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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

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

 

Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, H.C. Hamilton, T.H. Jarvie, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, R.A. Penrose and E. Williams.

 

Also present: Councillor C.P.J. Elmore.

 

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).

 

 

988     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillor Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. K. Edmunds and F.T. Johnson.

 

 

989     ANNOUNCEMENT –

 

The Chairman took the opportunity to welcome Councillor Mrs. M. Kelly Owen to the meeting following her recent absence.

 

 

990     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 18th February, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

991     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

992     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2012 TO 31ST JANUARY 2013 (CLSO) –

 

Prior to the commencement of the report, a request was made that in view of the recent issue in relation to the School Surplus Places review, the Committee should consider recommending the report be no longer a Part II report and receive further information on the process that had been undertaken.  However, as the item was not on the agenda for discussion the Democratic Services Officer reminded the Committee of the Request for Consideration of matter procedure.  The Committee in recognition of the officer’s advice subsequently continued with the proceedings and received the Revenue and Capital monitoring report.

 

The Operational Manager for Finance and Systems commenced by advising that Cabinet, on 19th November had approved the amended capital and revenue budgets for 2012/13  and as such the revenue budget and projected outturn for 2012/13 was shown at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

Overall, the Education Budget was reported to balance at the year end of March 2013, however, this would be after transferring £186k from Education Reserves.  Any savings identified between now and the end of the year would be available to reduce the use of reserves, or to redirect into the School Investment Strategy or other reserves. There had been an adjustment of £8k increasing the ALN budget and reducing the Schools budgets to amend the amount of funding devolved to Secondary Schools for one to one LSA support.  However, this had no overall affect on the Education and Schools budget.

 

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 £12k.  This was made up of an overspend of  £40k due to an amended approach to funding the WJEC subscription which had  originally been proposed as a saving and also £10k 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 and additional income generated in year and vacancy savings made within the service of £28k.

 

Access and Inclusion - Additional Learning Needs were projecting an overspend of £269k which was reported as due to an overspend against the budget for children’s placements in independent schools of £267k, which was partly offset by additional recoupment income of £86k.  ALN was also projecting an overspend of £255k against the one to one LSA budget and an additional £43k for Early Intervention support.  This had been offset in the year by £254k 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 £14k 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 be funded by a contribution from the Excluded Pupils Reserve.  The Authority had also recently received confirmation that an additional £50k which had been incurred for Post 16 placements in Independent Schools would be funded by additional grant funding in year.  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 £95k.  £54k was due to the previously vacant Director's post and there were savings against the pensions budgets of £29k, £15k against Directorate office supplies and advertising budgets, £22k in Education Finance due to additional grant funding and employee savings, £67k underspend in ICT and Data due to in year vacancy savings, additional income generated and new arrangements for funding school tests, £29k against ALN transport and £20k against the vacant school buildings officer post.  This was offset by a projected overspend of £19k for Schools Rates and a £12k overspend as a result of alternative accommodation arrangements for Albert School.  There was also a projected overspend against maternity costs met on behalf of the schools of £110k.  The outturn for maternity was difficult to project accurately and was overspent by £195k in 2011/12 and therefore 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 operated 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 to finance the School’s contributions to the Early Retirement/ Voluntary Redundancy scheme Education was projecting to transfer £68,000 from Education Reserves.  This would be repaid by participating schools over 2013/14 and 2014/15.

 

Libraries - There was currently a £18k favourable variance against the profiled budget.  The Service was however, anticipated to outturn within budget, as there were stock purchases to be made prior to year end.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st January 2013. For all schemes where it was evident that the full year's budget would not be spent during the year, the relevant officers had been required to provide an explanation for the shortfall which was to be taken to the earliest available Cabinet.

 

Penarth Learning Community - An offer of additional revenue funding for this project had been made by Ysgol Maes Dyfan and Ashgrove School in order to fund the provision of specialist equipment and resources for the new school. In order to procure these items it was necessary to increase the capital budget accordingly.  As such, Cabinet would be requested to increase the existing budget by £80k.

 

Llancarfan and Gwenfo Demountables - Whilst the Gwenfo works were complete, due to tenders for the Llancarfan element of the scheme being higher than available funding, options were being reconsidered.  It was likely that slippage would be requested in order to progress the scheme in the next financial year.

 

Appendix 3 provided non-financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000.   Where a budget shown in Appendix 2 was more than £100,000 but was made up of several schemes that individually were less than £100,000, the scheme was not included in Appendix 3.

 

In considering the report reference was made to Scrutiny Committees considering in-depth individual schools budgets with Members being advised that a member of the Scrutiny Committee sat on the Budget Forum.  The Chairman advised that should the Member on the Budget Forum consider there were any concerns, these would be brought to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.  The Head of Strategic Planning and Performance advised that there were currently two schools with deficits, who would work with officers to produce a budget recovery plan that could cover more than one financial year if necessary.  It was noted that arrangements in relation to the management of school deficits and surplus balances are audited annually and that a recent internal audit report on the matter placed a high degree of assurance on the systems in place.

 

In accepting that the Committee could consider school budgets at future meetings, it was subsequently

 

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 Cabinet be requested to increase the Penarth Learning Community capital budget by £80k. funded from a revenue contribution from Schools.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)               To advise Members of the position with regard to the 2012/13 revenue and capital monitoring relevant to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

(2)       To seek Cabinet approval for the amendment to the Capital Programme.

 

 

993     CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE SERVICES – COMMISSIONING STRATEGY AND ACTION PLAN 2013-2018 (REF) –

 

The report had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee from the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) for information in order for the Scrutiny Committee to be able to consider the Commissioning Strategy.  The final draft of the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan 2013-18 was attached as an Appendix to the report with Members being informed that the Strategy focused on three key stages in the care journey:

  • preventing children and young people becoming looked after where this is not necessary to safeguard their welfare
  • enabling those that do come into care to be rehabilitated back to their family network where it is safe to do so
  • providing the best possible outcomes for those who remain accommodated.

The Head of Service for Children and Young People presented the report advising that the Strategy and Action Plan were key documents for the Children and Young People Service. The Strategy contained four key objectives:

  • To support families to stay together and reduce the need for children to be looked after by ensuring a focus on early intervention and preventative action across all service provision for children, including statutory and independent providers.
  • To manage risk confidently and provide support at the “edge of care” by making sure that need and risk were accurately assessed and received the proper response, so that the right children were accommodated at the right time.  This included supporting families by making private arrangements with their wider family networks.
  • To provide and commission a flexible and affordable mix of high quality placements that met the diverse range of children’s needs.
  • To give children clearly planned journeys through care which remained focused on achieving care plans, prevent drift, enable them to be reunited with family and friends where possible, provide them with stable placements and opportunities to exit the care system positively.

The objectives were underpinned by key principles which were contained within the report.

 

A number of the key actions contained within the Strategy had already been put in place and were beginning to show positive outcomes.  However, it was noted that successful implementation of the Strategy would require continuing and co-ordinated effort that was Council wide and which included other Divisions and service providers.  The Children and Young People Services Division Management Team would be responsible for overseeing delivery of the Strategy and the Action Plan, monitoring the impact on children and their families and driving forward the focus on reducing admissions to care and increasing reunification to family and friends as a key priority for the Directorate.  The Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) would also receive six monthly progress update reports. 

 

In response to a query regarding the number of children placed out of county, Members were informed that some children had complex and challenging needs and, as such, provision was not always available within the Vale of Glamorgan.  It was noted that 95% of children looked after were being seen within statutory timescales against an All Wales average of 82% and that every looked after child had a qualified social worker allocated to them.  In preparing the report Members were informed that although Headteachers had not been involved in the production, officers within the Learning and Skills Department had been fully involved in developing the Strategy.  The Head of Service referred to the existing links between the service and schools and that he also attended the Senior Management Team within the Learning and Skills Department to consider issues and provide expertise.  Reference was made to looked after children attending university with it being noted that some were very high achievers and had been supported into higher education, with some having also completed masters’ degrees.  Although there were some under-achievers, these were regularly tracked and monitored.  The Committee were also reminded that a detailed a progress report on looked after children in the education system that was listed in its work programme would be presented to the Committee in due course.  In recognising that the Committee would receive a report to a future meeting it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Head of Service and his team be commended for the work in developing the Strategy to date.

 

(2)       T H A T the content of the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In light of the work that had been undertaken and the progress made.

 

(2)       To apprise Members.

 

 

994     SUMMARY OF DRAFT SELF EVALUATION REPORT OF LOCAL AUTHORITY EDUCATION SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE (CLSO) –

 

In preparation for inspection and drawing on regular cycles of monitoring and evaluation, Members were informed that there was an expectation that a self evaluation report would be prepared ahead of the Estyn inspection in the week beginning 20th May 2013.  The draft self evaluation report was a relatively lengthy document and a summary was attached at Appendix 1 which had been produced for convenience. It was noted that comments on the draft document were also being sought from a range of other groups with the final document to be amended in the light of the comments received.

 

The summary covered:

  • Key Question 1: How Good are our Outcomes? with subheadings in relation to
  • -         Standards, post 16, standards of groups of learners, skills and Welsh and under
-         Wellbeing development of health and safe attitudes, participation and enjoyment in learning, community involvement and decision making
  • Key Question 2: How Good is Provision? Looking at

          -          support, monitoring, challenge and intervention

          -          raising standards in priority areas, including curriculum support

          -          support for school leadership, management and governance, etc.

  • Key Question 3: How Good are Leadership and Management? covering, for example

          -          impact of leadership

          -          elected Members and other supervisory boards

          -          planning improvement

          -          resource management

          -          value for money.

 

Members were informed that during the Estyn inspection it was possible that inspectors would observe a Scrutiny Committee and meet with Members of the Committee. 

 

Following concerns that Members were not considering the full evaluation document, it was agreed that the full document would be e-mailed to all Members three days before 5th April, being the date that officers had agreed to finalise the document.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the summary document be endorsed and the final report forwarded to Members as outlined above.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order to consider the document fully and e-mail any comments to the Chief Learning and Skills Officer.

 

 

995     CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM JOINT EDUCATION SERVICE PROGRESS REPORT: FEBRUARY 2013 (CLSO) –

 

Committee was provided with an update on the progress achieved by the Consortium and key issues to be addressed.  Central South Consortium comprised Cardiff, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Vale of Glamorgan Councils.  The Joint Education Service was established in September 2011 to undertake a range of school improvement activities, including statutory functions, on behalf of the Council.  Governance arrangements for the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service were in place, the details of which were attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  The progress report, also attached at Appendix 1, had been presented to the most recent meeting of the Joint Committee. 

 

The Chief Learning and Skills Officer advised that paragraph 9 referred to the development of a strategic plan for the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service ensuring that available resources were effectively targeted toward a small number of key priorities.  The plan would provide the basis for local authority performance management of consortium activity and the strategic plan would be brought to a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.  Work was currently underway to develop arrangements for the joint scrutiny of the Central South Consortium by the five councils; these arrangements were likely to mean that in the future scrutiny of the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service was undertaken by the new joint scrutiny committee rather than by the current Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning).  A further report would be brought to the Scrutiny Committee in due course.

 

In response to a query by a co-opted Member regarding resource implications the Chief Learning and Skills Officer agreed to circulate the financial report that had been presented to the recent meeting of the Joint Education Service.  The report was to be forwarded to the Democratic and Scrutiny Officer for circulation.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the financial report referred to above be circulated to all members of the Committee.

 

(2)       T H A T the contents of the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service progress report February 2013 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To update Members.

 

(2)       To provide an update to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

996     3RD QUARTER PERFORMANCE MONITORING REPORTS –

 

The following reports were presented for consideration:

  • Inclusion Service quarterly performance monitoring report
  • School Improvement quarterly performance monitoring report
  • Strategic Planning and Performance quarterly performance monitoring report.

In referring to :

 

PI 924Q – the percentage of employees that leave the employment of School Improvement during the year, Members were informed that a large number of staff had left to join the JES. 

 

 L877Q – the average number of working days / shifts lost per full time equivalent employee in Strategic Planning and Performance due to sickness absence. The Head of Service advised that there should be an upturn in the next quarter as the few cases highlighted had now been dealt with under the Council’s Management of attendance policy.

 

LCL001Q – The number of visits to Public Libraries during the year per 1,000 population. In response to a query as to further work required to enhance the target Members were advised that various promotional activities were being undertaken.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Performance monitoring reports be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation  

 

In recognition of the Scrutiny Committee’s monitoring role.

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