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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 9th February, 2015.

 

Present:  Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Ms. K.E. Edmunds, 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 Observers:  Mr. G. Beaudette (Primary Sector), Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education Sector) and Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector).

 

Also Present:  Dr. I.J. Johnson.

 

 

858     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman) and Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church - Co-Opted Member).

 

 

859     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 12th January, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

860     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

861     CARDIFF AND VALE COMMUNITY LEARNING PARTNERSHIP -

 

The Committee received a presentation by Nicola Campbell, the Cardiff and Vale Community Learning Partnership Co-ordinator following a recent Estyn monitoring visit of the service.  (A copy of the presentation was also tabled at the meeting for Members’ information.)  Members were updated on progress to date and advised that in response to unsatisfactory inspections of the Adult Community Learning (ACL) in Cardiff and the Vale in 2013 Estyn had returned to conduct a monitoring visit between 12th and 15th January, 2015.  The purpose of the monitoring visit had been to determine the Partnership’s progress against previous inspection recommendations and advise of the provisional judgements that had been received however, the Partnership was awaiting the formal monitoring response letter. 

 

The provisional judgements that had been received to date were as follows:

 

'1.        Improve success rates and accreditation for all learners – very good progress

2.         Improve the strategic leadership, management and co-ordination of ACL - very good progress

3.         Review and revise the curriculum; Improve the provision for developing literacy and numeracy skills – strong progress

4.         Analyse data robustly and improve quality processes – very good progress

5.         Improve the quality of teaching – strong progress

6.         Improve the support available for learners – strong progress.'

 

Ms. Campbell stated that this was a very positive outcome for the Partnership with the visit highlighting various improvements that had been made. Estyn had also advised that there was a four year trend of improving success rates, innovative and effective drop-in work club provisions, a vibrant well managed full cost recovery programme, good progress made with Welsh Medium courses and good use of Scrutiny Committees to challenge the Partnership. 

 

Areas however, for improvement were reported as :-

  • Some teaching was deemed adequate or satisfactory and it was recognised that further work needed to be undertaken to challenge underperformance and support improvements in teaching
  • The Partnership should continue to develop working relationships with Communities First
  • Develop and embed support for learners and embed literacy and numeracy skills development across ACL provision.

Although good progress had been made the Chairman queried in relation to the assessments inspected how the 25% of satisfactory lessons equated to the overall partnership.  Ms. Campbell confirmed that inspectors had only viewed one class and the unsatisfactory recommendation referred, in the main, to the drop in provision which it was acknowledged was difficult to plan for as it was difficult for the Partnership to know in advance who would be attending the classes.  However, it was accepted that the situation needed to be considered and that the Partnership was currently discussing how this could be managed. 

 

With regard to improving the agenda around learning and numeracy skills for all clients, the co-ordinator stated that interview skills were being developed with more opportunities for learners to be provided.  Overall the success rate for the service was currently standing at 84% with future service targets of 86% for 2015/16 and 88% for 2016/17. 

 

Members congratulated the officer on the good progress to date noting that in the main, it was evident that the majority of the services inspected were good.

 

In conclusion, Ms. Campbell advised that it was likely that Estyn would conduct a full re-inspection of the Partnership in 12 months which would focus on all aspects of the Common Inspection Framework.

 

Having considered the presentation it was subsequently,  

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T Ms. Campbell be thanked for the information presented, the Committee notes the good progress being made to date and that a progress report be presented in 12 months.

 

(2)       T H A T a copy of the presentation and the minutes of the meeting be forwarded to the Cabinet for their information in respect of the good progress being made to date.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To advise Members.

 

 

862     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2014 TO 31ST DECEMBER, 2014 (DLS) -

 

The Accountant, in presenting the report, which covered the period 1st April, 2014 to 31st December, 2014 advised that the delegated budget for schools was expected to balance as any under or over spend would be carried forward by schools. 

 

With regard to School Improvement and Inclusion, it was reported that the service would overspend by £37,000 after off-setting adverse variances on the internal respite provision of £50,000, recoupment income of £38,000 and behaviour support of £26,000 with favourable variances on Additional Learning Needs staffing and resources of £73,000.  Members were informed that any over spend at year end would be off-set by under spends elsewhere in the Directorate. 

 

For Service Strategy and Regulation the report highlighted that this would outturn with a favourable variance of £13,000 due to efficiencies within the Business Support Section.  Any under spend for this service area at the year-end would be transferred into the libraries reserve to assist with the implementation of the Libraries Review.

 

Strategic and Resources  - It was anticipated the service would  underspend by £189,000 after funding overspends  on urgent repairs in schools of £69,000 and Special Education Needs transport of £10,000, offset by favourable variances on mainstream transport of £143,000, independent nursery placements of £36,000, staffing of £44,000 and non-delegated schools costs of £45,000.  It was intended that any underspend at year end would be transferred into the Libraries reserve to assist with the implementation of the Libraries Review.

 

Children and Young People's Partnership– It was anticipated that this service would underspend by £60,000 due to 2015/16 savings being implemented early and temporary changes to the funding of childcare umbrella groups.  Any underspend it was proposed would be transferred into the Libraries reserve to assist with the implementation of the Libraries Review.

 

A transfer of £164,000 was also proposed for the Early Retirement Voluntary Redundancy Invest to Save reserve in respect of the schools early retirement and voluntary redundancy scheme and a transfer of £196,000 would be taken from the schools Long Term Sickness and Maternity reserve to fund the current year deficit on the scheme.

In referring to Libraries this service was projecting a favourable variance of £63,000 due to staff vacancies.  It was intended that any underspend would be transferred into the Libraries reserve to assist with the implementation of the Libraries Review.

 

The Youth service was anticipated to outturn on target after transferring £107,000 from the Youth Service reserve to fund the Area 41 dilapidation costs, Westhouse surrender payment and the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework in schools. For Adult Community Education this service was projecting to outturn at revised budget after transferring £62,000 from reserves to assist with funding reductions from Welsh Government and Cardiff and Vale Colleges.

 

With regard to the Catering service this was expected to outturn on target after a transfer of £44,000 from the Catering reserve.  There were projected underspends on the breakfast club of £43,000, Appetite for Life Coordination of £15,000, Premise Costs of £20,000 and revenue costs for the new catering system of £26,000.  These underspends had been reinvested into the service to fund kitchen equipment in schools.  The transfer from the reserve had been used for the same purpose.  The trading account was also predicting a surplus of £50,000 which would be transferred to capital and used towards the cost of the cashless catering system.

 

Appendix 3 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st December, 2014. 

 

In referring specifically to Oakfield Playing Fields as the external works funded by this figure were not planned to take place until the next financial year, it had been requested to carry forward £147,000 to the 2015/16 Capital Programme.  The request being made as a result of programming of the work and Members noting that the budget was part of a larger Ysgol Gwaun y Nant/ Oakfield scheme.

 

Appendix 4 to the report provided non-financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000. 

 

In referring to schemes at Llanfair and Romilly School demountables, the Accountant confirmed that tenders had been received and were currently being reviewed.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2014/15 Revenue and Capital be noted and the request for the carry forward for the Oakfield playing fields of £147k be supported.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the information contained therein and in view of the programming of the work for the following financial year for Oakfield playing fields.

 


863     SCHOOL PLACE PLANNING IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (DLS) -

 

The report informed Members of the Minister for Education and Skills’ assessment of the progress made by the Council with regard to reducing surplus school places.  The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources in presenting the report advised that following the publication of an Estyn report on school surplus places in schools in Wales in May 2012, the Minister for Education and Skills had contacted Cabinet Members for Education to point out that there was a higher than necessary level of school places across Wales, which had resulted in a drain on resources which could be better used to improve the quality of education for all learners. 

 

At that time there were 10 local authorities with more than 20% surplus primary school places and 6 local authorities with similar levels of surplus places in the secondary sector.  The Minister had therefore, requested that the 16 local authorities with more than 20% surplus places in either sector or projected to have more than 20% by September 2016 submit statements, setting out plans under consideration or already underway to reduce the level of surplus places to below 15% at January 2015.  The remaining authorities, which included the Vale of Glamorgan were required to submit a statement on how surplus places would be managed to January 2015 with an estimate of what levels of surplus would remain in each sector at that time.  The statement that had been submitted to the Minister on the management of surplus school places for the Vale of Glamorgan was attached at Appendix A to the report. 

 

Surplus places in the primary sector were forecast to reduce from 16.4% to 10.19% in September 2016 and to increase from 4.76% to 12.86% in the secondary sector by September 2016, decreasing again after this date as larger primary cohorts fed into the secondary sector.  The statement also set out the position in terms of schools with a significant number of surplus places, increasing demand for Welsh Medium school places and plans to reduce surplus capacity in some areas through school reorganisations. 

 

Following the submission of the statement further correspondence was received from the Minister in which he confirmed approval of the targets set out in the statement and challenging the Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Schools to meet those targets. The Minister added that he would be writing to all local authorities to make it clear that he would consider using the powers available to him under Schedule 7 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 should insufficient progress be made against agreed targets.

 

A further letter from the Minister for Education and Skills was received on 9th December 2014 (Appendix B), the purpose of which was to review achievements to date and set out what further action was necessary.  The following progress was  acknowledged:

  • Proposals to meet the demand for Welsh medium education primary school places were brought forward.
  • School amalgamations have been agreed which will provide schools which are more sustainable in the future.
  • The innovative and cost effective construction process adopted to provide a new school building for Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and the Authority's plans to replicate this for Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant and Oakfield Primary School.
  • The school rationalisation and building renewal at Penarth Learning Community and the strategic plans in train for the Llantwit Learning Community.
  • At January 2014, 11% of primary school places were empty which, taken together with projections and other known developments suggests that the 2016 target of 10.19% will be met.
  • At January 2014, 14.9% of secondary school places were empty, however when the projected fall in numbers is taken into account the 12.9% target for 2016 might be met, depending on whether the rebuild of Llantwit Comprehensive School is achieved. Even if the target is narrowly missed, it is clear this situation would not persist as robust plans are in hand.

The letter dated 9th December, 2014 also highlighted that the Minister welcomed the progress that had been made to date and encouraged the local authority to continue with prudent and strategic planning in the future.

 

The Head of Service further highlighted for Members, that in January 2014 three secondary schools; Barry Comprehensive, Llantwit Comprehensive and Bro Morgannwg had in excess of 25% surplus capacity.  Projections showed that surplus places at Bro Morgannwg would fall to under 25% in 2016 (23% surplus) as larger primary cohorts feed into the school. Surplus capacity at Llantwit Comprehensive School would be removed when the school was rebuilt. The new school building was scheduled to open in September 2017 with the reduction in capacity and surplus places being reflected in the January 2018 Pupil Level Annual School Census.

 

Members were also informed that robust admission procedures were in place to manage admissions to community schools in the Vale with pupils being admitted up to the admission number for each school, which was only exceeded in exceptional circumstances and in agreement with the school. 

 

In considering the report a Member queried whether the number of new developments that were due to come on line through the planning process, had been considered in the future projections as there were concerns that schools would be full sooner than officers were predicting.  In response, the Head of Service stated that it was a frustrating process as Welsh Government were not keen for local authorities to project future populations because the schools identified within Local Development Plans had not yet come to fruition.  Officers were confident however, that there would be an increase in numbers and could advise that the projections had been carried via a Facilities Paper that had had to be developed for the LDP itself.  The Member stated that he was pleased to note that the Planning Department had been fully consulted in relation to the future projections. 

 

A Member who had been part of the School Surplus Places Group of the Scrutiny Committee a few years previous referred to the significant surplus places at Holton Primary, Jenner Park and Oakfield and queried the future proposals for those schools.  In response, the Head of Service advised that for Jenner Park the situation had changed in recent years with a significant increase in demand being received in the last two to three years. It was now expected that by 2017 the school would not be in the significant school surplus places category.  This was anticipated to be the same for the Cadoxton area and for Oakfield.  In referring to Oakfield in particular, the Head of Service informed Committee that 24 pupils had been accepted in September 2014 which had been the largest intake the school had known for many years at reception, and 28 pupils for nursery provision was anticipated for September 2015.  Therefore, with the demand increasing and with the new developments proposed for the area the likelihood would be that this would be sustained over future years. She could confirm that the Authority had also been challenged in respect of the numbers for Oakfield by Welsh Government but they had successfully been persuaded on the basis of the proposed future developments.  With regard to Holton Road, Members were reminded that the school was part of the catchment area for the Waterfront development and a new Flying Start Development was also proposed for the area.

 

A co-opted Member informed Committee that grants had recently been offered to businesses in Holton Road to turn premises into residential properties which could assist future projections. 

 

Following queries in relation to Welsh Medium Education, the Head of Service stated that demand for Welsh Medium Education had been taken into account within the overall predictions.  It was well documented that the demand was increasing rapidly in the Barry area and although it was difficult to predict the projections were reviewed on an annual basis. 

 

Referring to Appendix A, the Chairman sought reassurance that any proposals to reduce surplus capacity would be reported to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.  The officer advised that Committee had already considered the Gwaun y Nant proposals and that year on year reviews of school surplus places would be undertaken. 

 

In conclusion, the Chairman stated that he welcomed the report and was pleased to note that a number of the recommendations of the School Surplus Places Task and Finish Group had and were continuing to be pursued.

 

Having fully considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the progress to date be welcomed.

 

(2)       T H A T on an annual basis the Committee receives a school place planning update for Vale of Glamorgan schools and that the report be referred to Cabinet for its consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order to apprise Members of the measures taken to manage school places across the Vale of Glamorgan and of current performance against set targets.

 

(2)       To ensure school place planning was considered on an annual basis and for Cabinet to consider the progress made on reducing surplus places and the Minister’s assessment of performance against agreed targets.

 

 

864     NATIONAL CATEGORISATION - OUTCOMES FOR VALE SCHOOLS (DLS) -

 

The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion advised that National Categorisation was a new three step process that resulted in each school being assigned to a category.  The category indicated whether the school was on its improvement journey and the level of challenge / support required to ensure further improvement.  Categorisation replaced the former banding of secondary schools and the regional arrangements for categorising schools as A, B, C or D. 

 

The first step in the process was the assigning of the school to one of four standards groups, 1-4, this being determined by Welsh Government using a range of data. The details for which could be found at Appendix 1a for Primary and Appendix 1b for Secondary attached to the report. The second step was to assign the school to one of four groups, A-D that reflected the school's ability to improve. This to be determined by the school's Challenge Advisor based on a range of evidence, including the school's improvement processes. The third step used the outcomes of the first two steps to determine the category and resulting level of support / challenge needed.  The categories being: Green, Yellow, Amber or Red.

 

Members were then advised of the definition of each of the categories as detailed below:

 

'Green Categorisation – these are the best schools who:

  • know themselves well and identify and implement their own priorities for improvement;
  • have resilience within the staff team;
  • are rewarded by greater autonomy;
  • will be challenged to move towards or sustain excellence; and
  • have the capacity to lead others effectively (school to school support).

 

Yellow Categorisation – these are our good schools who:

  • will know and understand most of the areas in need of improvement;
  • have many aspects of the school's performance which are self-improving; and
  • will receive bespoke challenge and support deployed according to need.

 

Amber Categorisation – these are the schools in need of improvement who:

  • do not know and understand all the areas in need of improvement;
  • have many aspects of the school's performance which are not improving quickly enough;
  • will receive bespoke challenge and intervention deployed according to need
  • will receive an automatic letter from consortium;
  • self-evaluation and school improvement plan will be signed off by the consortium;
  • will be expected to remain in an amber category for only the short-term; and
  • will receive time limited, focused challenge and intervention to support improvement.

 

Red Categorisation – these are the schools in need of greatest improvement who:

  • will receive critical intervention;
  • receive an automatic warning letter from LA and subsequent use of statutory powers where necessary;
  • trigger intensive and effective collaboration between LA and consortium;
  • trigger the all-Wales common school causing concern arrangements; and  
  • will lose autonomy and be subject to a more directed approach.'

 

Following the categorisation of a school the Local Authority and Joint Education Service would subsequently agree a bespoke programme of support, challenge and intervention. Those schools categorised as amber and red would receive a greater level of support than those categorised as yellow or green.  The details for which were provided at Appendix 2 and which had been taken from the Central South Consortium's Framework For Challenge and Support.

 

The position of Vale schools within the National Categorisation process was referred to as a grid which was detailed at Appendix 3 to the report.  The Head of Service advised that the standards group and capacity to improve were plotted along the 'y’ and 'x’ axis respectively to determine the level of schools category.  A revised version of Appendix 3 and Appendix 4 was also tabled at the meeting, due to the fact that information in respect of schools was updated on a regular basis and as such the categorisation had therefore changed since the agenda for the meeting had been despatched.  It was accepted that the information was as accurate at the time the information was recorded and would therefore be an ever evolving process. The Head of Service took the opportunity to point out to Members that the number of the PIs assigned by Welsh Government to categorise the schools, in the main, referred to numeracy and literacy and did not take into account other measures e.g. wellbeing issues etc.  However, the tool was seen as an informative tool for schools, local authorities and the Consortium in order to identify the schools that needed assistance for improvement.  It was noted that the majority of Vale schools were either green or yellow with one of the primary schools being referred to as red as it was currently in Estyn monitoring.  

 

A number of Members queried the use of the system stating that this could cause anxiety for some parents who may use the tool to move their children from school to school depending on the categorisation.  Some Members felt uneasy with the decisions in relation to some schools in their wards which they themselves considered to be similar in standard but they had been placed in different categorisations. The Head of Service advised that although some schools appeared to be of a same standard the categorisation tool highlighted where some improvements in certain areas may be required.  The tool would also show, over the forthcoming years, the progress and improvements made year on year and allow the school to receive the level of support it needed at the time it needed it.

 

A Member informed the Committee that they were aware of a school that had itself asked to be placed in an improvement category in order to receive the support they wanted.  The Chairman reiterated his belief that the importance of the tool was that schools received the support when they needed it with another Member welcoming the flexibility of the tool.  A co-opted Member queried how the information would be conveyed to parents being of the view that this should be undertaken in a positive way.  The Director of Learning and Skills confirmed that it would be the responsibility of the Headteacher and the Governing Body as to how they decided the information should be disseminated to parents, in the way they felt appropriate. Headteachers had been informed of this view at a recent meeting and would continue to be advised at future Headteacher meetings.

 

In recognising that National Categorisation was a pilot project the Director further stated that it had a number of benefits as opposed to the previous banding system that had been introduced for secondary schools.  In particular, she anticipated that there would not be as much volatility as in previous years as the information relied on a three-year average which she advised should result in more stability in the rate of progress. 

A Member took the opportunity to refer to the recent excellent work that had been undertaken at Colcot School by leadership team which had resulted in other schools requesting to utilise the good practice.  The Chairman also expressed the view that the work of the Committee’s Progress Panels in monitoring school performance was   positive to the process and that it was reassuring to know that the schools receiving visits had also been identified in the National Categorisation grid as those needing support. 

 

Following a discussion as to whether the schools categorised as green should be formally congratulated by the Committee, it was subsequently accepted that this not be undertaken at this stage in view of the number of schools also identified in the yellow category, the fact that the tool was new and that the data was changing on a regular basis.

 

Although some Members considered that school categorisation could have a negative effect, in general, the Committee concluded that it was a useful tool to identify the support required and where resources should be placed.  Members also recognised that Estyn reports were currently in the public domain for all to view and assess in a similar way.

 

In referring to Barry Comprehensive (red category) the Chairman enquired about progress to date at the school.  The Head of Service stated that it was evident that Barry needed to improve and the categorisation tool had confirmed that diagnosis. The school was currently receiving a bespoke package to assist progress and improvement, and had been defined as a Challenge Cymru school. 

 

The Director of Learning and Skills advised that the Committee’s Individual School Progress Panel was due to visit Barry Comprehensive and she was aware that the school was keen to demonstrate to that Panel, improvements to date. The Committee would then receive a report of the Panel’s findings shortly thereafter. 

 

Following considerable discussion on the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the report be noted and that the Committee acknowledges and welcomes the large percentage of schools in the Vale categorised as green.

 

(2)       T H A T the support being provided to the schools categorised as yellow, amber and red for further improvement, be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the report and the comments of the Scrutiny Committee be forwarded to Cabinet for its consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In recognition of the new process put forward by Welsh Government and in recognising the number of schools identified in the green category within the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

(2)       In recognising the support being identified for schools improvement.

 

(3)       In order for Members to be apprised of the National Categorisation system and the support being provided.

 

 

865     SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR THE AUTUMN TERM 2014 (DLS) -

 

Members were updated on the outcomes of school inspections for the autumn term 2014 and the outcome of an Estyn monitoring visit that had been made during the autumn term 2014. 

 

Llandough Primary, Murch Junior and Y Bont Faen Primary Schools had been inspected during the autumn term 2014 and a summary of the inspection findings for each was appended to the report at Appendix 2. 

 

During the autumn term the overall judgements received for each of the schools was good for current performance and good for prospects for improvement.  St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Infant and Nursery School had also been monitored by Estyn in autumn 2014 with Estyn judging the extent of the progress made by the school in addressing the recommendations of the inspection report.  At that time, the review activity considered the Local Authority report and the scrutiny of the School’s post inspection action plan and self-evaluation report with the school’s responsibility being  to supply evidence that demonstrated progress against the recommendations to Estyn at the time of the visit.  Estyn’s overall judgement for the school was that sufficient progress had been made with the outcome being that the school was removed from follow up activity. 

 

Members welcomed the report and the positive judgements that have been made and subsequently 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T congratulatory letters be forwarded to all the schools by the Chairman on behalf of the Committee.

 

(2)       T H A T the report be forwarded to Cabinet in recognition of the good judgements received.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In recognition of the good judgements received.

 

(2)       In order to advise Cabinet of the achievements of the schools.

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