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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 8th February, 2016.

 

Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor R.A. Penrose (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. R. Birch, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Ms. K.E, Edmunds, C.P. Franks, T.H. Jarvie and  A. Parker.

 

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

 

Non-Voting Observer: Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education), Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector) and Mr. N. Want (Vale Youth Forum).

 

Also present: Councillor C.P.J. Elmore.

 

 

817     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Mrs. A.J. Preston; Mr. G. Beaudette (Primary Sector), Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church), Mr. M. Conway (Vale Youth Forum) and Mr. L. Kellaway (Parent Governor – Primary Sector).

 

 

818     MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 11th January, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

819     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

Councillor C.P. Franks declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 4 – Revenue and Capital Monitoring – in respect of the Library Service in that Dinas Powys Community Council was seeking to work as a community group as a result of the Library Service Review.  Councillor Franks had been granted dispensation by the Standards Committee to speak and vote on the matter.

 

 

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

 

Prior to the presentation of the report, and following introductions all round, the Chairman took the opportunity to welcome one of the two new Committee Member Observer Representatives from the Vale Youth Forum, Niclas Want.

 

The Principal Accountant then proceeded to present the report to the Scrutiny Committee, advising that in referring to the revenue budget and projected outturn for 2015/16 as shown in the table detailed in paragraph 3 of the report, there were significant pressures within the Inclusion Service in respect of inter-Authority recoupment although it was anticipated that the Learning and Skills Directorate would outturn on target by the year end.  A graph and table setting out the variance between profiled budget and actual expenditure was also attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  Committee was subsequently apprised of the budget position within each of the service areas as outlined below:

 

For schools the delegated budget was expected to balance as any under/over spend was carried forward by schools.  With regard to School Improvement and Inclusion the service was projecting an adverse variance of around £565k, however, this amount could be offset by £67k funded from the Excluded Pupils reserves and therefore an adverse variance of £498k was currently projected at year end.  The adverse variance on the alternative curriculum placements of £67k was projected due to increased demand for the service but would be funded from the Excluded Pupils reserve.  An adverse variance of £456k was anticipated on inter-Authority recoupment income as increased demand for Vale pupils requiring placements in Ysgol Y Deri had resulted in fewer placements available for other Authorities to purchase.  An adverse variance of £136k was also projected on pupil placements in independent schools and other Authorities due to an increase in the number of pupils with significant needs that were unable to be met at Ysgol Y Deri.  An adverse variance of £17k was also due to increased numbers of pupils accessing the Pupil Referral Unit.  These overspends would be offset by a favourable variance of £61k on staffing costs and other income and £50k on Additional Learning Needs resource units.  The Directorate was however, seeking ways to mitigate this overspend as part of the longer term Reshaping Services agenda.

 

Under Service Strategy and Regulation it was anticipated that this service would outturn with a £14k favourable variance due to efficiencies within the Business Support section.  The service area Strategy and Resources was also now anticipating a favourable variance at year end of £476k.  A favourable variance of £263k had arisen as a result of a rates refunds due to the revaluation of school buildings, which had been backdated up to five years however,  this underspend had been offset by the increased rates bill for St. Cyres of £161k.  There continued to be favourable variances on the transport budget of £216k, £35k on salaries due to part year vacancies, £48k due to payments to private nurseries as a result of a reduction in non-maintained nursery settings and other variances totalling £75k.  There were however, significant pressures in relation to the Schools Long Term Supply scheme with an adverse variance of £216k anticipated and the Early Retirement and Voluntary Redundancy scheme also projecting an adverse variance of £200k.  Both these overspends would be funded from the respective reserves.

 

The Children and Young People’s Partnership was anticipated to outturn at a favourable variance of £8k due to a part year vacancy in the team. The Library service was projecting to outturn within budget after a transfer from the Libraries reserve of £178k to fund one off costs in relation to the implementation of the Libraries Review.  With regard to the Youth Service it was anticipated that this service would outturn within budget after a transfer of £3k from the Youth Service Reserve and for Adult Community Learning the service would outturn within budget after a £94k transfer from the Adult and Community Learning reserve. 

 

In terms of Catering the budget was anticipated to outturn on target after a transfer of £217k from the Catering reserve, the Arts Development section was also anticipated to outturn within budget at year end.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the progress made to date against the 2015/16 savings targets, it being noted that the majority of savings would be achieved in the current financial year, although £83k not anticipated to be made would be considered as part of the larger review of the Additional Learning Needs service under the Reshaping Services agenda. Appendix 3 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st December, 2015, with the Principal Accountant referring at the meeting to the following changes that had been proposed to the current Programme as detailed below: 

  • Gwenfo Primary Expansion – There had been delays in progressing the scheme with works now to commence during the Easter Holidays.
  • Romilly Demountable – It was anticipated that this scheme would overspend by £5k due to the requirement to undertake some additional works. 
  • Llanfair Demountable – It was anticipated that this scheme would overspend by £25k. The initial budget having been based on the limited information available at the time.  As a result, additional works had been identified during the course of the project which had resulted in increased costs (e.g. demolition of redundant accommodation, works in connection with drainage and external services, hard / soft landscaping, play equipment, etc.). 
  • Penarth Library Damp Proofing and Lift Works – The order for the lift had been placed, however, the damp proofing works required listed building consent to be obtained. 

In referring to the delays of the Gwenfo Primary Expansion, Committee was informed  that tenders were due to be published on Tuesday, 9th February detailing the design and build approach and the department was anticipating completion of the scheme by August 2016. 

 

In view of the budget position Members queried how the Department was going to try to aim to make the savings in the next financial year.  The Director advised that the reductions in budget had been consulted on in December 2015 and that since the settlement from Welsh Government had been slightly more favourable than anticipated, some changes had been made.  In particular the Director referred to the fact that in relation to the Additional Learning Needs budget, the Department was now much clearer on where the savings would need to be required. 

 

When querying the significant financial pressures in relation to Ysgol Y Deri, Members were informed that in relation to the specific details relating to the number of out of county placements, the Accountant did not have the figures to hand but would e-mail the information to Members within the next few days.  However, the Accountant further stated that in November, the figure for out of county placements was around 24%.  Members, although aware that the Directorate was seeking ways to mitigate the overspend as part of the longer term Reshaping Services agenda, were advised by the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion that the Additional Learning Needs strategy was part of a comprehensive review of Additional Learning Needs services with the consideration that some children’s special needs may be more appropriate met in mainstream.  There were also suggestions to explore further use of part of Ysgol Y Deri for other opportunities in particular Ty Deri where there was also the capacity to meet the needs of children with more complex needs.

 

Following a query from a Member that they had heard concerns from secondary schools of the possibility of schools having to take children that two years previously they would not have been required to take, the Head of Service advised that many children’s needs were met at primary level, with the question being raised as to why the same needs could not also be met at secondary level.  In reality he stated that the numbers of children that were being discussed was relatively small in number and further reports on the matter were proposed to be presented to Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee. 

 

In referring to the work undertaken via the Sandstone repair scheme, the Vice-Chairman queried whether the department had overestimated in the first instance.  The Head of Service for Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that it was particularly difficult to accurately estimate the funding required for this scheme since the extent of work required could only be determined by hammer testing the stone work.  She advised that there could be a number of reasons for the variation between the budget and actual expenditure and she would ask the Property Services Department to provide a response.

 

In conclusion, the Chairman enquired as to the current position in respect of the implementation of the Libraries Review, with the Head of Service advising that Cabinet had met that day to consider the establishment of community libraries and had approved five from April 2016.  The judicial review had unfortunately delayed implementation which most of the community groups were keen to progress.  In acknowledgement of the delay in reaching a decision on this matter, Cabinet had agreed an extension to 31st May, 2016 to ensure sufficient time is given for all groups to become formally constituted, the development of legal agreements and the training of volunteers.

 

The Committee also asked to receive details at a future meeting of the judicial review in respect of the implications and costs of the review.  The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that details of the judicial review, including the full judgement, implications and associated legal costs were included in the Cabinet report which would be circulated to all Members.  The Vice-Chairman took the opportunity to thank officers for their support in relation to the process undertaken to date and for the assistance shown to the Sully group.

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2015/16 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the information as requested via e-mail, as outlined above, is forwarded to all Members of the Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In noting the current position with regard to the 2015/16 revenue and capital monitoring.

 

(2) To apprise Members.

 

 

821     UPDATE REPORT ON BARRY ELIM CHURCH “CAN DO” PROJECT (REF) –

 

The Voluntary Sector Joint Liaison Committee on 14th October, 2015 had referred the report to the Committee for its information.  The Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee advised that in order to manage the items on previous agendas, he had deferred consideration of the reference to this evenings meeting as a result. 

 

The Children and Young People’s Partnership Manager, in presenting the reference and the report, provided an update on the progress made to date in respect of the “Can Do” project. This had been a three year pilot project working with pupils who were at risk of poor attendance and who had a difficult time adjusting at secondary school due to anxiety and confidence issues.  It was considered that these young people were in danger of becoming disengaged from education, employment and training in the long term. The desired outcome of the project was to give pupils the tools to improve self-confidence, increase resilience and reduce anxiety related behaviour resulting in overall improvement in school life, happiness and therefore achievement.  The project had commenced part way through summer term 2013. 

 

The project worked with two secondary schools, Barry Comprehensive and Bryn Hafren, with all pupils being Year 8 pupils.  The Heads of Year had identified pupils to put forward for the project using their respective schools management systems (NBAR / PASS) and using their personal knowledge of the pupils. 

 

The project ran from April to March and during 2014/15 47 pupils were put forward for the Can Do course, with the attendance on the course at 93%.  Feedback had been received from 40 pupils, all indicating some or great improvement in their self-esteem.  For the coaching and mentoring element of the project, 41 pupils had been put forward with 39 completing the provision and 36 providing feedback.  Two pupils did not participate after the first session as they did not believe it was right for them. 

 

Pupils received a minimum of four sessions, initially developing their own goals and agreeing an action plan – pupils set a wide range of goals, 28 pupils put forward for coaching / mentoring self-identified having behaviour and confidence issues in class and feelings of boredom.  Some identified family issues as the place where they wanted to bring change.  The programme focussed on finding solutions for these.  In addition to this all pupils self-assessed their self-image and carried out an additional questionnaire to identify the “coaching gaps” in school performance.  It was at the fourth coaching session all parties assessed how to continue or whether to end the relationship based on achievement of goals or needing further support.

 

Feedback from the pupils found the coaching and mentoring relationship good to excellent (34) and helpful (30).  When asked if they would like to be coached or mentored at a later date, 58% responded positively.  26 of those completing wanted a 4-6 months’ review on their progress.  The self-image exit assessment suggested the main improvements were in being less cheeky (31), feeling more intelligent (30) and less moody (29).  Between 25-28 individual pupils reported improvements in confidence, kindness, happiness, being less lazy and less bossy.

 

Feedback from pupils demonstrated positive engagement and benefiting from the provision, this was further supported by teacher comments that identified areas of improvement in pupil confidence and improvements in individual pupil self-esteem.

 

Funding of £60k had been agreed for the project, which had been split as £20k per annum for the three years commencing 2013/14.  Sources of funding were being explored to continue the project from April 2016, including the individual school’s “Pupil Deprivation Grant”.  If however these funding opportunities are unsuccessful, the project would cease.

 

Members raised concern in relation to the possibility of the project ceasing from April 2016 and an Observer Member advised that the project worker who undertook the project had been a valuable asset to the school and that the school they were at was currently looking at other avenues in order to support the project worker further.  The Partnership Manager advised that other funding opportunities had and were being explored, for example Communities First, but as their budgets were tight, it was not considered an option at this stage.


Committee was also of the view that such work played an important part in the prevention agenda and mitigated issues in the longer term and that in their view it was a small amount of money in the initial stages that could save a lot in the future. 

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

(2)      T H A T the Committee’s appreciation be extended to all involved in the project in respect of the work undertaken to date.

 

(3)       T H A T the report, the appendices and the Committee’s comments be referred to Cabinet for consideration, to highlight the Committee’s concern that such a valuable project could cease as at 1st April, 2016 due to lack of funding with the request that Cabinet consider whether there were further options to sustain the service.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       That the progress made to date on the Barry Elim Church “Can Do” project be noted.

 

(2)       In order that those involved in delivering the project can be thanked for the work that has already been carried out.

 

(3)       That the report be referred to Cabinet in view of the Committee’s concerns and to ask Cabinet to consider other ways of funding such a  successful project.

 

 

822     ANNUAL REPORT ON SCHOOLS 2014/15 (REF) –

 

The report had been referred by the Audit Committee in order that the Scrutiny Committee could scrutinise the reasons for the size of schools’ balances. 

 

The report highlighted that during 2014/15 a total of 18 audit visits were conducted, 14 being planned visits, one being a follow up where the previous visit had identified control weaknesses and the remaining three visits being unplanned and made at the request of the Headteacher or Director.  Details of the key findings made during these visits were attached at Appendix A to the report. 

 

In summary, 14 of the schools visited were graded as providing substantial or reasonable assurance (77%) whilst one was graded as limited assurance. 

 

In considering the report, the Audit Committee had noted the comments “That from analysis it was identified that five primary / nursery schools had balances in excess of 10% of their budget share, the greatest of these being Ysgol Dewi Sant with a surplus of 40.3% of their budget which equated to £148,280.  Within Comprehensive/ special schools none had a surplus balance greater than 10% although the highest value could be accredited to Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School with a surplus of 4.76% of their budget share (£230,765)”.

 

The report further noted that the relevant schools had completed a return to indicate their planned use of the balances and the Head of Service and the Finance Manager intended to meet with the Headteachers and Governors to challenge, where necessary, those schools which had carried forward balances for more than a year. Committee was informed that such a meeting had now taken place since the Audit Committee meeting in November and, as such, the report had therefore moved on.

 

The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources also advised that where schools had over a 5% surplus balance, the Department requested plans from them as to how they intended to spend the funds.  To date Ysgol Iolo Morganwg had funded interior work and improved the learning environment and St. Brides Major was to contribute its balances to the establishment of a nursery and a new Key Stage 1 classroom.  However there were some schools that needed to be closely monitored and that further work would be undertaken when schools were setting their budgets as some would need to draw on their balances to set a balanced budget in the coming financial year.  It was suggested the Department could bring a further update report later in the year, around September time.  A number of Members stated that they were content to wait for an update report in respect of the larger balances for September, but also queried those schools that may have large deficits.  Members were aware that secondary schools were facing significant problems, in particular in relation to falling rolls.  In referring to the deficit position, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources stated that only one secondary school in the previous financial year had carried forward a deficit.  She advised that schools are not permitted to set a deficit budget, the Department works with schools which have financial difficulties to ensure that a budget recovery plan is developed.  St. Cyres was currently projecting a significant deficit and the Department was working with the school with regard to a budget recovery plan which could she stated potentially result in redundancies.  Most secondary schools she advised had also taken active approaches to reduce their budgets.  In referring to Llantwit Major Comprehensive School where falling rolls had existed, and where a budget recovery plan was produced, of note was the fact that the school had whilst in this situation significantly improved its overall performance.  The Headteacher of St. Cyres had therefore been put in touch with the Headteacher of Llantwit Major in order to assist in developing a recovery plan for his school.

 

Following a query as to what further support could be given in order to reduce deficits, it was noted that one of the main areas of expenditure was staff salaries.  The Head of Service advised that staff was the greatest proportion of the budget and the Department could only make suggestions to schools.  There was an emphasis from Welsh Government in relation to establishing federated schools which would allow for a sharing of Headteachers, management and Governing Bodies as a way forward for efficiencies.  Other aspects to be considered in reducing deficits were noted as energy efficiencies, procurement costs and the possibility of schools working in clusters to reduce costs.  Members also referred to training for Governors and the support being provided for Governors in relation to budget information and their analysis of it.  It was noted that recently the Governor training had been revised and officers would consider the feedback from those sessions with the possibility to also consider if required bespoke training to some Governing Bodies.  Members were of the view that consideration should be given to making finance training mandatory for all Governing Bodies.

 

In conclusion it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T a further report in relation to school balances and the detail of the Governor training programme provided be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in September 2016.

 

(2)       T H A T a further report in relation to the school balances of St. Cyres and a proposed recovery plan be presented to the Committee for Members’ consideration prior to the summer recess.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order that the Committee can monitor the situation.

 

(2)       For Members’ consideration.

 

 

823     YOUTH ENGAGEMENT AND PROGRESSION (DLS) –

 

Committee was provided with data of the progress being made to implement the Welsh Government Youth Engagement and Progression Framework (YEPF) and the current levels of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) young people. 

 

The YEPF had been introduced by Welsh Government on 1st October, 2013 and was in its second year of implementation.  New targets had been set out in the YEPF implementation plan to reduce the numbers of young people aged 16-18 who were NEET in Wales to 9% by 2017 and to further reduce the proportion of young people aged 19-24 who were NEET in Wales relative to the UK as a whole by 2017. 

 

The Lead Officer for Youth and Community Learning informed the Committee that Welsh Government official statistical release information on NEETs for 2015/16 was due to be released in April 2016.  However, the Local Authority signed a pre-release document enabling Careers Wales to share destination data for each of the Vale secondary schools, which provided a useful snapshot of pupil destinations. 

 

As a result of effective implementation of the YEPF, there had been a consistent reduction in NEET young people in the Vale.  Information about the performance of other Authorities would be available in April.

 

 

       2013/14

          Vale

       2014/15

          Vale

          2014/15

    Welsh Average

     2015/16

        Vale

Year 11

      3.8%

      2.76%

       3.07%

     1.68%

Year 12

      2.0%

      1.78%

       1.91%

     1.5%

Year 13

      4.8%

      4.07%

       4.90%

     2.9%

 

97% of Year 11 leavers had entered education, employment or training.   94.9% of 16-18 year olds entered education, employment or training (as shown at Appendix 1 to the report).  The reduction in NEET young people had been achieved through the following initiatives:- 

  • The Council had further improved its brokerage of provision and collaborative work with a range of partners.  The Engagement and Progression Co-ordinator (EPC) had been active in their approach to developing provision through communication with schools and preventative interventions for high risk young people.
  • The Education Improvement Grant 14-19 funding had been used to support schools in the prevention agenda enabling them to be more aware of a wide range of offers from alternative providers. 
  • Monthly sharing of tier 1 and 2 information, on potential and identified NEET young people between partners and Careers Wales had helped identify the whereabouts of ‘unknown’ NEET young people and improve engagement.  Careers Wales and the Youth Service dedicated two weeks in October to carry out ‘door knocking’ to locate ‘unknown’ NEET young people. 
  • The early identification tool (also known as the Vulnerability Assessment Profile) was in its second year of implementation; in June 2015 schools identified a total of 134 Red (high risk) students across all comprehensive schools, and 266 Amber (medium risk) students.  Bryn Hafren indicated the highest number of Red (39 students) and 43 Amber students.  St. Cyres highlighted 24 Reds and 61 Amber students, followed by Llantwit Major indicating 19 Red and 42 Amber, and St. Richard Gwyn indicating 18 Red and 46 Amber students.  The more high risk levels appeared in Year groups 9 and 10.
  • During the academic year 2014/15 Guidance to Engagement (G2E) was delivered in Barry Comprehensive School which was aimed at young people who had been identified at risk of becoming NEET. Youth workers delivered a wide range of accredited learning opportunities based on a young person’s needs. 
  • Bryn Hafren received youth worker support in Years 8 to 11 up to the end of July 2015.  Since September, youth workers had been delivering G2E in CAVC one day a week to a mixture of Bryn Hafren and St. Richard Gwyn pupils (as shown at Appendix 2: Case Study to the report).
  • The YEPF Grant had been allocated to a youth worker to provide 12 hour intense one to one support for the young people where engagement with schools and providers has proved difficult.  Since April 2015, 13 young people had been engaged and eight progressed into full time college, part-time education and training and three were receiving support.

Cowbridge, Llantwit Major, Barry, Bryn Hafren and St. Cyres sixth forms had also agreed to complete the early identification exercise in February 2016 for the first time.  The European Structural Fund (ESF) project Inspire to Achieve, was also a joint project with Careers Wales and a regional group comprising of the Vale, Monmouth, Newport and Cardiff Local Authorities and the project had been implemented at the end of January 2016. 

 

The Common Area Prospectus for all post-16 providers across Wales was implemented from November 2015 with most schools publishing their post 16 curriculum offer providing course summary and provider details to better inform and promote their offer to young people.  However, the pilot stage of the Common Application Process in North Wales had shown little demand for a national application system for post 16 provisions at this stage.  Young people indicated a strong preference for paper or school / college website options and for direct contact with post 16 providers to support their decision-making.  Additionally the need for the Welsh Government to track young people as part of the monitoring of the Youth Guarantee was being conducted through robust early identification systems now operating in many schools.  Welsh Government had therefore decided to halt the development and use of the Application Process of the CAP software operating on CareersWales.com.  Welsh Government and Careers Wales would focus future resources on improving the Common Area Prospectus making it a first class on-line resource for young people making their post 16 option choices

 

The Officer continued to praise the work undertaken by schools that had played a significant role in identifying the children most at risk.  The Officer further advised that he was keen to work with Head teachers to demonstrate the early identification tool in order to raise awareness in schools and further funding of £46k was due to be released to the Council to deliver the project.  Work was currently being undertaken to visit all the comprehensive schools in the Vale to try to engage them in projects, but not all currently had a sixth form.

 

Members considered that the report showed significant progress with the Chairman advising that the aim to reduce the numbers of young people who were NEET in the Vale was a priority for the Committee and he was pleased to see the progress that was being made to date. 

 

The Director confirmed that the national data released information which would be available in April would be useful for the Council to benchmark against in order to assess how well it was doing against other Local Authorities.  To date, although comparative data on the five tier model was not available on a national basis, the Council had considered each year’s data when assessing the situation month by month with the Annual Destination Data being the only information available in relation to Years 11, 12 and 13. 

 

A Member of the Committee raised concern with regard to children who appeared to disengage at school in particular with those who were not attending the Pupil referral unit which was currently operating a waiting list. The concern being that these children may get lost within the system. The Lead Officer advised that the Youth Service and Education Team were working closely together in order to try to alleviate this issue, and he could assure Members that a significant number of pupils had already been picked up and some were receiving one to one support from a support worker. 

 

It was therefore

 

RECOMMENDED

 

(1)       T H A T the progress made to date against the implementation of the youth engagement and progression framework be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the team be thanked for the continuing progress within the service which had resulted in a relatively small number of pupils becoming NEET.

 

(3)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee receives a further progress update report in six months’ time.

 

(4)       T H A T a copy of the report be forwarded to all Members of the Council for their information, highlighting the good progress being made to date.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure the Council has a strategic responsibility for implementing the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework.

 

(2)       In order that the Committee’s thanks can be recorded.

 

(3)       To apprise the Scrutiny Committee on progress and in order that the Scrutiny Committee can continue to monitor the situation.

 

(4)       To apprise all Members of the Council on progress to date.

 

 

824     NATIONAL CATEGORISATION – OUTCOMES FOR VALE SCHOOLS (DLS) –

 

The report provided Members with details of the categorisation of Vale schools following the National Categorisation process and also highlighted primary schools that may benefit from a School Progress Panel meeting and schools with excellence to share. 

 

National Categorisation was a three step process that resulted in each school being assigned to a category.  The category indicates where the school was on its improvement journey, the level of challenge / support required to ensure further improvement.  National Categorisation was in its second year and replaced the former banding of secondary schools and the regional arrangements for categorising schools as A, B, C or D.  The categorisation for each of the schools within the Vale of Glamorgan was provided at Appendix 4 to the report. 

 

The position of Vale schools on the grid used within the National Categorisation process was provided within Appendix 5 to the report.  The standards group and capacity to improve were plotted along the y and x axes respectively to determine the level of schools’ category.

 

New schools, pupil referral units and nursery schools did not have a standards group as the data needed to determine the group was not available.  Their capacity to improve and category was determined by the Challenge Advisor. Of the 51 Vale schools assigned to a standards group, 43.1% were in group 1, 33.3% in group 2, 21.6% in group 3 and 1.96% in group 4.  (Where one school represented 1.96%.)

 

With regards to the schools' capacity to improve, of the 58 schools (each school represented 1.72%) 36.2% were judged to be A, 56.9% B, 6.9% C and no schools judged as D.  Within the Vale of Glamorgan 34.5% of 58 schools were Category Green, 55.2% Yellow, 8.6% Amber and 1.7% Red.  (Where each school represented 1.72%.)

 

Appendix 6 to the report illustrated the difference in categorisation of Vale schools when comparing the categorisation in January 2015 and January 2016.

 

The percentage of schools in standards group 1 had increased to 43.1% from 20.35%, with a decreased percentage of schools in the remaining standards group.

With regard to the capacity to improve, a similar number of schools were judged to be A, an increase in the percentage of schools judged to be B, with a resulting drop in the percentage of schools with a capacity to improve of C.

 

The report also outlined those primary schools which potentially could benefit from a visit by the Vales School Progress Panel, it being noted that High Street School remained in Amber support category with the capacity to improve changed from a B to a C and that Fairfield Primary School had been identified by Estyn as a primary school in which the Local Authority should have taken a more direct approach in challenging performance. 

 

In referring to excellence in Vale schools, the report also considered that Members may wish to ask some of the schools in which Estyn had identified excellence to present their work at a Scrutiny meeting.  Excellence had been recognised in a number of schools in the year 2014/15 as outlined below:

 

School

Case Study

Evenlode   Primary

Partnership working - writing projects involving Stanwell   and local business.

Romilly Primary

Embedding Pupil Voice - Child friendly school improvement   plan.

 

Cross School Working - Peer observation and learning triads.   Nurture provision linked to family learning.

St. Joseph's   Primary

The Learning Environment.

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.

Albert Primary

Pupils Shape Their Curriculum.

 

Committee was reminded that the primary purpose of the National School Categorisation System was to identify schools that were most in need of support, to ensure that, in partnership with the Local Authority and Consortia support, resources were effectively directed to secure improvements necessary in the school system. 

 

A Member raised the issue of how much discretion was used in relation to the determination of schools in the relevant categories.  The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion responded by advising that although the information was used by different people for different purposes, it was a school allocation tool that was used in order to ensure support was provided where necessary.  The importance the Head of Service stated was the standards that were to be achieved and the capacity to improve. 

 

A Member was concerned at the fact that Barry Comprehensive remained in the Red category and whether there was the confidence in the school improving.  The Head of Service in response advised that in the Red category the school would receive the greatest amount of support plus being a Challenge Cymru School and with the use of the Director’s intervention powers, including the school working as a Pathfinder School, the support that it was receiving would help it to develop its progress.  The school was also currently showing progress and reports were being made to the Accelerated Improvement Board (AIB) on a monthly basis and closely monitored by the Head of Service who also visited the school regularly.  With regard to confidence in the school improving, the Head of Service could advise that the school had received its best results ever in 2015 and there were signs of improvement again.  Recognising that it was however, a challenge and the school was in a challenging environment with some challenging learners, he reassured Members of the improvements that were being made and the significant support being provided. 

 

To this a Member queried the detail of the actual problems at the school, with the Head of Service stating that the issues were in the first instance that the school was starting from such a low base and Estyn had judged the school to be in significant improvement.  There had been a number of previous issues including staffing concerns, cultural issues etc. but that to date much progress had been made. The school was also looking at the quality of teaching and learning and there was evidence of a change in culture all against a backdrop of dealing with some challenging learners.

 

The Post Inspection Action Plan was developed and the Council and the Consortium were supporting the school through this Action Plan. 

 

Following a query in relation to where schools were identified, for example as 3B and Amber and others 3B and defined as Yellow, the Head of Service informed Committee that a number of issues were taken into account when considering the category e.g. the quality of leadership as evidenced in self-evaluation and school improvement processes.  Aware that the majority of people would not know how these aspects were attributed, he confirmed that in his role as Head of Service, the standards group and the capacity to improve were most relevant. 

 

In referring again to Barry Comprehensive in the Red category, Committee was advised that a Progress Panel meeting was to be scheduled to take place before April and details of that Panel meeting would be reported to the Scrutiny Committee in due course.


The Chairman also concurred with the suggestion that Progress Panel meetings should be established for the primary schools identified in the report and that presentations of the work of schools identified by Estyn with excellent aspects should be provided to the Scrutiny Committee in due course.

 

The Chairman also referred to a recent meeting he had attended with Scrutiny Chairs within the Consortium, advising stating that the Vale was doing well and although it was improving, there was also room for further improvement. It was also important that the Council and the Committee looked beyond Wales and England when benchmarking and in particular bench marking with Scotland should be considered.  

 

Following the discussion it was it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the categorisation of Vale schools be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Progress Panel meetings at the identified primary schools be conducted.

 

(3)       T H A T the excellence identified in Vale schools be presented to future Scrutiny Committee meetings.

 

(4)       T H A T a programme of work in respect of recommendations 2 and 3 above be presented for consideration by the Committee.

 

(5)       T H A T a copy of the report and the Committee’s recommendations be referred to Cabinet advising of the Committee’s intentions to continue to monitor Barry Comprehensive School, (recognising that the position at Barry Comprehensive is starting to improve but that further monitoring will be undertaken) and the programme of work to be prepared as outlined in 2 and 3 above.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In recognition of the content contained therein.

 

(2&3)  To facilitate Members’ role in promoting accelerated progress in identified schools and in recognising excellence in Vale schools.

 

(4)       For Committee consideration.

 

(5)      To apprise Cabinet.

 

 

825     CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM DRAFT BUSINESS PLAN 2016/17 (DLS) –

 

The Business Plan of the Central South Consortium was presented for Members’ information, which provided an evaluation of progress in 2015/16 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 Plan also included progress of the second year of the self-improving schools system, the Central South Wales Challenge, including: 

  • The further development of the School Improvement Groups (SIGs) to engage all schools to identify and build joint practice development;
  • The work of pathfinders including 60 schools;
  • The rollout of a “peer review” leadership model;
  • The embedding of the “hubs” programme whereby schools provide quality assured and accredited programmes of support to other schools.

The Director of Learning and Skills, in presenting the report, advised that the draft Business Plan set out five areas for development in 2016/17: 

  • More explicit opportunities to build sustainable leadership capacity, operating at a system level with the appropriate incentives to develop the best Headteachers and a system to spot and develop talent for future leadership at a system level; 
  • Ways to develop systematic, deeper professional learning opportunities at all levels of the system as the norm for teachers across the region – with a tight focus on impact and disciplined routes of sharing learning across schools;
  • A need to drive harder forms of collaboration (including federations) to build capacity in the system in leadership and teaching and learning and increase efficiency in the use of services by schools;
  • Effective consistent challenge and intervention  to drive change rapidly and robustly where it was most needed;
  • Significant work with Governors and local elected Members to improve the wider understanding about the benefits of hard collaborative school systems.

Members were advised that the focus on harder forms of collaboration (including federations) would be of interest to the Committee, with Members being aware that two federations had been previously developed in the Vale. Of note was the fact that such models were more widely operating in England with evidence of their effectiveness.  It was suggested that the Committee may wish to discuss in more detail, at a later meeting, the benefits and disadvantages of harder forms of collaboration, including federations, and the potential to the Vale.

 

The Chairman stated that at the recent meeting with the Chairs of Scrutiny Committees, the issue of federations was discussed, in particular rural primary cluster federations together with the issue of  “growing your own future heads” .  It had been noted that there were some deputies in schools who were less than keen to move up to take up headships and also some schools were reluctant to let go of staff who were excellent in their field.  Another issue raised was closing the gap in relation to free school meals.  He concluded by stating that these issues were also issues of concern to the Vale and the Scrutiny Committee. 

 

The Director also took the opportunity to advise that she and her team challenged the Consortium on a regular basis, especially in relation to value for money issues and, the Department also asked for a number of different projects to be undertaken. As most of the Vale schools were identified in the Yellow category in order to obtain as much support as possible from the Consortium other services that were available were taken up wherever possible.  It was appreciated that in the future there would be a smaller resourcing budget from the Local Authorities to the Consortium but it would still be essential for the Vale to ensure that value for money was being demonstrated. 

 

Members were also informed that the Consortium was due to be inspected by Estyn from 29th February and the Chairman and Cabinet Member would be taking part in this process.  The Chairman further stated that he would request that a copy of the report when available, be brought to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Central South Consortium draft Business Plan for 2016/17 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the information provided at the meeting and the detail of the improvement services that would be delivered on behalf of the Council in the forthcoming year. 

 

 

826     SCHOOL PLACE PLANNING IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (DLS) –

 

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 was resulting in a drain on resources which could be better used to improve the quality of education for all learners.  A target was therefore established for the Vale of Glamorgan to reduce surplus places to 12.9% in the secondary sector and 10.19% for the primary sector.  A statement had been provided by the Council in 2012 and subsequently approved by the Minister, projecting a reduction of surplus places in the primary sector from 16.4% to 10.19% by September 2016 and an increase from 4.76% to 12.86% in the secondary sector by September 2016.  The statement also set out the position in terms of schools with a significant number of surplus places (over 25%), increasing demand for Welsh medium school places and plans to reduce surplus capacity in some areas through school reorganisation. 

 

In 2014 the progress was reviewed by the Minister and progress in a number of areas was acknowledged.  The report therefore provided details of the progress over the past year and demonstrated ongoing commitment and progress with the overall reduction of surplus places in line with established targets.

 

Appendix A to the report showed the percentage surplus capacity / oversubscription for all Vale schools as at the January 2015 Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC).  At January 2015, secondary schools saw an increase in surplus places to 16.06% compared to 14.9% in January 2014, and would not meet the target of 12.9% at the January 2016 PLASC date which was anticipated to be around 17%.

 

Four secondary schools: Barry Comprehensive, Llantwit Comprehensive, Ysgol Bro Morgannwg and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive had in excess of 25% surplus capacity in January 2015.  Barry Comprehensive and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive schools have seen an increase in the number of parents of pupils in the feeder primary schools applying to other schools at the Year 6 transfer stage.  Projections that surplus places at Ysgol Bro Morgannwg would fall to under 25% in 2016 had not been achieved as a result of lower numbers than anticipated entering the sixth form.  The current surplus capacity of the school was 315 (27.37%).

 

Surplus capacity at Llantwit Comprehensive School would be reduced as a result of the school's redevelopment.  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 PLASC.  A revised proposal to establish secondary school co-education in Barry was currently being developed.  It was expected that this would address surplus capacity at Barry and Bryn Hafren secondary schools.  The need to expand places in the Welsh medium secondary sector to meet future demand was also under consideration.

 

As of January 2015, surplus places across primary schools were down to an average of 10.08% compared to 11% in January 2014, comparing favourably with the target of 10.19%.  Projections for 2016 indicated that this trend would continue with surplus places reducing to less than the Welsh Government guideline level of a maximum of 10% in each sector. Three primary schools, Holton Primary, Oakfield and Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant had in excess of 25% surplus capacity.  The number of schools in this category had reduced from four last year as a result of a reduction in surplus places at Jenner Park from 27.84% to 21.98% that would further reduce after a recent review of the school capacity.

 

Projections suggested that Holton Primary and Oakfield Primary schools would see a reduction in surplus places to 14% by September 2016 and 18% by September 2018, respectively.  Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant would see a reduction to around 18% by September 2019.  Ysgol Dewi Sant opened as a seed school in September 2011 with a reception class only and was expanding incrementally over seven years as year groups worked their way through the school.  The school would be operating to a full age range of a reception class to Year 6 in September 2017.

 

The expansion of Welsh medium education was continuing in the Barry area.  Ysgol Gwaun y Nant was expanding incrementally by 30 places each year from September 2015 over a seven year period to meet demand.  Projections showed that this expansion would not impact on the Council's ability to maintain surplus capacity in the primary sector at less than 10% in the medium term.

 

In referring specifically to a number of schools, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources highlighted that in relation to Holton Primary, the Department was looking to reduce capacity to 60 and consider other uses for the building.  With regard to Dewi Sant, following the closing date for school admissions, there had been 25 applications to date and it was highly likely that the school would fall out of the significant capacity category by 2019.  Although Ysgol Gwaun Y Nant was expanding by 30 places each year, it was noted that this expansion would not impact on the Council’s ability to maintain surplus capacity in the primary sector at less than 10% in the medium term.  It had been hoped that Bro Morganwg would have fallen to under 25% surplus capacity, but this had not been achieved as a result of lower numbers than anticipated entering the sixth form.  The issue for Llantwit Major would be addressed when the refurbishments had taken place. 

 

With regard to Bryn Hafren Comprehensive and Barry Comprehensive, it was anticipated that this issue would be addressed when the new proposals for the schools were developed and surplus capacity would be taken into account at that stage. 

 

Members referred to the increased capacity issues at Evenlode and Victoria School in Penarth, with reference being made to burst classes at the schools as a result of children in catchment being much greater than in other years, the Head of service stated that this was a one off situation and could be accommodated by the two schools as they had sufficient space to take increased pupil numbers for one year only.   

 

A Member queried reducing surplus places at Oakfield and asked whether this was as a result of pupils from the Jenner Park and Holton Road catchment areas attending the school.  The officer advised that she was not sure of where the figure of 170 had come from and thought that this may include nurseries, whereas the figures before Committee did not include nursery provision.  It was also difficult to identify whether the increase in pupil numbers at Oakfield was as a result of pupils coming into the school from other areas as there was a significant amount of cross-catchment movement in Barry.  It was anticipated in the future that some pupils would be placed in Holton Road School as a result of the Waterfront development although, bearing in mind that there was likely to be a new school on the Waterfront, this would take some time to reach fruition. 

 

The position with regard to S106 funding for school places was queried, specifically where there would be a demand for additional school places but they would not be provided until part or all of the housing development had been completed.  It was of concern that there would not be sufficient school places in some areas to accommodate children from new housing developments.  The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources explained that a nationally recognised formula is used to estimate the number of additional school places which will be required as a result of housing development and this had proved to be fairly accurate over time.  However, it was impossible to determine with any accuracy at what point the children would materialise.  There had been some developments such as Rhoose where it took a significant number of years after the housing was completed for the estimated numbers of children to emerge.  It was thought that where families had moved into the development from other areas of the Vale, they had elected to keep their children at their current school rather than disrupt them.  Many developments also have couples purchasing houses who have yet to start a family.  Should the situation occur where there is a shortage of places, temporary accommodation could be provided on a school site until the new school paces were available.

 

In response to a query as to whether there were enough places for the Barry and Penarth areas, the response was yes.

 

The Chairman, in conclusion, advised that with the proposed Cardiff LDP and the housing developments proposed, it could be suggested that there could be a number of new schools to be built but if there was a timescale issue, then this could have an impact with an influx of children attending Vale schools.

 

Having considered the report in detail, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Council’s performance on school place planning and the progress made to reduce the number of surplus places since 2012 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order that Members were aware of the measures taken to manage school places across the Vale of Glamorgan and of current performance against set targets. 

 

 

 

 

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