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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 21st January, 2013.

 

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

 

Co-opted Member:  Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church)

 

Non-voting Observer: Mr G Beaudette (Primary Sector)

 

Also present:  Councillors G.A. Cox, H.J.W. James and A. Parker.

 

 

753     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education)

 

 

754     MINUTES -

 

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

 

 

755     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

756     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2012 TO 30TH NOVEMBER 2012 (CLSO) –

 

The report highlighted that overall the Education Budget was projected to balance at the end of March 2013, however this would be after transferring £190k. from Education Reserves.  It was noted that any savings identified before and at the year end would be available to reduce the use of reserves or to re-direct into the School Investment Strategy or other reserves.

 

The revised budgets reflected a transfer from Access and Inclusion to Schools to reflect the devolved LSA scheme in Secondary Schools to Schools of £555k, £30k had been transferred from Schools to the Access and Inclusion team to fund pupils transferring to the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) or other alternative provision. In addition £161k had been transferred to the School Improvement Service from the Transition Budget in Strategic Planning and Performance to reflect the additional funding required in 2012/13.  The Operational Manager for Finance and Systems then referred to the budgets under the following service headings:

 

Schools - The delegated budget relating to schools was expected to balance as any under/over spend was carried forward by schools.

 

School Improvement - There was a projected overspend of £3k which was  made up of an overspend of  £42k due to an amended approach to funding the WJEC subscription which had been originally proposed as a saving and also £11k additional costs for subscriptions and licences paid on behalf of schools.  This was offset by a reduction in the projected cost of the Joint Education Service of £10k,additional income generated in the year and vacancy savings made within the service of £40k.

 

Access and Inclusion – The Additional Learning Needs (ALN) service was projecting an overspend of £242k which was due to an overspend against the budget for children’s placements in independent schools of £270k, and had been partly offset by additional recoupment income of £63k.  ALN was also projecting an overspend of £252k against the one to one LSA budget which had been offset in year by £239k found as a result of de-committing other Pupil Support expenditure and as a result of savings identified as part of the proposed ALN Restructure, £22k additional income to be generated in year and a £36k contribution made from the Transition budget.  There was also an overspend in ALN of £80k due to refurbishment and teaching materials for the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) prior to inspection and lower than projected Age Weighted Pupil Unit contributions from schools towards pupils placed in the PRU. This would however, be funded by a contribution from the Excluded Pupils Reserve.  It was highlighted that ALN was an extremely volatile budget and various options for offsetting any potential overspend were being investigated.

 

Strategy and Performance - Strategic Planning was projecting an underspend of £55k with £53k being due to the vacant Director post. There were also savings against the pensions budgets of £25k, £6k against Directorate office supplies and advertising budgets and £66k underspend in ICT and Data due to in year vacancy savings, additional income generated and new arrangements for during school test.  This was offset by a projected overspend of £15k for Schools Rates and a projected overspend against maternity costs met on behalf of the schools of £80k.  It was stated that the  outturn for maternity was difficult to project accurately and was overspent by £195k in 2011/12, it would need to be monitored carefully.  From 2013/14 the maternity budget would be devolved to schools and a scheme similar to the one currently in operation for long term sickness would be put in place.

 

Provision had been made within the budget for the annual cost of financing the School Investment Strategy of £600,000.  This sum would be transferred to the School Investment Strategy Reserve.

 

In addition the School’s contributions to the Early Retirement/ Voluntary Redundancy scheme Education was projecting to transfer £66,000 from Education Reserves which would be repaid by participating schools over 2013/14 and 2014/15.  With regard to Libraries there was currently a £40k favourable variance against the profiled budget but the Service was anticipated to outturn within budget. For Catering there was currently a £8k favourable variance against the profiled budget but the Service was anticipated to outturn within budget; however this could be affected by external factors and the requirement to meet WG nutritional standards.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th November 2012.  Noted in the report was the fact that for all schemes where it was evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent during the year, the relevant officers were required to provide an explanation of the shortfall.  In this regard reference was made to the Penarth Learning Community / St. Cyres Demountables.  There were currently two separate budgets covering these projects but it was proposed that they be combined as one. The £97k was approved to enable pupils to be transferred in order to proceed with construction works.  Additional works, at an estimated cost of £63k, relating to this element of the project included alterations to the swimming pool to convert into a hall.  It was proposed that funding for these additional costs come from a revenue contribution. It was therefore proposed that the St. Cyres demountable budget of £97k be transferred into the Penarth Learning Community budget, along with an additional £63k funding from revenue (£3k of which would not be required until 2015/16 as it related to a retention payment release), increasing the original Penarth Learning Community budget to £4.923m in 2013/14 and £4.683m in 2015/16.

 

Appendix 3 to the report provided non financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100k. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2012/13 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T an amendment to the Penarth Learning Community Capital Scheme to increase the 2013/14 budget to £4.923 million (funded from a transfer of £97,000 from the St. Cyres Demountable Budget plus an additional £60,000 revenue funding) and to also increase the 2015/16 budget by £3,000 (funded from revenue contributions) be endorsed and referred to Cabinet and Council for approval.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members with regard to the position to the 2012/13 revenue and capital monitoring.

 

(2)       To refer the proposed amendment to the capital programme to Cabinet and Council for approval.

 

 

757     PROPOSALS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF A YOUTH CABINET AND YOUTH MAYOR POSITION FOR THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (CLSO) –

 

The report advised that during the Youth Service Scrutiny Review young people had informed Elected Members that they felt under represented and wanted a mechanism in place which would give them the opportunity to challenge and communicate with the Council and Cabinet on decisions that affected them.  The Youth Service Provision Task and Finish Group of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) had subsequently recommended in April 2012 that mechanisms for the involvement of young people in the decision-making process about services that affected their lives be established at Local Authority and locality level and that a report on options for such involvement be presented to the Scrutiny Committee.  It was further recommended that the Vale’s Youth Champion should be a representative from the young people from the Vale of Glamorgan as opposed to being a Councillor appointment. 

 

Following the above a proposed model had been identified, which was attached at Appendix 1 to the report, and which detailed that it would base the development of the Youth Cabinet and Youth Mayor around the existing Vale Youth Forum (VYF).  The VYF was made up of young representatives aged 11-25 from across the Vale of Glamorgan and was a registered charity which worked with young people who either lived, worked or attended an educational establishment in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The VYF worked in partnership with the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services, which employed the co-ordinator and the Vale of Glamorgan Youth Service who accommodated the co-ordinator.

 

The consultation results from the Local Democracy Week (attached at Appendix 2 to the report) determined that members of youth clubs, school council members, members of other youth groups and young people who did not belong to a youth organisation should be able to be elected onto the VYF and the Youth Cabinet.  However 51% of the young people felt that there should be a limit on the number of young people who were not elected by their school or youth group on the VYF.  It was proposed that Members of the VYF would be nominated and elected to sit on the Youth Cabinet and would then be responsible for representing the interests of young people in the Vale to decision-makers.  It was proposed that the Vale Youth Cabinet would meet regularly with Council officers, Councillors and Cabinet Members of the Vale of Glamorgan Council to put forward young people’s issues.

 

It was proposed that the Youth Mayor position was nominated from the VYF, however 50% of those consulted felt that all young people aged 11-25 from the Vale of Glamorgan should be able to vote for their favourite candidate.  The consultation results had also highlighted suggestions for the duties of the Youth Mayor and had determined that the Youth Mayor should initially serve for one year and to have a deputy Youth Mayor in place for the same term of office.

 

Young people had further suggested that the main communication method should be via Facebook.  This method ad been suggested in order that young people could get in touch with the VYF and the Youth Mayor, that they could be informed about the work of VYF and the Youth Mayor, and it would enable the VYF and the Youth Mayor to gather the views of the young people across the Vale.

 

The report also made reference to the Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure which had come into effect in Wales in 2012.  The Measure placed a duty on Welsh Ministers to take appropriate steps to promote knowledge and understanding of the Convention amongst the public including children.  Participation was a fundamental right which was set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and which was adopted by the UK Government in 1991.  The Welsh Government was committed to driving forward the principles of Article 12 across Wales, thus ensuring young people aged 0‑25 had opportunities to contribute to and have their voices heard in decision-making issues which impacted on their lives.  The Shared Purpose – Shared Delivery guidance of 2012 also highlighted that further work needed to be done to promote and facilitate the engagement and participation of children and young people and it was proposed that information on how this could be achieved should be included in an engagement strategy. 

 

A Member, who had actually sat on the Scrutiny Review Task and Finish Group, stated that the young people who had been involved in the review had been from a wide cross section and the enthusiasm had been tremendous which was to be welcomed.  The Principal Youth Officer advised that other consultation had also been undertaken during 2012 which had included young people from all over the Vale being invited to workshops at the Fire Station in Barry and an on-line survey had taken place.  Members then referred to transport arrangements for young people in the rural Vale with the Youth Officer advising that a greater emphasis would be required on the use of the Green Links bus and voluntary drivers.  It was also mentioned that the Cabinet had agreed to hold some of its meetings throughout the Vale of Glamorgan and in light of the proposals to engage further with young people, some Members considered this to be a good way of engaging. 

 

In noting that representation for the proposals of a Youth Cabinet and Youth Mayor would develop around the existing Vale Youth Forum Members urged the Department to consider how they could engage more with young people in respect of the election and voting process.  The use of social networking sites and the media was also agreed would be a significant advantage in engaging with young people. 

 

Having fully considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T Cabinet be informed of the Committee’s support to the establishment of a constituted Youth Cabinet and the development of an election process for a Youth Mayor position.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

The establishment of a Youth Cabinet and Youth Mayor would provide a voice for young people in the Vale by which their views and ideas could be considered in the Council’s decision-making process and that the Scrutiny review recommendations are progressed.

 

 

758     END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE REPORT – NATIONAL STRATEGIC INDICATORS, PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY MEASURES, SERVICE IMPROVEMENT DATA (MD) –

 

The purpose of the report was to inform the Committee of the annual performance results in the areas of education and libraries for the year ended 31st March 2012.  Appendix 1 to the report contained details summarising the Vale’s performance against national indicators for the year ended 2011/12 in relation to the areas monitored by the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee.  It was noted that

 

·         11 indicators achieved a top quartile performance, ranked between 1st and 6th when compared with the rest of Wales.

·         10 indicators achieved a performance within the middle quartiles, ranked between 8th and 15th when compared with other Welsh councils

·         3 indicators were in the bottom quartile of performance, ranked between 16th and 19th in Wales

·         Of the 24 total indicators, the Vale performed better than or as well as the Welsh average in 16.

·         Of the 19 Education indicators, 9 were in the top quartile, 7 were in the middle quartiles and 3 were in the bottom quartile.

·         The Vale's performance in 5 of the Education indicators was ranked best in Wales: the percentage of LAC pupils who leave education without any qualifications (0%); the number of permanent exclusions in primary schools per 1,000 pupils (0.00); average number of school days permanently excluded pupils did not receive an offer of full time education provision (0.00); average number of school days permanently excluded pupils did not receive an offer of part time education provision (0.00); percentage of school days lost to fixed term exclusions in secondary schools (0.039%).

·         The worst performing area for the Vale in terms of the Education indicators was in the percentage of statements of special education need issues within 26 weeks including exceptions (52.38%, 19th in Wales).

·         Of the 5 Libraries indicators, 2 were in the top quartile and 3 were in the middle quartiles.

·         The highest ranked Libraries indicator measures the number of publicly accessible computers per 10,000 population (11.12, 3rd in Wales).

·         The lowest ranked Libraries indicator measures the percentage of library material requests supplied within 7 calendar days (67.76%, 15th in Wales).

 

Appendix 2 contained a table detailing the 10 authorities of South East Wales and their individual performances against the Housing and Public Protection indicators, in respect of how many top, middle and bottom quartile performances they achieved.  The authorities were listed in order of how many top quartile performances they achieved for 2011/12. 

 

The Chief Learning and Skills Officer advised that up to date attendance data had recently been received and she would arrange for the information to be emailed to Members. With regard to bullet point 7 on page 2 of the report

(i.e. the percentage of statements of special education need issues within 26 weeks including exception) it was noted that the Vale was ranked 19th in Wales and it was agreed that a further report on performance improvement be presented to Committee in due course..

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the performance results be noted and the information as requested above be made available in due course.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In considering progress made to date and in exercising the Scrutiny function.

 

 

759     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DR) –

 

The report provided the Committee with progress made to date in relation to uncompleted recommendations for the 2nd Quarter July to September 2012 attached at Appendix A and the 3rd Quarter October to December 2012 attached at Appendix B.  In noting that the Schools Surplus Places Review Group report was before this committee for consideration it was subsequently  

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the following scrutiny decisions be deemed completed:

 

23 July 2012

Min. No. 195 - Scrutiny Decision Tracking of Recommendations (DLPPHS) – Recommended

(1)   That the Chairman and Vice-Chairman consider a programme for undertaking such a review and inform Members accordingly.

[School Surplus places]

 

 

 

(1)   Project Group set up.  Report presented to Scrutiny Committee in January 2013.

Completed

10 September 2012

Min. No. 316 - Improvement Plan 2012/13 (MD) – Recommended

(3)    That the Head of Strategic Planning and Performance discuss the target set in respect of the number of library website hits with the Chairman and, if necessary, request Cabinet to consider amending the target.

 

 

(3)   Discussed at Scrutiny meeting November 2012.  Agreed not to amend the target in view of current performance.

Completed

15 October 2012

Min. No. 431 - ALN Transport Service Review Update (CLSO) – Recommended that Cabinet be requested to consider accepting the recommendations of the review and the draft policies presented as amended above.

 

 

Cabinet, on 5th November 2012, resolved that the review and draft policies be approved subject to an amendment on page 5 of the ALN Home to School Transport Service Policy (Min. No. C1871 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 434 - Presentation – School Reading Tests – Recommended that the Head of Service be thanked for her presentation and that she submit a report to a future meeting on “Catch Up”.

 

 

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

12 November 2012

Min. No. 526 - Performance Report for the end of Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2 and 3 (CLSO) – Recommended

(2)   That a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in respect of children in receipt of free school meals and their performance as detailed above, together with comparisons under the all-Wales benchmark.

(3)   That the reports before the Scrutiny Committee be referred to Cabinet for consideration and that the information relating to the secondary schools as outlined above, be also presented to Cabinet and shared with the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

 

 

(2)   Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

 

 

 

 

(3)   Cabinet, on 17th December 2012, noted the report.  (Min. No. C1936 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 528 - Scrutiny Committee Work Programme (DR) – Recommended that the work programme attached at Appendix 1 to the report be approved subject to the following amendments:

·           the report on the Preparation for the Inspection of Local Authority Education Services for Children and Young People be presented to Committee on 21st January, 2013

·           a Review of Safeguarding Report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee on 10th December, 2012

·           an additional report on the Pupil Referral Unit be added to the work programme schedule

·           a report on Breakfast Clubs be added to the work programme schedule to include details of take up and the number of schools in the Vale that provided this specific facility.

 

 

Work programme amended.

Completed

10 December 2012

Min. No. 636 - Welsh Public Library Standards Assessment 2011-12 (CLSO) – Recommended

(3)   That the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

 

 

(3)   To be referred to 14th January 2013 Cabinet meeting.

Completed

Min. No. 637 - School Performance Report for the Level 2 Inclusive, End of Key Stage 4 (Provisional Data Only) (CLSO) – Recommended that the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

 

 

Cabinet, on 17th December 2012, noted the report.  (Min. No. C1937 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 638 - Six-Monthly Report in Respect of Safeguarding Practice in Schools and Other Services Within the Learning and Skills Directorate (CLSO) – Recommended

(2)   That the Chief Learning and Skills Officer provide update reports to the Scrutiny Committee, on a six monthly basis, in respect of safeguarding practices in schools and other services within the Directorate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2)   Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure effective tracking of the Committees recommendations.

 

 

760     RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SCHOOL PLACES REVIEW GROUP (CHAIRMAN) –

 

The report advised that the School Places Review Group had been convened between September and December 2012 and had built on the work of previous Member working groups to consider pupil and school data and to determine if the current configuration of schools met the educational needs of children in the Vale in the 21st Century.  Membership of the Group comprised Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman), Councillors Ms. R. Birch, H.C. Hamilton, R.A. Penrose and E. Williams.   The report highlighted that one of the statutory functions of a local authority was to ensure that there were the right number of schools of the right type and size in the right location to fully and efficiently meet the needs of the pupil population.  The Estyn report on “How do surplus places affect the resources available for expenditure on improving outcomes for pupils” asserted that reductions in surplus places result in better resource management and impact on school improvement and that Local Authorities should retain no more than 10% surplus places across primary and secondary schools.

 

Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Education and Skills, had also issued a statement to Cabinet Education Members across Wales on highlighting the principal priority of the current Welsh Government of improving school standards.  The central theme of the Minister’s statement was a reduction of the number of surplus places as this represented a drain on resources.  The School Places Review Report contributed to both the Lifelong Learning and Skills Improvement Objective 13 of the Corporate Service Objective “To progress plans for the development of 21st Century Schools designed to deliver an innovative curriculum within a positive learning environment”. 

 

The report also highlighted that the Estyn report referred to above estimated the cost of surplus places as £260 per primary place and £510 per secondary place. 

 

The report outlined that the report of the review group referred to as Appendix A was to be considered under Part II at item 10 of the agenda.  In noting that there were no recommendations of the Review Group that were currently in the public domain, a non-voting observer, before leaving the meeting, urged that that report be dealt with as sensitively as possible in view of anxieties that they were aware of in schools as a result of the item being listed on the agenda.   In noting the concerns it was subsequently 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H AT the contents of the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In consideration of the contents of the report and in view of the fact the recommendations of the Group were contained in an Appendix report under Part II of the agenda at item 10.

 

 

761     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 item of business on the grounds that it involves 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.

 

 

762     REPORT OF THE SCHOOL PLACES REVIEW TASK AND FINISH GROUP (EXEMPT INFORMATION – PARAGRAPH 15) (CHAIRMAN) –

 

The School Places Review Group Part II report detailed the assessment of school organisational issues facing education services in the Vale of Glamorgan between 2012 and 2017 and provided a range of proposals to meet those demands.  The report included an executive summary of proposals, a more detailed analysis of each proposal and full information relating to pupil data, including for all schools on a cluster by cluster basis, an overview of physical aspects and the Estyn report “How Do Surplus Places Affect the Resources Available for Expenditure on Improving Outcomes for Pupils.” 

 

During consideration of the Part II report discussion included consideration of various issues including school performance, parental preference, transportation issues, the fabric of buildings, community involvement and Council spend to date on matters such as refurbishments.  It was noted that any savings would be reinvested into school provision.

 

Reference was then made to implications (e.g. housing) as a result of the LDP process with the Head of Service advising that the Council had to meet the 10% reduction of surplus places required by 2016 and that it was the Minister’s view that it was not appropriate to wait for developments that could take some time to come to fruition, if at all. 

 

The need to ensure that widespread consultation of any proposals was undertaken was acknowledged.  The Head of Service advised that the Department was aware of the sensitivities of the issue and that meetings had been, and would continue to be, held with relevant key stakeholders and that the matter would be brought into the public domain within the next few months.

 

Members of the Review Group stated that the review had not only included consideration of detailed information but that they had also undertaken site visits to schools.

 

The Chairman, in summing up, stated that the review had been long overdue and that other Councils had also faced similar issues.  He also took the opportunity to thank the Members of the Group for their time and the officers for pulling together the information as required.

 

Having considered the report, following a vote, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the School Places Review Task and Finish Group Report be approved and together with the recommendations referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To support the findings of the School Places Review Group and refer same to Cabinet for consideration and / or approval.

 

 

(NB.  During consideration of this item Councillors G.A. Cox, H.J.W. James and A. Parker were granted permission to speak by the Committee.)

 

 

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