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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 15th October, 2012.

 

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

 

Also present: Councillor J. W. Thomas.

 

Non-voting Observers:  Mr. G. Beaudette (Primary), Mr. T. Cox (Secondary) and Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education).

 

 

427     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Mrs. M. Kelly Owen.

 

 

428     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 10th September, 2012 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

429     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

430     INTRODUCTION AND WELCOME – NEWLY APPOINTED CHIEF LEARNING AND SKILLS OFFICER: MS. JENNIFER HILL –

 

After being welcomed to her first meeting of the Scrutiny Committee, Ms. Hill reciprocated by saying that she was looking forward to working with the Committee to provide the very best services and that, here in the Vale, it was most useful that the Committee was involved at the formative stages in policy making.

 

 

431     ALN TRANSPORT SERVICE REVIEW UPDATE (CLSO) –

 

The focus of the ALN Transport Service Review was to consider the existing provision and policy providing home to school transport to pupils who have Additional Learning Needs (ALN) which prevented them from travelling to and from school either on mainstream transport or independently, subject to the requirements of the Learner Travel Measure (Wales) 2008.  In line with Council objectives, the review group identified the following desired outcomes for the service:

  • a clear policy statement on the provision of ALN transport
  • a consistent approach to transport provision for ALN pupils including clarification of policy with regard to those pupils aged between 16-19 (College students), respite placements, Looked After Children (LAC) and parent mileage payments
  • a streamlined service operating within the budget allocated whilst providing safe and suitable transport for those ALN pupils entitled to the service.

The review group had followed the Challenge, Consult, Compare (Performance) and Competition methodology.  The review had been finalised with the following recommendations being made:

  • independent travel scheme – officers to explore the feasibility of the scheme
  • further corporate review required –

          Ø  further investigation to be made into the potential savings when arranging and procuring other forms of transport throughout the Council including consideration of a Framework arrangement

         Ø  consideration to be given to a further review to examine the feasibility of a centralised approach to managing transportation throughout the Council

  • post 19 transport ceasing with effect from September 2012 – Members noted that had ceased with effect from September 2012
  • clarification of policy arrangements for pupils aged 16 to 19 – minor amendments to be made to the procedure and policy, confirming that the ALN Transport Service only provides transport to those entitled pupils continuing to be educated at school post 16 and that Financial Services manage all arrangements for those 16 to 19 year old pupils continuing their education elsewhere
  • clear policy statement completed – the adoption of the draft ALN Transport Policy as appended to the report
  • respite – any discretionary transport arrangements provided by the ALN Transport Service to respite accommodation on behalf of Children Services to be funded by the appropriate service area
  • 2/3 mile limit implications – the adoption of the 2/3 mile limit in line with the mainstream transport qualification criteria; where pupils lived within the 2/3 mile limit and have identified needs which would prevent from being able to travel to school independently(or accompanied by an appropriate adult) to school the Directorate might make an exception – exceptions only to be made within the guidelines agreed between the ALN Transport Service and the Pupil Support Service and to be subject to review.

Further details concerning the above were contained within paragraph 5 of the report.  Appended to the report were the methodology adopted in undertaking the review, the Transport Policy statement for Learners aged 16 to 19 2012/13 and the ALN Home to School Transport Service Policy.  It was considered that the above recommendations, if approved, would achieve savings of approximately £20k.  Discussion ensued in particular in relation to the ALN Home to School Transport Service Policy and the section on page 5 of that policy which referred to the ALN Transport Service, specifically the third and fourth paragraphs.  Members agreed that section would be better reworded to reflect the fact that whilst the matters referred to therein did not fall within the remit of the ALN Transport Service, arrangements were in place under separate policies or through the schools to facilitate the transportation of affected pupils in the circumstances indicated. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider accepting the recommendations of the review and the draft policies presented as amended above.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To deliver improvements and clarify service provision and policy.

 

 

432     PUPIL NUMBERS AT ALL VALE SCHOOLS (CLSO) –

 

Committee was notified of the position in respect of pupil numbers at Vale schools as at September 2012.  Reference was made to an Estyn report which indicated that Local Authorities should retain no more than 10% surplus places across primary and secondary schools and to a statement from the Minister for Education and Skills, the central theme of which was a reduction in the number of surplus places which represented a drain on resources. 

 

Appended to the report were pupil data sets for Vale schools at September 2012 in the cluster areas of Barry, Penarth, the Rural Vale (Cowbridge and Llantwit Major) and Welsh Medium with number on roll details from 1998. Whilst there had been a general decline in primary pupil numbers over the 15 year period, numbers had increased since 2011 and it was anticipated that this trend would continue.  Secondary pupil numbers showed an increase over the period up to 2010 but from 2011 numbers were expected to decline as smaller feeder primary cohorts fed through the system although numbers were projected to rise again from 2017.

 

Data sets in relation to surplus places were also appended to the report and showed, at September 2012, a surplus of 13.94% in the primary sector and 8% in the secondary sector, giving an overall surplus of 10.97%.  The Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) in January 2011 ranked this Council as 3rd (out of 22 authorities) in terms of overall surplus places.  Members noted that the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Schools Surplus Places Project Group was currently reviewing school provision which would take account of the need to reduce surplus places, the findings of which would be reported to this Committee.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the information presented be noted at this time.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To have regard to the information presented and the fact that a Project Group was currently reviewing the position.

 

 

433     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST AUGUST 2012 (CLSO) –

 

The report and the appendices thereto outlined the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the above periods regarding those budgets which formed this Committee’s remit.  Further details to the following were contained within paragraphs 4 to 12 of the report as summarised below:

  • overall, the Education Budget was projected to balance as at the end of March 2013 (after transferring £218k. from Education Reserves
  • Schools – the delegated budget was expected to balance as any under/over spend would be carried forward by schools
  • School Improvement – a projected overspend of £53k.
  • Access and Inclusion – ALN was projecting an overspend of £210k.
  • Strategy and Performance – strategic planning was projecting an underspend of £45k. Particular reference was made to the difficulty in predicting the outturn in respect of maternity costs and that the position would be closely monitored
  • £600k. would be transferred to the School Investment Strategy Reserve
  • Education was projecting to transfer £600k. from Education Reserves to finance the schools contributions to the Early Retirement/Voluntary Redundancy scheme which would be repaid by participating schools over 2013/14 and 2014/15
  • Libraries – anticipated to outturn within budget
  • Catering – anticipated to outturn on target.

Details of financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st August were appended to the report.  Particular attention was drawn to the latest position in relation to the Llancarfan and Gwenfo demountables.  Members noted that the 3rd unit required for Llancarfan would be purchased at the end of the current financial year with the aim of completing the scheme during the Easter holidays and that, given the very tight timescale, slippage might be requested.  Appendix 3 to the report provided non-financial information on capital schemes with a budget of over £100k.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2012/13 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To be aware of the current position in relation to revenue and capital monitoring relevant to this Committee.

 

 

434     PRESENTATION – SCHOOL READING TESTS –

 

The Head of Achievement/School Improvement referred to the fact that new statutory readings tests would be introduced from April, 2013 for years 2 to 9.  She indicated that the Council was well placed to implement the new tests and backed that up by circulating a handout of a range of statistics produced by the Added Value Section of the School Improvement Service as to the reading abilities of pupils across the Vale.  The various statistics were used, inter alia, as a means of targeting individual pupils in need of support and of tracking a pupil’s development over time.

 

She commenced her presentation by detailing those tests currently used within the Vale of Glamorgan, commenting that consideration would be given, in consultation with the schools, of retaining the year 1 Reading Now Test.  Tests were administered in May and the test analyses were used by System Leaders alongside end of Key Stage Teacher Assessment.  The information was used for professional challenge, targeted support, impact evaluations and combining with contextual information to increase challenge and effectiveness of provision on outcomes.

 

Following further discussion in relation to the above matters, and in response to a request for further information on the progress made by pupils receiving targeted support, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Head of Service be thanked for her presentation and that she submit a report to a future meeting on “Catch Up”.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To have regard to the information presented and to receive further information as to the progress made by pupils receiving targeted support.

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