the current position at that time. 

 

Having fully considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2011/12 revenue and capital monitoring report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Committee receives a further report to update Members on the position of the ALN overspend at the December meeting.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To apprise Members.

 

 

506     LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTORATE MEDIUM TERM FINANCIAL PLAN AND BUDGET STRATEGY (DLD) -

 

The purpose of the report was to inform Members of the Medium Term Financial Plan and Budget Strategy for the Learning and Development Directorate and the proposed scheme to claw back school balances.

 

The Council’s Financial Strategy 2011/12 to 2013/14 for the achievement of savings included the requirement that  “In view of the future pressures facing the service and the shortage of funding, the Director of Learning and Development needed to build on existing work and prepare a formal medium term service and financial strategy specifically for education.”

 

The Medium Term Financial Plan 2011/12 - 2014/15 was attached to the report for information.  The Plan set out the contextual information in relation to the financial position of Education Services relative to the rest of Wales as well as information on pupil numbers, school capacities and educational outcomes.  The key challenges facing the service were summarised in the document as well as the projected cost pressures and growth.  Based on current assumptions there was a forecast real term cut for schools in each of the coming three years in spite of the Welsh Government’s funding commitment for schools.  The position was replicated for Central Education Services although the real term impact of future settlements was forecast to be severe for Central Education Services which did not benefit from the minimum funding commitment.  The scheme to claw back surplus school balances was also attached for information.  However, it was noted that the claw back option would only be used if schools failed to use their surplus balance or failed to adhere to any direction from the authority to spend.  The scheme also set out the challenges the authority would make and the requirement for schools to submit details of their plans with documentary evidence together with outlines of how any funding clawed back could be used and the timescales involved. 

 

In presenting the report the Head of Service stated that a further pressure for the central education budget was the cost of out of county placements which also needed to be included within the document.  With regard to decisions in relation to the claw back of school balances, it was stated that any decision would be made by the Learning and Development Management team in consultation with the Schools Budget Forum.  At this point the Director advised all Members that in order to improve services the collaboration agenda would be an essential element to education success in the Vale as resources were limited within the Council.  The expectations of Estyn were considerable and the Council had to try to ensure that it not only met the new standards but maintained them.  The Department would have to demonstrate to Estyn that they meet these standards. 

 

In referring to the financial implications, the Head of Service stated that these were only projections at the moment, the figures assumed inflation of 2% which was low, but she reiterated that these were assumptions at this stage.  In order to ensure the requirements in relation to the Scheme to Claw Back School Balances were relayed to the schools the Chairman requested that the Head of Service ensure that all Governing Bodies were informed of the detail and it was suggested that the Governors event in November be used to inform Governing Bodies accordingly. 

 

In response to a question as to whether the Council could see any future resources being made available within the next three years, the Director stated that some measures had been put in place for schools, but that the Council would have to make hard decisions in relation to its resources.

 

Having fully considered the report, Members

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Medium Term Financial Plan, Budget Strategy and the Scheme to Claw Back School Balances be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure Members are aware of the projected financial position in relation to education services over the medium term and the measures being put in place to ensure that services were delivered within available funding.

 

 

507     JENNER PARK PRIMARY SCHOOL PROGRESS UPDATE (DLD) -

 

The report had been prepared in response to a query about the nature of concerns at Jenner Park Primary School which had been expressed in a school inspection report following an inspection in the Spring Term 2011.  Following the previous inspection in 2005 a number of recommendations had been made by Estyn as detailed below:

 

·         “Raise standards in ICT, DT, history, geography and music in Key Stage 2 and address the shortcomings in other subject areas;

·         Identify key skills more precisely  in planning, in order to improve their use across the curriculum, particularly in writing and ICT;

·         Further develop marking, assessing and recording pupils’ achievements and use outcomes to lead to improved differentiation;

·         Improve pupils’ bilingual skills and provide greater opportunities for the development of Cwricwlwm Cymreig, diversity and global citizenship;

·         Develop the role of curriculum co-ordinators in monitoring teaching and learning and ensure that individual targets are more specific;

·         Involve all interested parties in self-evaluation processes that clearly identifies the school’s strengths and shortcomings.”

 

Committee was advised that the headteacher had retired in July 2010 and the new headteacher had taken up post in September 2010.  The school had been inspected in the Spring term 2011 under the new Common Inspection Framework (CIF) which had been  introduced in September 2010.  The Head of Service advised that the new CIF was a significantly different framework to the previous one the new CIF was very much “standards led” and consisted of three key areas instead of seven and had two new overarching judgements about performance and prospects for improvement.  Jenner Park had been deemed to have not secured the required improvements since the previous inspection and this had contributed to the overall judgement for prospects for improvement.  The recommendations from the Spring term inspection were detailed as :

 

·         raise pupils’ standards, particularly in literacy and numeracy, consistently across the school

·         ensure consistency in planning and teachers’ expectations across the school

·         ensure that the recently introduced system for self-evaluation focuses clearly on standards

·         further develop the role of the senior management team in monitoring standards; and

·         further develop the role of the Governors in self-evaluation and school improvement.

 

Specific areas identified as not having been progressed enough appeared to be related to the following:

 

·         concerns associated with aspects of planning

·         senior staff involvement in monitoring standards

·         the role of Governors in self evaluation.

 

Standards in the school in all but literacy and Key Stage 1 had been maintained and in some cases improved since 2008.  However, concern would have been raised by decreasing standards in June 2010 from 88% to 68% as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report.  This had been recognised by the advisory service and plans had been implemented.  It was further stated that over the last two years a significant amount of support had been allocated to the school’s literacy, numeracy and to support the foundation phase.  The Link Adviser had made recommendations in May 2010 which clearly stated that the way forward for the school was to

 

·         develop the role of the Governing Body in school self-evaluation and development planning;

·         use the SMT and GB to begin to develop a current Se report driven by the new CIF and

·         develop a timetable for MER which incorporates PM targets together with priorities from the previous SDP.

 

It was also a requirement of the Local Authority and identified as good practice that Link Adviser reports be shared with the full Governing Body of the school.  Members were informed that it was clear that there were key areas which related to the development of staff in monitoring standards, self evaluation, standards and school improvement planning that had not been sufficiently addressed by the school during the time period between the two inspections i.e. 2005 and 2011.  It had also been clear that advice provided by advisers in the previous two terms before the inspection had confirmed that progress needed to be made in these areas.  With regard to the recent inspection in Spring 2011, a progress report against the post inspection action plan was attached at Appendix 2 to the report and it was evident that the new headteacher was keen to address all recommendations that had been identified in the most recent report.  The Advisory Service would continue to work with the school to secure the necessary progress.  It was important to note that Estyn would also return to the school after 12 months to see whether sufficient progress had been made.  The Head of Service also attended meetings every half term, discussed matters with the Governors and provided reports to the Scrutiny Committee in relation to issues raised.

 

Under the new inspection regime it was noted that increasingly a number of schools now found themselves in the follow up system, which had not been an issue under the previous inspection regime. Significant improvements had however taken place and the Local Authority could evidence these improvements, which were also detailed within the report.  Members urged all members of Governing Bodies to request discussions with their Link Advisers on any matters and to hold regular meetings with them.

 

Reference was made to the subject co-ordinator and the Head of Service advised that this role had been introduced in 2010 and would be reviewed in the Autumn of 2011.  The Head of Service advised that for Governors she had offered advice as to what they should be looking for within their schools i.e. how effective have we been, how do we know we have been effective and where is the evidence?  The Director advised that it was also important to note that the role of Governors had changed considerably over the years, they were also volunteers but that the Authority would support them as much as possible in their role. An essential element being to ensure that the Link Adviser was in regular dialogue with them.

 

Having fully considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the issues identified within the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T regular half termly progress reports in line with arrangements set out within the partnership agreement with schools be presented to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To ensure that Members are kept fully informed about the schools progress and to monitor progress in preparation for the revisit to the school by Estyn in the Spring term 2012.

 

 

508     EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC -

 

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, the relevant paragraphs of the Schedule being referred to in brackets after the minute heading.

           

 

509     SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR THE SPRING TERM 2011 AND SUMMER TERM 2011 (EXEMPT INFORMATION - PARAGRAPHS 11, 12 AND 15) (DLD) -

 

The report identified two schools that had been inspected during the Autumn term 2010 and Spring term 2011.  The inspection report for one school had been excellent with many good, excellent and some outstanding features.  Leadership in particular had been identified as being excellent, providing excellent opportunities for teamwork and securing a highly specialised and effective learning environment.  The Governors had also been aware of the action that they needed to take to move the school forward. 

 

However, with regard to the second school detailed within the report the inspection report had been unsatisfactory and had been a cause for serious concern.  The Head of Service advised that the school would require special measures in order to address the recommendations outlined in the report.  These measures were being implemented in order to ensure and secure the necessary improvements and would be expressed as action for improvement in the Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP). Some immediate measures had already been implemented which were outlined in brief at Appendix 3 to the report.  Members were informed that advisory staff and the newly appointed Acting Headteacher were working with Governors to produce an effective Post Inspection Action Plan.  The Local Authority would produce a written statement to Estyn outlining the steps it would take to secure improvements in line with the recommendations.  The statement would be provided within 10 days of the PIAP being formally produced by Governors. Estyn would monitor the school’s progress closely and the HMI would visit the school every term to scrutinise progress reports and arrive at judgements about the extent of the progress being made.  Advisory staff would also monitor progress every half term and provide support every two weeks or as required in between. 

 

Following the concerns expressed by the Advisory Service about standards and the relevant inability of the leadership of the school, the Local Authority had worked closely with the school over the past year and intensive peer support, additional Adviser time and action plans had been put in place.  Progress was reported to full Governors on a half termly basis.  The school had also been reorganised to begin to address concerns about poor value for money.  The PIAP was currently in the process of being finalised and would address the recommendations and shortcomings that had been identified.

 

The Head of Service advised that the Local Authority, Acting Headteacher and all Governors were fully committed to working with Estyn officers in order to secure the improvements necessary for the school.  Members expressed their concern for the pupils at the school in relation to their education and welcomed all the measures that had been put in place by the Department to ensure that progress was made as soon as possible.  They were pleased to note the Link Adviser was making at least fortnightly visits to the school and noted that progress had been made although this had not been made entirely in time to satisfy the inspection.  Members queried how long special measures would be maintained and were advised that this normally took up to two years.  There was also the issue of the sickness absence of the Headteacher.  The Director also stated that the Governors of the school had also responded extremely well to all the initiatives that had been undertaken.  Members concurred that all Governors needed support and the correct information in order to undertake their duties and that the Link Adviser was an essential element to this process. 

 

During the above discussions Members agreed that Councillor N.P. Hodges, not a member of the Committee, be given the opportunity to speak. 

 

Having fully considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the school with the inspection report noted as excellent with many good, excellent and some outstanding features, be congratulated.

 

(2)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee receives half termly progress updates in respect of the school that had received the unsatisfactory inspection report.

 

(3)       T H A T all officers and staff be congratulated on the work that had been undertaken to date since the unsatisfactory inspection.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To acknowledge the good work of the school.

 

(2)       In order that the Scrutiny Committee can monitor progress.

 

(3)       To congratulate all those involved in the progress that has been made to date.

 

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