LEARNING AND CULTURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of an Extraordinary meeting held on 23rd April, 2018.

 

Present:  Councillor L. Burnett (Chairman); Councillors  B.T. Gray, S.J. Griffiths, N.P. Hodges, M.J.G. Morgan, Mrs. J.M. Norman and Ms. S.D. Perkes.

 

Co-Opted Members:  Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor – Secondary Sector) and Mrs. J. Lynch-Wilson (Parent Governor – Primary Sector).

 

Also present:  Councillor R.A. Penrose (Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture), Councillors Mrs. P. Drake and Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson.

 

 

872            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church).

 

 

873            MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 26th March, 2018 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

874            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

Councillor B.T. Gray declared an interest in Agenda Item 5 – Vale of Glamorgan Well-being and Improvement Objectives (Improvement Plan Part 1) 2018/19 and Agenda Item 9 – Future Use of Tŷ Deri advising that he had been granted a dispensation by the Standards Committee to speak and vote at meetings where matters involving the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Reshaping Services strategy were discussed.

 

Councillor S.J. Griffiths declared an interest in Agenda Item 5 – Vale of Glamorgan Well-being and Improvement Objectives (Improvement Plan Part 1) 2018/19 advising that he had been granted a dispensation by the Standards Committee to speak and vote at meetings where matters involving the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Reshaping Services strategy were discussed.

 

Councillor N.P. Hodges declared an interest in Agenda Item 5 – Vale of Glamorgan Well-being and Improvement Objectives (Improvement Plan Part 1) 2018/19 and Agenda Item 8 – Arts and Culture Strategy: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale 2018 – 2022 advising that he had been granted a dispensation by the Standards Committee to speak and vote at meetings where matters involving the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Reshaping Services strategy were discussed.

 

Councillor N.P. Hodges declared an interest in Agenda Item 5 – Vale of Glamorgan Well-being and Improvement Objectives (Improvement Plan Part 1) 2018/19 and Agenda Item 8 – Arts and Culture Strategy: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale 2018 – 2022 advising that he had been granted a dispensation by the Standards Committee to speak and vote at meetings where matters involving the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Reshaping Services strategy were discussed.

 

 

875            THE PROVISION OF FREE SANITARY PRODUCTS IN SCHOOLS IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION OF MATTER: COUNCILLOR MRS. J.M. NORMAN) –

 

The Chairman referred to the fact that the Request for Consideration of Matter had been received in November 2017, advised that it had taken time to collate the information required for the report and make arrangement for a speaker to attend the meeting, and she was pleased to receive the item.

 

The Chairman asked Councillor Mrs. Norman to present her report with Councillor Mrs. Norman commencing by informing the Committee that menstruation affected every woman and they had no choice in the matter.  She stated that period poverty did exist, even in the affluent Vale of Glamorgan.  To what extent she felt was unclear, because surveys could only provide so much information.  The Councillor felt that within many family groups, this topic was never discussed due to cultural or religious reasons.  To many young women and girls, admitting that they were even having their period was embarrassing enough, without having to confess that their family could not afford to buy the sanitary protection they needed.  This protection allowed them the right to dignity and well-being.  Councillor Mrs. Norman noted that this fact was being underpinned every day by the increased requests for sanitary products at food banks, even in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

Many secondary schools already had some facilities in place to help alleviate this problem, but Councillor Mrs. Norman noted that this was money spent out of their already very tight budgets.  Junior schools on the other hand had to rely heavily on the generosity of staff members or in some cases parents of some of the children, and that facilities available to the pupils for the discreet disposal of any sanitary products in these schools was virtually non-existent. 

 

The Member asked the Committee how much longer young women and girls would have to tolerate the indignity of what should be an automatic right to all.  She urged the Scrutiny Committee to follow the example of neighbouring counties, and to consider the request favourably. 

 

A Committee Member thanked Councillor Mrs. Norman for requesting this matter to be considered by the Scrutiny Committee, and was pleased to support this item and verified the truth and importance of the situation.  He was delighted to see that neighbouring Councils and Welsh Government were starting to provide support to tackle period poverty, and wished the Vale of Glamorgan Council to progress this matter as soon as possible. 

 

The Chairman thanked Councillor Mrs. Norman for her Request for Consideration of Matter and presented the Committee with the report that had been prepared by officers to provide information on current procedures in respect of provision of sanitary products in schools in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

The Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer in presenting the report referred to the fact that the provision of free sanitary products in schools has recently been highlighted in the press. The local Council of Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) had established a working group to consider the availability of hygiene products in RCT schools with recommendations being reported to their Council and subsequently forwarded to their Cabinet for consideration.  A copy of the RCT report was provided in a link in the report to the Committee.  Welsh Government had also recently announced they would provide £1m to be used to tackle period poverty in communities and schools across Wales.  The announcement advised that Local Authorities would receive £440,000 over the next two years to tackle period poverty in their communities where levels of deprivation were highest and £700,000 of capital funding to improve facilities and equipment in schools.  The Vale of Glamorgan was notified on 23rd March, 2018 that it would receive a capital funding allocation of £31,512 for the 2017/18 financial year.  To complement the capital funding, revenue grant funding of £8,666 for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years was to be made available.  The Learning and Skills Directorate would work closely with schools to establish how this funding could be best utilised.   The neighbouring Authority of Bridgend County Borough Council had worked with a charitable organisation called Wings Cymru which was an organisation raising funds and collecting donations of menstrual products.  Ms. Ceri Reeves, a representative from the organisation, had agreed to attend the Scrutiny Committee meeting to provide an overview of the work of the organisation and to advise of a pilot project initiative that had been established in the Maesteg area of the Authority involving three schools. 

 

The Democratic Services Officer had contacted schools in the Vale of Glamorgan in relation to the current practices and arrangements that were in place for the provision of sanitary products.  A breakdown of the information received was shown in the report at paragraph 10.  The report stated that from the responses received to date, there were similar procedures in place in all schools with the majority of schools supplying products free of charge purchased out of the school budget.  In the comprehensive schools, some of the schools had free supplies from a sanitary produce supplier which usually lasted the year.  If not, then purchases were made from the school budget, while some schools had no such arrangements and purchased the products from the school budget directly.  The comprehensive schools that had responded had advised that the arrangements worked well.  A possible way forward for the Scrutiny Committee was provided in paragraph 14 of the report, which suggested that a small working group be established consisting of Members of the Committee, with the terms of reference to include: 

  • To investigate further the current approach to promoting and providing and disposing of sanitary products in primary and secondary schools throughout the Vale of Glamorgan;
  • To gather evidence from students, staff and health professionals on the current provision;
  • To identify areas of good practice with the intention of providing education for all pupils and an understanding of the provision.

The Director of Learning and Skills advised the Committee that the revenue grant funding of £8,666 was not specifically targeted at schools and the Corporate Management Team had not yet considered how this funding could be distributed.  The Director stated that she had been in discussions with her counterparts in neighbouring Authorities and they had targeted this revenue funding at schools, for example, Bridgend County Borough Council had brought together school representatives to decide how the funding could be best used.  In her opinion, the Director felt it best to directly involve school pupils in the decision process.  She also noted that this revenue funding was for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years, so there was a sustainability issue for future funding. 

 

Following the presentation of the report, the Chairman subsequently welcomed and asked Ms. Reeves, the representative from the charitable organisation Wings Cymru, to address the Committee.

 

Ms. Reeves advised the Committee that Wings Cymru had started in June 2017.  The organisation had commenced by working with one comprehensive school and two primary schools to provide them with three months of sanitary products.  The approach taken by Wings Cymru was that products were provided to an approachable Learning Support Assistant at the school, who provided these products with no restrictions.  Ms. Reeves stated that this support was not about providing emergency provision, but about providing girls with no limits to their education and welfare.  She noted that the outcome of this service could be measured by the schools’ with attendance figures.  Collection points had been sought across the entire county, with schools found to be the most convenient distribution site.  Any additional donations above that required by schools were gratefully received by food banks.  Wings Cymru had prepared packs for schools; with badges for helpers and pupils, posters, stickers for toilet doors, and notes for assemblies to publicise the work of the charity.  Ms. Reeves stated that this approach was working well.  Positive meetings with pupils were also held in schools where the issue was discussed and suggestions by pupils progressed.  For example, some schools had adopted an approach by which certain toilets were designated “Big Girl” toilets and sanitary product disposal bins provided in these.

 

As a point of information, Ms. Reeves referred to the possibility of providing reusable products which were bought on the request of pupils, however the organisation did ask that research should be carried out by the individual in the first instance as there were additional hidden costs associated with these items.  Finally, Ms. Reeves noted that the organisation could provide a variety of products, which was seen as positive, as this allowed girls to have choice in the matter and not to rely on the cheapest brand. 

 

The Committee thanked Ms. Reeves for her presentation and asked her if Bridgend County Borough Council had figures for school absences due to period poverty.  In response, Ms. Reeves stated that this information was still to be collected.  However, in school governor discussions it was noted that pupils who received free school meals had worse recorded school attendance and it was felt that period poverty was having a similar impact.

 

Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson, not a Member of the Committee but with permission to speak, stated that she was disappointed it had taken so long for this matter to come to the Committee.  She felt that this was a poverty issue that was hidden, was quiet and affected many people; even girls as young as 8 years old.  The Councillor also stated that when working in a food bank she had seen with her own eyes the distress caused by period poverty.  The Councillor urged the Committee to consider proposing that support is put in place as soon as possible, and asked the Committee not to wait for the funding from Welsh Government to start the process.  She had first-hand experience that food banks had been requesting sanitary products and this was even after hundreds of pounds of stock had been donated.  Finally, she requested that the Scrutiny Committee speak directly to pupils on this matter as many were embarrassed and found it a difficult subject to bring up with teachers. 

 

Councillor Mrs. Drake, not a Member of the Committee but with permission to speak, also stated that she fully supported the proposal to provide support to children in schools.  She considered that it was not appropriate to have to pay VAT on sanitary products as they were not luxury items, but products for basic hygiene.  The Councillor concluded by stating that period poverty existed in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

A Member of the Committee stated that he agreed wholeheartedly with the comments made by his fellow Councillors and in relation to the capital and revenue funding provided, the Member stated that in his experience disposal contracts for sanitary products were usually the greater expense as compared to the cost of the actual product.  The Member noted that since Bridgend was a similar size to the Vale of Glamorgan, would Ms. Reeves know how many sanitary disposal bins were required, and the approximate cost for emptying them.  In response, Ms. Reeves stated that she presumed schools already had a contract for sanitary waste for staff, so the additional cost to add disposal bins for pupils should not be great.  Further, such contracts should already be in place for the pupils of secondary schools.  As far as other costs were concerned, Ms. Reeves noted that £100 worth of sanitary products had been donated to secondary schools in Bridgend County Borough Council, and £30 of products donated to primary schools, and after three months Wings Cymru had not had to supply additional stock.  Finally, Ms. Reeves commented that modern schools were starting to build unisex toilets which could make the allocation of disposal bins difficult. 

 

A Co-opted Member of the Committee told of her experience where she had discussed the issue with friends of her daughter, who confirmed that many were suffering in silence, and in fact stated she had paid for some school girls’ sanitary products as they could not afford them. 

 

A Committee Member raised concern that girls could be missing out on their education due to period poverty and could be embarrassed to raise the issue.  The Member also confirmed that local food banks were desperately in need of sanitary products and another Committee Member stated that the cost to the Council to provide these services was not significant compared to other expenditure and felt it important that if a working group was established, it should consider most the effective means of distribution of sanitary products with the suggestion that this group be called a “Delivery Working Group”. 

 

The Chairman thanked Members for their input on this matter and advised that as one of four sisters, the provision of sanitary products could be very expensive for some families.  The Chairman was glad that the Scrutiny Committee wholeheartedly appeared to be committed to providing this support to girls and women in the Vale of Glamorgan. Based on the discussions, she considered that the Scrutiny Committee should seek more information to help deliver a robust system of support.  In conclusion, the Chairman considered that there should be no delay in the support given to pupils.

 

The Director of Learning and Skills advised the Committee that no exact timescale for the grant from Welsh Government had been given, however she could not see an issue in procuring sanitary products before this funding was received. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T a small working group (namely a delivery group) be established consisting of Members of the Committee with the terms of reference to include: 

  • To investigate further the current approach to promoting and providing and disposing of sanitary products in primary and secondary schools throughout the Vale of Glamorgan;
  • To gather evidence from students, staff and health professionals on the current provision;
  • To identify areas of good practice with the intention of providing education for all pupils and an understanding of the provision.

(2)       T H A T Committee Members interested in sitting on the working group referred to in recommendation 1, above, contact the Democratic Services Officer to make necessary arrangements for the working group to convene.

 

(3)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee recommends to Cabinet that in the interim, each secondary school in the Vale of Glamorgan be given £100 worth of sanitary products, and each primary school be given £30 worth of sanitary products, while the Scrutiny Committee working group examines this matter in full detail, including the means of distributing remaining and future funding from Welsh Government.

 

(4)       T H A T the report of the working group referred to in recommendation 1, above, be referred to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee and to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To implement a working group to investigate this matter in full.

 

(2)       To confirm the membership of the working group.

 

(3)       To provide immediate support to female pupils in all schools in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

(4)       To consider the findings of the working group.

 

 

876            VALE OF GLAMORGAN WELL-BEING AND IMPROVEMENT OBJECTIVES (IMPROVEMENT PLAN PART 1) 2018/19 (DLS) –

 

The Director of Learning and Skills presented the report which sought Members’ endorsement of the Improvement Plan Part 1 outlining the Council’s Well-being and Improvement Objectives and associated actions for 2018/19.

 

Under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, the Council was required to publish its Well-being Objectives by 31st March, 2017 and to keep these under review.  Under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009, the Council also had to set annual Improvement Objectives and publish these as soon as possible at the start of the financial year.  Appendix 1 attached to the report contained the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Well-being and Improvement Objectives (Improvement Plan Part 1) 1 for the period 2018/19.  Pages 8 to 35 of the Plan provided further details on each Objective, including: an identified Sponsoring Director with responsibility for ensuring progress was made in achieving the council’s intended outcomes; a brief rationale for selection of the Objective; the specific actions the Council would take during 2018/19 in order to progress its identified priorities; and performance indicators and targets to measure the Council’s progress.

 

In line with the Council’s Performance Management Framework, the Council’s Improvement Plan priorities for 2018/19 were reflected in the Council’s Service Plans for 2018-22 which Members had recently endorsed in March 2018.  Progress against these priorities were monitored via quarterly performance reports to the relevant Scrutiny Committees as aligned with the Corporate Plan Well-being Outcomes, supplemented with an overall summary report to Cabinet.  As such, it was recommended that Members consider and endorse the Corporate Plan Well-being and Improvement Objectives and associated priority actions for 2018/19 as outlined in Appendix 1, and the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee’s response be included in a summary report sent to Cabinet.

 

A Committee Member noted that in paragraph 7 of the report it was stated that challenging targets had been set for improvement reflecting the Council’s commitment to continuously improve the services it provided to citizens of the Vale of Glamorgan, and the desire to aspire to top quartile performance where appropriate.  Referring to Appendix 2, the Committee Member queried if this challenge was reflected in the targets for next year.  The Committee Member also queried why, compared to other Improvement Objectives, targets for 2018/19 had not been set in Improvement Objective 5 – raising overall standards of achievement. 

 

In response, the Director of Learning and Skills advised the Committee that as the Well-being and Improvement Objectives (Improvement Plan Part 1) 2018/19 was reported in line with the financial year, it would therefore be out of synch with the academic year, which had not yet finished.  As such, targets for the 2018/19 academic year could not yet be set. 

 

The Chairman noted that on page 25 of Appendix 1, which related to Improvement Objective 6 – valuing culture and diversity, the Council recognised the importance of promoting equality of opportunity.  The Chairman queried if this was correct, given that schools were moving towards equality of outcome as compared to equality of opportunity.  In response, the Director of Learning and Skills commented that this particular objective referred to wider communities in the Vale of Glamorgan and not just schools.

 

A Committee Member highlighted page 23 of the Appendix, which detailed performance indicators related to the percentage of young people leaving Years 11, 12 and 13 who were not in education, employment or training.  The Committee Member noted that these figures were listed as percentages, and asked if the officers knew the exact numbers.  In response, the Head of Achievement for All informed the Committee that he did not have the exact figures to hand, however would send them to the Member via email after the meeting. 

 

A Committee Member noted that the Improvement Plan Part 1 made reference to identifying a site for gypsies and travellers in the Vale of Glamorgan and asked if officers had more information on this matter.  To provide more information to the Committee, the Chairman invited the Operational Manager for Planning and Building Control to speak.  The Operational Manager informed Members that a Council question had recently been asked on this matter.  A Gypsy and Traveller Project Board had been set up and was meeting regularly.  She advised the Committee that the main delay the Project Board was facing related to maintaining regular dialogue with existing gypsy and traveller groups in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The Council had engaged the services of Gypsy and Traveller Wales to remedy this issue and progress the matter further.  The Operational Manager advised the Committee to expect a Cabinet report moving progress on this matter before the recess. 

 

The Chairman asked the Committee as there were no specific recommendation to Cabinet if they were happy to move the recommendations in the report.  A Committee Member commented that on page 23 of Appendix 1, reference was made to a restructure of the Council’s Youth Services and noted that the Committee was waiting for a report on this matter.  The Member queried that if the Scrutiny Committee were to endorse this report, would they also therefore be endorsing proposals for the restructure of the Youth Services.  In response, the Chairman advised that endorsing the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Well-being Objectives and Improvement Plan Part 1 meant endorsing the contained Improvement Objectives and Corporate Plan priorities, rather than a specific proposal that the Scrutiny Committee felt was contrary to these aims.  Subsequently, it was therefore

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Corporate Plan Wellbeing and Improvement Objectives and associated priority actions for 2018/19 as outlined in Appendix 1 attached to the report, be endorsed and the views of the Scrutiny Committee be included in the summary report sent to Cabinet.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure the Council fully discharged its statutory duties to set and publish its Improvement Plan Part 1 outlining how it proposed to meet its Wellbeing and Improvement Objectives for 2018/19.

 

 

877            HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN: PRESENTATION BY PETER THOMAS, SENIOR PLANNER (CONSERVATION AND DESIGN) –

 

The Senior Planner (Conservation and Design) gave a presentation to the Scrutiny Committee which briefed them on the work he and his department undertook to further conservation in the Vale.  This work fell under Objective 6 of the Council’s Corporate Plan – Valuing Culture and Diversity and was to protect, preserve and where possible enhance the built, natural and coastal heritage of the Vale of Glamorgan.  This work was underpinned by significant legislation and policy.  The Senior Planner listed four functions for conservation; these were statutory essential, statutory non-essential, non-statutory essential and non-statutory non-essential.  

 

The Committee was informed that under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the Council had a statutory duty in regards to the designated historic environment and these had to be more than just material considerations.  Committee was further informed that the designated historic environment had to be given special attention, and in this instance the concept of significance was that the particular site had to display evidential value, historic value, aesthetic value and communal value. 

 

It was noted that the Vale of Glamorgan had many historic assets which included scheduled monuments and archaeology, listed buildings, conservation areas, historic parks and gardens, historic landscapes, locally listed buildings – County Treasures, and specific urban characterisation.  The historic assets in the Vale of Glamorgan included scheduled monuments, conservation areas, listed buildings, historic parks and gardens and designated historic landscapes. The Senior Planner showed examples of these including Dyffryn House, a Roman villa unearthed during the Five Mile Lane excavations, the Physic Garden in Cowbridge, Llantwit Major Town Hall, Pendoylan Conservation Area and Porthkerry Viaduct.  The Senior Planner referred to the Pumphouse in Barry Waterfront as an example of a listed building that was at risk, however had now been renovated and transformed the area.  It was a catalyst for regeneration, influencing new buildings in the vicinity to fit the historic environment. 

 

The Committee was also advised of policies in place to help preserve an area’s historic environment.  By way of example, the Senior Planner informed the Committee of the Penarth Article 4 Direction and highlighted the importance of how small details could help keep an historic area’s feel.  For example, by restricting the usage of certain double glazing and uPVC framing in houses. 

 

Finally, the Senior Planner outlined examples of design philosophy in the historic environment which were outside of the Vale of Glamorgan, and included Pastiche, Traditional, Subtle, Modern and Arrogant. 

 

A Committee Member thanked the officer for his informative presentation, and commented that he was pleased the Committee was receiving items on culture as well as learning.  The Committee Member queried what the Senior Planner meant when he referred to “character studies” of the historic environment, and also queried whether solar panels were covered under the Penarth Article 4 Direction.  In response, the officer advised that character studies were Conservation Area appraisals on a large scale, trying to get a Sense of Place and gave a snapshot of the area and tried to be objective as to why it was considered special.  In response to the question on solar panels, the Senior Planner noted that the Article 4 Direction Policy to remove development rights did not include solar panels, however submissions could be made to Welsh Government to change the Policy.  The officer also advised that the Article 4 Direction Policy was established in 1999 and was currently being reviewed.

 

Other Members also took the opportunity to thank the officer for the presentation. One specifically referred to the village of Pendoylan where concerns had been raised about the impact of a possible M4 relief link road with the Member queried at which stage of the consultation would the Conservation and Design Department consider its impact.  In response, the officer confirmed that the link road could have a large impact, however this could be both positive and negative.  He confirmed that they were considering the positives and negatives of each proposal and an overall strategic approach was being undertaken as part of the study. 

 

The same Member noted that the presentation referred to the remains of a Roman villa uncovered during the Five Mile Lane works and queried what options were available for the future of the site.  In response, the Senior Planner stated that archaeology was outside the remit of the Council, therefore CADW and Glamorgan-Gwent Archeological Trust were on site and it was they who would make the decision on its future preservation.  For example, it could be preserved in situ or preserved on record.  The officer expected that a full report considering the preservation options would be published by these organisations. 

 

A Member referred to a past Council Area Appraisal on Barry Garden Suburb which had been very detailed, with the Member asking if any thought had been given on reissuing guidance on this area and others around Barry.  The Member also queried what more could be done to catalogue and publicise treasures of the historic environment in the Vale of Glamorgan with the response that the Garden Suburb Planning Guidance was still in place, however a review was due and the officer would speak to his Operational Manager regarding this.  The Senior Planner however noted that this work would have to be prioritised against other conservation tasks in the Vale of Glamorgan as resources were limited.  The Senior Planner also advised the Committee that registers of local historic environment treasures had been compiled in the past, however a modern survey would be time and cost intensive.  To prevent historic assets being lost, the officer referred to the fact that the Local Development Plan was explicit that developments should preserve or enhance existing locally listed buildings.  A Member asked if Town and Community Councils could help in creating lists of local treasures, which the officer stated could be possible but added that co-ordination would be required.  As such, he was happy to receive suggested inclusions into the register of historic assets and local treasures which he could then take to Cabinet. 

 

Following the conclusion of the presentation, the Chairman thanked the Senior Planner for his interesting presentation which had covered many areas and advised the Committee Members to could contact the officer with any further questions should they wish to do so..

 

 

878            ANNUAL EQUALITY MONITORING REPORT 2016-2017 (MD) –

 

The Head of Performance and Development and the Corporate Equalities Officer presented to the Committee the Annual Equality Monitoring Report 2016-2017 which was attached at Appendix A to the report. 

 

The report stated that the Equality Act 2010 included a public sector equality duty with specific duties to publish an annual report for the previous year by 31st March each year. The officers stated that the Annual Equality Monitoring Report 2016-2017 had already been reported to Cabinet, and was now being presented to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee to inform Members of the progress made and to seek their comments and suggestions on the way forward.

 

The Chairman thanked the officers for presenting the report and stated she was impressed by the level of detail considering the actions undertaken by the Authority and resulting outcomes.  For example, the Chairman highlighted paragraph 16 of the report, which concerned monitoring attainment levels, including those in protected groups and those entitled to free school meals and Looked After Children.  The report stated that the number of incidents of bullying had decreased by 43%, the number of pupils responsible had reduced by 8%, the number of victims had reduced by 23% and the number of incidents related to disability had reduced from 35 to 6.  The Chairman considered this an example of equality in practice.  The Chairman also noted the steps that had been taken by the Council’s Equality Forum and was pleased to see that groups were actively participating as it was now more accessible.

 

A Member queried if any external feedback would be provided once Cabinet had signed off the Annual Equality Monitoring Report.  In response, the Corporate Equalities Officer confirmed that the report would be considered by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which performed a regulatory role to ensure that listed bodies complied with the Equality Act 2010.  If the Equality and Human Rights Commission believed that the Council had not complied with the public sector equality duty, it had the power to seek compliance. 

 

Following a query as to whether the equality and diversity training that was provided to Councillors of the Vale of Glamorgan Council would also be made available to Town and Community Councils in the Vale of Glamorgan.  In response, the Head of Performance and Development stated that he was happy to provide details of accredited trainers to any organisation who requested them, so other groups could provide their own equality and diversity training to the high Council standard. 

 

Another Member questioned if there was a gender pay gap in the Council, and if so, how the Council was working to address this issue.  The officers confirmed that there was a gender pay gap, but that this was reducing referred to the fact that it was lower than the national average.  The issue could not be quickly addressed, however progress was being made and the officer would seek the exact figures from the Human Resources Department and convey them to Members of the Committee. 

 

In concluding discussion on the item, the Chairman asked if the Annual Equality Monitoring Report could align more closely with the Well-being and Improvement Objectives of the Council. In response, the Head of Performance and Development confirmed that the Corporate Plan was being reviewed, so further alignment could be considered at that time. 

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T officers be thanked for the work undertaken to date and the contents of the Annual Equality Monitoring Report for 2016-2017 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the work undertaken to date and so that the progress towards meeting the public sector equality duty and the specific duties for Wales could continue to be made and was available for scrutiny by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and others.

 

 

879            SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR AUTUMN TERM 2017 (DLS) –

 

The Lead Officer for School Improvement / Senior Challenge Advisor provided Members of the Committee with an update on the outcomes of school inspections for the Autumn term 2017 and on the outcomes of recent Estyn monitoring activities.

 

In September 2017 a new Estyn school inspection Common Inspection Framework had been introduced across all schools in Wales and an overview of the Common Inspection Framework was outlined in Appendix 1 attached to the report.   

 

The Lead Officer for School Improvement / Senior Challenge Advisor informed the Committee that schools now received 15 working days’ notice of an inspection rather than 20.  Judgements were made under five inspection areas:

  • Standards
  • Wellbeing and attitudes to learning
  • Teaching and learning experiences
  • Care, support and guidance
  • Leadership and management.

The judgements for each of the five key questions could be one of four options: 

  • Excellent – very strong, sustained performance and practice
  • Good – strong features, although minor aspects may require improvement
  • Adequate and needs improvement – strengths outweigh weaknesses, but important aspects require improvement
  • Unsatisfactory and needs urgent improvement – important weaknesses outweigh strengths.

Oakfield Primary School, Cadoxton Primary School and All Saints CiW Primary School were inspected during the Autumn term 2017.  A summary of the inspection findings for each of the named schools was attached to the report at Appendix 2.

 

Paragraph 17 of the report detailed the overall judgements achieved by the three schools inspected during the Autumn term 2017.  Excellent practice had been identified in Oakfield Primary School, Cadoxton Primary School and All Saints CiW Primary School and they had been invited to prepare written case studies which would be published by Estyn and shared with other schools.

 

The Lead Officer for School Improvement / Senior Challenge Advisor also advised the Committee that there were three types of follow-up categories, these were: 

  • Estyn review
  • Significant improvement
  • Special measures.

The officer stated that as a result of the inspection in May 2017, St. Richard Gwyn R/C High School was identified as requiring Estyn review.  It was noted that the Local Authority also had one school requiring significant improvement, which was Bryn Hafren Comprehensive.  The officer confirmed that neither school had been re-inspected, however she was confident that improvements were being made.  For information, Appendix 3 attached to the report provided an overview summary of Estyn activity for the period September 2017 – December 2017 and a summary of schools in the follow-up category. 

 

The Committee was pleased with the inspection results for the three schools, and requested that like letters of congratulations be sent to all three with regards to the results of the inspections.  The Chairman also suggested that the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee hold future meetings at the three schools, so their written case studies into best practice could be presented to Committee.  The Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture also suggested that Cabinet be notified of the inspection results. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the inspection judgements about the schools inspected during the Autumn term be noted and the Committee’s congratulations be extended to each school.

 

(2)       T H A T the judgements made by Estyn in its monitoring activities regarding the progress of schools in addressing inspection recommendations be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the changes to Estyn inspection arrangements be noted.

 

(4)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for its consideration of the inspection results.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To note the Estyn judgements about local schools.

 

(4)       To allow Cabinet to consider the inspection results of these schools.

 

 

880            SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR SPRING TERM 2018 (DLS) –

 

The Lead Officer for School Improvement / Senior Challenge Advisor provided Members of the Committee with an update on the outcomes of school inspections for the Spring term 2018 and on the outcomes of recent Estyn monitoring activities.

 

Gladstone Primary School, Fairfield Primary School and Colcot Primary School were inspected during the Spring term 2018.  A summary of the inspection findings for each of the named schools was attached to the report at Appendix 2. 

 

Paragraph 16 of the report detailed the overall judgements achieved by the three schools inspected during the Spring term 2018.  No follow-up work was identified in any of the above inspections.

 

The officer stated that as a result of the inspection in May 2017, St. Richard Gwyn R/C High School was identified as requiring Estyn review.  It was noted that the Local Authority also had one school requiring significant improvement, which was Bryn Hafren Comprehensive. 

 

In November, Estyn reviewed the progress of St. Richard Gwyn RC High School and judged that progress had been made in respect of some of the key issues identified in the inspection, but many of the improvements were still at an early stage of development.  As a result, Estyn decided the school should remain in Estyn review and progress would be reviewed in October 2018 to be able to take into account another set of performance data

 

For information, Appendix 3 attached to the report provided an overview summary of Estyn activity for the period January – March 2018 and a summary of schools in a follow-up category. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the inspection judgements about the schools inspected during the Spring term be noted and referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow Cabinet to consider the Estyn judgements about local schools.

 

 

881            ARTS AND CULTURE STRATEGY: AN ASPIRATIONAL AND CULTURALLY VIBRANT VALE 2018-2022 (REF) –

 

The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources presented to the Committee the Arts and Culture Strategy: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale 2018-2022.  The existing Vale Arts Strategy that was implemented in 2014 had set out a vision for the Council up to and including 2017.  In February 2016, the Cabinet endorsed a new Corporate Plan 2016-2020, which included its vision, values and well-being objectives.  The new Arts and Culture Strategy for 2018-2022 satisfied the actions outlined in Well-being Outcome 3: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale, Objective 6, valuing culture and diversity.  The draft Arts and Culture Strategy: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale set out the priorities over the next four years, as well as its vision and values.  Work had been undertaken to ensure that the priorities in the Strategy were aligned and reflected the priorities of the Vale of Glamorgan, as outlined in the Corporate Plan, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and the Welsh Government Document “Light Springs Through the Dark: A Vision for Culture in Wales”. 

 

The new Strategy set out a delivery plan for increasing arts activity in the Vale of Glamorgan and developing new opportunities to create a 21st century arts programme, centred around the Council’s four well-being outcomes outlined in the Corporate Plan 2016-2020.  Leveraging existing and new partnerships formed an important element of the new strategy, which sought to deepen relationships with schools, volunteer sectors, community learning initiatives and arts development partners to enhance provision and facilitate artistic learning, development and expression opportunities through the lifetime of the Vale’s citizens. 

 

A recently undertaken Arts Strategy Survey demonstrated that those who engaged with the arts in the Vale of Glamorgan were broadly satisfied with what was offered and its accessibility.  However, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources noted that the response rate of the survey was low reinforcing the need for additional marketing and a more relevant service offering wider appeal and accessibility, which was reflected in the actions identified in the new Strategy. 

 

The officer stated that the Strategy also set out a number of actions aimed at generating commercial opportunities through the use of the Arts Central space, pending a wider review as outlined in paragraph 12 of the report.  He advised the Committee that since the introduction of the fees identified in paragraph 13 of the report, there had actually been a greater uptake in the use of the space. 

 

Finally, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that many of the actions outlined within the new Strategy would be delivered over a number of years.  Specific actions would be included in the Directorate’s service plans, setting out year on year the activities that would be undertaken to achieve and monitor these objectives.

 

A Member agreed with the officer that the response rate to the Arts Strategy Survey was disappointingly low and asked if more could be done to promote art and culture in the Vale of Glamorgan, with more community engagement including older communities as well as schools.  The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources agreed that it was very important to expand community engagement with the arts, and stated that there was a lot the Council could do to target specific potentially interested communities, and leverage existing relationships.  One way of achieving this would be to better integrate the Arts Development department within the Council and work more closely with other departments. 

 

A Member asked how much of the art in the Vale of Glamorgan was available to school children for free.  In response, the Culture and Community Learning Manager noted that the Council was involved in regional partnerships to support bids and provide free art to members of the public, but stated that this area was not a funding priority for Welsh Government.  The officer stated that bidding in regional partnerships was a collaborative process and this was identified in the Strategy as a key area to improve. 

 

A Member noted that he had been looking at the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s website pages on Arts and Culture, and discovered that numerous links on these webpages were no longer functioning.  The Member asked officers how the Council could ensure that the information on its website remained up to date and culturally vibrant.  In response, the Culture and Community Learning Manager commented that the Arts Development department had recently integrated into the Community and Library Services and this would allow these resources to be kept up to date and improved.  The officer noted that when Adult Community Learning had similarly been integrated into the Community and Library Services, their online take-up increased dramatically, and he was confident the Arts Development department would also benefit.

 

The Committee then discussed publicity for events at Arts Central and best practice for advertising, including free solutions.  The Committee also discussed how to engage members of the public who lived in the Vale of Glamorgan but only accessed art through Cardiff.  It was also noted that there were artists living in the Vale of Glamorgan who also only displayed works out of county.  Members queried if more could be done to co-ordinate local talent to encourage art in the community, including the more rural areas of the Vale of Glamorgan.  The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources agreed with these points raised by the Scrutiny Committee, and stated that the Arts and Culture Strategy: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale 2018-2022 sought to widen access to all members of the public, and stated that volunteering was a cornerstone in the new Strategy. 

 

The Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture agreed with Members that advertising through a variety of means was important.  He felt that Town and Community Councils could help in taking the message of the Vale Arts Strategy forward, as a collective solution was the best way to proceed.  He also informed the Scrutiny Committee that an all-schools newspaper was being developed which would be in the form of an online blog run through the Council’s Youth Service to help raise awareness amongst schools, including art opportunities.  The Cabinet Member stated that pupils in schools in the Vale of Glamorgan were very talented, however schools were measured only by their academic prowess, where they should also be commended for their cultural successes. 

 

The Chairman urged officers and Members to keep an open mind as to the definition of art in the Vale of Glamorgan.  For example, she felt that the Barry Island climbing wall and the Eastern Shelter were public pieces of art that tied into the built environment and sense of place work.  Regarding generating commercial opportunities for use of the Arts Central space, the Chairman queried how the department sought to achieve full cost recovery.  In response, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources stated that full cost recovery was the amount spent by the Council for each event to run at Arts Central.  He stated that events should not need to be subsidised, and should not leave the Council with unpaid expenses.  The officer also confirmed that the scope of art available was important, and it was recognised that the Arts Development department needed to consider better its communication across the Council and as such he recommended that an Art Project Group be established to bridge departments. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Arts and Culture Strategy: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale 2018-22 be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T notwithstanding the above, the comments of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee as outlined above be referred to Cabinet for their consideration.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To endorse the Arts and Culture Strategy: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale 2018-22 and ensure Cabinet was informed of the comments of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee as part of the consultation process.

 

 

882            FUTURE USE OF TŶ DERI (REF) –

 

The Head of Achievement for All gave a presentation to the Committee which provided Members with an overview of the considerations and options available for the future use of Tŷ Deri.  The Head of Achievement for All stated that Tŷ Deri was built as a residential facility with a 19 bed capacity.  This decision had been taken in consultation with the Headteachers of the three special schools and was based on the level of usage at the time (2009/10).  The number of nights utilised had reduced since 2013/14 by 79% due to modern developments in care interventions, including the increased use of direct payments to support families in meeting the needs of their children at home.  The officer also advised Members that there was a decline in the number of children and young persons being placed at the school from outside the Vale of Glamorgan, increased provision available elsewhere, and the timing of provision available at Tŷ Deri was also found to be very restrictive. 

 

In order to cover the actual costs of service delivery, Ysgol y Deri had increased the charges for overnight and tea stays in line with the existing residential charge schedule with costs being increased from £72 in 2014/15 for a tea stay to £125 in 2015/16 and from £249 for an overnight stay to £375.  The Head of Achievement for All advised that this increase in costs was not due to income generation but because the service was operating at a loss.  Further, in September 2016 a significantly reduced staffing structure was put in place to ensure that the provision broke even in terms of cost.  The issue was now the underutilisation of the building. 

 

A report was commissioned externally to develop a fully costed business case for Tŷ Deri which explored a range of options, adopted a Council-wide approach and identified the future demand for services that could be operated from Tŷ Deri to meet current and future needs.  The report entitled “A Review of the Options for the Future use of Tŷ Deri” was written by an officer working across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan sponsored by the Disabilities Futures Programme.  This was attached as Appendix B to the report.  The report considered the following options:

 

1.         Continue to provide existing respite services at Tŷ Deri and improve underutilisation;

2.         Provide a residential service;

3.         Provision of a residential nursing service;

4.         Provision of additional classroom space.

 

The Head of Achievement for All advised the Committee that based on robust analysis service option 4 – the provision of additional classroom space was the preferred option.  This option recommended that in order to meet classroom space demand at Ysgol Y Deri in the short to medium term, sufficient capacity should be created by adapting part of the Tŷ Deri building. 

 

The Chairman confirmed with the Head of Achievement for All that this option would entail leaving part of the building for residential respite provision which would amount to eight beds.  The officer confirmed that this was more than the Council currently needed, but was the best configuration for residential use given the shape of the building and the need requirements of its users. 

 

A Co-opted Member asked if, previous to Tŷ Deri being built, Monday to Thursday provision of care was the norm, and would this continue to be the future opening hours.  In response, the officer confirmed that this was the case; if the respite provision was expanded beyond Monday to Thursday, this would greatly impact staffing provision and contracts and the CSSIW registration. 

 

A Member queried if the increased size of the facility would affect the previously discussed 2-10 ideal model for schools and would bedding for specific needs still be retained at Tŷ Deri.  In response, the officer stated that the retained bedding would be the highest specification and could be utilised for children and young people with varied needs.  This also left room for option 3 of the review, which considered provision of a residential nursing service.  In regards to questions of the perfect school size, the officer noted that this was difficult to calculate, and in this case had more to do with the staffing and organisation of Ysgol y Deri.  Currently there were 240 pupils enrolled at Ysgol y Deri, which was built to hold 205 pupils, and there was currently no feeling of over-capacity at the school.  That said, lack of classroom space was becoming a hindrance and there could only be a certain limit to classroom numbers, given the significant learning difficulties facing some pupils. 

 

Following a query as to whether changes to the fabric of the building at Tŷ Deri would be permanent in case the future demand changed again.  The Head of Achievement for All stated that given current information, the proposals for the future use of Tŷ Deri were considered robust and it was difficult to imagine that a 19 bed facility would ever be required in the future.  Consideration had also been given to closing the facility entirely, but this would leave the Council with no provision.  The officer was therefore satisfied that service option 4 would provide the Council with reasonable flexibility for the future.  The officer also stated that a considerable amount of work would be required for the adaptions and would be difficult to reverse, which was why it was important to keep spare beds.  Finally, the officer felt it was important to provide Ysgol y Deri with eight additional classrooms to help protect vulnerable learners.  More costs were likely, however he stated that the Council had a duty and obligation to provide this care. 

 

The Committee then discussed the use of the residential facility at Tŷ Deri, and it was confirmed that the beds were used for children and young people with very complex care needs.  The Head of Achievement for All suggested that it would be beneficial for Members of the Scrutiny Committee to visit the facility to help appreciate the significant level of need and support required. A visit had been arranged on the day of the Committee, but due to the short notice provided, Members were unable to attend. The Chairman agreed that a further site visit should be arranged. 

 

The Cabinet Member, who was present at the meeting, commented that having the option for flexibility of beds allowed cost recovery through outside county placements and the recommendation put forward in the report had tried to consider all options and make the best use of the Tŷ Deri facility.  Finally, he noted that Estyn had rated the facility as Excellent and staff had won awards for their work and considered that Members should be proud of the work done at Tŷ Deri.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Cabinet decision to implement Option 4 as set out in the review of the options for the future use of Tŷ Deri as detailed within Appendix B attached to the report, be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T arrangements be made in due course for Members of the Scrutiny Committee to undertake a visit to the premises.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To enable Council officers to progress the work required to ensure the effective future use of the provision at Tŷ Deri.

 

(2)       To see first-hand the provision on the site.