SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)
Minutes of a meeting held on 11th November, 2013.
Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillors Ms. K. Edmunds, H.C. Hamilton, 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 Observer: Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education).
Also present: Councillors C.P.J. Elmore and Dr. I.J. Johnson.
577 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillors Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman) and Mrs. M.E.J. Birch.
578 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 14th October, 2013 be approved as a correct record.
579 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
Mr. L. Kellaway declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 8 in that a close family member worked in the library and he would leave the room when the item was to be discussed.
580 ESTYN REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LOCAL AUTHORITY EDUCATION SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE (REF) –
The Chief Learning and Skills officer presented the reference and the report which had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee for information. The report advised on the process and timetable to prepare the Post Inspection Action Plan. It was noted that the Estyn Inspection had taken place between 20th and 24th May, 2013 and the Inspectors had considered a wide range of evidence which had included data, documents and interviews. The report attached at Appendix 1 to the report had been published on 17th September 2013 and circulated to all Members at that time.
The Inspector’s overall judgement had been "adequate" with capacity to improve judged also to be "adequate". In view of the fact that at Agenda Item No. 5 the Committee would be considering The Council’s Draft Post Inspection Action Plan it was
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the reference be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In recognition of the fact that the Committee would be considering the actual Draft Post Inspection Plan at the next item on the agenda.
581 ESTYN INSPECTION OF LOCAL AUTHORITY EDUCATION SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE: DRAFT POST INSPECTION ACTION PLAN (PIAP) (CMCS) –
The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services presented the report and stated that it was his intention to take a similar report to Cabinet on 18th November, 2013 and he would include the comments of the Scrutiny Committee in that report.
The Chairman, prior to the consideration of the report, advised that since the Inspection in May 2013 the Council had now received 2013 attainment data from all the schools which showed that the picture was different today than it had been in May. Appendix 1 to the report detailed the draft PIAP which sought to provide a comprehensive Action Plan to address the recommendations of the Inspectors and the shortcomings that they had observed. Monitoring arrangements were also included in the draft PIAP and the Scrutiny Committee’s views on the document were being sought.
In response to a query relating to Welsh Medium Education and whether the actions fully covered the recommendations, the Cabinet Member responded by advising that he would be presenting a further report to Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee on the matter but that in the main, he considered that the response was appropriate and stated that the Committee would receive progress reports in relation to the PIAP, twice yearly in May and November. The Cabinet Member also referred to improvements that had been made since the Inspection particularly in relation to the Foundation Phase and Key Stages 2 and 3 and that it was important to note that some of the underperforming schools had made significant strides.
A Member queried why some of the improvements could not have been made prior to the Inspection in light of the improvements that had been made since. In response the Cabinet Member advised that there had been a number of issues at the time. There had been a change in the political administration of the Council, no Director for the Service for sometime, the two Heads of Service had had to cover a wide range of duties and responsibilities prior to the appointment of the Chief Learning and Skills officer and there had also been further changes in relation to the Joint Education Service. He took the opportunity to offer full credit to the officers who had managed to keep the Education Service afloat and that it was important to note that within the Inspection several good areas of work had also been reported.
All Members concurred that it was important to be positive in moving forward and to focus on the areas that required attention. The Chairman stated that the Committee’s role to monitor and seek to improve performance was an increasing role for the Committee and referred in particular to the increasing role of individual school progress meetings in respect of school performance.
Having fully considered the report it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be accepted.
Reason for recommendation
In order that a comprehensive PIAP was agreed and implemented and that progress is monitored and evaluated.
582 SCHOOL PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR THE END OF KEY STAGE 4 AND 5 (PROVISIONAL DATA ONLY) (CMCS) –
The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services advised that the purpose of the report was to consult the Committee on school performance and the processes in place to further improve services.
The report outlined performance for the performance measures as detailed below:
· the Core Subject Indicator; those pupils attaining a GCSE A* - C in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science:
· Level 1 Threshold; proportion of pupils attaining 5 x GCSEs A* to G
· Level 2 Threshold; proportion of pupils attaining 5 x GCSEs A* to C
· Level 2+ Threshold; proportion of pupils attaining 5 x GCSEs A* to C including English and Maths
· English GCSE Level 2; the proportion of pupils attaining English GCSE A* to C
· Maths GCSE Level 2; the proportion of pupils attaining Maths GCSE A* to C
· Science Level 2; the proportion of pupils attaining Science GCSE A* to C.
Appendix 1 to the report provided an overview of provisional results for Key Stage 4 whilst performance in Level 2 Maths, Science, Level 1, Level 2 CPS WPS had increased on 2012, performance in L2 English / Welsh, Level 2+ and the CSI had decreased.
Appendix 2 to the report compared the performance with Wales with performance in the Vale for L2+ had decreased by 0.8% points, the CSI by 5% and the Level 2 English / Welsh by 1.2% on 2012 results.
Appendix 3 provided the performance of individual schools in the Vale of Glamorgan (provisional data only) with it being noted that benchmarking data was also only provisional at this stage.
The information demonstrated some significant gains and reductions but also saw some decreases in certain areas. Of particular concern the report noted the decrease in performance in Level 2 English and Maths (Barry Comprehensive and St. Richard Gwyn) along with the flat-lining of both subjects in Llantwit and St. Cyres.
Appendix 4 provided high level GCSE comparative information with Wales for 2013 with Appendix 5a identifying the school level A Level profile with most schools showing an increase in Level 3 with the exception of Barry Comprehensive. Appendix 5b identified the high level A and AS level performance profile set against the all-Wales means with grade proportions for AS levels showing an increase across the board.
Schools’ System Leaders within the JES would monitor progress towards meeting performance targets on a termly basis and also deliver the authority’s statutory school improvement functions to all schools on behalf of the Council. The Committee would also receive further progress and performance reports throughout the year.
In referring to individual school progress meetings the Cabinet Member advised that, as agreed by the Committee, they would be returning to Llantwit Major when the results of the banding had been received and that arrangements were currently being made to visit St. Cyres. He would also be bringing a further report to the Scrutiny Committee in the New Year to consider opportunities to visit other schools to discuss performance.
The Head of Service advised that targets and challenges would be undertaken by the Joint Education Service and again a further report would be presented to the Committee for consideration in due course.
Members sought clarification on why the decreases in performance had not been identified sooner with the Head of Service advising that early warning systems were being put in place which would provide information in relation to the results of mock exams and course work etc. This system would be rolled out throughout all schools in order for the Council to have the necessary information as soon as possible. Some schools had also not been setting suitable targets with a commitment now being reached to setting a minimum target.
One of the co-opted Members raised the issue that the Council should make more effort to congratulate schools when they had done well. The Chief Learning and Skills Officer advised that the Authority wished to celebrate success more and that the Department was currently responding to this request. In particular mention was made of the recent letters that had been sent to Bro Morgannwg School and Holton Primary School regarding their recent success.
Reference was also made to the take up of free school meals with the Head of Strategic Planning and Performance advising that Headteachers actively supported applications for free school meals and over the previous year the Council had developed an approach to assist parents in making applications through the benefits system. This proactive approach was proving extremely positive.
In considering the contents of the report Members stated that with regard to the accountability, responsibilities and Scrutiny of the Joint Education Service the Committee itself, needed to ascertain how the Consortium would help secure accelerated progress in under-performing schools as well as the reporting mechanisms that would be put in place to provide the Council with the necessary detail for its consideration on a regular basis.
Following considerable discussion it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the School Performance Report for the end of Key Stage 4 and 5 (Provisional Data Only) be noted.
(2) T H A T the intention of the Cabinet Member to report to the Scrutiny Committee on the additional schools that would require individual progress meetings regarding performance be noted.
(3) T H A T in order to address the concerns of the Scrutiny Committee as outlined above the Head of School Improvement and the Head of Service for the Link Advisors within the Joint Education Service be requested to attend the December meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.
(4) T H A T Cabinet be informed of the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee in view of the issues as outlined above.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In view of the contents contained in the report and the appendices.
(2) To address performance issues.
(3) To ensure that effective monitoring arrangements are in place to improve performance in schools in view of the Committee’s scrutinising and monitoring role.
(4) To advise Cabinet.
583 WELSH PUBLIC LIBRARY STANDARDS ASSESSMENT 2012-13 (CLSO) –
Public Library Standards were introduced by the Welsh Government in September 2001 as a common performance assessment framework for public library services in Wales. The Standards were reviewed and updated by the Welsh Government on a three year cycle, the Annual Report submitted for 2012/13 was the second of the Fourth Framework which operated from April 2011 to March 2014. The Annual Report for 2012/13 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
The Acting Chief Librarian, in presenting the report, referred to two Standards that the Council did not achieve being the standards for professional staffing and public floor space in buildings. It was noted that there was no prospect of increasing the total number of professional staff on the establishment in the near future and the standard for space and buildings would only be achieved with significant capital investment.
It was also noted that several libraries, including Penarth and Llantwit Major, would benefit greatly from more space as this would enable them to deliver a greater range of library services and activities as well as meeting the expectations of service users. The Library Service would continue to seek opportunities to address these issues but it was accepted that it was a difficult Standard to obtain.
Members referred to the decrease in visitor numbers through the doors although it was accepted that the Council was still above the Welsh average and that a review of Library services was to be undertaken.
(1) T H A T the annual return 2012/13 be endorsed and submitted to the Welsh Government.
(2) T H A T the performance of the Library and Information Service in relation to the Welsh Public Library Standards framework be noted.
Reason for recommendations
(1&2) As contained in the report.
584 REVIEW OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (CLSO) –
The Head of Service outlined that over recent years the Library Service had been required to reduce operating costs and secure efficiencies. Whilst an incremental approach to reducing the budget had enabled services to be sustained in the medium term, given the severity of the cut to the Council’s revenue settlement for 2014/15 and the anticipated reductions in consecutive financial years it had been clear that a fundamental review of the service was required.
Public Library Services alongside other public sector services were facing enormous financial challenges and as a result many local authorities were testing new approaches to work with communities in order to build sustainable library services for the future.
The terms of reference for the review were attached at Appendix A to the report with desired outcomes listed as below
· Deliver statutory duties, work to Welsh Government standards and development frameworks, and provide a high quality service in the most cost effective manner.
· Identify gaps in the current level of provision and make recommendations on how and if those caps can be filled.
· Make the best use of assets for the benefit of local communities.
· Ensure that the service is flexible, adaptable and sustainable for the future.
· Ensure the service is accessible to all, supports the most vulnerable and individuals as required throughout their lives.
The review group had comprised of the Leader and Deputy Leader as well as officers from the Council. The review had commenced at the end of September 2013 and two meetings of the group had been held to date. A detailed project plan had been developed including the consultation plan to ensure that stakeholders were engaged in the development of options for future service delivery. The Scrutiny Committee would be consulted on its views in December 2013 with the full results of the consultation being reported to Cabinet and referred to scrutiny for consideration. It was accepted that this was an opportunity to have a fundamental look at what the Library Service could do, to work with communities and to develop further strategic approaches, it being noted that one model may not fit all.
(1) T H A T the terms of reference for the recently commenced Library and Information Service review be noted.
(2) T H A T the current position in relation to the details of the fundamental review be noted and that a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in December 2013 on the findings to date.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In noting the reasons for the review and the intended outcomes.
(2) In noting the consultation programme and the fact that a further report would be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee.
(N.B. Mr. L. Kellaway left the room during consideration of this item)
585 SCHOOL SUPPORT PROGRAMME 2013-2014 (CLSO) –
In presenting the report the Head of Service provided the background for Members, noting that the analysis of school performance data took place at various junctures between July and December every academic year. As a result, performance reporting for the various key stages was carried out throughout the month of July to December and in view of the fact that school improvement support work needed to be implemented early in the autumn term, early analysis and diagnosis of need was carried out in the month of August to underpin planned school improvement work in September.
The school performance findings feed into the commissioned support programme from LINKS as well as into the Challenge, Monitor and Intervention (CMI) Programme delivered by the JES through the work of System Leaders.
Appendix 1 to the report provided a flow chart of the school support programme with Appendix 2 providing an overview of the Vale School Target and Support Programme 2013/14. It was noted that as comparative information became available, school programmes would need to be adapted to accommodate the new diagnoses of need for certain schools. This element would also be progressed through the more detailed work of System Leaders who would be engaging in challenging professional dialogue with schools during autumn term visits. This would include setting stretching targets for pupil groups e.g. +1 levels, vulnerable learners, pupils presenting with SEN / ALN needs including the more able.
The report also identified that the Challenge, Monitoring and Intervention functions were commissioned jointly with partner local authorities within the Central South Consortium whilst the support function was commissioned separately and directly by each constituent local authority using the 20% retained School Effectiveness Grant which was now managed through the JES. It was further noted that to secure higher levels of school improvement effectiveness, the content of the report programmes needed to reflect the performance profile and improvement priorities of the local authority and to build on what had gone on before.
Tabled at the meeting was an addendum to Appendix 2 which detailed the support programmes for the various schools as listed. It was noted that Llantwit Major had been missed off the list but the Head of Service advised that the detail would be provided to Members via e-mail. The reason for the omission it was thought due to the fact that they were under a separate programme with support be provided by the Education London Programme.
In response to a query from Members as to whether any school could opt out of the programme, the Head of Service advised that if a school considered that the suggested programme did not meet their needs as long as they could demonstrate and convince the lead officer that another programme could that would be acceptable. Otherwise they would have to engage with the Council’s support programme.
During consideration of the item, reference was also made to school attendance with a suggestion that the Scrutiny Committee re-look at the Council’s policy on pupils being able to apply for leave of absence during term time. It was noted that some schools adopted a zero tolerance policy and that one school in the Vale had recently introduced this measure. The Cabinet Member, in response, with permission to speak, advised that he would have no objection to the Scrutiny Committee having a debate on the matter, it being noted that it would ultimately be a decision for Governing Bodies. Members aware that pupil performance could be directly attributable to an increase in school attendance agreed that a debate on the matter would be worthwhile.
In conclusion Members stated that they also welcomed the detail attached at Appendix 4 which identified the cost for school support programmes and having fully considered the report subsequently
(1) T H A T a report to encourage school attendance in Vale schools be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in the New Year and this be added to the Committee’s Work Programme.
(2) T H A T detailed information in relation to the support programme provided for Llantwit Major be e-mailed to all Members of the Committee.
(3) T H A T, in accepting that the Scrutiny Committee would receive an annual report on school support programmes, the report be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In order that a debate on the issue can be held.
(2) To provide Members with up to date information.
(3) To ensure that Members are apprised on an annual basis of the support offered to help schools improve.