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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th February, 2013.

 

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 Dr. I.J. Johnson and S.T. Wiliam.

 

Co-opted Members: Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church); Dr. C. Brown (Secondary Sector) and Mr. L. Kellaway (Primary Sector).

 

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

 

 

867     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and J.W. Thomas.

 

 

868     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 21st January, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

869     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

870     WELCOME –

 

The Chairman welcomed Dr. C. Brown and Mr. L. Kellaway to their first meeting of the Committee following their recent election.

 

 

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

 

The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2012/13 were set out in Appendix 1 to the report.  The Education Budget was projected to balance as at the end of March 2013 and, as reported at the last meeting, this was after transferring £190,000 from Education Reserves. 

 

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

 

In regard to School Improvement, there was a projected overspend of £11,000 and was made up of the following factors:

  • an overspend of £43,000 due to an amended approach to funding the WJEC subscription
  • £11,000 additional costs for subscriptions and licences paid on behalf of schools.

The above overspends had been offset by the following factors:

  • a reduction in the projected cost of the Joint Education Service - £10,000
  • additional income generated and vacancy savings within the services - £32,000.

Access and Inclusion was currently showing a projected overspend of £237,000 in respect of Additional Learning Needs.  Factors resulting in an overspend related to the following:

  • overspend against the budget for Children’s Placements in independent schools - £270,000 but partly offset by additional recoupment income of £64,000
  • an overspend of £252,000 against one to one LSA budget which had been offset in year by £242,000 as a result of decommitting other Pupil Support expenditure and savings identified as part of the proposed ALN Restructure, £23,000 additional income to be generated in year and £36,000 contribution made from the Transition budget
  • an overspend of £80,000 due to the refurbishment and teaching materials for the PRU prior to inspection and lower than projected Age Weighted Pupil Unit contributions from schools towards pupils placed in the PRU – this would be offset by a contribution from the Excluded Pupils Reserve
  • an overspend of £50,000 had been incurred for Post 16 placements in Independent Schools which had not been reflected in the projected outturn.

In regard to Strategic Performance this was currently projecting an underspend of £58,000 which was made up of the following factors:

  • £54,000 due to the previously vacant Director post
  • Budgets savings of £36,000
  • £12,000 against the Directorate office supplies and advertising budgets
  • £15,000 in regard to Education Finance due to additional grant funding and employee savings
  • £76,000 underspend in ICT and Data due to in year vacancy savings, additional income generated and new arrangements for funding school tests.

The above underspends had been offset by the following projected overspends in relation to:

  • School Rates - £15,000
  • Maternity costs met on behalf of schools - £120,000.

In addition to the above matters the Scrutiny Committee also noted that provision had been made in the budget for the annual cost of financing the School Investment Strategy of £600,000 and this sum would be transferred to the School Investment Strategy Reserve and represented no material change to that reported to previous meetings of the Committee.

 

The Schools’ contributions to the Early Retirement / Voluntary Redundancy scheme was projecting to transfer £84,000 from Education Reserves.  This would be repaid by participating schools during the financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15. 

 

The following services were showing a favourable variance against the profiled budget and were anticipated to outturn within budget:

  • Libraries - £42,000
  • Youth Service - £27,000
  • Catering - £2,000.

It was noted that Lifelong Learning was currently showing an adverse variance of £8,000 against the profiled budget and was anticipated to outturn within budget by the year end.

 

As indicated in previous reports to the Committee, Appendix 2 to the report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st December 2012.  Appendix 3 also provided non-financial information on all capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2012/13 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members of the current position with regard to the revenue and capital monitoring expenditure under the auspices of this Committee.

 

 

872     REVIEW OF THE FUTURE DELIVERY OF EDUCATION SERVICES IN WALES: SECOND REPORT (CLSO) –

 

The Cabinet, at its meeting held on 4th February 2013, considered the report as agendaed for consideration by the Scrutiny Committee with the Cabinet at that time resolving the following:

 

“(1)     That the additional information about the review be noted.

 

(2)       That arrangements for making the Council’s written contribution to the review be agreed.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       The review that has been established by the Minister will establish a range of options for the future delivery of education in Wales which may change the Council’s responsibilities.

 

(2)        To ensure arrangements are in place to contribute to the review.”

 

As reported to the previous meeting of the Cabinet the Welsh Government had appointed Robert Hill to prepare a report on a range of possible delivery options for education services by the end of March 2013.  The aims, principles, process and outcome objectives and outputs of the review had been published and were set out in Appendix 1 to the report.  It was noted that the Welsh Government’s intention was to publish a report and undertake a full consultation of the options from May to August 2013 and accordingly the WLGA was seeking to develop a co-ordinated response on behalf of Local Authorities with it being further noted that the Leader and the relevant portfolio Cabinet Member had been invited to attend meetings on the matter.

 

The Scrutiny Committee was now asked to consider the Council’s response to the proposed review prior to it being formally submitted by the relevant Cabinet Member. 

 

Tabled for consideration of the Committee was a draft co-ordinated response prepared by the WLGA which included contributions from the 21 Unitary Authorities in response to the planned review.  The Committee expressed disquiet at the lateness of the information being available and the expectation for the Committee to form / agree a response which would be submitted by the relevant Cabinet Member to the WLGA the following day (19th March).  The general view of the Committee was that it was difficult to make objective comments within the time allowed.

 

Discussion ensued regarding the content of the draft response with reference being made in particular to the absence of a suitable comment within the response to proper and adequate funding for schools. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the tabled draft response to the WLGA be endorsed subject to the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services being requested to include as part of the Council’s response reference to the importance of appropriate funding being available for schools.

 

(2)       T H A T the Chief Learning and Skills Officer submit a further report to the Scrutiny Committee once the delivery options for education services were published by the Welsh Government.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To make the Cabinet Member aware of the Scrutiny Committee’s views and to allow the Council’s response to be submitted.

 

(2)       To consider the Welsh Government’s options when published.

 

 

873     PROGRESS REPORT FOR OAKFIELD PRIMARY SCHOOL (CLSO) –

 

Previous reports to the Committee had detailed the support and monitoring arrangements the Council had put in place since the school had been placed in special measures by Estyn.  Since that time a Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP) had been developed and implemented. 

 

The Scrutiny Committee was advised that Estyn had revisited the school on 4th December 2012 and a copy of a letter from Estyn outlining the work of the school to date was attached at Appendix 1.  The Scrutiny Committee noted that the school had made insufficient progress overall although progress had been made against each of the recommendations since the last visit and the Acting Headteacher continued to initiative further important developments with the school governing body continuing to support the school effectively including, effecting difficult decisions in respect of important staffing issues. 

 

The following recommendations which had now been fully addressed:

  • Recommendation 2: Plan the curriculum to develop pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills more coherently and systematically and make sure it met statutory requirements
  • Recommendation 5: Manage resources more efficiently and effectively to ensure value for money
  • Recommendation 6: Improve the governing body’s understanding of benchmarked performance data to increase the level of scrutiny and challenge it provides
  • Recommendation 7: Establish rigorous systems to evaluate the school’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Recommendation 8: align self-evaluation and school improvement planning in order to improve standards and the effective use of resources.

The Scrutiny Committee was also informed of those recommendations that had been either partly addressed or largely addressed in respect of the following:

  • Recommendation 1: Raise standards in literacy across the curriculum (partly)
  • Recommendation 3: Provide effective and consistent leadership at all levels
  • Recommendation 4: Provide training for all staff so they can develop their professional skills and experience excellent teaching and learning in other schools and settings (largely).

Reference and brief discussion centred on the school’s ability to be taken out of special measures given that a new substantive headteacher had not been appointed.  In response, the Head of School Improvement indicated that the Acting Headteacher had improved the performance of the school as evidenced by the information under consideration and not progressing the substantive appointment of a headteacher had not hindered the evidenced improvements.

 

The Scrutiny Committee was advised that the school would need to continue to work to address the remaining areas for development within the PIAP and also noting that Estyn would revisit the school towards the end of the Spring Term 2013.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T progress in meeting the recommendations contained within the Post Inspection Action Plan be noted with pleasure and that the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To note progress made to date and to ensure Cabinet was aware of the same.

 

 

874     WELSH IN EDUCATION STRATEGIC PLAN (WESP) (UPDATED) 2012 (CLSO) –

 

Since 2012 the Welsh Government (WG) had assumed responsibility for the approval and monitoring of all local authority Welsh Education Schemes.

 

The Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP) detailed how each authority planned to achieve the WG’s outcomes and targets outlined in the Welsh Medium Education Strategy (WMES 2010).  The WESP in itself continued to form a part of the Council’s broad strategy for the Welsh Language and contained an action plan for the development of Welsh in education within the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

The WESP targets and outcomes were funded by the Welsh in Education Grant (WEG) and the Council was required to include data relating to performance against the following targets within the WESP Action Plan, namely:

  • more seven-year-old children being taught through the medium of Welsh as a percentage of the Year 2 cohort;
  • more learners continuing to improve their language skills on transfer from primary school to secondary school;
  • more learners studying for qualifications through the medium of Welsh;
  • more learners aged 16-19 studying Welsh and subjects through the medium of Welsh;
  • more learners with improved skills in Welsh;
  • Welsh-medium provision for Additional Learning Needs; and
  • Workforce Planning and Continuous Professional Development.

Consideration was given to the final draft copy of the Council’s Welsh Medium in Education Strategic Plan for the above period, a copy of which was attached as an appendix to the report prior to its submission to the cabinet for approval.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the final draft copy of the Welsh Medium in Education Strategic Plan for 2012-2015 be endorsed and referred to Cabinet for approval.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To endorse the draft Strategy and to allow the same to be considered by the Cabinet.

 

 

875     WELSH GOVERNMENT PRIMARY FREE BREAKFAST CLUBS (CLSO) –

 

The purpose of the report was to apprise the Scrutiny Committee of the current position relating to the above subject.  Since the introduction of the Free School Breakfast initiative in the Vale of Glamorgan in September 2006 an evaluation had been undertaken which had shown that the service provided a positive response from schools stating various benefits and improvements in pupil behaviour as a result of attending breakfast clubs.

 

It was noted that all costs associated with establishing and operating the scheme had been met by the WG via a specific grant which would from April 2013 transfer into the revenue settlement for the Council together with the responsibility for establishing a club at any primary school at the request of the respective governing body.  It was indicated that schools which did not currently operate the scheme were coming under increasing pressure from parents to establish such a club with some headteachers expressing the view that provision of a breakfast club had an influence on parental decisions about the school they opted to send their child to.  Tabled for consideration of Members was a list of current primary schools taking part in the initiative. 

 

Support for schools was now concentrated on those schools which had yet to establish breakfast clubs and officers were in regular contact with those schools in an effort to engage them in the start up process.  It was proposed that during 2013/14 the remaining 10 schools would receive further support and guidance on how to effectively manage the start up of their club. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position in relation to the provision of free breakfast clubs in the Vale of Glamorgan be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendation

 

To support the continued roll out of free breakfast clubs across all primary schools.

 

 

876     SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR THE AUTUMN TERM 2012 (CLSO) –

 

The Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) at Amelia Farm, Barry was inspected during the Autumn Term 2012 and a summary of the inspection findings were appended to the report. 

 

In summary, the overall judgements achieved by the PRU following the inspection by Estyn were as follows:

 

Current performance                        Prospects for Improvement

GOOD                                                ADEQUATE

 

The Estyn inspection team determined that the PRU would require a follow-up inspection and there was an expectation that the Council would work closely with the school to help devise and deliver its improvement plan within a timescale of normally one year.

 

The Chairman, in referring to the report, made reference to matters relating to toilet facilities at the PRU and proposed to the Committee that an appropriate recommendation be forwarded to the Cabinet seeking to ensure that appropriate toilet provision was established as quickly as possible so that the pupil provision was kept apart from the public provision and these improvements be undertaken as a matter of priority and in any case well before the proposed re-visit by Estyn in the Autumn Term 2013.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the summary of the school inspection report for the Autumn Term 2012 in relation to the Pupil Referral Unit be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Cabinet be requested to expedite as soon as practicable improvements to the toilet facilities at the PRU.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of progress made to date.

 

(2)       To ensure that appropriate toilet provision was established at the PRU in the immediate future so that pupils’ provision was kept apart from public provision and that these works were undertaken prior to the Estyn re-visit in the Autumn Term 2013.

 

 

877     INSPECTION OF LOCAL AUTHORITY EDUCATION SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE (LAESCYP) (CLSO) –

 

The current inspection framework for Local Authority Education Services for Children and Young People was introduced by Estyn in September 2010.  The Vale of Glamorgan was inspected as a pilot under the new framework in March 2010 at which time Estyn concluded the performance was good with good prospects for improvement.  The Scrutiny Committee noted that Estyn’s application of the Common Inspection Framework had become increasingly rigorous and since its introduction in September 2010, 15 local authority inspection reports had been published by Estyn, details of which were set out in paragraph 3 of the report. 

 

In summary, there were no excellent local authorities but five good ones, five were in a formal Estyn category and five were being monitored by Estyn.  Estyn’s main findings from recent inspections were detailed in Appendix A to the report.

 

The Common Inspection Framework was made up of three key questions, namely:

  • Key Question 1: How good are outcomes?
  • Key Question 2: How good is provision?
  • Key Question 3: How good are leadership and management?

The full framework as applied in the above inspections was detailed in Appendix B to the report along with a description of what constituted good and unsatisfactory performance for each quality indicator.

 

The Council was anticipating a LAESCYP inspection towards the latter end of the current academic year.  Twelve weeks’ notice of the inspection would be given and the Council would be required to provide the Inspectorate a copy of its latest self evaluation report and relevant business or action plans six weeks prior to the start of the inspection.  The inspection process would commence with the Council’s self-evaluation report on its LAESCYP.  Inspectors would then sample, test and validate the evaluations in the report and would assess how well the Authority knew itself in terms of being aware of strengths and areas for development.  The latest version of the Council’s self-evaluation report would be reported to the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee in March 2013. 

 

In referring to the impending inspection, the Head of Strategic Planning and Performance indicated that when the Inspection Team was assessing the Leadership quality indicator, inspectors would judge the effectiveness of scrutiny by Elected Members in challenging underperformance and informing the continuous improvement of service delivery and policy development.

 

The Scrutiny Committee was also advised that the Inspection Team would make two overarching judgements on performance and capacity to improve.  The judgements, together with the three questions and the quality indicators listed in Appendix B to the report would be each awarded a judgement on a four point scale, i.e.:

  • Excellent – many strengths, including significant examples of sector-leading practice
  • Good – many strengths and no important areas requiring significant improvement
  • Adequate – strengths outweigh areas for improvement
  • Unsatisfactory – areas for improvement outweigh strengths.

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Framework for the Inspection of Local Authority Education Services for Children and Young People be noted and that the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise the Scrutiny Committee of the above framework and the impending inspection of the Council’s education services for children and young people.

 

 

878     INDIVIDUAL SCHOOL PROGRESS MEETINGS (CLSO) –

 

The Scrutiny Committee had previously considered a series of reports describing the attainment of pupils attending schools in the Vale.  These reports had described the success of many pupils in many schools, highlighted the further progress that was needed and provided information about the programmes of support and challenge that had been put in place.

 

In addition to the above matters, the Cabinet at its meeting held on 21st January 2013 endorsed three further developments, namely:

  • Development of a shared school improvement strategy for the Consortium including targets for the Consortium as a whole and refreshed school improvement targets for the Vale of Glamorgan
  • Secondly, the department was adopting an approach that would seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.  The Cabinet had proposed that the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) invites the Chairman of Governors and the Headteacher of individual schools where performance issues had been identified, including schools subject to Estyn follow-up to a panel meeting of the Committee.  It was further suggested that schools that were subject to Estyn follow-up, the invitation could follow the publication of the inspection report in order to discuss and endorse the Post Inspection Action Plan
  • Thirdly, the Council had powers of intervention which it had not to date been necessary to employ under the auspices of the Schools Causing Concern: Guidance for Schools and Local Authorities and the current School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Bill.

Accordingly, and in light of the above, the Scrutiny Committee was asked to consider whether it wished to establish a panel of the Committee to oversee arrangements as referred in the second bullet point above constituted of three Members of the Scrutiny Committee with at least two Elected Members to meet with an individual school.  Should the Committee agree to the establishment of a panel, it was suggested that (as with the Licensing Committee) the 10 Elected Members of the Committee should form the “pool” from which panel members would be drawn.  This proposal would provide maximum flexibility in terms of availability, individual Member involvement and to allow any conflicts of interest (e.g. membership of governing bodies) to be avoided.  The Scrutiny Committee was also requested to consider whether the pool, if established, should include the four statutory co-opted members of the Scrutiny Committee. 

 

The Chief Learning and Skills Officer indicated that the findings of the panel would be reported for consideration to the Scrutiny Committee and, (subject to Access to Information requirements) the Governing Body.  It was also proposed that a schedule would be developed on a termly basis in consultation with the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee in order to take account of any changes with up to two meetings per term if required.  The panel would be supported by an officer from the Education Department Management Team and the Head of Democratic Services had agreed to provide officer support.  It had been agreed to review the panel arrangements, including officer support, after 12 months.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T a panel be established of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) constituted with three members of the Committee (minimum of at least two Elected Members) to be drawn from the ten members and the four statutory co-opted members on the basis of arrangements set out in the report and to meet with individual schools when required.

 

(2)       T H A T the panel arrangements and officer support be reviewed within 12 months.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To meet with Governors and Headteachers of individual schools where performance issues had been identified, including schools subject to Estyn follow-up.

 

(2)       To allow an appropriate review to take place after 12 months of the panel’s existence.

 

 

879     CENTRAL SOUTH PERFORMANCE STOCKTAKE REPORT (CLSO) –

 

The Welsh Government’s School Standards Unit (SSU) was established in the Autumn Term 2011 with the purpose to engage directly in professional dialogue about school performance with each of the four regional Consortia in Wales.  Since that time, regional, termly Stocktake sessions had been delivered by the SSU.  During these Stocktakes, Directors of Education / Chief Officers and their respective heads of school improvement had been challenged about the school performance of individual secondary schools in their respective home Authorities.  The Stocktake approach enabled the SSU to identify areas for improvement and to share what worked well in other schools across Wales.

 

Appendix 1 to the report contained the Secondary Stocktake Report.  Appendix 2 to the report related to the Primary Stocktake Report. 

 

The Secondary Stocktake Report referred to the following matters:

  • the need for Local Authorities to focus on improving performance in the Level 2 inclusive i.e. 5 GCSEs A* to C which must include English / Language and Maths in combination;
  • to raise awareness about the read across i.e. the need for an increased focus on those individual pupils achieving a GCSE in both English and Maths;
  • the number of pupils achieving A* -C GCSE in Mathematics as the limiting factor; and
  • support provided to secondary schools via Education London.

The Consortium discussions with officers focused on the following issues:

  • the regional service now delivered the statutory challenge, monitor and intervention functions on behalf of partner councils;
  • the impact of changes in senior school management and the resulting positive and negative impact on school performance;
  • that strong leadership at both head and head of departmental levels can have demonstrable effects on performance;
  • that there was greater emphasis now on providing targeted intervention directed at pupil level, to improve performance;
  • that there was a desire to raise the bar and to look beyond the Consortium and Wales for best practice; and
  • to ensure that identified schools improved the read across between English and Maths.

Agreed actions included:

  • establish a close read across in tracking systems;
  • raise aspirations;
  • ensure all schools were teaching and preparing for the revised specifications for GCSE Language and Maths; and
  • for the Consortium to encourage dialogue to promote sharing of best practice.

The Primary Report focused on the following matters:

  • to develop a shared understanding about the relationship between the Core Subject Indicator (CSI) and the Reading, Writing and Mathematics in combination indicator;
  • to look more closely at the respective performance  of free school meals (FSM) and non-FSM pupils;
  • to discuss the relationship between the scores at KS 2 and KS 4; and
  • to understand the support and challenge categories used by the Consortium and the implementation of the National Literacy and Numeracy Frameworks.

The Consortium discussion with officers centred on the Consortium’s approach to supporting local authorities’ implementation of the National Literacy and Numeracy plans as well as the extent to which plans were underpinned by performance data.  Additional points for discussion focused on the development of a Consortium plan to improve standards in literacy and numeracy.  Consequently a set of actions were agreed and related to the following:

  • develop a consistent approach to dialogue between system leaders and schools' senior management teams in relation to school improvement activities arising out of the analysis of data;
  • the need to concentrate effort on preparing schools to deliver the National Literacy Framework through high quality teaching and learning strategies.

The Scrutiny Committee was informed that the Council would continue to work with the Consortium to implement agreed actions through the work of the School Improvement and Inclusion Service.

 

Discussion ensued with comments being made in regard to concerns relating to too much focus being placed on specific elements of the curriculum, in particular the focus on individual students being successful in both English and Maths, appropriate funding that should be appropriate to assist the raising of standards in these subjects and support that would be provided around English and Maths provision for those pupils who were less able. 

 

The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion reminded the Committee that the Stocktake reflected best practice sharing across the local authorities participating in the Consortium and indicated that the underperformance of schools in the subject of Maths was an issue that needed to be addressed.  However, she referred to the “Maths Plus Initiative” which had been successfully implemented in schools across the Vale of Glamorgan with the purpose of improving performance in Maths outcomes. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the findings of the Central South Consortium’s termly performance Stocktake be noted and that the Cabinet be requested to ensure that appropriate support is available to raise standards in English and in particular Maths in schools in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of progress made to date and to ensure appropriate provision was in place.