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 SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th May, 2015 at St. Cyres Comprehensive School, Penarth.

 

Present:  Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Ms. R.M. Birch, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, T.H. Jarvie, A. Parker, R.A. Penrose, Mrs. A.J. Preston and Ms. R.F. Probert.

 

Co-Opted Member: Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor - Secondary Sector).

 

Non-Voting Observer: Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector).

 

Also present: Councillor C.P.J. Elmore (Cabinet Member - Children’s Services and Schools).

 

 

23        APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillor C.P. Franks, Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church), Mr. L. Kellaway (Parent Governor - Primary Sector) and Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education).

 

 

24        APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN -

Councillor R.A. Penrose was duly elected Vice-Chairman for the current municipal year.

 

 

25        MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 20th April, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

26        DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

27        ANNOUNCEMENT -

 

The Chairman took the opportunity to welcome new Members to the Committee appointed at the Annual Meeting and to thank the Headteacher of St. Cyres for the tour that had been undertaken by Members and officers of the new school prior to the meeting.

 

 

 

28        YOUTH ENGAGEMENT AND PROGRESSION NEET (DLS) -

 

The Lead Officer for Youth and Community Learning provided the Committee with a progress update in respect of the implementation of the Welsh Government Youth Engagement and Progression Framework and the current levels of NEET (Not in Education, Employment of Training) young people.  The Committee had received a previous report in July 2014.  The key milestones that had been achieved since that date were noted as  

  • The Early Identification tool had been uploaded on to the Vale Learning Portal and implemented in all 8 comprehensive schools.  6 schools had provision brokered as a result of the early identification system and a total of 132 young people were being supported.  Appendix 1 to the report provided the details of the early identification model and a data summary for each year group across comprehensive schools.
  • Through dedicated youth workers in schools, 6 level 1 Certificates in Success with Employment, Education and Training (SWEET) had been completed in Bryn Hafren School; 5 Level 1 Award SWEETs and 4 Level 1 SWEET certificates were achieved through Cardiff and Vale College (CAVC). 
  • Bryn Hafren had a youth worker in place to work with cohorts of young people in years 9, 10 and 11, offering individual / group support.  Appendix 2 detailed various case studies.
  • In St. Richard Gwyn, 2 groups in years 9 and 10 benefited from the Guidance to Engagement project 2 hours per week for 10 weeks, 14 young people out of 16 benefited from this provision and no longer require it, one group will be accessing learning through the sports and play project and one cohort will be integrated back into mainstream classroom settings.  This is in addition to the young person’s school learning, as a tool to improve behaviour and engagement. See Appendix 2 case studies. 
  • In Barry Comprehensive 2 youth workers had been in place since early October delivering the Guidance 2 Engagement programme (G2E).  There had been positive feedback in the main whereby 3 young people had returned to mainstream education, 2 were referred to the PRU, a number of accreditations in BTEC level 1 have been achieved by year 10 students, and level 2 BTEC by year 11 students.  Young people were also completing BTEC in Sports and Leadership Awards.  Two young people had secured work placements since being involved with the G2E programme.  There had been an overall improvement in attendance, behaviour and an increase in soft outcomes such as confidence, attitude, and self-esteem.  The Youth Construction Trust was introduced to the school to set up a taster day in plastering, plumbing and carpentry where 10 young people at high risk of becoming NEET will be selected to gain hands on experience with a view to enrolling onto a college course in September.  
  • In Llantwit Major, there were effective in-house provision arrangements in place, however, the school had been given the opportunity to access alternative provision through LA Youth Services such as the Guidance to Engagement Programme 'Can Do’ and Pulse projects.  ACT training provision was being utilised by the school to provide courses for high risk NEET young people to access mechanical engineering.  The Military Prep College is very successful in engaging this cohort of young people.  
  • Stanwell School had low numbers of young people at risk of becoming NEET, however, the Youth Service project Emojis was introduced to the school to provide a service to young people with poor attendance, low self-esteem, and confidence.  Young people take part in a range of activities to improve their communication skills, express their feelings, and form better relationships with their peers and families and gain emotional understanding.  
  • Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg had a youth worker in place and would be delivering part of the Guidance to Engagement accreditation courses to young people.  

A 12 week Prince’s Trust Programme had also been developed with the Council and the Engagement and Progression Partnership which had been fully operational in the Vale since October 2014.  A Careers Wales Learning and Transition Coach had also been working with post 16 high risk NEET young people, and the Local Authority had piloted a Lead Worker and Common Area Prospectus training with the first session having been delivered in November 2014.  A dedicated website had been created providing access for lead workers to a directory of provision for NEET young people.  As a result of collaboration with partners and closer monitoring by the Local Authority the Vale’s NEET figure for 2014/15 had reduced from 3.8% in 2013 to 2.76% in 2014.  Appendix 3 to the report illustrated the Welsh Government five tier data and the Local Authority’s performance targets for 2014/15 as well as actual performance for 2014/15.

 

In commenting on the report, Members stated that they welcomed the report and were encouraged by the developments that were taking place.  In referring to the funding for the Engagement and Progression Officer until September 2015 they acknowledged that the role was key to the brokerage of provision and that it was a pivotal one of linking schools, Careers Wales and training providers to the Local Authority’s NEETS strategy.  Members further considered that this needed to be highlighted to Cabinet with a request that funding be continued for such an important position. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the progress made to date by the Council on the implementation of the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Committee receives further progress reports on a six monthly basis.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet in order to raise awareness of the funding position for the Engagement and Progression Officer post, it being the view of the Committee that this post was essential and should be continued to sustain improvement for the service by brokering provision and linking schools, Career Wales and training providers to the Local Authority NEETS strategy. 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members of progress.

 

(2)       In order that the Scrutiny Committee can continue to monitor the progress of Youth Engagement and Progression NEET.

 

(3)       For Cabinet to consider the funding position beyond September 2015.

 

 

29        AUDIT OF SCHOOL COUNCILS (DLS) -

 

The School Councils Wales Regulations 2005 required maintained primary (excluding nursery and infant schools), secondary and special schools in Wales to establish a School Council from registered pupils.

 

The biennial audit of school accounts for August 2014 was attached as Appendix 1 to the report.  The audit had been carried out via a questionnaire which had explored compliance with statutory requirements and the perceived impact of the School Council.  The questionnaire had been circulated during June 2014 to all secondary, special and primary schools in the Vale of Glamorgan and 24 questionnaires had been returned.  It was noted that all schools had met the legislative requirements of having a nominated School Council teacher responsible for supervising School Council meetings.  All schools had had an annual election with the following exceptions:

  • 1 school had held an annual election for Year 7 and a biennial election for Years 8 and 10
  • Another school where Reception and Year 1 representatives were chosen by the class teacher.

The Children and Young People’s Partnership Manager in presenting the report advised that the minimum frequency of School Council meetings was once every half term with many schools having more frequent meetings.  All schools had an administrative process in place for agendas and minutes and 75% of the schools had a Governor link with all secondary schools having an associated pupil governor.  School responses highlighted that the number of schools that involved pupils in decisions about the way they learn had increased since 2010 with 50% of secondary schools and 61% of primary schools stating they involved pupils in decisions about the way they learn. 

 

Members, in considering the report, welcomed the involvement of pupils in decisions about their school aware that School Councils are progressive and provide pupils with ownership of their school.

 

In response to a query regarding youth representation at staff appointments, Members were advised that this had taken place at schools and that pupils had also been involved in appointments of youth workers. 

 

The Chairman, in referring to his governorship of a primary school, advised that the School Council had been invited to a Governors’ meeting and that at Barry Town Council a sum of money had been granted for the purchase of fictional books for children in schools in the Barry area with a request that the relevant School Councils be involved in the discussions on the spend.

 

It was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report of the School Council’s Audit with specific reference to compliance with National Guidance and progress on pupil impact be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure Members were kept informed about developments.

 

 

30        VALE YOUTH CABINET - JANUARY - MARCH 2015 PROGRESS REPORT AND YOUTH REPRESENTATION ON SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING) (MD) -

 

The progress report attached at Appendix 1 to the report provided a brief outline on the work of the Youth Cabinet during the period January - March 2015 and advised of how many young people had been contacted to date.  The report referred to the number of meetings of the Youth Cabinet that had taken place, the meetings of the Vale Youth Forum and the consultation undertaken with the Youth Cabinet regarding the Vale Council’s Destination Action Plan.  The report also detailed the work being undertaken by the Point Team to encourage new membership of the Vale Youth Forum.  Committee was informed that the work of the Youth Cabinet had been well documented on social media and in the press with several articles having been published in the Barry and District and the Gem.  The report acknowledged that throughout the period young people had gained deep understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, its Cabinet Members and the process of democracy.  The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools stated that the Youth Cabinet had engaged in the process and had also shadowed Cabinet Members.  The Youth Cabinet had also developed an Action Plan and following a recruitment drive 14 new members had joined the Vale Youth Forum.

 

In order to further enhance the voice of young people in the decision making process, at the Scrutiny Committee Lifelong Learning meeting on 17th February, 2014 it had been recommended that a further report be presented to the Committee on the way forward for a member(s) of the VYF to be represented on the Scrutiny Committee. It was considered that such representation would enable young people of the Vale to provide information, suggestions or comments for consideration by the Committee.  The report therefore proposed that invitations be extended to the Vale Youth Forum to nominate two representatives from the Forum to sit on the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) to represent young people of the Vale.  If required to assist in the nomination process, officers from within Democratic Services would arrange a briefing session with Vale Youth Forum Members in respect of the role.  On appointment, a further briefing session would also be held with the appointed representatives.  It was noted that the nominated representatives would be afforded the opportunity to attend Scrutiny Committee meetings, receive agendas and reports for the meeting (subject to Access to Information requirements) and have the opportunity to speak on agenda items and provide views/comments on behalf of young people from the Vale.  The appointments, whilst in a non-voting capacity, would provide a further opportunity for the Council to further formally engage with young people.  The appointments were to be agreed on the basis that the representatives were Vale Youth Forum Members and subject to change by the Vale Youth Forum itself. 

 

The Lead Officer for Youth and Community Learning advised that it was his intention to ensure that a Participation Officer also attended the meetings to provide support to the youth representatives and that he welcomed the proposals as outlined within the report.  Members of the Committee who had been part of the Youth Provision Task and Finish Group which had initially recommended consideration of a Youth Cabinet and youth representation on the Scrutiny Committee also welcomed the report and supported the recommendations, following which it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Vale Youth Cabinet progress report be noted and referred to Cabinet for information.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet and Full Council be recommended to approve that the Vale Youth Forum be invited to nominate two representatives to sit as non-voting observers on the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning).

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having considered the contents contained therein and to advise Cabinet.

 

(2)       To seek Cabinet and Full Council approval in order to allow for young people between the ages of 11 and 25 to provide information, suggestions or comments for consideration by the Committee.

 

 

31        CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM BUSINESS PLAN 2015/16 (REF) -

 

Cabinet had referred the draft Central South Consortium Business Plan for consideration which set out the Central South Wales Challenge vision, priorities of the Consortium, operating model, budget and performance monitoring arrangements.  The Business Plan evaluated progress in 2014/15 and included information about educational outcomes which had improved at every Key Stage on most outcome measures across the Consortium and in individual authorities since 2012.  The draft Business Plan was attached as an Appendix to the report and included information about progress of the first year of the Central South Wales challenge including

  • The launch of the School Improvement Groups (SIGs) to engage all schools to identify and build joint practice development.
  • The launch of two rounds of pathfinders including 60 schools.
  • The pilot of a 'peer review' leadership model.
  • The launch of the 'hubs' programme whereby schools provide quality assured and accredited programmes of support to other schools.

Members also noted that Estyn had recently carried out a Thematic survey of the work of the four consortia in Wales which was due to be published shortly and would provide further evaluation of work to date.  The Business Plan reiterated the targeted areas for improvement and incorporated updated targets for 2015/16 and 2016/17. 

 

The Director, in presenting the report, advised that every school in the Vale was part of a SIG. 

 

In considering the report Members referred to the Scrutiny of the Consortium and in particular the money the Vale paid for the service with a question as to whether the Council was receiving 'value for money’.  It was noted that the Vale Councils contribution was £650,000 which it was reported was significantly less than the expenditure when the Council had its own improvement service.  It was also recognised that joined up learning approaches had been developed by the establishment of the Consortium with particular reference to paragraph 9 of the report and the roll-out of the peer review model which would be available to green level schools through the Challenge Framework.  Members of the Committee who had been part of the Schools Performance Panels within the Vale welcomed the increased focus in respect of teacher assessments and the support provided by the Consortium to the Foundation Phase.  However, Members reiterated in their view the need for co-ordinated scrutiny of the Consortium and although the Scrutiny Committee would be calling the Managing Director of the Consortium to account it was further suggested that Welsh Government be advised of the concerns of the Committee in relation to the need for co-ordinated scrutiny of the Consortium. 

 

It was also acknowledged that despite the initial scepticism by some schools when the Consortium had been established , the Director of Learning and Skills stated that since then schools were now advising that the support was better and that the Consortium was also working well in many respects.

 

Although aware that a thematic survey to provide details of Estyn’s and WAO’s view of the Consortium was awaited and that joint scrutiny arrangements of the Consortium had not been pursued by Welsh Government, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet be informed of the concerns of the Committee at the lack of co-ordinated scrutiny of the Central South Consortium.

 

(2)       T H A T the Central South Consortium draft Business Plan for 2015/16 be noted. 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To advise Cabinet of the views of the Scrutiny Committee and to seek support for co-ordinated scrutiny of the Central South Consortium to be established.

 

(2)       In view of the contents contained therein.

 

 

32        ESTYN MONITORING VISIT: ADULT COMMUNITY LEARNING (REF) -

 

The report had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee for information and provided an update on the outcome of the recent Estyn monitoring visit that had taken place in January 2015.  The report outlined that the Vale of Glamorgan Adult Community Learning Partnership had been inspected by Estyn in February 2013 with the overall judgements being described as

  • current performance - unsatisfactory
  • prospects for improvement - unsatisfactory.

Six recommendations were made as follows:

  • R1: Improve success rates and accreditation for all learners;
  • R2: Improve the provision for developing learners' literacy and numeracy skills, particularly to ensure that Adult Basic Education [ABE] learners have access to higher level courses;
  • R3: Improve the quality of teaching across the partnership;
  • R4: Improve the strategic leadership, management and co-ordination of adult community-based learning in the Vale of Glamorgan to make sure that provision is better aligned to local and national priorities and set targets that challenge performance;
  • R5: Analyse data robustly and improve quality processes to monitor and evaluate performance effectively to bring about improvements for learners;
  • R6: Review and revise the curriculum to ensure that all learners have equal access to appropriate learning opportunities.

A Post Inspection Action Plan had been developed to address the six recommendations and in January 2015 Estyn had revisited the Cardiff and Vale Adult Community Learning Partnership to review progress in relation to the six recommendations.  The report of the monitoring visit had been published on 31st March and was attached as Appendix A to the report.  Following the visit the Inspectors had made judgements as detailed below:

 

R1

Improve success rates and accreditation for all learners

 

Very good progress

 

R2

improve the provision for developing learners' literacy and numeracy skills, particularly to ensure that Adult Basic Education [ABE] learners have access to higher level courses

 

Strong progress

 

R3

Improve the quality of teaching across the partnership

 

Strong progress

 

R4

Improve the strategic leadership, management and co-ordination of adult community-based learning in the Vale of Glamorgan to make sure that provision is better aligned to local and national priorities and set targets that challenge performance

 

Very good progress

 

R5

Analyse data robustly and improve quality processes to monitor and evaluate performance effectively to bring about improvements for learners

 

Very good progress

 

R6

Review and revise the curriculum to ensure that all learners have equal access to appropriate learning opportunities

 

Strong progress

 

 

The Inspection concluded that the partnership was judged to have made sufficient progress in relation to the recommendations from the previous inspections and as a result Estyn had removed the partnership from any further follow-up activity.  Estyn would, however, continue to monitor progress through routine link visits to the partnership.

 

The Scrutiny Committee had previously agreed to monitor the progress of the Adult Community Partnership and had agreed to receive an annual update as a result of a presentation in January 2015 at its meeting in February 2016. 

 

Members, in considering the report, agreed that significant changes within the service over the last few years had been made and that the staff team be thanked for the hard work in turning the service around.  The Chairman, aware that the report provided a new framework for the service to work with, welcomed the very good progress that had been made to date following which it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the staff who played a part in turning around the Adult Community Learning Department following the unsatisfactory Estyn inspection be thanked for the hard work undertaken.

 

(2)       T H A T the Committee continues to monitor and scrutinise the service on an annual basis.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In light of the successful progress made to date.

 

(2)       As part of the Scrutiny Committee’s monitoring role.

 

 

33        REGULATORY AUDIT PLAN 2015 (DLS) -

 

The Regulatory Audit Plan was produced annually by the Wales Audit Office due to the fact that the Auditor General for Wales was required to carry out an audit which discharges its statutory duties and fulfilled its obligation under the Public Audit Wales Act 2004, the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009, the Local Government Act 1999 and the Code of Audit Practice.  A copy of the Regulatory Audit Plan was attached at Appendix 1 to the report with the key highlights being noted as follows:

  • Certification work would be undertaken on the Council's grant claims and returns as part of the annual financial audit.
  • The Council would be subject to an in-depth Corporate Assessment during 2015/16 (scheduled for February/March). This is a full review of the Council's capacity and capability to deliver continuous improvement which is undertaken once every four years by the Auditor General Wales in addition to the annual 'light touch' review.
  • Local government specific work was planned on the approach of councils to income generation and charging for services, council funding for third sector services and the effectiveness of local community safety partnerships.
  • A number of national value for money studies had been programmed to take place during the year including, a picture of public services, regional education consortia, regeneration investment funding for Wales, flood and erosion risk management (focus on coastal flooding). These studies to be funded by the National Assembly and presented to the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee to support its scrutiny of public expenditure. Where relevant, local authorities would also be required to provide evidence as part of the data gathering processes.

The Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer advised that following a Wales Audit Office improvement study of Scrutiny in Local Authorities in response, an Action Plan had been developed in respect of the Vale’s Council’s democratic process. This action plan was to be considered further at a workshop with Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Scrutiny Committees and Cabinet Members. 

 

The five Scrutiny Committees also had a responsibility to provide a work programme as part of their Annual Report and in conjunction with the Regulatory Plan Cabinet Forward Work Programme and the Council’s Corporate Plan these issues would be considered.  It was important to note that the Council would be subject to an in-depth corporate assessment as part of the Regulatory Audit Plan in February and March 2015/16 and the implementation of the Regulatory Plan would require considerable staff resources which would feed into the process. 

 

Following consideration of the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Regulatory Audit Plan 2015 be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Regulatory Audit Plan 2015 be considered when drawing together the Scrutiny Committee’s Annual Work Programme.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To progress the regulatory work programme.

 

(2)       To ensure that the work programme is more closely aligned to the annual regulatory audit and inspection work programme.

 

 

34        PROGRESS ON IMPLEMENTATION OF CASHLESS CATERING AND ONLINE PAYMENT SYSTEMS IN SCHOOLS (DLS) -

 

The report provided the Committee with details of the progress made with regard to the implementation of cashless catering and online payment systems in schools.  The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources in presenting the report stated that the Cashless Catering Solution enabled pupils and staff to load money onto their fobs/card via a machine in school, prior to purchasing food.  Pupils would not use cash at the counter nor carry cash around school during the day.  The money could be loaded on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  Removing the need for pupils to carry cash reduced the potential for bullying and loss of money when being carried to school. 

 

It was hoped that the Cashless Catering Solution will also result in an increase in take up of school meals as readily available cash would not be needed.  The system also removed the need for payment by cheque and additional administration tasks and processing costs resulting from ‘bounced’ cheques.  In reducing school administration personnel could then reallocate their time to other school business.  However, the full benefit of the Cashless Catering System could only be realised if used in conjunction with an integrated online payment system.  Whilst it was possible in secondary schools for cash to be loaded onto a fob or card, this option was however, not suitable in primary schools.  For primary schools parents would need to make an electronic payment which would be allocated to their child’s account.  Where cash or cheques were still expected by some schools, the school administrator would need to load payments onto the individual pupil accounts.

A survey undertaken in August 2013 provided feedback that the majority of parents / guardians would prefer to pay for school dinners via online payments.  Following the procurement of the Cashless Catering Solution, it had however, become apparent that the Council’s online system was not capable of providing the functionality required for parents and guardians who did not have access to a PC or smart phone.  Parent Pay was one of the companies listed within the ESPO Framework No. 978 (Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation) and the only company who could provide pay point facilities for cash based families.  The report highlighted the following benefits of the system:-

  • It responds to what parents have told us about how they would like to pay for school meals.
  • A reduction in cash transactions and the associated cost of handling cash within schools.
  • A reduction in administration in schools and improved efficiency.
  • Increased take up of school meals due to ease of payment.  
  • Ease of tracking income and reduced outstanding debt.
  • Reduces the stigma of free school meals and the potential for bullying.
  • Able to allocate income payments to individual pupil accounts automatically.
  • Ease of reconciliation of bank statements.
  • Reduces cash collection services (Secondary Schools).
  • Reduce visits to the Post Office to deposit money (Primary Schools)

Members were advised that to date the implementation of cashless catering online payments through Parent Pay had been agreed by 48 primary schools, 5 secondary schools and 1 special school which receive the service from the Council.  The Cashless Catering System had been implemented in 28 schools and the online payment systems at 26 schools.  Appendix 1 to the report detailed further scheduled installations. In response to a query that if a school did not use Vale Catering then they were not included in the report, the Head of Service confirmed that that was correct it being noted that not all schools used the Vale Catering service. 

 

In recognition of the benefits and advantages of the system the Scrutiny Committee subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the progress made with the implementation of cashless catering and online payment systems in schools and the benefits of the investment be supported.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the benefits associated with the implementation of such systems.

 

 

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