Top

Top

 

Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 4 March 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Cabinet’s Initial Consideration of Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee Draft School Reorganisation Programme 2013 to 2019

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To provide a clear statement about the future of three schools in the Vale of Glamorgan and propose a way forward to deal with the remaining issues contained in the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee report on School reorganisation.

Recommendations

1.         That the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee, the Task & Finish Group and Officers be thanked for their work on producing their draft School Reorganisation Programme.

2.         That Cabinet confirm that it will not progress recommendations to close Llancarfan, Llanfair or Oakfield Primary schools.

3.         That Cabinet note that a final report considering the remaining issues in the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee draft school reorganisation programme will be presented to a future meeting of Cabinet.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To thank Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee for their work in preparing their draft plan.

2.         To provide reassurance to pupils, parents, staff, governors and the wider community about the future of the three schools.

3.         To ensure that any proposals for any future school reorganisation are fully considered by Cabinet.

Background

2.         One of the statutory functions of a local authority is to ensure that there are sufficient places for all pupils.  This means that the Council needs to ensure that there are the right numbers of schools of the right type and size and in the right locations to fully and efficiently meet the needs of the pupil population.  The organisation of schools is an important driver of pupil attainment and school improvement and is one of the Council's key responsibilities as a local educational authority.

3.         The number, type and sizes of local schools should be reviewed regularly to ensure that changing educational priorities and demographic forecasts inform future plans.  For example, plans need to take into account the nature of demand for different types of schools including education through the medium of Welsh and English, during the coming years.  The pattern of schools can also promote the efficient and effective use of scarce skills and expertise, revenue funding and capital investment.  The arrangement of schools can also impact on the need for home to school travel by pupils including pupils using public and private transport.

4.         Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills, issued a statement to Cabinet Members with the education portfolio highlighting the principal priority of the current Welsh Government of improving school standards. A central theme of the minister's statement is the reduction of the number of surplus places to ensure that no more than 10% surplus capacity exists in the primary and secondary sectors.  The Council is committed to meeting this target by 2016.

5.         In July 2011 the Welsh Government revised the 21st Century School capital funding programme to address condition issues at schools and to help achieve the reduction in surplus places where possible.

6.         In September 2012 there was an overall surplus of 14.74% in the primary sector and 9.28% in the secondary sector within the Vale of Glamorgan, with an overall surplus of 12.01% across both.  Pupil number forecasts for 2017, assuming that no action is taken, project surplus places in the primary sector falling to 10.17% but secondary school surplus places increasing to 13.15%, giving an overall figure of 11.52%. However, the surplus capacity in secondary schools is predicted to start to fall after 2017 when the larger primary school cohorts enter the secondary sector.

7.         To date the Council has already taken the opportunity to start the reduction of surplus places in the secondary sector through the reorganisation of St Cyres Comprehensive School onto a single site.  Further surplus places will be removed from Llantwit Major Comprehensive School as a result of the proposed rebuilding of the school, which is currently planned for completion in 2017.

8.         As previously reported to Cabinet on 4 February 2012 (minutes C1209 and 1214 refer) Members of Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee considered wide ranging pupil, property and financial data on schools and their catchments to determine whether the existing distribution of schools continues to meet the needs of their local areas. The group established that there are a significant number of schools with high levels of long standing surplus capacity.  Further expansion of the Welsh Medium primary sector is required to meet increasing demand.

Relevant Issues and Options

9.         Further work is now required to fully evaluate the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations in order that the most appropriate package of proposals is brought forward for Cabinet consideration and public consultation. 

10.      Whilst this further work is underway, and in the context of the unplanned release of information about possible proposals, it is important to clarify that no proposals for the closure of Llancarfan, Llanfair or Oakfield schools will be recommended to Cabinet as part of the package of proposals.  It had become clear that information about the recommendations from the Scrutiny Committee concerning the future of these schools had been widely communicated and was causing uncertainty and confusion.  It is therefore considered appropriate, ahead of the consideration of the package of proposals to provide clarity on this matter.

11.         The Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee had commented on the small numbers of children from within the catchment areas attending Llancarfan and Llanfair schools, with low number of births forecast in future years.  Most pupils attending the schools travel from outside the catchment areas and in both cases capital investment is required in future years to address the poor condition of the buildings. 

12.         However, further work carried out by Cabinet following the Scrutiny Committee’s report has concluded that on balance the following reasons for keeping the schools open outweigh the case made by the Scrutiny Committee for closure. The decision to continue to maintain Llanfair and Llancarfan primary schools reflects the good reputation that they both enjoy with many parents seeking places for their children at these well-established schools.  Pupils at both schools attain above the Welsh average in teacher assessment and both schools have had good Estyn inspection outcomes.  MOD plans for St Athan are unknown, but any additional personnel may increase demand for school places in the Rural Vale.  Furthermore, any residential development around St Athan and Rhoose could further increase the demand for places.

13.      The Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee had noted the longstanding surplus capacity in schools in the area and had advised that Oakfield Primary School in Barry should close.  Following an Estyn inspection Oakfield School is currently subject to special measures and, with capacity for a total of 210 pupils, currently has 85 on roll.  The school has worked very hard to make improvements following the inspection and has addressed many of the inspectors’ recommendations, but overall there still remains more work to be done.

14.      Again, further work has been carried out following the Scrutiny Committee’s report and notwithstanding these challenges the school has an important part to play in the Gibbonsdown community and as part of the Communities First programme.  The priority therefore is to continue to work with the governing body to further improve the school and to secure its future success at the heart of the local community.  Proposals for closure will not therefore be progressed.

15.      The draft school reorganisation programme that will be presented at a future meeting of Cabinet will clarify any outstanding issues.  The report will also set out proposals for Cabinet’s consideration and, if agreed, these will be the subject of public consultation. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16.      This report does not contain any proposals for change and consequently there are no specific resource implications.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

17.      This report does not contain any proposals for change and consequently there are no specific sustainability and climate change implications.

 Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

18.      This report does not contain any proposals for change and consequently there are no specific legal implications.

Crime and Disorder Implications

19.      This report does not contain any proposals for change and consequently there are no specific crime and disorder implications.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

20.      This report does not contain any proposals for change and consequently there are no specific equal opportunity implications.

Corporate/Service Objectives

21.      The Cabinet School Reorganisation Programme contributes towards the Lifelong Learning and Skills Improvement Objective 13 "To progress plans for the development of 21st Century Schools designed to deliver an innovative curriculum within a positive learning environment." Specifically the programme addresses LL8 "Review proposals for schools in the Vale in terms of the 21st Century Schools Programme" of the Corporate Plan 2010 - 2014 revised December 2011.

Policy Framework and Budget

22.      This is a matter for executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

23.      Ward Member consultation has not been carried out.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

24.      Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

None

Contact Officers

Paula Ham                            Head of Strategic Planning and Performance

Mark Haynes                                    School Organisation and Buildings Manager

Officers Consulted

Mike Matthews                   Principal Strategic Planning Officer

Reuben Bergman                Head of Human Resources

Rob Jones                           Consultation Officer

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill                          Chief Learning and Skills Officer

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook