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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 24 February, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

School Organisation Proposals: Recommendations relating to Determination of School Organisation Proposals

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To make the Cabinet aware of changes and for it to consider recommendations regarding the determination of school organisation proposals following the implementation of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and the new code on School Organisation which came  into force on the 1st October 2013. The changes will result in local authorities being responsible for determining the majority of school organisation proposals, including those which receive objections.

Recommendations

1.         The Cabinet is recommended to approve that the determination of school organisation proposals including those which receive objections, (save for those that are required to be considered by the Welsh Government) becomes a function of the Cabinet.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To enable the Cabinet to consider recommendations regarding the determination of school organisation proposals following the introduction of the School Standards and Organisation Wales (Act) 2013 and the new School Organisation Code which came into force on 01 October 2013.

 

Background

2.         Part 3 of The Schools Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 deals with school reorganisation. The Act placed a requirement on the Welsh Ministers to issue a revised School Organisation Code. The Code came into force on 1 October 2013 and applies to all school organisation proposals published after this date.

3.         The new code has introduced a number of changes to the way in which school organisation proposals are determined. The code supersedes previous guidance on school organisation proposals and will impose requirements with which the relevant bodies (the Welsh Ministers, local authorities, governing bodies and other promoters) must comply.

4.         The code also sets out the policy context, general principles and factors to be taken into account in preparing, consulting on, publishing, approving or determining school organisation proposals. The Code is attached at Appendix 1, a copy of which is provided in the Members room and on the Councils website.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         Section 5 of the School Organisation Code outlines the Process for Determining Proposals, which is the most significant change within the new legislation. The power to determine proposals, i.e. make the final decision on a proposal following the publication of statutory notices and possible receipt of objections, will now rest with the local authority for most types of school reorganisation proposals, with a few exceptions. Under the previous statutory code Welsh Ministers were the decision makers in all cases except where there were no objections and the Welsh Government had not exercised its power to call in the proposals.

6.         Under the new code the Welsh ministers will only determine a proposal where ss50(1), 52(2) and (5) and 54 of the School Standards and Organisation Wales Act 2013 applies namely if:

·               it affects sixth form education;

·               the proposer is not the relevant local authority and the relevant local authority has objected to the proposal;

·               it has been properly referred to the Welsh Ministers under  to s54 of the Act (refer to section 5.7 of the code).

7.         Proposals affect sixth form provision if:

·               they are proposals to establish or discontinue a school providing education suitable only to the requirements of persons above compulsory school age; or

·               they are proposals to make a regulated alteration to a school, the effect of which would be that provision of education suitable to the requirements of persons above compulsory school age at the school increases or decreases.

8.         Whilst the Act makes no specific provision for the way in which local authorities are to exercise this determination function, a recent amendment to Schedule 2 of the Local Authority (Executive Arrangements) (Functions and Responsibilities) (Wales) Regulations 2007 which came into force on 22nd October 2013, enables the determination of proposals to be a function which may, but need not be, a function exercised by a Local Authority’s Cabinet. This therefore gives the Local Authority the flexibility to either leave the determination of these matters with the Cabinet or to make alternative decision making arrangements. The Welsh Government has suggested that this could be the formation of a local decision making committee, potentially in collaboration with other authorities in their region.

9.         The new code(section 5.5) states that:-

"Executives and/or Cabinets are already responsible for overseeing school organisation planning, including decisions to consult on and to publish school organisation proposals and will have a well developed understanding of school organisation issues. This understanding combined with more general experience of decision making and democratic accountability to the local electorate makes executives well placed to decide whether or not contested school organisation proposals should be approved".

10.      If the Cabinet wanted to consider an alternative decision maker it would need to consider the membership of the panel and the availability of appropriately qualified and experienced, or independent persons who would sit on the committee or panel and the costs of establishing and running the same.

11.      Following the publication of the Robert Hill review (which looked at the respective roles and responsibilities of local authorities, regional consortia and national government)and the development of the National Model for Regional Working, it is recommended that the determination function remain with the Cabinet.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

12.      There are no direct Financial Implications arising as a result of this report.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

13.      The recommendation relates to the new process for school reorganisation proposals which are made to address issues related to the sustainability of education.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

14.      Part 3 of the School Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 deals with school reorganisation. The 2013 Act together with the new school reorganisation code which came into force in October will result in local authorities being responsible for determining the majority of school reorganisation proposals including those which receive objections. In the past where proposals have attracted objections those proposals have been determined by the welsh ministers.

15.      Under the new code and the amended Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Functions and Responsibilities) (Wales) Regulations 2007 the cabinet has the option to consider an alternative decision maker for the determination proposals.

16.      This report is recommending the function remain a function of the Cabinet.

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.      There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.      Individual school reorganisation proposals ensure equality of access to education including Welsh medium and provision for pupils with Special Educational Needs.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.      The report supports progression of Corporate Objective LS2: Develop, consult on and implement a School Reorganisation Programme to ensure the right schools are provided in the right places (2017/18

Policy Framework and Budget

20.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.      Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

22.      Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

Part 3 of the School Organisation (Wales) Act 2013

 

Contact Officer

Paula Ham

Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources

 

Officers Consulted

Debbie Marles - Head of Legal Services

Mark Haynes - School Organisation and Access Manager

Mike Matthews - School Planning Officer

Jeff Wyatt - Operational Manager, Democratic Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill

Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

 

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