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                                                                                                                     Agenda Item No               

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 19th October 2011

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning

 

21st Century Schools Programme

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To update Members on the 21st Century Schools Programme.

2.             To update Members on the position with Penarth Learning Community.

 Recommendations

1.             Cabinet note the changes to the 21st Century Schools Programme and arrangements for the review of forward outlook programmes of capital investment contained in Local Authority Strategic Outline Programmes.

2.             Cabinet notes the position on Penarth Learning Community and timescale for the associated statutory process.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             Members are aware of the need to review the Vale's Programme against the backdrop of the Welsh Government's reduced capital funding and the need for Local Authorities to contribute 50% funding to schemes in the future.  

2.             Members are aware of the statutory process to be followed in respect of Penarth Learning Community.

Background

3.             The 21st Century Schools Programme was formally launched in March 2010 and the Vale's 21st Century Schools Strategic Outline Programme (SOP) (Appendix 1) was submitted in December 2010 in line with Welsh Government requirements.

4.             Pending the start of the programme, three tranches of 21st Century Schools transitional funding were made available to local authorities on a bidding basis. The Council successfully bid for £5,000,000 towards the cost of Cowbridge Comprehensive School under the first tranche and £1,032,000 in the second tranche towards the cost of feasibility and design works for Penarth Learning Community. The Vale's bid for tranche 3 (T3) funding for Penarth Learning Community submitted on 28th May 2010 was approved in principle subject to a further financial business case which was submitted in March 2011. A further conditional grant offer of up to £34,563,200 was made in July 2011 subject to justification of the size of the Special School and residential accommodation based on the outcome of discussions with other Local Authorities. Discussions regarding future regional demand which have been on-going since November 2010 have recently concluded enabling the Vale to confirm the size of the provision thereby meeting the condition of the grant offer.  

5.             Tranche three (T3) of the 21st Century Schools transitional funding overlaps with the introduction of the full programme. From 2012 and continuing for 15 years or more, funding will be provided in 3 year bands for major elements of long-term programmes to be agreed between each local authority and WG. The Vale's forward outlook programme of capital investment is shown on page 23 of the attached SOP. Members will note that as Band A of the programme overlaps with T3 funding, Penarth Learning Community is shown in Band A with other priorities such as Llantwit Learning Community and Welsh Medium being shown in subsequent funding bands.  The forward outlook programme of capital investment shown in the SOP is indicative and based on the assumption that Local Authority funding contributions would be 30% as for the T3 schemes. 

Relevant Issues and Options

6.             A written statement on capital and the 21st Century Schools Programme was issued by the Minister for Education and Skills 13th July 2011. Key messages from that statement are as follows:

·               All projects approved under the transitional stage of the 21st Century Schools Programme will go ahead until they are completed.

·               The original intention for the programme was for all 22 authorities to start their first band of projects within the first 4 years. Given the sharp reduction in capital funding (40% over current funding period) forward programmes outlined in Local Authorities  Strategic Outline Programmes must be ‘reviewed against a sharper prioritisation based on the rationalisation of the school estate together with cost effectiveness of delivery and condition with alignment to All Age Transformation.’

·               'The Board and the Welsh Government consider that Local Authorities must be given the opportunity to review the timing and content of their planned investments so as to take the hard decisions early that will ensure funding goes to the delivery of excellence in education not the maintenance of buildings.’

·               'Feedback will be provided on Local Authority’s plans. There are elements in most plans which need to be strengthened, ‘focussing for example on provision for additional learning needs, Welsh medium education, the Voluntary Aided Schools Sector and engagement with the transformation agenda.’

·               In contrast to the previous round of transitional capital funding the rate of capital grant support will move to 50%.

·               Where revenue funded partnership approaches are deemed appropriate, Welsh Government is prepared to provide expert assistance along the lines of the waste programme.

7.             Further communication was received from the Head of the Infrastructure Unit at the Welsh Government on 9th August 2011. This confirmed that the SOP's have been assessed and there is no need for Local Authorities to re-submit them. Feedback would be provided to Local Authorities which would be contacted in due course. The Vale has not received any indication to date as to when feedback will be provided. Local Authorities will be asked to re-submit the forward outlook programme of investment, ‘this should be based on your strategy together with the cost effectiveness of delivery and the rationalisation of the school estate (including the reduction of surplus places) and school condition.’ Detailed guidance to assist Local Authorities in reviewing the forward outlook programme of capital investment was to be provided in early September although this was later changed to the end of September. At the time this report was drafted (4th October) the guidance had not been provided.

8.             The following timetable was received from the newly appointed 21st Century Schools Programme Director on the 16th September.

 

Approval of guidance  27th September

Publication of guidance          end of September

Local Authorities submission 7th November

Approval of programme                      5 - 9th December

 

9.             Given the limited timeframe for the revision of the forward outlook programme and the absence to date of the required guidance, it may not be possible to bring a report back to Cabinet prior to submission. In order to expedite progress, it may be necessary to submit an urgent report to Cabinet.

10.        As previously stated, Penarth Learning Community is a T3 scheme with a funding contribution requirement of 30%. Council funding for this scheme is included in the indicative 5 year Capital Programme as approved by Full Council. The total cost of the scheme is being revised to reflect a slight reduction in the size of the Special School and residential provision. A new funding profile is being developed to reflect the reduced cost of the scheme as well as funding contributions from other Local Authorities. This will be factored into a revised Schools Investment Programme which will also incorporate revised investment priorities in the light of reduced capital funding. It is intended that the revised School Investment Programme will be reported to Cabinet in November.

11.        The Welsh Government has advised that the Council can now commence the statutory process in relation to Penarth Learning Community. The process and the timescale involved are attached (Appendix 2). Members should note that irrespective of securing the necessary grant funding for the scheme, building work cannot commence until statutory approval for re-organisation of the schools concerned is received from the Welsh Government. Following publication of the Statutory Notice, if no objections are received the length of the statutory process will be much reduced. However, if just one objection is received the matter will be referred to the Welsh Government for determination which can be a lengthy process.

 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

12.        The submission of the forward outlook programme of capital investment does not in of itself commit the Council to any financial outlay. Local Authorities will be invited to submit outline business cases for proposed schemes which must be approved prior to any funding commitment being entered into. As indicated in the body of this report a revised Schools Investment Programme will be reported to Cabinet in November.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

13.        There are no Legal Implications at this stage.

Crime and Disorder Implications

14.        There are no Crime and Disorder Implications.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

15.        There are no implications at this stage.

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        The School Investment Strategy is a corporate priority and improving the learning environment is a key priority within Education 2015.

Policy Framework and Budget

17.        The 21st Century Schools Strategic Outline Programme is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

18.        Ward Member consultation is not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

19.        Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

21st Century Schools Strategic Outline Programme (attached)

Contact Officer

Paula Ham

Head of Strategic Planning and Performance

01446 709161

Officers Consulted

Schools Investment Programme Board

Operational Manager, Property

School Organisation and Access Manager

Principal Officer, Strategic Planning & Performance

Major Projects Manager, Project Management Unit

Responsible Officer:

Bryan Jeffreys

Director of Learning and Development

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