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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on Monday, 20th January, 2014.

 

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

 

Co-opted Members:  Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor - Secondary Sector) and Mr. L. Kellaway (Parent Governor - Primary Sector).

 

Non-voting Observer:  Mr. G. Beaudette (Primary); Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education) and Ms. T. Young (Secondary).

 

 

773     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 9th December, 2013 be approved as a correct record, it being noted that apologies for absence were received from Mr. D. Treharne (non-voting observer).

 

 

774     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

Councillor E. Williams declared a personal interest in Agenda Item No. 5 in that he was a Local Authority Governor of Llantwit Major Comprehensive School and could speak and vote on the matter.

 

 

775     CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE’S SERVICES - COMMISSIONING STRATEGY AND ACTION PLAN (REF) -

 

Cabinet had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for information. The Head of Children and Young People’s Services provided a background summary of the rationale behind the setting up of the Strategy and advised that as a Council-wide Strategy it represented the corporate responsibility of the authority as a whole. As an overview to the report the Head of Children and Young People’s Services commented that the needs of the child must always come first and that the Strategy would help inform how the Local Authority could best meet these.

 

Following the implementation of the Strategy, efforts had focused on the following key areas:

 

·         "preventing children and young people becoming looked after where this was not necessary to safeguard their welfare

·         enabling those that do come into care to be rehabilitated back to their family network where it was safe to do so

·         providing the best possible outcomes for those who remained accommodated."

 

Attached as an Appendix to the report was an updated action plan which detailed progress to date.

 

Members were further informed of the priority to give children clearly planned journeys through their period of care which remained focussed on achieving care plans, preventing drift, enabling them to be reunited with their family and friends and providing them with stable placements and opportunities to exit the care system positively. Focus was to be given to the successful implementation of the Strategy, which would require a continuing and co-ordinated effort that would build on achievements. One of the main priorities would be to increase the number of in-house foster carers.  The Head of Children and Young People’s Services stated that there was a recruitment strategy in place and that the local authority was on target to recruit an additional eight foster carers in 2014.  A media campaign would commence in May 2014, with the emphasis on engaging with the Education Authority and Heads Teachers of schools in order to raise the profile of foster care.

 

The Committee was further advised that the tender for a new residential setting had been awarded to Better Care Keys Ltd., which would provide a new 10 placement facility consisting of a 4 bed unit and two 3 bed units, aimed at supporting children and young people with higher dependent levels of need.  The advantages of this approach would be that the Authority would be able to buy beds when the need was required and that the service would be more local to the area of the Looked After Child.  Furthermore the Authority was also working with local landlords on the possibility of creating house shares for Looked After Children especially those with less dependent needs. Committee was informed that Better Care Keys Ltd was a well known organisation in England and had a number of programmes in place that had worked well. The organisation was used to working collaboratively with local authorities in creating new facilities of its type.

 

In considering the report a Member felt that it was important to reiterate the corporate responsibilities for Looked After Children to the Committee as well as the need to improve the importance of improving numeracy and literacy for Looked After Children. Currently the number of Looked After Children for the Authority stood at 184 where it had previously been as high as 281.  The figure however, fluctuated on a daily basis and the Authority had been successful in reducing the number of children in care over the past few years. 

 

In response to a query in relation to pathway plans the Committee was informed that every child had a plan which was regularly monitored and that currently 100% were in place.

 

It was further highlighted that under Action Point 2.5 the timescale end date that appeared as January 2013 should read January 2014. 

 

Having fully considered the report the Committee subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the progress made in delivering the Children and Young People’s Services Commissioning Strategy Action Plan be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To provide Members with opportunities to exercise oversight of a key strategic document for the Council.

 

 

776     LLANTWIT LEARNING COMMUNITY: PROPOSAL TO INVEST IN NEW PRIMARY PROVISION (REF) -

 

Following a referral from Cabinet, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services presented the report which informed stakeholders of a proposal to create a new 420 place primary school as part of the Llantwit Learning Community and amalgamate the Eagleswell and Llanilltud Fawr Primary Schools.

 

Whilst referring to the report the Cabinet Member directed the Committee’s focus on the performance at Eagleswell and Llanilltud Fawr Primary Schools as being good.  Therefore the issue to amalgamate the two schools had not been based upon performance or standards of school education.  On noting the reasons behind the development the Cabinet Member informed the Committee that the main building of the Llanilltud Fawr Primary School had been built in the early 1950s by the Bristol Aircraft Company.  Following structural failures with the roof evidenced in other examples of this type of structure, regular structural inspections had been carried out to provide early warning of the deterioration of the building.  The school also consisted of a separate Nursery and Reception class block along with two demountables. The school classroom demountable was in relatively good condition. The other demountable provided 3 interlinked classrooms and was in poor condition despite repairs carried out by the school.  In addition, the main block roof and heating boiler would require renewal within the next five years.

 

With specific reference to Eagleswell Primary School, the Cabinet Member stated that this was built in the early 1970s and comprised separate Infant and Junior Schools which had been amalgamated in the year 2000 and physically linked by a covered corridor.  The buildings were generally in an average condition but there were numerous leaks to the flat roof and upgrading works were required to heating and toilets.  In addition, the double demountable classroom was nearing the end of its effective life.   The school was located on a large site measuring approximately 6 acres, with the school buildings located in the centre of the site which limits the use of the land available. 

 

In summary of the current situation the Llanilltud Fawr Primary School building would require replacement in the medium term and Eagleswell would require upgrading.  The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that due to reduced capital funding this effectively removed the option of addressing the condition issues of both school buildings.  Furthermore, this option would not fully meet the aims of a 21st Century School programme. 

 

The Cabinet Member’s report also made reference that if additional capital funding to deliver the Llantwit Learning Community was to be realised with the sale of the Eagleswell School site the sale process would need to be carefully considered.  Traditionally, the site would be sold and payment made when the site is transferred to the new owner.  In this scenario, temporary accommodation would be required to provide schooling to the pupils attending Eagleswell Primary whilst the new school was built.  The supply, installation, hire and removal of temporary accommodation would be a substantial additional cost that would not provide any long term benefit for the authority. 

 

On noting the report and recommendations to amalgamate the two schools a Member raised the question as to whether or not a projection of the value of the assets had been made.  In response, the Head of Strategic Planning and Performance advised that this was commercially sensitive information and could not be relayed at this time. 

 

A Member commented that they welcomed any new school development as it would see the creation of a new teaching centre in Llantwit Major and that officers were to be congratulated upon the development. 

 

Concern was raised regarding any plans for new housing developments as to whether sufficient future capacity had been built in to the design of the new site in order to match the future need for school placements.

 

The Cabinet Member advised that there was additional capacity built into the designs but that there would be a need to look at the future catchment areas especially in view of the proposed large-scale future developments by the Ministry of Defence in respect of the St. Athan military site.

 

In referring to any possible future redundancies Members expressed the view that that this should be carried out in a dignified and uncomplicated manner.  In response, the Chief Learning and Skills Officer commented that the impact on staff should be limited as the new site would have the same number of children and the same number of classes.  The school would also likely to grow and increase in pupil numbers as the main housing development sites come into fruition.  The current plans were to amalgamate the two sites in 2015 and for a single site to be created in 2017 so the Authority was able to plan on a medium term basis and properly organise the transition from the two sites into one. 

 

In conclusion the Cabinet Member advised that the proposals would allow for a greater teacher learning facility that pupil movement would be exciting and that it would also include new community facilities.

 

Members expressed the view that they were pleased to see that the Committee’s previous work around School Placements had been recognised and that that work had assisted in informing the Cabinet proposals.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the proposals regarding the Llantwit Learning Community be welcomed and that the Committee looks forward to its successful completion.

 

Reasons for recommendation

 

(1)       To further improve educational attainment in Llantwit Major for children and young people and the community.

 

(2)       To assess the level of support for the development of the proposed Llantwit Learning Community to include primary provision by creating a new 420 place primary school from the amalgamation of Eagleswell and Llanilltud Fawr Primary Schools.

 

(3)       To advise the lead Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) of the Committee’s views.  (NB: This to be verbally provided to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) who were due to consider the report the following night.)

 

 

777     REGULATORY REPORTS - IMPROVEMENT TRACKING (MD) -

 

Members were provided with the opportunity to view a summary of recommendations and proposals set out in regulatory reports and to track implementation of improvements to address those recommendations / proposals. The Operational Manager (Corporate Policy and Communications) who presented the report advised Members in relation to the areas within the committee’s remit being the Estyn Inspection of the Education Service during September 2013, the Estyn Inspection of the Adult and Community Learning held during February 2013 and the review of the Governance Arrangements of the Joint Education Service. 

 

The Committee was asked to note that the Audit Committee would also receive regular reports which would update on the implementation of any recommendations/ proposals. 

 

On noting the Corporate Improvement Single Action Plan, the Chairman made reference to the fact that as the Joint Education Scrutiny had not been established the local authority Scrutiny Committee had itself developed its own Member-led programme to scrutinise school performance. 

 

A Member of the Committee noticed that there were no timescales detailed within the Action Plan and in response the Chief Learning and Skills Officer stated that the actions raised were from more detailed Action Plans and that the Corporate Improvement Action Plan did not detail as much information as those shown at the lower level.  Furthermore, the Operational Manager for Corporate Policy and Communications added that the timescales were quite long as these were high end proposals but that dates would be included for the six monthly update.

 

In response to the query  as to when formal warning letters to underperforming schools would be sent the Chief Learning and Skills Officer explained that the formal warning letters had already been sent out and that progress regarding the schools ability to meet set targets had been assessed.  The individual school performance panels were shortly to be arranged and feedback would be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in due course. Further to this, a Committee Member asked whether Members could be advised of the dates of such meetings in order that they could be made aware when they were taking place.

 

The Committee Member in referring to the publication of the report following the Williams Commission queried as to what impact these proposals would have on the timescales and would there be a complete re-start of the process around regulatory tracking. The Chief Learning and Skills Officer responded by stating that closer inspection of the proposals within the Williams Commission report would have to take place as developments unfolded.

 

The Chairman in conclusion advised that the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) would continue to monitor and evaluate the progress of school performance and make recommendations to Cabinet as appropriate.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the work that had been achieved in order to address the recommendations / proposals as contained within the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Audit Committee be advised of the Scrutiny Committee’s intention to continue to robustly monitor and evaluate school performance particularly in the absence of a Joint Scrutiny Committee of the Joint Education Service.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  In order to achieve continuous improvement of Council services.

 

 

778     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2013 TO 30TH NOVEMBER, 2013 (CLSO) -

 

The Operational Manager (Finance and Systems) advised that the revenue budget projected outturn for 2014 was shown at Appendix 1 to the report   With regard to the following service areas Members noted the following.

 

Strategy and Performance - there was currently a prediction that the budget would outturn with an adverse variance of £18,000.  This was due to an estimated overspend on further education and transport of £82,000, rates of £60,000 and pension costs incurred as part of the voluntary early retirement and redundancy scheme of £20,000.  This was off-set by favourable variances on Education Finance of £34,000, Performance Management of £10,000, SEN transport of £15,000 and other accumulated underspends of £5,000. 

 

Service Strategy and Regulation - It was predicted that this budget would outturn with a favourable variance of £18,000.  This was as a result of efficiencies within the business support unit, supplies and service budgets.

 

Education - was projected to transfer £121,000 to reserves as part of the voluntary early retirement and redundancy scheme. 

 

Libraries - there was currently a £43,000 favourable variance against the profiled budget due to staff vacancies, however, this would be utilised within the service during the coming months in order to fund one-off building works and equipment.  The service was currently anticipated to outturn on target at the end of the year.

 

Youth Service - this service was currently breaking even against the profiled budget and it was anticipated to outturn on target at the end of year.

For Lifelong Learning, it was reported that there was a £15,000 favourable variance against the profiled budget due to a staff vacancy which has now been filled, however, this would be utilised within the service during the coming months and the service was therefore anticipated to outturn on target at year end.

 

Catering - there was currently a £34,000 favourable variance against the profiled budget due to slower than anticipated take up of free breakfast club provision.  This underspend would be used to upgrade and maintain kitchens and equipment between now and the year end and also supported an increase in meal numbers seen during the autumn term.  It was therefore predicted that the budget would outturn on target at year end.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the progression of the Capital Programme.

 

In considering the report the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2013/14 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members.

 

 

779     SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR THE AUTUMN TERM 2013 (CLSO) -

 

The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion presented the report advising that its purpose was to update Members on the results of school inspections for the autumn term 2013.  Members noted that during autumn term 2013 the overall judgements achieved by the Vale of Glamorgan schools that were inspected were as follows:

 

 

Overall Judgement

School

Current Performance

Prospects for Improvement

Holton

Good

Good

Bute Cottage

Good

Good

St. Donats Playgroup

Good

Good

St. Helen’s Infants

Adequate

Adequate

St. Bride's Playgroup

 

Good

Good

 

 

In noting that St. Helen’s Infants recorded an adequate overall judgement Members asked officers whether they had prior knowledge of the issues regarding the school’s performance. In response the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion informed the Committee that the "adequate" judgement indicated that the school was generally performing well but that there were certain areas that required focus and attention.  Members were advised that as a result of these concerns the school had been provided with extra support to address them.

 

During consideration of the report reference was made to the role of Governors in schools and their role around raising standards and challenging performance. The Chairman stated that Governing Bodies should be the early warning system in respect of performance and have the ability to hold the Head teacher to account. The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion further advised that in considering performance issues measures had recently been put in place to ensure that the minutes of Governing Body meetings of such schools are scrutinised in order that performance issues can be challenged and any training issues identified as early as possible.  Members welcomed this approach as they saw the Governing Body as key to raising standards within their respective schools.

 

The Chairman also referred to the need in general to improve the standard of Welsh in schools and that a future meeting of the Committee consider a report on how Welsh within English schools can be improved.

 

Having fully considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Committee note the Inspectors’ judgements in relation to the schools inspected during the autumn term.

 

(2)       T H A T a letter be sent to the schools judged good congratulating them on their successful inspections.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  In noting the results of the Inspections.

 

 

780     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DR) -

 

The Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer presented the report advising Members of progress in relation to uncompleted recommendations made by the Scrutiny Committee for

 

·         1st Quarter - April to June 2013 (Appendix A)

·         2nd Quarter - July to September 2013 (Appendix B)

·         3rd Quarter - October to December, 2013 (Appendix C).

 

Following consideration of the report the Committee subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the following recommendations be agreed as completed:

 

23 May 2013

Min No. 52 - Summary of School Inspection Reports for the Spring Term 2013 (CLSO) - Recommended

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

Good practice to be shared with Members receiving evidence of this during progress meetings with schools and reports to Committee from the Joint Education Service.  A schedule of reporting on progress is to be devised and added to the work programme schedule of the Committee.

Completed

9 September 2013

Min. No. 381 - Summary of School Inspection Reports for the Summer Term 2013 (CLSO) - Recommended

(2)       That a schedule for individual schools progress meetings be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

Report presented to December 2013 progress meetings currently being timetabled.

Completed

Min. No. 382 - Joint Education Service (REF) - Recommended

That the Committee receives a report from the Chief Learning and Skills Officer on how the Council can improve its accountability arrangements with the JES.

Following a presentation to Committee in December 2013 it was agreed that a timetable be developed and added to the Committee’s work programme schedule.

Completed

14 October 2013

Min. No. 493 - School Reorganisation Proposals for Welsh Medium Primary School Places in Barry: Ysgol Gwaun y Nant and Oakfield Primary School (REF) - Recommended

(1)   That a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee before December 2013 regarding the methodology for the approach, detailed data and the justification for the decision.

Report received by the Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 9th December 2013 – Report noted

Completed

(2)   That the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) be also referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for its meeting on 15th October, 2013.

Above report also considered by Scrutiny Corporate Resources on 10th December 2013.

Completed

Min. No. 494 – School Performance Report 2012/13 for End of Foundation Phase, Key Stage 2 and 3 and the National Reading and Numeracy Tests (CLSO) – Recommended

That the progress update be noted and that the further reports as detailed above be presented to the Scrutiny Committee.

[Further discussion in relation to Appendix 6 be brought to a future meeting of the Committee with particular regard to how the targets would be achieved.  Details of a range of projects that had been commissioned as well as detailed information regarding the year groups that needed additional support in the reading and numeracy areas.  It would be important for the Committee to analyse the GCSE results.]

Information presented to Committee at its meeting in December 2013.

Completed

11 November 2013

Min. No. 582 - School Performance Report for the End of Key Stage 4 and 5 (Provisional Data Only) (CMCS) – Recommended

(3)   That 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.

Representatives attended the Scrutiny Committee meeting on 9th December 2013.

Completed

(4)   That Cabinet be informed of the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee in view of the issues as outlined above.

Report referred to Cabinet on 18th November 2013 who noted the report. 

(Min. No. C2096 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 584 - Review of Library and Information Services in the Vale of Glamorgan (CLSO) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 585 - School Support Programme 2013-2014 (CLSO) – Recommended

(1)   That 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.

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

(2)   That detailed information in relation to the support programme provided for Llantwit Major be e-mailed to all Members of the Committee.

Information e-mailed to Members and all support to be included in future reports.

Completed

(3)   That, in accepting that the Scrutiny Committee would receive an annual report on school support programmes, the report be noted.

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

09 December 2013

Min. No. 665 – Central South Consortium Joint Education Service: Action in Response to Wales Audit Office Report (CS) – Recommended

(2)   That the Scrutiny Committee establishes a programme of work to scrutinise the Joint Education Service.

Schedule to be drawn up and added to work programme.

Completed

(3)   That the report and the above recommendation be referred to Cabinet in order to advise of the intention of the Scrutiny Committee to hold the Joint Education Service to account.

Referred to Cabinet for its meeting on 13th  January 2014. 

Cabinet on 13th January noted the Committee’s recommendation, it being the only Scrutiny option following the Joint Education Service decision not to have a Joint Scrutiny Committee.  (Min. No. C2152 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 670 – Consultation on the Review of Library and Information Services in the Vale of Glamorgan (CLSO) – Recommended

(2)   That the Committee receives a further report on the outcome of the review in March 2014.

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To maintain effective tracking of the Committee’s recommendations.

 

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