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Agenda Item No. 5

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 9th December 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Central South Consortium Joint Education Service: Action in Response to Wales Audit Office Report

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To inform Members of the actions taken and proposed to respond to the proposals in the Wales Audit Office report.

Recommendations

1.             To consider the actions taken and proposed to respond to the proposals in the Wales Audit Office report.

2.             To advise Cabinet on the suitability of actions taken and proposed.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To ensure that proper arrangements are in place to manage the changes in delivery of school improvement services and secure value for money and to respond to the Wales Audit Office report.

2.             To enable Cabinet to receive the Scrutiny Committee's advice.

Background

2.             In September 2012, a new Joint Education Services [JES] was established, to provide school support and traded services to the Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Bridgend Councils.  This development was driven by the need to reduce costs and to respond to the drive of the Welsh Government towards regional service provision.  Previously, the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Councils each had their own service, whilst the other three Councils shared a service, but within a less formal and more limited structure.

3.             As well as providing a more financially sustainable, regional offering, the JES was also designed to address a number of acknowledged weaknesses within the previous arrangements.

4.             A review undertaken by the Wales Audit Office [WAO] sought to answer the question:

·         "Has the Council got arrangements in place to manage the changes in delivery of school improvement services and can it be confident that the JES provides a service that represents value for money for the Vale of Glamorgan".

5.             In examining this, the WAO also considered the following three sub-questions:

·         Does the Council have effective plans to manage the change in school improvement service delivery?

·         Are the changes to the school improvement service being implemented effectively?

·         Are the monitoring and reporting arrangements in place to track implementation progress and manage any issues arising?

6.             Overall, the WAO concluded that at this early stage of implementation, the arrangements in place to manage the changes in school improvement services were still in the process of development and the Council could not currently be confident that the JES was representing value for money for the Council.

7.             The Audit Committee considered the report at their meeting on 8 July and referred the proposals for improvement to Cabinet: they also referred the report to Scrutiny Committee [Lifelong Learning] to consider the likely outcomes.

Relevant Issues and Options

8.             The Wales Audit Office made the following four proposals:

·         The Council should establish and refine a performance management regime which will formally and systematically test the extent to which the JES is providing a service that delivers to its expectations.

·         The Council should undertake a risk assessment of the impact of the JES and update it on a regular basis.  It should include any high scoring strategic risks in its corporate risk register.  The Education and Skills Directorate should regularly and formally monitor and manage the remainder.

·         The Council should ensure that there is sufficient investment in the development of the scrutiny function (in the Council and within the collaborative structure), including regular reviews of its success and challenges, as it becomes a feature of the performance management regime.

·         The Council should consider how the value of the service can be increased during the period of the contract, to justify the fixed contribution to the service

9.             Work to address the four proposals has been taken forward as follows:

·         An interim performance management framework has been developed (Appendix 1) to measure progress on outcomes and organisational processes.  The interim performance management framework will be replaced by a commissioning framework which is currently in development for consideration by the Joint Education Committee.  It is intended that the new arrangements will be in place from April 2014.

·         A risk assessment has been undertaken and the completed document is attached as Appendix 2.  The high scoring risks are being added to the corporate risk register.   The remaining risks are being monitored on a quarterly basis by the Learning and Skills Directorate Management Team.

·         The draft initial terms of reference for the joint scrutiny committee are attached (Appendix 3).

·         A bid for resources to support the development of joint scrutiny arrangements for the Central South Consortium (CSC) was made to Welsh Government in September, which was well received by officials as innovative and meeting the criteria of the Welsh Government's Scrutiny Development Fund.  However, in light of the need to revise the governance arrangements of the regional education consortia following the Robert Hill review, colleagues in Welsh Government have advised that the terms of reference for the joint scrutiny committee be reconsidered in accordance with the CSC's new governance arrangements.  As such, progression of the joint scrutiny committee will commence once management and reporting arrangements for the CSC are known.  Councillors Ms. R. Birch and A. Parker have been appointed as the representatives of the Vale of Glamorgan Council as members of the Joint Scrutiny Committee. 

10.        Work remains to be done to put in place robust arrangements to demonstrate and increase value for money in relation to the joint education service.  From April 2014 onwards the Welsh Government on the basis of a National Model for Regional Working is expected to stipulate the level of funding that the Council must provide to the JES by way of a ring-fencing agreement: it will also stipulate the services to be provided.  This means that some of the conventional approaches for securing value for money will not be applicable. 

11.        The draft National Model for Regional Working, which is expected to apply to all four regional consortia from April 2014, is however expected to require all consortia to prepare business plans by February 2014: early indications suggest that business plans with clear outcome measures underpinned by finance plans prepared using a common national template could provide a useful vehicle for establishing comparative outcomes and costs.  If this arrangement can be put into operation it could provide a useful vehicle for assessing and securing value for money. 

12.        The National Model is likely to stipulate the transfer of additional functions such as specialist HR advice to schools and governor support functions on a planned basis from April 2014.  There may be opportunities to secure increased value for money from these transfers although this would need to be in the context of the ring-fenced funding arrangement.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.        The body of the report discussed value for money: the recommendations do not have financial implications.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

14.        There are no sustainability and climate change implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        There are no legal implications arising directly from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.        There are no equal opportunity implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.        Improving outcomes for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

19.        Within existing policies and budgets.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.        Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

21.        Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

Officers Consulted

Lynette Jones, Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

 

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