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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 7th September, 2015.

 

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

 

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

 

Non-Voting Observers: Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education) and Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector).

 

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

 

 

359     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Ms. R. Birch, and C.P. Franks.

 

 

360     MINUTES –

 

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

 

 

361     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

362     CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE’S SERVICES – ANNUAL PLACEMENT REVIEW (REF) –

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) had, on 13th July 2015, referred the report to this Committee for information.  The report provided details of the actions taken within Children and Young People Services during 2014/15 with regard to placement provision for Looked After Children (LAC) and the priority actions for 2015/16. 

 

The Head of Children and Young People Services, in presenting the report, referred to the issue that resource management in Children’s Social Care was inherently problematic, particularly regarding the area of children’s placements.  The number of children with complex needs was increasing and meeting such needs within appropriate placements was placing pressure upon budgets.  For example, the Head of Service advised that at the end of March there had been 189 LAC which had to date increased to 207.  The increase in the main referred to the number of sibling groups that were being referred and kinship fostering assessments.  The cohort of children related both to those with challenging and complex behaviour and to those with disabilities.  The cost of such placements for children with complex needs could it was reported also exceed £200,000 per year.  Thus within Children and Young People Services, and Learning and Skills with whom there is a joint budget for residential placements for LAC, this was a major issue as the continuing pressures on placements for LACs was a part of the Council’s most volatile budget and the one that most depended on levels of service demand which were not within the Council’s direct control. 

 

Attached to the report was an appendix which detailed the analyses undertaken by officers of the financial position, the demand for placements and the spending patterns.

 

In referring to out of area placements, the Head of Service advised that the Council’s strategy was to return children to Wales and the Vale where possible.  To date 6 children remained outside of Wales.  In response to a query regarding an update of the “When I am Ready” scheme, the Head of Service stated that the Division was preparing for a 2015/16 implementation start date for which all young people placed with foster carers would be able to remain within the placement post 18 years of age. 

 

In conclusion, the Chairman stated that the report was welcomed in order that Members can be apprised of the situation, to maintain effective monitoring of placements and in order to consider the implications for the education service.  He also queried what work was being undertaken to possibly pre-empt some of the issues in the future, with the response that Local Authorities were being encouraged to try to get involved with families as early on as possible and the Department would be also working towards dealing with the demands of the implementation of the Wellbeing Act. 

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted, it being accepted that a review of the service would be reported on an annual basis to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To provide Members with an opportunity to exercise oversight of a key statutory function.

 

 

363     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY 2015 (DLS) –

 

The Principal Accountant, in presenting the report, advised that the Learning and Skills Directorate was aiming to outturn within budget after making transfers from reserves as detailed by the service areas and highlighted in the report. However, for the revenue budget there were also significant pressures within the Inclusion Service with regard to inter-Authority recoupment.  For Schools, the delegated budget was expected to balance as any under/overspend would be carried forward by schools. For School Improvement and Inclusion the service was projecting an adverse variance of around £236k, although this amount could be offset by £70k funded form the Excluded Pupils reserve.  With regard to the issues in relation to inter-Authority recoupment, it was noted that this was as a result of an increased number of Vale pupils requiring a placement at Ysgol y Deri which had meant that there were less places available for out of county pupils.  The Directorate was however seeking ways of mitigating this overspend as part of the longer term Reshaping Services agenda.

 

Other service areas were reported as follows:-

 

Service Strategy and Regulation – It was anticipated that this service would outturn on target at year end.

 

Strategy and Resources - This service was anticipating a favourable variance at the year end of £166k, with favourable variances on the transport budget of £65k, £52k on salaries due to part year vacancies and £49k due to payments to private nurseries as a result of a reduction in non-maintained nursery settings.  There were however, significant pressures in relation to the Schools' Long Term Supply scheme, £200k adverse variance and the Early Retirement and Voluntary Redundancy scheme, £113k adverse variance.  Both these overspends would be funded from the respective reserves.

 

Children and Young People’s Partnership – It was anticipated that this service would outturn on target at year end.

 

Within Strategy and Resources provision had been made within the budget to make unsupported borrowing debt repayments in relation to the Schools’ Investment Strategy of £698k per annum; any favourable variance on debt repayments would be directed into the Schools’ Investment Strategy. 

 

Libraries – The service was projecting an adverse variance of £112k, however, the report advised that this amount could be funded from the Library reserve and therefore a breakeven position would be anticipated at year end.  The overspend had arisen as a result of the one off costs associated with the implementation of the Libraries Review.

 

Youth Service – The service was projecting an adverse variance of £52k, however, this amount could be funded from the Youth Service Reserve and therefore a breakeven position was anticipated at year end.  This additional expenditure was being used to fund NEETS and Gateway To Engagement work in schools. 

 

Adult Community Learning – The service was projecting an adverse variance of £90k, however, this amount could be funded from the Adult and Community Learning reserve and therefore a breakeven position was anticipated at year end.  The overspend was due to redundancy and notice payments to staff, which had arisen as a result of reductions in funding from Welsh Government and Cardiff and the Vale College.

 

Catering – The Catering client budget was projecting an adverse variance of £35k however, this amount could be funded from the Catering Reserve and therefore a breakeven position was anticipated at year end.  This transfer from reserves would fund the final instalment of the new cashless catering system within schools.  There were also underspends on the breakfast club, revenue costs for the new catering system and payments to the DSO for school meals which would also be used to fund the cashless catering system.  The trading account was predicting to outturn on target, however, it was still very early in the financial year.  A more accurate projection would be available following the September schools intake when the level of school meal take up and free school meals eligibility was known.

 

Attached at Appendix 2 to the report was a statement showing the progress made to date against the 2015/16 savings targets.   Appendix 3 to the report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme with reference being made to the following areas:

 

-     Victorian Schools: Emergency Powers had been used to vire the budget of £1.061m to specific schemes as follows: -

  • Victoria Primary School: External Refurbishment Works £270k
  • Overboarding Lath and Plaster Ceilings £741k
  • Sandstone Repairs £50k.

-     Ysgol Maes Dyfan Marketing: Emergency Powers had been used to include a budget of £8k in the Capital Programme for Ysgol Maes Dyfan Marketing. 

-     Education Asset Renewal: The Education Asset Renewal budget had been agreed by Cabinet on 23rd February 2015 with delegated authority being given to the Managing Director or Head of Finance, in consultation with the Cabinet Member responsible for Finance,  to make additions, deletions or transfers to or from the 2015/16 to 2019/20 Asset Renewal budgets as appropriate, this authority was used to transfer £5k from Ysgol Baruc rewire to Peterston Super Ely renew electric heaters scheme.

-     Two schemes showing a variance between profiled and actual spend of greater than 20% are Penarth Learning Community and Modular building re-siting Ysgol Dewi Sant, this is due to amendments to the programme of works, the schemes are expected to outturn on budget.

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2015/16 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members.

 

 

364     SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR THE SUMMER TERM 2015 (DLS) –

 

The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion advised that Stanwell Comprehensive, St. Brides Primary and Victoria Primary Schools had been inspected during the Summer term 2015 and that a summary of the inspection findings for each of the named schools / playgroups was appended to the report.

 

The report advised that School inspections were governed by the Education Act 2005 and the purpose of the inspections was to

 

-     provide accountability to the users of the services and other stakeholders through public reporting on providers;

-     promote improvement in education and training; and

-     inform the development of national policy by Welsh Government.

 

The overall judgements achieved by the schools was noted as follows:

 

 

Current Performance

Prospects for Improvement

Stanwell   Comprehensive

Excellent

Excellent

St.   Brides Primary

Good

Good

Victoria   Primary

Good

Good

 

When undertaking the inspections Estyn recognises the unique position to showcase some of the excellent practice identified across all of the education and training sectors it inspects and one way it does this is by asking schools it has identified excellence to write case studies outlining how excellence had been achieved in the identified areas.  Two of the Vale schools had therefore produced the following case studies as below:

 

School

Case Study

Victoria   Primary

Nurture   provision for children with additional learning needs.

Stanwell   Comprehensive

How   the development of teaching in the school has led to excellent teaching and   outcomes.

 

During the Summer term Estyn also monitored Barry Comprehensive School, with the overall judgement for the school being noted as “insufficient progress in relation to the recommendations” with the outcome “placed in significant improvement”.  The detail of the progress the school had made against each of the recommendations was provided at Appendix 3 to the report. 


The Vale also currently had two schools in Estyn Local Authority monitoring namely Llanfair Primary and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive schools with Challenge Advisors overseeing the work of the schools, monitoring the delivery of an agreed action plan and reporting progress on a termly basis.  The Local Authority was also required to submit a progress report to Estyn that summarised the progress made against each of the recommendations; make a judgement regarding the extent of the progress made in addressing the recommendations; and make a recommendation regarding whether or not the school setting should be removed from Local Authority monitoring.  The Vale of Glamorgan also currently had two schools in Local Authority monitoring, Romilly Primary and Y Bont Faen Primary.

 

Appendix 4 to the report provided a summary of Estyn activity for the period September 2014 – July 2015.

 

In referring to the monitoring report for Barry Comprehensive and the fact that the school had been placed in significant improvement  by Estyn, Members were advised that the monitoring had however,  taken place 15 days prior to the announcements of the schools exam results in August 2015 which had shown improvement.  However, the Estyn report had also found insufficient progress in relation to some of the recommendations that had been made previously.

 

In response to a question as to why Estyn had decided to undertake monitoring two weeks before the end of term, the Head of Service advised that this had indeed been unfortunate and Estyn recommendations had been made at that position in time, however, that was the position of the schools position at that moment in time. 

 

The Chairman, in referring to the current performance and prospects for improvement for the three schools that had achieved success in their overall judgements, requested that the Committee agree to let its thanks be forwarded to the schools in this regard, following which it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the inspections judgements about the schools inspected during the Summer term be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the judgements made by Estyn in its monitoring visit regarding the progress of schools in addressing inspection recommendations be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the judgements made by Estyn with regard to schools in Local Authority monitoring be noted.

 

(4)       T H A T a letter of congratulations be forwarded on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee by the Chairman to Stanwell Comprehensive, St. Brides Primary and Victoria Primary Schools.

 

(5)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for its consideration, highlighting the overall judgements for the schools visited in the Summer term and the recommendations following the Estyn monitoring visit to Barry Comprehensive School.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1-3)    In order that Members are aware of Estyn judgements about local schools.

 

(4)       To offer the Committee’s congratulations.

 

(5)       For Cabinet’s consideration.

 

 

365     REVIEW OF INDIVIDUAL SCHOOL PROGRESS MEETINGS (DLS) –

 

The Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, in presenting the report, advised that Cabinet had recommended to the Scrutiny Committee in January 2013 that invitations be extended to the Chairmen of Governors and Headteachers of schools where performance issues had been identified, including those schools under Estyn following up arrangements, to a meeting to consider issues of performance.

 

On 18th February, 2013, the Scrutiny Committee had subsequently agreed to establish School Progress Panels consisting of three Members (minimum of two Elected Members), to be drawn from the 10 Elected Members and 4 statutory Co-opted Members of this Scrutiny Committee.  The Panels had been established in order to ascertain whether the Schools to be visited had up to date and authoritative improvement plans, that they had in place arrangements to monitor the impact of the plans, to amend them as appropriate and to establish what progress had been made against each action within the plans and what further progress was required; this approach being deemed necessary in order to seek to improve the accountability of schools for pupil attainment

 

It was noted that to date Panel meetings had been held within four secondary schools and one primary school in the Vale, namely: 

  • Barry Comprehensive
  • Bryn Hafren Comprehensive
  • Llantwit Major Comprehensive
  • St. Cyres Comprehensive
  • Eagleswell Primary School.

 The Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer further highlighted that following the publication of GCSE results in August 2014, both Llantwit Major Comprehensive and St. Cyres Comprehensive schools were removed from the list of those requiring close monitoring.  However, results achieved in Barry and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive schools were below the required targets and subsequent re-visits had been undertaken.   In addition, two visits to Eagleswell Primary School in Llantwit Major were held during July 2014 and February 2015.

 

Following a review of the process, on 23rd June, 2014 the Scrutiny Committee agreed an Action Plan and recommended that an update report be provided in 12 months' time.  The Action Plan was developed following a desk top review of the work of the Panels and lessons learnt to date.

 

Appendix 1 to the report detailed an update on the Action Plan and showed the progress that had been made to date in relation to each individual action.  Appendix 2 illustrated further improvement actions observed by the Panel visits conducted over the past 12 months and a summary of progress made to date was also detailed within the report. 

 

In highlighting a number of the areas, Members were informed that one of the main issues identified by Panel Members whilst undertaking the process, was that good practice should be disseminated throughout schools in the Vale.  Following a member query as to how this had been undertaken Committee was informed that this had been progressed via the “School to School” working initiative through strategies such as School Improvement Groups, Pathfinders and the use of “Hubs”.  This had also led to a significant increase in the sharing of good practice throughout schools in the Vale.

 

Data capture and tracking of information was also considered essential to the process and should be regularly maintained and analysed.  It was recognised that a number of schools operated different tracking / management systems and it was the Panel’s view that one Management Record System could be utilised.  Current progress around this included the close monitoring and evaluation of tracking systems by Challenge Advisors.  No progress had yet been made with regard to determining one such system to be used across the region, but the Consortium was however considering the potential benefits of a “Pupil Data Warehouse” to support regional monitoring of groups of learners.

 

As part of the self-evaluation process during the Summer of 2015, a survey of the Members Panel, officers, school representatives and the Challenge Advisors had been undertaken, although responses from all had not been received.  Participants in the process had been asked to evaluate how well the Panels had operated to assess the Panels’ impact and to highlight any aspect in which the Panels could operate more effectively.   A summary of the results was contained within the report at paragraphs 38 to 46. 

 

During the consideration of the report, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion also provided a PowerPoint presentation for Members’ information, which outlined performance data headlines for schools in the Vale, across the Local Authorities within the Central South Consortium and including the all Wales picture  for 2015.  Standards in all indicators had improved since 2012. At this point the comparisons available were against the average performance of those local authorities within the Consortium and the all-Wales average.  It was noted that the ambition of the Council was that the performance needed to be compared to the best in Wales and beyond.  This would be completed in a full data analysis once all the data was available.  A copy of the presentation was tabled at the meeting.

 

With regard to the Foundation Phase, it was noted that improvements were being made year on year within the Vale of Glamorgan and that they were above the Central South Consortium average as well as the all-Wales average.  For Key Stage 2 core subject indicators, and Key Stage 3 the picture was the same with improvements being seen throughout all the Local Authorities within the Central South Consortium.

 

For Level 2 threshold Core including English/ Welsh and Maths there was again an increase of 2.5% with a 9.4% increase noted since the last inspection.  For Key stage 4 level 2 English the percentage increase was reported as +5.2% for 2015 and +9.8% since the Council’s last inspection.  However, for Key Stage 4 Level 2 the percentage had decreased by -1.4 %  with the Council needing to continue to monitor this.

 

The presentation also highlighted FSM data versus non EFSM data for the Foundation Phase, Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3 and Level 2 threshold, it being noted that performance was in the main improving for both areas.  However, although the results in each category were improving, the graph highlighted that the gap between the two was widening at KS4 and remaining static at KS2 which would require continual monitoring by the Local Authority and the Central South Consortium. 

 

The Chairman thanked the Head of Service for his presentation at the meeting as he was aware that it took some time for the data for each of the schools results to be validated before it could be presented to the Committee. It was however, noted that more detailed information would be available in time for the next meeting of the Committee which would be presented in report format.

 

The Director of Learning and Skills also advised that a further report in relation to a programme to be developed for consideration by the Committee regarding schools where individual school progress meetings would be most appropriate would be prepared for the next meeting for Members’ consideration.

 

Following consideration of the report and the presentation, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report and the Action Plan at Appendices 1 and 2 to the report detailing the lessons learnt to date in respect of the School Progress Panel meetings be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Action Plan be monitored and reviewed by the Scrutiny Committee in 12 months' time.

 

(3)       T H A T all reports of School Progress Panel meetings continue to be referred to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

 

(4)       T H A T the review of individual school progress meetings report be referred for consideration to Cabinet advising of the lessons learnt in respect of the progress meetings that had taken place to date.

 

(5)       T H A T a programme be developed for consideration by the Committee and Cabinet of Panels to take place to visit schools referred to in paragraph 49 as  "coasting schools and high performing schools" in order to identify and share best practice. 

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-5)    In recognition of the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation in 2013 that a review of the process be undertaken in 12 months.