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Agenda Item No

 

Urgent by reason of the need to ensure that Cabinet Members are aware of significant and recent developments which will affect future Education structures within the Vale of Glamorgan

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet 29th November 2011

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning

 

Central South Consortium for Education Services

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To apprise Members of the progress achieved in the development of the Central South Consortium for Education Services.

Recommendations

1.             That Cabinet note the progress achieved.

2.             That the Director provide a further report on the implications for the Council of the draft Business Case and the Welsh Government response.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To enable Cabinet to consider the draft Business Case.

2.             To receive the Welsh Government response.

Background

2.             In April 2011 Cabinet considered and endorsed a report which proposed that the Vale of Glamorgan Council should work with Consortium partners in Central South to seek to develop a Joint School Improvement Service as a first step towards a Joint Education Service.

3.             At that time the Consortium comprised Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Caerphilly, Merthyr and The Vale of Glamorgan.

4.             In view of the scale of the task, the Consortium engaged Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) to progress the work and to develop proposals.

5.             In July 2011 a first draft of the business plan was developed for consideration.  The production of the document coincided with a series of statements from the Local Government Minister clarifying the expectation that future collaboration arrangements should be based upon Health Service boundaries.

6.             The statement and the position of Cardiff and Caerphilly Councils towards their respective consortia, led to a period when these two authorities formally reviewed their options.  In early November Caerphilly withdrew from Central South in order to join the South East Consortium.  On 24th November the Cardiff Executive formally endorsed a proposal to join Central South.

7.             On 3rd November 2011, the Welsh Government wrote to all Consortia seeking clarification of their progress, position and composition [Appendix A]. The Welsh Government have made it clear that unless Local Authorities can confirm their arrangements and demonstrate progress, they will not be eligible to apply for Welsh Government funding schemes to support Consortia development.  These funding streams include a one off grant of up to £1m per consortium towards set up costs plus access to 'invest to save' funding.

8.             Quite clearly, the timeline for Cardiff to declare its position and for the consortium to make its submission was extremely challenging.  Cardiff confirmed its position on the afternoon of 24th November and the Business Case for the five Authorities, including Cardiff, was submitted on 25th November [Appendix A].

Relevant Issues and Options

9.             The late changes to the Consortia partners has added uncertainty and complexity to the change processes.  The departure of Caerphilly:-

·               Complicates the disaggregation of the existing ESIS structure where Caerphilly staff are fully integrated within the existing organisation.

·               Requires the Central South Consortia to integrate change processes with the South East Consortia (the recipient of Caerphilly staff).

·               Results in the Central South Consortia losing staff with specific skills necessary to deliver the new arrangements.

·               Reduces the scale of the consortium.

·               Places additional pressure on the remaining three members of ESIS (RCT, Bridgend and Merthyr) to sustain the ESIS business model during the transition period.

10.        Following the decision of Cardiff Council to join the Central South Consortium the authority will bring with it significant scale and expertise which strengthen the business case.  Our challenges include a lack of knowledge of Cardiff systems and processes and a comparatively high number of Cardiff schools facing a challenge in raising their performance standards.

11.        The recent focus of activity has been to redraft the Business Case.  A Project Team has been assembled involving officers across the consortium led by a full time Project Manager from Rhondda Cynon Taff.  Specific work streams include governance, HR, finance, transition arrangements and future trading structures.

12.        There were a number of issues to conclude in constructing the business case.  These include:-

·               Clarification of schools/local authorities obligations for raising standards.  Schools have prime accountability but Local Authorities have responsibilities to monitor, support, challenge and intervene as necessary.

·               Ensuring that the business case is deliverable within existing budgets and will achieve the necessary levels of savings.

·               Recognising that the consortium arrangement is a delivery mechanism.  The statutory functions of the Council in relation to education are unchanged.  These include resourcing, planning and maintenance of provision, admissions, transport, ALN, inclusion requirements.  Final accountability for school standards will continue to rest with the Council and Estyn inspection arrangements will continue to focus on Council responsibilities in these areas for the time being.

·               The outline business case has been considered and endorsed by the Local Authorities Section 151 officers.

·               The new model will focus mainly on statutory functions.  A need for a trading arm has been recognised, however, in order to contribute to business case income in circumstances where the Welsh Government requires 85% of School Effectiveness Grant (SEG) to be delegated to schools directly.

·               The model will be based around the establishment of System Leader posts as defined by Welsh Government.  These individuals will be selected for their ability to manage a "single conversation" with schools to review data and to consider the range of organisational and contextual features which impact on school performance, enabling a coherent action plan to be developed by the school, shared and monitored by School Governors.

·               There will be a single School Data service and administrative support.  The quality of the data and the clarity with which it is presented will be a cornerstone of the new service.

·               Once the draft Business Case has been accepted, there will need to be an intensive period of stakeholder consultation, including school governors.

·               Arrangements have already been established to consult Trade Unions and Teaching Associations on the proposals and the implications for staff.  This will be a key element of the project plan to ensure that staff are treated equally.

13.        Other key areas of activity include:-

·               Developing a governance structure including Joint Scrutiny arrangements

·               Identifying residual obligations of authorities

·               Developing management arrangements

·               Establishing a transition plan to the new structure

·               Clarifying arrangements for grant funded staff, including 14-19 and Education Visits coordination.

14.        The development and implementation of the business case to deliver Education consortia in Wales is a huge undertaking which will affect the future shape of Education and potentially Local Government.

15.        In parallel with this work the consortium is required to prepare to respond to a stock take visit from Welsh Government School Standards Unit (SSU) on 1 December which will review the performance of Primary Schools across the consortium.  The outcome of the stock take will be reported back to Cabinet.

16.        Given the timescale detailed above, the submission presented to the Welsh Government did not have the benefit of Local Authority endorsement.  This was made clear to the Welsh Government and arrangements to present the documents to individual authorities will be put into place as a matter of urgency.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

17.        The development of Education Consortium arrangements will have significant financial implications for all authorities involved.  The details will be included in the draft Business Case presented to authorities for final approval.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

18.        Statutory obligations for Education provision are unchanged by the Consortia proposals.

Crime and Disorder Implications

19.        None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

20.        Implementation arrangements will be based on best Equal Opportunities practice and procedures.

Corporate/Service Objectives

21.        This report is consistent with the Councils priorities for Education and Lifelong Learning.

Policy Framework and Budget

22.        This is a matter for Executive consideration by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

23.        Progress on the development of the Consortium has been reported to Scrutiny Committee [Lifelong Learning].

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

24.        Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

Previous reports to Cabinet.

 

Contact Officer

Bryan Jeffreys

Director of Learning and Development

 

Officers Consulted

Chief Executive

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer:

Bryan Jeffreys

Director of Learning of Development