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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 23rd May, 2013.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

46          APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor H.C. Hamilton.

 

 

47          APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T Councillor Ms. R. Birch be appointed Vice-Chairman for the current municipal year.

 

 

48          MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 22nd April, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

49          DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

50          SCHOOL ADMISSION ARRANGEMENTS 2014/15 (REF) –

 

Cabinet had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for information following the conclusion of the Council’s statutory consultation exercise that was undertaken.  The report outlined that the Local Authority had a statutory duty to consult on school admission arrangements on an annual basis.  The School Admissions Policy had been issued for consultation on 11th January 2013 to Headteachers and chairs of governors of all schools in the relevant areas, neighbouring local authorities and Diocesan Directors of Education.  Responses had been required by 1st March 2013.  The LA had received 785 written responses to the consultation exercise of which 22 respondents had stated they were in favour of the changes with the remainder being either opposed or having serious concerns. 

 

The main themes emanating from the consultation exercise were summarised at Appendix B to the report.

 

The responses to the consultation highlighted the importance that local people attached to the use of attendance at designated feeder schools as an admissions criterion in the case of oversubscription.  Taking into account this clear view the proposals had been amended to retain the feeder school system as an oversubscription criterion for entry to secondary schools with minor modification to address certain anomalies within the system ensuring that local children who did not attend a linked feeder primary school were enabled to attend their local secondary school. The revised arrangement also addressed the legislative requirements in terms of a Local Authority prioritising pupils within its Authority area.

 

The current oversubscription criteria for secondary schools together with the proposed criteria consulted on and revised criteria post consultation were attached at Appendix C to the report.

 

The admission arrangements detailed in the attached School Admissions Policy 2014/2015 at Appendix A would be operational for the 2014/15 academic year.

 

In considering the report, the following queries were raised and responses  provided:

 

Question

Response

How is capacity calculated?

Capacity was calculated on the size of the school with a formula set by Welsh Government.  The whole school was measured with the criteria taking into account the space within the school.  It was noted that in certain circumstances the LA could admit over admission numbers but that would be dependant on class organisation and agreement with the Governing body and the Headteacher.

Do we have any over subscriptions in the Vale?

Yes, there were a number of schools.  The admission criteria would be implemented from September 2014.

To date how many appeals have been made in respect of school admissions?

Approximately 15 appeals with some children being offered second preference accepting that they were unable to have their first preference.

What consideration does the Council give to military personnel? 

The Authority has due regard for the military covenant, but this is not legally binding on the Authority.  The normal criteria was moving into an area was that the Authority would need to see a guarantee of an address.  With regard to the military, they Authority needed to see information regarding the address of the unit.  The Local Authority had regular discussions with the RAF and the contact officer had advised that  there was no intention for the military to have preference over and above those currently living within the Vale of Glamorgan.

What arrangements for 2018 are we making for the military?

We are currently working with the MoD and seeking clarity on future expectations.

How do we deal with late applications?

Any late applications are considered after all the applications that are received before the deadline.

In considering the number of primary pupils, what are the plans for future Welsh medium comprehensive education?

Forecasted pupil numbers show that there will be a need to increase Welsh medium secondary sector places as the larger primary cohorts feed through.  This requirement is being built into our planning assumptions.

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the amended arrangements be endorsed and the contents of the report noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider the possible forthcoming military expansion in the area to ensure that school admissions are planned for accordingly.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In support of the school admissions policy for 2014/15 as contained within the report.

 

(2)       To ensure that adequate plans are put in place for the future.

 

 

51          NEETS PROVISION IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (CLSO) –

 

The Committee received a progress report on NEETs provision in the Vale which provided an update on developments with young people in both the Vale of Glamorgan and at a national level.

 

NEET levels for 16-18 had steadily been improving year on year both locally and nationally.  This was in contrast with the levels of NEET 19-24 which had been increasing due to the economic climate and its well publicised affect on youth unemployment globally.  It was therefore crucial that the Authority developed and improved training and employment opportunities for those young people in transition between full time education and work to thus attempt to reduce the continuing increase in the level of post 18 NEET.

 

A Youth Service Welsh Government Revenue Grant was currently being reconfigured to have a direct focus on those young people deemed at risk and to help reduce the number of NEETs in the Vale.  The Youth Service was currently developing working arrangements with schools to provide early intervention strategies for young people who are at risk of becoming NEET. Young people were identified in Years 8 and 9 by the school on attendance levels, behaviour, attitudes to learning and emotional literacy.  Support for schools was flexible and was driven by the needs of the learners.  The purpose of the intervention was to provide ongoing support for young people and to prevent them dropping out of mainstream provision and becoming NEET.  Through a partnership with Urdd Gobiath Cymru, support for Welsh Medium schools was also available.

 

Many young people aged 16-24 were NEET due to isolation and lack of services in rural areas.  Employment options, education services, training providers and Careers Advisors were based in the Barry area and transport costs for young people make accessing these services difficult.  Mobile provision was being developed to take information, advice and guidance (IAG) to young people in their communities.  The mobile service (VPOD) would be used in partnership with Job Centre Plus, and Careers Wales to engage with young people and provide IAG and links to education, training and employment services.

 

The 14-19 Network had been responsible for work which had been very significant in providing increased choice and progression opportunities for hundreds of learners in the Vale, helping to reduce the number of young people not engaged.  This included college courses shared and mixed classes in schools, expanding volunteering opportunities, extended work experience and pre and post 16 Learning Coach support.  From April 2013 this funding was being allocated on a regional basis rather than locally, a small increase in additional funds for provision and support had been secured for 2013-14.  However the future sustainability of this funding was uncertain beyond 2013/14.

 

Withdrawal of the above funding would have an effect on learners as some 2 year courses may not be able to be completed due to funding ceasing part way through periods of study.  The funding also supported two Learning Coach roles, one of whom intervenes pre 16 and directs young people at risk to alternative education other than school and one post 16 who was seconded to CW and worked directly with young people aged 16-19 identified as economically inactive.  It was reported that the support given was very successful, however the uncertainty of the future of 14-19 funding raised the question of whether this essential function and service could be sustained in the future.  Welsh Government had however not yet announced any indication on the way forward or offered any solutions to the issue. 

 

Many Families First funded projects support the work with NEETs. These included Gateway to Engagement (25-35 students per year) and the Partnership for Young Parents which targeted young mothers (15 per year) and was run in partnership with Flying Start.  The transition from Cymorth to Families First funding had changed the way the funding could be used and had led to a move away from individual projects to working around a whole family.

 

Through Communities First funding several initiatives had been approved to deliver targeted work within the cluster areas, the three main themes were: Learning Communities, Prosperous Communities and Healthy Communities. Within Learning Communities, 3 projects would commence to help target those not in education, employment or training.

 

The report stated that the Statutory Youth Service had a key role to play in its diverse project and centre based work which allowed formal and informal work with all young people with a specific emphasis on young people at risk.  In addition, the Youth Service had re-established a Youth Provider Network (YPN) with the aim of sharing information resources and expertise to provide a collaborative approach to addressing the NEET issues.  The Youth Service administered, developed, monitored and supported the network and helped ensure a more joined up approach to youth support services across the Authority.

 

With regard to the Education Welfare Service Members were reminded that the EWO’S addressed education and non-attendance issues and were based  in schools.  The Alternative Learning Support Programme Co-ordinator supported young people into appropriate learning provision with one of five local training providers and the officers identified and targeted those at risk pre 16, and have had a positive effect in significantly reducing the number of non-attendees.  In response to a query regarding whether the Council had sufficient education and welfare officers in place to deal with absenteeism and lateness etc., the Chief Learning and Skills Officer advised that the Council did not tackle the issue on its own.  The department worked with schools in order to tackle attendance and whilst noting that attendance and unauthorised absence data that was gathered needed improvement, particularly in primary schools she assured Members that the Council was committed to working with schools and to the use of EWOs to best effect. 

 

Following the presentation of the report a Member referred to the issue under paragraph 10 as to what support was in place that was driven by the needs of the learners.  In response Committee was advised that mobile provision provides a means to assist with engaging with pupils and a number of courses had also been made available, particularly in relation to behaviour issues.  There were also a number of bite size learning activities that took place which were referred to as learning by stealth with pupils having the opportunity to work on their literacy and numeracy skills. The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme provided support for pupils in respect of life skills.

 

Following consideration of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress to date, the reduction in the numbers of NEETS and the measures for further improvement be noted. 

 

(2)       T H A T six monthly progress updates on NEETs provision in the Vale of Glamorgan be presented to the Scrutiny Committee and the work programme be amended accordingly.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for information advising of the  measures contained therein to secure further improvement.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       For Members to be aware of the priority being given to preventing young people in the Vale of Glamorgan from becoming NEETs and the framework responsibilities..

 

(2)       Members considered that six monthly reports were more reasonable than quarterly.

 

(3)       For information and or consideration.

 

 

52          SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR THE SPRING TERM 2013 (CLSO) –

 

Committee received feedback on two schools in the Vale of Glamorgan namely Peterston-Super-Ely C/W Primary and Dinas Powys Infants School.  It was noted that the schools had been inspected during the Spring term 2013 and a summary of the investigation findings were appended to the report.

 

The report highlighted that at Peterston-Super-Ely Primary the current performance and prospects for improvement were good and for Dinas Powys the current performance was noted as excellent and prospects for improvement good. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee notes with great pleasure the results of the inspections and the Chairman writes on behalf of the Committee to the Schools expressing congratulations and thanks for the good work.

 

(2)       T H A T the good practice identified as excellent be shared with the Scrutiny Committee and with other schools in the Vale as soon as practicable.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and / or information.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In noting the results of the inspection.

 

(2)       To enable good practice to be shared.

 

(3)       For Cabinet consideration.

 

 

53          CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM PERFORMANCE STOCKTAKE REPORT (CLSO) –

 

Appendix 1 to the report provided the Scrutiny Committee with the findings of the Central South Consortium’s termly performance Stocktake that had been conducted by Welsh Government’s School Standards Unit (SSU) in Spring Term 2013.  The Welsh Government’s SSU had been set up in Autumn 2011 to engage directly in professional dialogue about school performance with each of the four regional Consortia in Wales.  The Stocktake approach enabled the SSU to identify areas for improvement and to share what worked well in other schools across Wales. 

 

In response to whether the Consortium had appointed a Director to head the service the Committee was advised that the Joint Committee had considered proposals for leadership and had agreed that there would not be a full time permanent director although the arrangement would be kept under review.  The Head of School Improvement had recently been appointed, namely Mr. Robert Hopkins, and two part time roles had also been created.  With regard to the function of joint scrutiny of the JES , the Democratic and Scrutiny Officer would consult with the Head of Democratic Services and advise Members by email on progress to date.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be informed of the Scrutiny Committee’s concerns at the delay in setting up a joint scrutiny committee of the JES and that Cabinet’s attention be also drawn to the reference to St. Cyres School contained within the appendix to the report.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To keep Members informed.

 

(2)       To apprise Cabinet of the views of the Committee and the contents of the report.

 

 

 

54          SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY BASED COUNSELLING SERVICE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE (CLSO) –

 

The Committee had requested to receive a report on the matter which advised of the current position and progress in relation to the development of the local School Based Counselling Service in the Vale of Glamorgan.   The Children and Young People’s Partnership Manager advised that the service had been established as a key recommendation following the Clywch report in 2004 which had been issued by the then Children’s Commissioner Peter Clark.  Members were informed that between April 2012 to March 2013 384 young people had undertaken an episode of counselling.  This equated to 1,921 individual sessions, with females accounting for over 60%  of those accessing the service.  It was noted that more young people appeared to access the service as they got older, with a peak in year 10.  Of those seen by a counsellor only 10 young people reported being a Looked After Child (LAC), and this was below the national average.  This had been discussed by the Management Board who oversaw the service and raised with the relevant staff working directly with LACs but numbers remained low. 

 

In reporting to Committee the Partnership Manager advised that the main issues for referral were often highlighted as family, stress, anger and bullying issues.  The report also highlighted that through the young people’s Post Counselling Questionnaire feedback was positive:

  • 100% of pupils agreed that the referral process worked well. 
  • 100% of pupils stated they felt comfortable with the counsellor and would use the service again.
  • 80% of pupils stated that using the service had helped improve relationships with friends and family.
  • 70% had noted an improvement in their own behaviour and concentration as well as being more able to cope with things at school.
  • Of the 40% of pupils who highlighted that their attendance was an issue prior to counselling all suggested that counselling had made it easier to attend school.
  • Areas highlighted for improvement included the length of waiting lists and the counselling room was not always adequate. These are areas that are being explored with schools and the service provider.  

Welsh Government feedback on the Vale of Glamorgan’s progress had also been very good.  A review by the Welsh Government had used a number of indicators to evaluate the cost and quality of the service during the Spring term of 2011 with the service in the Vale performing well on all of these indicators.

 

Following reference to the YP Core Tool as detailed in paragraph 13 of the report, Members were informed that this was a psychological tool to measure psychological wellbeing and stress levels and showed a reduction in reported stress levels pre and post counselling of between 9 and 10 points.

 

The Chairman stated that he was pleased to note that the young people as clients had positively reported that the referral process worked well.

 

Following consideration of the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report and the excellent progress to date be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee continues to monitor progress on the development of the service and that the work programme schedule for the Committee be amended to include that an annual update is presented in May or June of each year.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet in order for Cabinet to consider the progress that had been made to date.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In recognition of the work being undertaken.

 

(2)       In order to monitor progress .

 

(3)       For Cabinet consideration.

 

 

55          TASK AND FINISH ACTIVITIES FOR 2013/14 (HDS) –

 

Members were requested to consider a topic for review from within the Committee’s remit to be forwarded to the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group for consideration.

 

For Members’ information, attached at Appendix A to the report was an analysis of a door to door survey that had been undertaken on behalf of the Vale by Beaufort Research, which detailed the priorities by the public that had emerged in 2012.  Appendix B detailed actions taken from the Corporate Plan of issues that were of concern to residents in the Vale. 

 

The Democratic and Scrutiny Officer advised that following submissions of the report to all Scrutiny Committees, a Member of the Council had provided three suggestions for review, one of which came under the remit of the Scrutiny Committee.  The suggestion being a review of the NEETs Service.  However, as NEETs was an ongoing work programme item for the Committee, following further discussions it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the following topic for review be forwarded to the Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group for consideration:

  • Early Years Provision in the Vale of Glamorgan, including Flying Start.

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that Early Years Provision was applied equally and appropriately throughout the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

 

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