LEARNING AND CULTURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th September, 2018.

 

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

 

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

 

Non-Voting Observer: Mr. N. Want (Vale Youth Forum).

 

 

290            APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor S.J. Griffiths.

 

 

291            MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 17th July, 2018 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

292            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

Councillor N.P. Hodges declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 7 - Summary of School Inspection Reports for the Summer Term 2018 in that he was an LEA Governor of Ysgol Sant Baruc and had a dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak and vote on this matter.

 

 

293            CORPORATE SAFEGUARDING ANNUAL REPORT 2017/18 (REF) -

 

The Safeguarding Officer presented the reference from Cabinet which sought to update Members on the work that had been undertaken to improve corporate arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and adults who required specific Council services and to ensure that those arrangements were effective. 

 

The officer drew the Committee’s attention to Section (b) of Appendix 1 attached to the report which outlined the Corporate Safeguarding activity within the Vale of Glamorgan Council in relation to Learning and Skills.  Safeguarding activity in the Learning and Skills Directorate continued to evolve in response to continuous review and the requirements of national, regional and local developments in legislation, guidance and policy.  The officer informed the Committee the consistent priorities of the Safeguarding Team.  These were: 

  • A robust training system - Safeguarding training was carried out through a cascade system comprising a reciprocal partnership basis, which resulted in a broad safeguarding network.
  • The designated senior person for Child Protection (DSP) role - This position was only required for schools, however the Council’s Safeguarding Team had rolled this position out to other areas.  This was considered an example of sharing best practice across Directorates.
  • Supporting schools - Schools were continuously reviewed and supported through self-evaluation for continuous improvement (SER)
  • Recruitment - The Safeguarding Officer was pleased to inform the Committee that the Council was 100% compliant with the 109 new appointments made in this academic year; however, he acknowledged that the challenge would be to maintain this rate across the coming months. 
  • Participation in national and regional groups - The Council was fully engaged with the Regional Safeguarding Board, which consisted of all local authorities in Wales, and was an excellent opportunity to share knowledge across organisations.
  • School Governors - Evaluation showed that the termly twilight training sessions for Governors was proving effective, and the Safeguarding Officer informed the Committee that the Council could considering a two tier system for Governors with a particular focus on safeguarding. 

Finally, the Safeguarding Officer noted that the Corporate Safeguarding Annual Report for 2017/18 was a long document as it was narrative based, and added that in future years, if the Committee requested, the report could be more data driven which could provide more information in a more easily accessible format. 

 

A Member of the Committee highlighted paragraph 12 on page 16 of the Corporate Safeguarding Report attached at Appendix 1 to the report, which stated that the Directorate continued to demonstrate regulatory compliance in relation to licensing children in employment and entertainment, including the licensing of chaperones.  The Member asked the Safeguarding Officer how the Council could improve its performance in this area and better regulate the licensing of children in employment and entertainment and chaperones. 

 

In response, the Safeguarding Officer stated that this was a little known area of the Council’s safeguarding work, which Local Authorities had a statutory duty to regulate.  There were two officers in the Council who worked on this topic, and the Safeguarding Officer commended the excellent work they carried out.  He stated that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was an exporter of licensed child performers and the Vale of Glamorgan Council worked closely with Cardiff Council on this matter, sending chaperones to Cardiff Council for training.  The Officer confirmed that the other safeguarding checks were, however, completed by the Vale of Glamorgan.  Committee was informed that the Directorate would next see licensed children and chaperones when their licences came up for renewal.  The Officer stated that the Council could do more to check up on licensed children in employment and entertainment and chaperones halfway through their licence period, however this would be a resources issue.  The Officer was very confident that the Council was meeting and exceeding statutory targets, however he considered that more could always be done and improved upon. 

 

The Member added that given the film revenue the Council received, it could be appropriate for peripatetic inspectors to do spot checks in key locations.  He appreciated that lots of entertainment work was carried out in Cardiff, however felt that reassessments could be a priority given the increased filming presence in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

A Member of the Committee was pleased to note that the safeguarding compliance rate for new starters was at 100%.  However, she noted that in January 2018 and February 2018 the figures started to go down, which was worrying.  In response, the Safeguarding Officer stated that he was very concerned about this drop in compliance.  The Officer noted that these figures were given in percentages, which led to some employees not being fully compliant having a large effect on the statistics for that month.  He also added that this was why he was so pleased that the Council had been able to maintain a 100% compliance rate for the 109 new starters at the beginning of the school term. That being said, the Officer stated that anything apart from 100% was not good enough, therefore, he was trying to identify areas where new starters were not being picked up for safeguarding compliance.  The Committee was informed that often these were down to simple errors, such as risk assessments being completed but not submitted to the Council.  The Officer had therefore submitted suggestions to tighten up Human Resources policies to try and remove technical breaches of the Council’s Safer Recruitment Policy; however the Officer assured Members that the Council maintained that no unsupervised contact was carried out by new starters who were not fully compliant. 

 

In response to a question from a Member as to whether this also applied to student teacher checks, the Safeguarding Officer confirmed that the no unsupervised contact policy applied to volunteers and student teachers, whose checks would usually be carried out by the Education Safeguarding checks. 

 

A Member of the Committee noted that Appendix 2 attached to the report detailed the Regional Safeguarding Board’s identified priorities, including children on the edge of the child protection system.  The Member asked the Safeguarding Officer how confident he was that these children were being captured through safeguarding policy.  In response, the Officer stated that this was a very relevant area of safeguarding work considering the recent high profile cases involving children who were on the edge of the child protection system elsewhere in Wales.  The Officer considered that the Council would be missing safeguarding opportunities if it focused on elective home education, instead, preferring to focus on children missing education, which would allow the Local Authority to capture safeguarding information of other groups listed in this priority.  The Committee was informed that information sharing was the best way to bring children missing education to the attention of the Safeguarding Team, and this could be shared across the Regional Board.  The Council needed to develop robust protocols through a multi-agency approach to help improve its performance in this area, as the Officer was concerned about what potential risks the Council did not know about. 

 

In response to a question from a Member of the Committee on the process being undertaken to improve non-compliant safer recruitment appointments, the Officer gave an overview of the work being undertaken to improve the risk assessment process.  The Committee was informed that the process was robust, however the Officer would still seek to tighten up Human Resources and TransAct processes in respect of risk assessments.  By way of example, the Officer stated that he would like to see schools notifying the Council’s Human Resources and TransAct departments about completed risk assessments before new recruits’ start dates.  As such, this was a process weakness, rather than a policy weakness.  The Member considered that it was also about good communication with schools, raising concerns that six risk assessments had been completed after the first day of employment.  The Committee then discussed possible means of decreasing non-compliance of safer recruitment appointments in schools, with the Director of Learning and Skills noting that this would require a few simple adjustments to policy, and depending on how fundamental these changes were these could be enacted by the Corporate Management Team and would therefore not need to be referred back to Cabinet.

 

Subsequently, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the excellent work that has been undertaken to improve corporate arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and adults be recognised, and the suggested amendments to the Safer Recruitment Policy be supported.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To support the work being undertaken to improve the Council’s Safer Recruitment Policy.

 

 

294            CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE SERVICES – ANNUAL PLACEMENT REVIEW (REF) –

 

The Head of Children and Young People Services presented the Annual Placement Review, the purpose of which was to outline actions taken during 2017/18 in respect of placement provision for Children Looked After.  The report also outlined the priority actions for 2018/19.  Before presenting this item, the Head of Children and Young People Services tabled the reference from the Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee, which considered the same report on 11th September, 2018. 

 

The Head of Children and Young People Services informed the Committee that the numbers of Children Looked After in the Vale of Glamorgan were increasing.  Nearly half of the Children Looked After in the Authority were being placed with kin, with a reduced number in residential and independent foster care.  The Committee was also informed that the Council was experiencing an increase in the complexity of children’s needs.   As such, placement and resource pressures were high.  The Committee was informed that this was the Children and Young People Division’s most volatile budget and the one most dependent upon levels of service demand which were not within the Council’s control, and as such for 2017/18 the overall external placement budget for Children Looked After was overspent by £560k.  An element of this spend related to residential care which was a joint budget between Children and Young People Services and Education.

 

Finally, the Head of Children and Young People Services emphasised that placement stability was vital, both in care and education.  This meant there was a need to ensure the availability of suitable education provision alongside the care placement. 

 

The Chairman thanked the Head of Children and Young People Services for her presentation of the Annual Placement Review, stating that it would take time to draw together care and education stability.  She noted that the Central South Consortium was looking at attainment and pupil deprivation so could provide information on that area.  The Chairman also considered it important that attainment be measured in not purely educational terms and should also focus on added value. 

 

A Member of the Committee noted that Welsh Government’s “When I Am Ready” policy, which extended the time children could remain in foster placements beyond the age of 18, had a key influence on the Council’s financial position, the demand for placements and spending patterns, and he asked how this affected the overall foster care recruitment plan.  The Head of Children and Young People Services agreed there was a need to carefully consider how the Council met the needs of children leaving care at 18 years of age and remaining with their foster carers alongside adequate placement availability for all age groups, and noted that this was a national issue. She confirmed that the Council was part of the National Fostering Framework and worked regionally with Cardiff to jointly address challenges in increasing fostering recruitment.  This work considered how the Council market itself, how it attract enquiries, its offer to prospective foster carers and how to successfully convert enquiries to approvals.  The Council was also developing a therapeutic arm to its fostering service to increase the therapeutic support available to children and their carers.

 

Finally, the Committee discussed the number of foster carers and the levels and types of support required, and how the Council could support kin placements alongside mainstream foster carers, with the Head of Children and Young People Services stating that it was important to consider the journey of the Child Looked After Child through the Authority’s support network. 

 

Subsequently, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

T H A T the major challenges with regards to placement provision for Children Looked After be recognised, and the progress being made by the Children and Young People Services Department be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To note the work being undertaken on this key statutory function.

           

 

295          VALE OF GLAMORGAN ANNUAL REPORT (IMPROVEMENT PLAN PART 2) 2017/18 (DLS) -

 

The Director of Learning and Skills presented the report, which outlined the Council’s progress towards achieving the Council's Well-being (Improvement) Objectives agreed in April 2017.  The report also outlined the Council's performance for 2017/18 on a range of services relative to all other Welsh Local Authorities as published by the Local Government Data Unit (now Data Cymru).  It also incorporated the Council’s Annual Improvement Report from the Auditor General Wales which summarised the audit work undertaken in the Council during the period 2017 to 2018.

 

The Corporate Plan was the Council’s key means of complying with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009, which required the Council to set Well-being (Improvement) Objectives annually and demonstrate continuous improvement.  The Plan set out the Council's eight Well-being Objectives for 2016-2020 as well as its vision and values with reference to the WBFG Act and had been informed by local needs and available resources and incorporated the views of residents, partners and staff.  Following a review of the annual improvement planning and monitoring timetable and the supporting plans in May 2018, the Council took the opportunity to further streamline the content and format of some of our plans/reports which enabled the Council to rationalise the number produced and reduce the level of duplication.  Going forward, a more simplified approach would also enable the Council to utilise the streamlined information for multiple purposes whilst continuing to meet its statutory requirements for improvement planning and reporting.

 

The Director drew the Committee’s attention to Pages 65 to 69 of the Annual Report which gave an overview of performance at end of year 2, April 2017 - March 2018, in achieving the Corporate Plan Well-being Objectives relating to Well-being Outcome 3, 'An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale'.  For each of the two Well-being Objectives aligned with Outcome 3 ('Raising overall standards of achievement' and ' Valuing culture and diversity'), the annual review incorporated a performance snapshot and provided progress in detail in relation to the Council’s achievements, challenges and risks.  This could be viewed on pages 69 to 91 of the attached Annual Report.  Under this Outcome, 91% (72 out of 79) of Corporate Plan activities aligned to year 2 of the Corporate Plan had been successfully delivered. 62% (23 out of 37) of performance measures associated with the Well-being Outcome met or exceeded target (green status), 4 (11%) measures were within 10% of target (amber) and 10 (27%) measures missed target by more than 10% (red status).  On balance, the positive progress made to date in supporting achievement of this Well-being Outcome contributed to an overall Amber performance status at end of year.

 

Each year, the Local Government Data Unit (Data Cymru) published Local Authority performance information on a range of services, highlighting areas where there had been notable changes in the overall level of performance.  This made it possible to compare the performance of the 22 Welsh Local Authorities across those services. Overall the Council was performing well in performance indicators across all service areas and once again, for the fourth consecutive year, the Vale of Glamorgan Council the top performing Local Authority in Wales in relation to the national indicator set.  The table on page 5 of the report demonstrated the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s performance in comparison with the remaining 21 Local Authorities.

 

Finally, the Director noted that In line with the requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009, the Auditor General Wales was required to produce an annual report on Welsh Councils and other public bodies entitled, the ‘Annual Improvement Report (AIR)’ which summarised the audit work undertaken during the period 2017 to 2018.  The Wales Audit Office (WAO) report findings were generally positive and concluded that overall the Council was meeting its statutory requirements in relation to continuous improvement.  A copy of the Council’s Annual Improvement Report for 2017/18 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

In consideration of this item, a Member of the Committee stated that he had had difficulty accessing the large document through the Council’s website.  Once the Member could view the Vale of Glamorgan Annual Report, he observed that lots of the information it discussed related to previous months and did not align to the academic performance calendar.  The Member wished the data could be better presented for more accessibility and useful scrutiny, because as the Annual Report (Improvement Plan Part 2) 2017/18 had been presented to Councillors, it was difficult to use as a tool for scrutiny.

 

The Director of Learning and Skills agreed with the Member, stating that she shared his concerns regarding the relevancy of the data given the different report timing for the academic year.  She noted that in other areas the report was more up to date, and could be used for performance improvements to the service and team plans, be carried forward into the self-assessment, and ensure that areas of underperformance were addressed.

 

In order for the Committee to undertake better scrutiny of the data, the Chairman stated that it would be helpful to have information on the timescales and sources of the different performance measures.  She then drew the Committee’s attention to paragraph 24 of the report, which detailed areas where the Council was performing in the lower to bottom quartiles when compared with the rest of Wales.  These areas related to the condition of roads and participation in recycling waste.  The Chairman considered it important that the Committee focus on the measures that missed targets as detailed on page 65 of the Vale of Glamorgan Annual Report (Improvement Plan Part 2) 2017/18 which included “all pupils (including both pupils eligible for free school meals (eFSM) and pupils not eligible for free schools meals (nFSM)) achieving the level 2 threshold including a GCSE grade A*- C in English, or Welsh first language and mathematics; eFSM pupils and Looked After Children (LAC) achieving 5 or more GCSEs at grades A*- A; pupils who leave compulsory education, training or work based learning without an approved external qualification; speed of answer on the Council’s Welsh language line; visits to public libraries; and staff completing Welsh language awareness training”.  For future reports, she suggested that the Committee be presented with a list of points detailing the relevant areas of concern for the Committee, and stated that a summary of the document would be helpful for Members and the public, as it was important that the information was more accessible for the Democratic process.  Finally, the Chairman noted that page 10 of the Vale of Glamorgan Annual Report (Improvement Plan Part 2) 2017/18 stated that “Despite being the lowest funded authority in Wales, the Council is committed to continuing its investment in schools and our learning environments and by improving the prospects for our children, young people and adults, the future success of the Vale”.  The Chairman felt that, while the Vale of Glamorgan Council was indeed one of the lowest funded Local Authorities in Wales, it was contentious to state it was the lowest.

 

Following discussion it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Vale of Glamorgan Annual Report (Improvement Plan Part 2) 2017/18 be endorsed and the comments of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee be referred to Full Council for their consideration.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure the Council fully discharged its duties under both the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 (to publish an annual review of Council performance against its Well-being (Improvement) Objectives as per the statutory timetable and to take into consideration the comments of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

296            SUMMARY OF SCHOOL INSPECTION REPORTS FOR SUMMER TERM 2018 (DLS) –

 

The Lead Officer for School Improvement updated the Committee on the outcomes of school inspections for the summer term 2018. 

 

In September 2017 a new Estyn School Inspection Common Inspection Framework (CIF) was introduced across all schools in Wales. Judgements were made under five inspection areas: Standards, Wellbeing and attitudes to learning, Teaching and learning experiences, Care, support and guidance, and 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.

The Lead Officer for School Improvement drew the Committee’s attention to paragraph 16 of the report, which detailed the overall judgements achieved by Vale of Glamorgan schools during the summer term, and the Officer stated that the results by Ysgol St. Baruc and Cogan Primary School were extremely positive. 

 

Where Estyn identified excellent practice during an inspection, schools were invited to prepare a written case study which would be published by Estyn and shared with other schools.  Excellent practice was identified in both Ysgol Sant Baruc and Cogan Primary School.

 

No follow up work was identified in any of the summer term inspections.

 

The Lead Officer for School Improvement informed the Committee that there was a lot to celebrate in the report: St. Richard Gwyn R/C High School was the only Local Authority school under Estyn review, and she was positive that it would come out of review following the next review.  She also informed the Committee that Cadoxton Primary School had recently been invited to attend the Estyn Awards Evening due to the best
practice Estyn had observed at that school. 

 

In response to a question by a Member of the Committee, the Lead Officer for School Improvement detailed how best practice was being shared.  In the Vale of Glamorgan and across the Central South Consortium this included the Hub, the Foundation Phase Alliance, Headteacher Conferences, the Estyn website which listed case studies, Central South Consortium invitations, and Welsh Government visits, including the First Minister.  The Committee then discussed the sharing of best practice for improving attendance in schools with it being noted that there was a change in the Estyn approach to attendance, as this was often outside of school control, with the focus on learner well-being instead.  The Director of Learning and Skills stated she would see what could be shared to Members of the Committee as best practice in this area. 

 

Finally, the Committee discussed the improvements being made at Colcot Primary School with regards to their “Adequate” judgement for care, support and guidance, and discussed the possibility of visiting the schools where best practice had been identified, with the Chairman requesting a visit to Cadoxton Primary School. 

 

Subsequently, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the inspection judgements of the schools inspected during the summer term 2018 be noted, and letters of congratulations be sent to both schools for their “Excellent” judgements.

 

(2)       T H A T a site visit to Cadoxton Primary school be organised for members of the Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members of Estyn judgments about local schools.

 

(2)       To observe best practice at the school.

 

 

297           GOVERNOR TRAINING REPORT FOR THE 2017/18 ACADEMIC YEAR (DLS) –

 

The Head of Governor Support presented the Governor Training report for the 2017/18 Academic Year to the Committee. 

 

The committee was informed that there were approximately 850 governors managing 56 schools within the Vale of Glamorgan.  Governors played a key role in school improvement.  Welsh Government had made legislation that introduced mandatory training for school governors for certain elements from September 2013.  The mandatory elements covered induction, data, chair and clerk training and as such were a major focus of the Council’s governor training programme.

 

The Head of Governor Support noted that in the 2017/18 academic year a total of 39 courses were held covering 17 different topics ranging from the twice yearly Education Update and Briefing Sessions for Chairs and experienced governors to Induction Training for newly appointed governors.  Most courses were run at the Civic Offices, Barry at no cost and were delivered at various times, mostly during the evening to maximise attendance as many governors worked during the day.  Courses lasted around two hours each and whilst the method of delivery varied by course and trainer, interaction and sharing of good practice was positively encouraged to ensure the maximum benefit for attendees.

 

A summary table of the data from the 565 completed evaluation forms for 39 governor training courses during the 2017/18 academic year was detailed in paragraph 4 of the report, where it could be seen that analysis of the completed evaluation forms indicated that a very high number of governors had rated the training (both mandatory and other topics) as either good or very good against each of the three questions asked on the form.  Following last year’s report, the Chairman requested that this information also be presented in a mandatory / non-mandatory course split format and the table was included at the end of Appendix 1 to the report accordingly. 

 

In conclusion, the Head of Governor Support informed the Committee that the Vale of Glamorgan Council had by far the highest percentage of governors attending training of the five Central South Consortium Local Authorities. 

 

A Member of the Committee queried if there was a process for identifying governor positions and vacancies that required specific training and ensuring that training schedules aligned with governor needs.  In response, the Officer indicated that this was something to look at in the future however there was always availability for governors to attend courses.  He indicated that he was open to specific discussions with Committee Members to plan ahead and ensure that governors were fully supported. 

 

The Chairman stated that the quality of training courses offered to governors was improving.  She noted that governing bodies were being encouraged to move into greater self-evaluation, and queried if governors could be up-skilled in these skills, for example constructive communication, and giving and receiving feedback.  In response, the Head of Governor Support noted that “challenge and support” sessions were being held in venues across the Central South Consortium which would cover the topics referred to by the Chairman.  These sessions had been well received in the past.  The Officer noted that Welsh Government was specifically considering the self-evaluation focus and the he would send the dates of future “challenge and support” training sessions to Members of the Scrutiny Committee for information. 

 

Finally, a Co-opted Member of the Committee who was a Parent Governor stated that her fellow governors had been encouraged to attend all training sessions to stretch their knowledge and skills and to meet other governors.  She had never had any problem attending these courses and was pleased to note that the training courses focused on becoming a “critical friend” rather than fulfilling governor training legislation requirements. 

 

Subsequently, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the Governor Training Report for the 2017/18 Academic Year be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To note the contents of the report.

 

 

298            SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT MAY 2017 TO APRIL 2018 (MD) –

 

The Assistant Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer presented the Scrutiny Committees’ draft Annual Report May 2017 to April 2018.

 

In accordance with Section 7.4.4 of the Council's Constitution, Scrutiny Committees' must report annually to Full Council on their workings and make recommendations for their future work programmes and amend their working methods if appropriate.

 

The Officer stated that the draft Annual Report attached at Appendix A to the report detailed the role of Scrutiny, how Scrutiny was undertaken in the Vale of Glamorgan and highlighted key achievements from the work of each Scrutiny Committee, significant events during the year and future working, specifically in relation to the Council agreement that the work of Scrutiny should be closely aligned to four wellbeing objective outcomes that formed the main basis of the Council's new Corporate Plan which was published in April 2016.

 

In considering the draft Annual Report, Members of the Committee were requested to refer specifically to page 9 of the report, which detailed the key areas and outcomes the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee had scrutinised and to make any amendments or suggestions as appropriate. 

 

A Member drew the Committee’s attention to page 10 of the draft Annual Report detailed the work undertaken by the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee on the provision of free sanitary products in schools, noting that the report only referred to the funding received from Welsh Government, however did not mention that all funding spent so far had been provided by a donation from UNISON, and requested the report be updated to reflect this. 

 

The Director of Learning and Skills and the Chairman of the Committee discussed the need to utilise this funding from Welsh Government by the end of the financial year, as timing of carrying out works in schools was critical, with the Chairman requesting that the notes taken at the last meeting of the Working Group of the Scrutiny Committee be circulated to Members, detailing the work undertaken so far and the planned timescales for the future. 

 

The Committee then discussed the section of the draft Annual Report which considered the reconfiguration of primary provision in the Western Vale, with a Member noting that the Committee had previously considered the issue of surplus places through a Task and Finish Group and queried if more information could be provided to Members on the work undertaken at that time.  The Chairman stated that this information could be circulated. 

 

Finally, the Committee requested slight changes to the amount of information provided under each heading to ensure that each topic was presented in a consistent manner. 

 

Subsequently, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the Scrutiny Committees’ draft Annual Report for the period May 2017 to April 2018, subject to the minor amendments discussed at the meeting, be approved and the report be submitted to Full Council.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To approve the draft Scrutiny Committee’s Annual Report to allow it to be submitted to Full Council.

 

 

299            OVERVIEW OF THE WORK OF THE CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM SCRUTINY WORKING GROUP (MD) –

 

The Committee was provided with an update on the work of the Central South Consortium Scrutiny Working Group after the first year of its establishment. 

 

On 23rd October, 2017 Cabinet agreed to scrutiny arrangements of the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service consisting of a Working Group consisting of the Chairs of Education Scrutiny in each of the participating Local Authorities (or a nominated person other than the Chair), supported by a nominated Scrutiny officer in each case (Minute C107 refers).

 

The Scrutiny Working Group's Terms of Reference were to consider standing items such as:

 

(i)        The Consortium's progress against its three-year Business Plan on a regional basis;

(ii)       Regional performance trends;

(iii)      The sharing of best scrutiny practice across the region;

(iv)      The Group to also report annually to the relevant Scrutiny Committee in each Local Authority and / or feedback to the next meeting of the relevant Scrutiny Committee in each Local Authority;

(v)       To share a note of its meetings with the Joint Committee and to receive a response to these from the Joint Committee.

 

It was agreed the Group would meet once per term and for the last academic year the Working Group met on the following dates: 25th October, 2017; 28th February, 2018 and 29th June, 2018.

 

The Assistant Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer provided the Committee with a summary of the issues which were detailed in paragraph 5 of the report, and the revised work programme for the Scrutiny Working Group for the next two academic terms which was attached at Appendix A to the report. 

 

The Committee discussed the report and queried whether areas of Members’ concern, such as well-being and mental health, instances of cyber bullying and the work of pastoral care teams in schools, would be considered by the Scrutiny Committee or the Central South Consortium.  In response, the Director of Learning and Skills stated that investigation of these issues could be led by the Council’s Scrutiny Committee and suggested that Martine Coles, LAC Education Co-ordinator and Lead Professional EAL, and Gill Toon, Complex Needs Manager / Principal Educational Psychologist, be requested to speak to the Committee to discuss the support available to vulnerable groups of learners.  The Chairman recommended these topics be picked up as part of the Scrutiny Committee work programme, and in future the Committee look at allocating one topic for in-depth consideration per meeting, which could tie into future Task and Finish work. 

 

Subsequently, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the overview of the work of the Central South Consortium Working Group be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To note the work undertaken by the Central South Consortium Working Group.