LEARNING AND CULTURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 19th June, 2018.

 

Present:  Councillor L. Burnett (Chairman); Councillor N.P. Hodges (Vice-Chairman); Councillors B.T. Gray, S.J. Griffiths, M. Lloyd, Mrs. J. Norman and Mrs. R. Nugent-Finn.

 

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

 

Non-voting Observers: Mr. D. Griffith (Welsh Medium Education) and Mr. N. Want (Vale Youth Forum).

 

Also present: Councillor R.A. Penrose (Cabinet Member - Learning and Culture).

 

 

96            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Ms. R.M. Birch, M.J.G. Morgan and Mrs. S. Perkes.

 

 

97            MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting held on 22nd May, 2018 be approved, subject to the line ‘Minutes of a Meeting held on 22nd May, 2018’, be amended to ‘Minutes of an Extraordinary Meeting held on 22nd May, 2018’.

 

 

98            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

Councillor L. Burnett declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that she was an LEA Governor of St. Cyres Comprehensive School and had a dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak and vote on this matter.

 

Councillor N.P. Hodges declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that he was an LEA Governor of Ysgol Sant Baruc and had a dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak on this matter.  Councillor N.P. Hodges was also a Minority Authority Representative for Ysgol Gwaun y Nant and would leave the meeting should matters relating to this school be discussed.

 

Councillor B.T. Gray declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that he was an LEA Governor of St. Cyres Comprehensive School and Evenlode Primary School and had a dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak and vote on this matter.

 

Councillor M. Lloyd declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that he was a Parent Governor of Rhws Primary School and would leave the meeting should matters relating to this school be discussed. 

 

Councillor Mrs. J. Norman declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that she was an LEA Governor of St. Illtyd’s Primary School and had a dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak and vote on this matter.

 

Councillor Mrs. R. Nugent-Finn declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that she was an LEA Governor of Cadoxton Primary School and had a dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak and vote on this matter.

 

Councillor R.A. Penrose declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that he was an LEA Governor of Sully Primary School and had a dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak and vote on this matter.

 

Dr. C. Brown and Mrs. J. Lynch-Wilson declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that they were Parent Governors of Llantwit Major and St. Athan Primary Schools respectively and would leave the meeting should matters arising to those schools be discussed.

 

Mr. D. Griffith declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 5 - School Balances as at 31st March, 2018 in that he was an LEA appointed Governor of Ysgol Bro Morgannwg and had a dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak on this matter.

 

 

99            SUPPORT FOR CARERS IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (REF) -

 

The Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee Chairman welcomed the above report.  She stated that in a recent census there were up to 50,000 people identifying as carers in the Cardiff and the Vale area, which was a 12% rise from previous surveys.  In the Committee there were frequent discussions regarding young people in Local Authority care, however, the number of young carers far exceeded that number and it was important that their needs were also met and the support available scrutinised. 

 

The Team Manager, Performance and Information presented the reference from the Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee which sought to update Scrutiny Committee Members on support services for carers, and was referred to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee to note the work being done in respect of young carers.  The report presented a general annual summary of the ways in which the Vale of Glamorgan Council was responding to the requirements of the Social Services and Wellbeing Act and the three national priorities, including the current provision provided by the Council and any planned development and additional information, with the officer highlighting particular work done to support young carers.  This information was attached at Appendix A to the report. 

 

The Team Manager, Performance and Information stated that up to 1 in 12 of all school children could be young carers and key findings from a report from Cardiff University, Young Carers Speak Out, which was attached at Appendix B to the report, locally identified that:

  • Only 35% of young carers felt that teachers were good at recognising their responsibilities.
  • 57% of young carers reported that they were never or only sometimes given the right support at school.
  • Only 20% of young carers said that they could access information about being a young carer through school.

A young carers task group continued to meet to implement actions identified as a direct result of the consultation with young people undertaken as part of the Young Carers Speak Out report and the Vale of Glamorgan Council had been working closely with the charity Carers Trust South East Wales and this partnership was detailed in Appendix A attached to the report.  The Committee was informed that Welsh Government Transitional Funding had been used to finance Carers Trust South East Wales to introduce a young carers accreditation scheme to secondary schools in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The ‘Young Carers in Schools Programme’ aimed to raise awareness of young carers within education settings and provided additional information in support.  The Team Manager, Performance and Information was pleased to state that following a peer review panel consisting of two young carers from seven counties in February 2018, Barry Comprehensive School was announced as the first school in Wales to achieve the accreditation. 

 

Following the officer’s summary of the report, the Chairman then asked Ms. Jenny Park and Ms. Lisa Thomas to address the Committee, advising that they had both been invited to the meeting as members of the Carers Trust South East Wales who worked closely with the Vale of Glamorgan Council on this issue and to present their findings and present to the Committee the work they did on this matter.

 

Ms. Jenny Park apprised the Committee of the work undertaken by the Carers Trust South East Wales and its relationship with two larger national charities bearing the same ‘Carers Trust’ label.  The Carers Trust South East Wales had worked for over 10 years to support unpaid carers and their priority centred around the carer, which including support for young carers starting from the initial assessment until their 18th birthday.  Carers Trust South East Wales worked across nine Local Authorities and in the Vale of Glamorgan had started a young carers in schools project in November 2016. 

 

Ms. Lisa Thomas from the Carers Trust South East Wales was the charity’s Schools Development Worker who was directly working with 12 schools in the Local Authority and helped them achieve the Young Carers Accreditation Scheme.  The main objectives of the accreditation scheme were to understand, inform, listen to and support young carers.  Ms. Thomas informed the Committee that in the initial stages it was important to reduce the stigma associated with being a young carer, as there were many young people in this position and it was important that their voices were heard.  It was noted that young carers currently reached lower levels of attainment, and it was important to ensure that they had the same opportunities as other learners.  The Carers Trust South East Wales had been working well with schools in the Vale of Glamorgan to set up operational leads in each school so any staff or learners who wished information about the support available to young carers could engage with them.  Finally, Ms. Thomas stated that some barriers had been identified, for example, some schools could be particularly busy during exam periods so could not engage effectively with the charity and the work of supporting young carers sometimes had to compete with other wellbeing priorities for schools. 

 

A Member of the Committee queried if the support provided by the Carers Trust South East Wales varied across the different primary and secondary schools, including methods of identification of young carers.  In response, Ms. Thomas stated that the Carers Trust South East Wales worked only in secondary schools at the moment, however, the information that they provided to support schools and young carers was available to primary schools to help them identify, give information and support young carers.  Information from the Carers Trust South East Wales had also been provided to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Safeguarding Officer to ensure that young carers were recognised during their transition from primary to secondary school. 

 

Ms. Park also informed the Committee that resources provided by the Carers Trust South East Wales were adaptable, appropriate, easy to use, relevant for the support required and information was also provided bilingually.  Finally, the Team Manager, Performance and Information stated that any school could engage with the National Carers Trust Scheme, however, locally the Vale of Glamorgan Council had been providing funding to the Carers Trust South East Wales branch to work directly with secondary schools in the county based specifically on need. 

 

The Head of Achievement for All stated that an Action Plan had been established.  The officer stated that the next step in the Action Plan was to raise awareness of young carers in more schools in the Vale of Glamorgan, as low levels of identification was the first challenge to overcome.  The Council was looking at information from up to two years ago, when not many young carers had been identified at the time which was felt to be incorrect data.  The Education Department was making a big push with schools this year to collect more accurate information from learners and 65 young carers had now been identified, however, this was felt to be only the tip of the iceberg.  He added that there was lots of work to do, but the agenda was becoming clearer in what needed to be done to help support young carers.  Schools were starting to work between with this potentially vulnerable group, and the Estyn Framework now included young carers as a priority issue for schools to address. 

 

The Committee then discussed the relatively low levels of schools engaging with the Carers Trust South East Wales, which the Education Department wished to improve, and also the difficulty in identifying young carers and the potential numbers who might be in Vale of Glamorgan schools. 

 

The Chairman then asked Ms. Neilson and Mr. Emery from Barry Comprehensive School, to address the Committee, advising that they had both been invited to the meeting due to their excellent work to ensure that Barry Comprehensive was the first school within Wales to be awarded the Young Carers Accreditation Scheme and congratulated them both for the achievement. 

 

Mr. Emery was an Assistant Head at Barry Comprehensive School with the portfolio of Wellbeing.  Mr. Emery informed the Committee that the programme provided a systematic process to help identify and support young carers.  He stated that young carers had the right to be anonymous and stressed the importance of helping young carers to support themselves.  He also stated that trying to identify young carers was important, however added that some hard working people did not wish to be stigmatised by any possible ‘label’.  Mr. Emery informed the Committee that some schools might be concerned by taking on more work to support young carers, however, in his experience it would not take a huge amount of work to successfully support carers and it was very rewarding. 

 

Ms. Neilson from Barry Comprehensive School informed the Committee that she had received support from Ms. Lisa Thomas from the Carers Trust South East Wales, and their support was very helpful.  A range of actions undertaken by Barry Comprehensive School to achieve the accreditation were listed to the Committee including: 

  • Putting up posters around the school.
  • Giving ID cards to young carers to help them fast track any issues they might have because of their caring      duties.
  • Specific training to staff, and
  • A film had been made by pupils at the school in which young carers took part. 

Ms. Neilson informed the Committee that since the school had started undertaking this work, the number of young carers identified by the staff had doubled and she stated that the most important thing to do was to break down barriers. 

 

A Member of the Committee queried how the support for young carers provided by Barry Comprehensive School had been received.  In response, the representatives from the school stated that it was important to build relationships with young carers and their families and not be judgemental.  Some parents had been defensive at the outset as they did not wish for any intrusion on their lives.  Instead, it was important for the school to listen to the young carer, identify their needs and how this could affect their learning and gain their trust to provide support in the most appropriate method.  In response to a question regarding the timescales to achieve the Young Carers Accreditation Scheme, Ms. Neilson stated that it took less than one year to provide the additional support to young carers, and this was alongside existing wellbeing work. 

 

A Member of the Committee stated that she had seen the video and it was ‘fantastic’.  She then sought information on how the specialist referral process worked, and the Committee discussed the reception of parents to the additional support to young carers.  Ms. Neilson responded that the referral process was conversation based and once these discussions had taken place with parents, all of the young carers and parents she had worked with had wanted support in some way or another as the school had robust support systems and much to offer that could provide help.  Ms. Park from the Carers Trust South East Wales also stated that the organisation worked with the YMCA who provided support via a young carers project and this allowed young carers to be supported in partnership with other relevant charities. 

 

A Member of the Committee stated that he could find no mention of the work done by the Carers Trust Scheme to support learners in the Vale of Glamorgan on the Council’s website, and on the Carers Trust website he could only find information relating to Monmouthshire.  The Member queried how this information could be distributed and best practice shared.  In response, Ms. Park from the Carers Trust South East Wales stated that their scheme to support young carers had originated in the Carers Trust England branch and was being refined specifically for Wales, where they currently worked in partnership with authorities on request.  The Carers Trust South East Wales website was being updated and all information should be published on line by October.  The Team Manager, Performance and Information stated that the information was shared widely through Caring Times, a quarterly newsletter and articles on the Carers Trust South East Wales scheme had been distributed through regular newsletters.  She also informed the Committee that the support was limited by funding and how many schools wished to engage.  Finally, the Director of Learning and Skills stated that the annual Headteacher Conference was this coming Friday, and the theme was childhood experiences.  A stall dedicated to young carers was going to be present at the conference which would feature the work discussed at the meeting and it was anticipated that there would be much demand for services from the Carers Trust South East Wales and Ms. Thomas who was present at the meeting, would also be in attendance. 

 

A member of the public who had registered to speak, Mr. Gethin Punter, was then afforded the opportunity to make his representations.  Mr. Punter was a learner at Llantwit Major Comprehensive School and a member of the Llantwit Youth Council.  Mr. Punter informed the Committee that, while he was not a young carer himself, in his opinion more support was required for these learners in the Vale of Glamorgan.  He suggested to the Committee that more could be done to support the learning and livelihood of young carers alongside their caring duties and to achieve this it was important to identify and recognise young carers, and provide them with information, advice and assistance.  A Member of the Committee asked Mr. Punter if he knew if any of his fellow learners were young carers and if so who they should go to to access support and advice.  In response, Mr. Punter stated that he was not personally aware of any young carers, however, he had seen posters at the school to support young carers in identifying themselves and where to access support.  The Chairman of the Committee asked Mr. Punter what additional support he thought could be helpful to young carers.  By way of response, Mr. Punter stated that in his opinion more support could be provided through schools, for example using the previously discussed ID card scheme to facilitate accessing additional learning support and overcome any challenges that young carers might face.  Finally, a Member of the Committee asked Mr. Punter if it would be easy or difficult for young carers in his school to discuss and access support for their caring needs.  In response, Mr. Punter felt that more could be done to advertise the support available.  In his experience, he had only seen the information posters in the school’s wellbeing area, so these could be missed by some pupils. 

 

The Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture, with permission to speak, stated that he had attended inspirational Carers Trust presentations in the Senedd, which included three teenage young carers who spoke about their experiences.  He found it very beneficial to speak directly to the young carers on a one to one basis, as many were very brave, had varied care needs, and faced challenges collecting prescriptions and sometimes being late for class because of their caring duties.  The Cabinet Member stated that this was a shared issue between Social Services, Health and the Education Department and the young carers’ learning was suffering as a result.  In his experience different approaches were being undertaken in different schools, however he had observed that some schools used the same contact for young carers as Safeguarding which could be a head or deputy head at the school, who some learners found difficult to approach.  The Cabinet Member felt that this issue needed addressing as more could be done, however, schools were on the right track.

 

The Scrutiny Committee then discussed the membership of the Council’s Task and Finish Group on Young Carers and how their work would be evaluated.  The Chairman commented that one of the most common challenges facing young carers concerned their attendance, and sought information on how this was reflected in the school registers.  The Committee was informed that the registers were legal documents, so absences had to be coded as such, however there were a range of activities the school could undertake to support young learners with their attendance and ensure they were not punished. 

 

The Committee then discussed what more could be done to support young carers in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The Committee noted that their remit also covered the provision of training and support for adult learners and queried what support was available to help carers access part-time education.  In response, the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources stated that there were similar identification issues to be addressed for adult learners who might also be carers.  The officer suggested that the Council could request the information be logged and accessed through Cardiff and Vale College and confirmed the Department was meeting with education providers to discuss changes to application forms to start collecting information on learners who might be carers.  It was requested this matter to be integrated into the work programme of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee and going forward included information on school attainment for young carers and adult learner carers into future reports to get a complete picture of their attainment and accurately measure the impact of the support available to these carers.

 

In response to a question about how schools could be encouraged to do more to support young carers, the Director of Learning and Skills confirmed the Council was positively reinforcing the message about young carers with schools and governing bodies, as this was now part of the Estyn Framework and schools and Local Authorities had to demonstrate the support they provided for vulnerable learners.  A Member requested that the tools for support of young carers discussed at the Scrutiny Committee meeting be circulated to governing bodies in the Vale of Glamorgan, which was seconded and agreed by the Committee.  The Head of Achievement for All confirmed that the Department was already building a data profile of carers and could present the information in a future report to the Committee.  The officer also confirmed that the Task and Finish Group was developing training for school governors on this issue and could be linked to existing safeguarding development to ensure maximum coverage.  The Chairman asked for dates of the young carer training for governors to be circulated to Committee Members.  The Vice-Chairman also requested that the future report to Committee include information on the percentage or numbers of young carers who were leaving school and becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).  Finally, the Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture stated that he was meeting with governors on 3rd July, 2018 so would raise this issue with Governor Support. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T a future report be presented to the Committee in relation to the activities and steps that were being undertaken to assist young carers in the Vale of Glamorgan including their levels of educational attainment.

 

(2)       T H A T the report requested in Recommendation (1) above, also include information on adult learners who were also carers.

 

(3)       T H A T the support information developed by the Carers Trust South East Wales be circulated to all Chairs of Governors in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To create a benchmark and measure the progress being made to increase the attainment of young carers.

 

(2)       To create a benchmark and measure the progress being made to increase the attainment of adult carers in part time education and training.

 

(3)       To inform the governing bodies of schools of the excellent support provided by the Carers Trust South East Wales.

 

 

100            SCHOOL BALANCES AS AT 31ST MARCH, 2018 (DLS) -

 

The Finance Manager, Learning and Skills Directorate presented the report which informed Members of the level of school balances at at 31st March, 2018. 

 

The overall level of school balances on 1st April 2017 was £2,321,817 which increased to £2,622,733 by 31st March 2018.  This increase to school balances of £300,916 was largely due to a last minute unforeseen Welsh Government School Maintenance grant awarded in March 2018 amounting to £610,807.   Schools were permitted to offset expenditure incurred in 2017/18 against this grant which in effect then inflated the year end school balances.  Had this grant not been awarded, school balances would have decreased by £309,000.

 

Individual schools were permitted to carry forward from one financial year to the next any underspend on its budget share plus/minus any balance brought forward from the previous year.

 

Schools were encouraged to spend current funding on current pupils and should not accumulate balances greater than 5% of the budget share.

 

Total school balances had decreased by 34% over the eight year period from April 2011 to March 2018.  A full list of schools balances over the last eight financial years is included at Appendix A attached to the report.

 

Three schools ended the 2017/18 financial year in a deficit position: 

 

  • Pendoylan CIW Primary School ended the 2017/18 financial year in a deficit of £49,736. 
  • Ysgol Bro Morgannwg had ended the 2017/18 financial year in a deficit of £52,067. 
  • St. Brides CIW Primary School had ended the 2017/18 financial year in a deficit of £9,247. 

 

The Finance Manager, Learning and Skills Directorate informed the Committee that a recovery plan was in place for Pendoylan Church in Wales Primary School, and the officer was pleased to inform the Committee that St. Cyres Comprehensive School was no longer in a deficit position and had recovered the previous deficit budget two years earlier than originally planned, and Fairfield Primary School and Ysgol Gymraeg St. Baruc were also no longer in deficit positions. 

 

The officer informed the Committee that the Council may direct the governing body how to spend a surplus balance in excess of £50,000 for primary and nursery schools or £100,000 for secondary and special schools.  Where a governing body did not comply with the Council's direction to spend surplus balances, the Authority could require the governing body to pay back some or all of that surplus balance to the authority.  Schools which were not able to provide a robust and complete recovery plan would lose their right to a delegated budget in accordance with the Council's Fair Funding Scheme, the Schools Funding (Wales) Regulations 2010 and the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

 

A Member of the Committee noted that while a recovery plan was in place for Pendoylan Church in Wales Primary School, the deficit for this school had grown increasingly worse from 2014 to 2018 and queried why this was the case.  In response, the Finance Manager, Learning and Skills Directorate stated that the recovery plan was only recently implemented and should see the deficit eradicated by the end of the 2019/20 financial year.  The school had now registered with the Church in Wales as a registered child care provider, and the recovery plan was designed on the income generated from offering an afternoon child care provision to existing nursery pupils.

 

The Chairman asked what financial support was available to schools from the Education Department.  The Finance Manager, Learning and Skills Directorate commented that a range of support was available to schools, including twice termly visits, budget monitoring, and help to schools to set up any effective cost saving measures.  The Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources also confirmed that there was a significant challenge for those three schools to ensure that their budgets were realistic and robust. 

 

The Chairman stated that it was excellent that three schools were no longer in a deficit position and St. Cyres Comprehensive School had recovered the previous deficit budget two years sooner than originally planned.  She therefore recommended sending letters of congratulations to the schools as it was a significant challenge to set budgets, and it was excellent that St. Cyres Comprehensive School, Fairfield Primary School and Ysgol Gymraeg St. Baruc had managed to turn their budgets around.  This was seconded and agreed by the Committee. 

 

Subsequently, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the level of school reserves and arrangements in place to monitor and challenge school balances where appropriate be noted, and letters of congratulations be sent to the three schools who are no longer in a deficit position.

 

Reason for decision

 

To keep Members aware of the level of school balances and congratulate the schools that were no longer in deficit positions.