SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)
Minutes of a meeting held on 8th September, 2014.
Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman), Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, T.H. Jarvie, F.T. Johnson, R.A. Penrose and E. Williams.
Co-opted Members: Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church) and Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor – Secondary Sector).
Non-voting Observers: Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education) and Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector).
Also present: Councillors C.P.J. Elmore and K.P. Mahoney.
350 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillors Ms. K.E. Edmunds, A. Parker and Mr. L. Kellaway (Co-opted Member Parent Governor – Primary Sector).
351 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 17th July, 2014 be approved as a correct record.
352 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
No declarations were received.
353 CALL-IN – REVIEW OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN –
Councillor K.P. Mahoney had called-in the resolution of Cabinet for the following reasons:
'My request for calling in the decision of the Vale of Glamorgan cabinet to implement the recommendations of the recent 'Review of library and information services in the Vale of Glamorgan' is as follows.
The lack of certainty of a successful conclusion to the withdrawing of the present professional librarian at Sully library to be replaced by the councils estimated 50 volunteers required from the local community to run the library.
Despite the relatively high rates and amount of council tax paid by residents of Sully there are in fact virtually no Vale of Glamorgan Council provided facilities in the village. To the best of my knowledge whilst other areas throughout the Vale benefit from extensive facilities including water parks, libraries and Vale of Glamorgan funded sports facilities such as sports centres and playing fields Sully funds its own through the Community council charge precept paid in addition to Vale council tax.
I stand to be corrected but the sum total of Vale of Glamorgan provided facilities in Sully amount to a small playground containing 4 items and a handful of park benches.
Sully Community library opens for just 10 hours a week providing book lending and computer services for our entire community including those seeking employment through jobcentre jobsites as increasingly directed to by jobcentre staff due to the totally inadequate computer facilities in these dilapidated unequipped centres.
I think it most unreasonable to cut off a community from virtually it’s only Vale of Glamorgan provided facility when taking into consideration the complete and utter lack of other Vale of Glamorgan funded facilities in the village if the volunteer based library project fails.
As stated Sully village library opens for just 10 hours a week surely in the general scale of things this community deserves 10 hours a week of a professionally delivered educational service not at risk of closure because it is dependent on the availability of a volunteer workforce as yet unrecruited?'
The report advised that on 11th August 2014, Cabinet had been informed of the representations that had been made to the Council in respect of the draft Library Strategy and were recommended to approve the proposals outlined in the strategy. The Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) had itself considered the draft Library Strategy at its meeting on 19th May 2014 and a copy of the reference from the Committee to Cabinet had been included as a separate report on the Cabinet agenda. Cabinet had been further informed that the Library Strategy had been revised in response to some of the representations that had been made. It had also been recognised that there had been a communication issue with staff with a recommendation therefore included in the report to establish a staff reference group with the purpose being to update and engage trade unions on progress with implementation of the Strategy. Some of the financial information had also been updated and clarified.
In presenting the decision of Cabinet, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services advised that the portfolio responsibility rested with the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Adult Services but that he had a personal interest in the item and had declared the nature of this. The Leader of the Council was currently away from the Council and therefore as the decision had been a collaborative decision, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services had agreed to present the decision to the Scrutiny Committee. He stated that the recommendation to develop community managed supported libraries had also been revised to include Rhoose as well as Dinas Powys, St. Athan, Wenvoe and Sully. Following queries over the application of the model to Dinas Powys but not Rhoose library, the position had been reviewed. The village libraries at St. Athan, Sully and Wenvoe had been initially considered for this new delivery model due to their comparatively small number of opening hours and associated service offering. Consultation with service users across the Vale had revealed that 25% used more than one library for a variety of reasons. Further analysis of consultation responses had revealed 38% of respondents from Dinas Powys used other libraries, which had been expected given the close proximity of Dinas Powys library to the two tier one libraries at Barry and Penarth. It had therefore been considered that the establishment of a community library at Dinas Powys could best safeguard the continuation of the library in the future as when discussion on the Dinas Powys library had been considered in the context of the financial pressures facing the Council, the future sustainability of Dinas Powys library if operated under the existing arrangements had been brought into question.
The Cabinet Member stated that the 2015/16 budget strategy that had been considered by Cabinet on 30th June 2014 had set out a number of scenarios in relation to required savings which ranged from £20.8m to £35.5m over the period 2015/16 to 2017/18. It was noted that Rhoose library had not originally been selected for the community library delivery model due primarily to its distance from the libraries at Barry and Llantwit Major. However, on reflection and in view of the increased pressure to identify further savings across the Council, it had now been considered appropriate to provide the community managed library model to Rhoose library. This would result in the main libraries in Barry, Penarth, Llantwit Major and Cowbridge being operated directly by the Council and Dinas Powys, Rhoose, St. Athan, Sully and Wenvoe being developed as community managed / supported libraries if feasible.
In response Councillor Mahoney stated that he appreciated the budget issues and savings that were required to be made by the Council, but he considered that the Sully library had itself contributed in its own way over the years in particular in view of the fact that the facility was only actually open 10 hours per week. He referred to Rhoose being open 27 hours and Cowbridge having at least 5 to 6 staff. In his view Sully had already adopted austerity measures and advised that Sully also had a population only a little less than Rhoose. He referred to the lack of information in the report in that it had little information in relation to footfall or savings per library to be realised. In his view he considered that it could be interpreted that Sully could possibly be the most cost effective library service but Members did not have the information to measure against that. He also referred to the fact that library staff were to be asked to reduce their hours by two hours per week and that the proposals had actually been put together by people who were not themselves losing two hours per week.
Councillor Mahoney made reference to the fact that a number of visitors to the library service were job seekers who had been advised by their Job Centres to complete applications online and as such advised to utilise the library to use the computer facilities to do this if they had no other means of accessing online facilities. In referring to Sully itself, he stated that the only Council facility other than the library was a children’s playground which provided a service to the community. Councillor Mahoney requested information on the success rate of community libraries, aware that officers had recently visited an English Authority, namely Warwickshire, and asked what detailed information in relation to how those community libraries had been established was available.
The Cabinet Member advised that there was little information available in relation to community led services within Wales, and that the current data in the main came from English Authorities. Similar services established in England had proved to have worked well, although the research had outlined that where no support for the services had been provided by the Council they had not always been successful. The report referred to the cooperation required by the community and to the importance of working with the community and consulting with the community in relation to alternatives. He made reference to the situation as being a very difficult time for the Council and that the Council had to look at the way it provided services, it being noted that contained further in the agenda for the meeting there was a report to be discussed on reshaping services within the Council.
The Lead Officer for Youth and Community Learning stated that he had visited Warwickshire Council with the Chief Librarian, where community led libraries had proved successful. He referred to 13 community libraries having been established, one, however, having been closed as it had decided to stand alone and establish itself as a community enterprise, but it had failed because it could not afford to buy further books and there had not been enough professional support. The Head of Service advised that the Council would continue to learn lessons from alternative models for future community services. It was noted that no person had been made redundant and that no library had been proposed to be closed. Officers were considering the community led service approach to assist communities and ensure that community facilities could remain albeit in another format.
The Head of Service also advised that information in relation to footfall had been previously provided in the draft Strategy that had been presented to Scrutiny and Cabinet earlier in the year but that this information could be included in the future consultation document to assist with background information as appropriate.
The Lead Officer also advised that in order for the community led libraries to be successful, they needed Council support in promoting their establishment. Further consultation was to be undertaken with a number of drop in sessions also being arranged for questions to be answered.
The Head of Service advised that it was the Council’s intention to commence consultation at the start of October, with the results being referred back to Cabinet in due course.
In response to a query as to who actually was a library user, the Head of Service advised that anyone with a library card was registered as a user. Those the Council had stored e-mail addresses for would receive a link to the consultation document and hard copies would also be made available.
Members of the Committee asked whether thought had been given to combining the service with local schools to possibly re-site the library on a school property to encourage usage. The Lead Officer responded by stating that he hoped these types of suggestions would come forth from the consultation process, which were also likely to include sponsorship etc., but that all suggestions were welcomed and would be considered. It was further noted that with regard to research that had been undertaken to date, it was apparent that some community libraries had also been able to expand their services to include, for example, coffee shops and therefore further options could be explored if considered appropriate.
Following the information provided at the meeting and the assurance by officers that relevant data would be included in the consultation document, Councillor Mahoney thanked the Chairman and the Committee for the opportunity to present and consider the call-in with the Chairman responding that it was early in the process and that he would encourage Members to put forward any ideas and suggestions that they had to officers for future consideration. Following the discussion it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the call-in be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In light of the information provided at the meeting and in view of the debate that ensued.
354 REVIEW OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (REF) –
Notwithstanding the call-in referred to above, the Cabinet had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for consultation purposes. Cabinet had, on 11th August 2014, resolved
(1) T H A T the implementation of the following recommendations which were contained in the revised Library Strategy in Appendix 1 as attached to the report be approved -
- The library service increases data collection to demonstrate how it contributes to the poverty agenda and that it uses data analysis to support applications for learning and development grants.
- Charges for library services are increased with immediate effect in line with the schedule set out in Appendix I and that further work be undertaken on the development of other income generation and grant funding opportunities.
- A 'Friends Group’ is established at Barry, Penarth, Cowbridge and Llantwit Libraries to increase opportunities for the library service to be further embraced by the community but also to raise funding and apply for external grants.
- Library services work closely with other departments responsible for lifelong learning, arts and culture and explore opportunities to increase digital inclusion and education further.
- The library service further develops and promotes e-books and other digital services to its members.
- The book fund is reduced from £220,000 by £25,000 to £195,000 with effect from April 2015.
- Upgrade and extend the library Wifi service during 2014/15.
(2) T H A T subject to consultation with staff and the relevant trade unions, the Director of Learning and Skills in consultation with the Leader, be given delegated authority to implement the following two recommendations:
â€¢ The overnight security services provided at Barry Library is replaced with CCTV during 2014/15.
â€¢ Cleaning costs are reduced by 20% across all libraries in the Vale during 2014/15.
(3) T H A T it be noted that the following recommendations had been agreed at earlier meetings of Cabinet and that arrangements for implementation were being made:
â€¢ Invest £250,000 during 2014/15 to upgrade and refurbish Llantwit Major Library to ensure the environment and service meets the needs of the community (Minute ref. C2297).
â€¢ Invest £88,000 in 2015/16 to address damp in Penarth Library (Minute ref. C2211).
(4) T H A T it be noted that recommendation 15: the proposed â€˜pop up’ library service in Barry developed in partnership with Barry Town Council, was launched in June 2014 (Minute ref. C2297).
(5) T H A T consultation take place in the following communities on recommendation 1, the proposed establishment of community libraries:
· Dinas Powys
· St Athan
(6) T H A T consultation in St Athan would also include recommendation 14, the proposed relocation of the library.
(7) T H A T consultation take place with library users on recommendation 6, the proposed reduction in library opening hours.
(8) T H A T Equalities Impact Assessments be further developed in relation to recommendations 6, 7 and 8 during consultation in the communities identified above and with library users.
(9) T H A T the responses to consultation about the establishment of community libraries, the relocation of St Athan library and the reduction in library opening hours be considered by Cabinet before a final decision is made.
(10) T H A T the revised strategy be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) as part of the consultation process described above.
(11) T H A T a Staff Reference Group comprising staff and union representatives be established with immediate effect.
The Head of Service advised that the revised Strategy had been presented to the Scrutiny Committee earlier in the year and as outlined in the previous agenda item, the Cabinet had considered those responses. The Library Strategy had subsequently been revised in response to some of the representations that had been made and included the recommendation that developed community managed / supported libraries include Rhoose as well as Dinas Powys, St. Athan, Wenvoe and Sully. The report outlined that on approval by Cabinet a Project Board would be established to manage its implementation with the purpose of the Board being as follows:
- ensure appropriate engagement with stakeholders and staff in relation to the recommendations;
- ensure effective communication about the development and implementation of the strategy;
- ensure that proper plans are in place to demonstrate 'readiness to deliver’ of individual recommendations, including stakeholder and staff engagement, prior to implementation;
- ensure cross directorate support is identified and committed as appropriate to the delivery of the strategy;
- monitor the implementation of the strategy. This purpose will be achieved through the consideration of the following:
- a communication and engagement strategy and timetable;
- a regularly updated project plan based on the Library Development Delivery Plan.
With reference to the previous agenda item, Members reiterated their request for updated footfall information to be reported within the consultation document and that this be circulated to all Members of the Council.
In querying certain aspects of the report Members were informed that when efficiency savings were considered and issues in relation to various libraries considered, it was important that decisions would not be made solely on the basis of premises costs. There were other issues that needed to be taken into account. It was further accepted that library services need to change the way services were provided in view of the increasing use of online facilities. To this end it was suggested that some libraries may wish to offer coffee facilities or other services and these would need to be considered within the community.
In light of the comments made at the meeting and in view of the discussion in relation to the earlier item regarding the call-in, it was
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the reference be noted, the forthcoming consultation welcomed and the information requested by Members be included in the documentation and circulated to Members.
Reason for decision
In light of comments made at the meeting and the forthcoming consultation planned.
355 REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY 2014 (DLS) –
The Principal Accountant, in presenting the report, advised that the projected outturn for 2014/15 was anticipated to be in line with the budget after making a contribution to the Capital Investment Reserve of £435k. A graph and table setting out the variants between the profiled budget and actual expenditure to date was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
It was noted that overall the Education Budget was projected to balance as at the end of March 2015 and that any savings identified would be available to be redirected into the School Investment Strategy or other reserves.
For Schools and other services the delegated budgets were expected to balance at year end, however with regard to Education Services this was projected to transfer £145k to reserves as part of the Voluntary Early Retirement and Redundancy Scheme. This income was in respect of reimbursements from schools relating to redundancies and retirements that had been made in previous years and would be used to assist schools with timing payments for future retirements and redundancies.
Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st July 2014 and Appendix 3 provided non-financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget over £100k.
In response to a query regarding Victoria School in Penarth, Members were advised that as a result of repairs required to the roof funding had been diverted from another school building scheme (where monies had not been required) to undertake emergency works at Victoria. Officers would also be preparing a capital bid for 2015/16 for the Council to consider approval for further works at the school to be undertaken in the future.
In referring to work at Nant Talwg School, the Director advised that all the accounts received to date showed that it had been a very successful and cost effective scheme, with the official opening anticipated for some time in October 2014.
In response to a suggestion from a Member that a site visit take place at Nant Talwg, it was subsequently
(1) T H A T a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee be held at Ysgol Nant Talwg at an appropriate time.
(2) T H A T the revenue and capital monitoring for the period 1st April to 31st July 2014 be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To apprise Members.
(2) That Members are advised of the position with regard to the 2014/15 revenue and capital monitoring relevant to the Scrutiny Committee.
356 LEARNING AND SKILLS END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE REPORT 2013/14 AND TARGET SETTING 2014/15 (DLS) –
Members were presented with end of year performance results for the period 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014 and the proposed service targets for 2014/15. It was noted that quarterly performance reports reflect the 2013/14 Service Plans and were designed to ensure the Council reported performance in the context of progress against its objectives.
The report highlighted that the department had completed 79% of Service Plan actions at end of year, with a further 7% on track for a later completion date. There were a total of 114 actions in the Plan, 90 having been completed, 8 on track, 13 slipped and 3 had not yet been started. The department had however completed 74% of the actions against the Corporate Plan that were included in the 2013/14 Service Plan and a further 12% of actions were on track for a later completion date. Of the 51 actions within the Service Plan 38% were completed, 6 on track, 6 having slipped and 1 not having yet started.
Paragraph 7 of the report stated that 100% (all 12) of the department’s Improvement Objective actions had been completed. There were no Outcome Agreement actions in the 2013/14 Plan as the Outcome Agreement had not been agreed until 1st April 2014.
Members were also informed that a review of performance indicators had taken place to ensure that the Council collected indicators which effectively monitored Service Plan objectives and outcomes. New indicators and deletions had been proposed to enable services to better demonstrate achievement of service objectives and outcomes. Appendix 2 to the report outlined the proposed service targets for 2014/15 by Service Plan area. The target setting report also included end of year performance data.
In considering the report Members congratulated the department on performance but queried the indicator in relation to the percentage of pupils who were assessed in schools maintained by the Local Authority receiving a teaching assessment in Welsh (first language) at the end of Key Stage 3 as the target was reporting as a downward trend. The Director advised that full details of this PI would be obtained and e-mailed to Members as soon as possible for their information.
Having considered the report it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the service performance results and remedial actions to be taken to address service underperformance (paragraphs 5 to 17 the full details of which being contained in Appendix 1 to the report) be noted.
(2) T H A T the progress to date in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2013/14 (paragraphs 6 to 7 the full details of which being contained in Appendix 1 to the report) be noted.
(3) T H A T the proposed services targets for 2014/15 (paragraphs 18 to 20 the full details of which being contained in Appendix 2 to the report) be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To ensure the Council is effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.
(2) To enable the Council to demonstrate achievement of its objectives and identify service areas for improvement work.
(3) To ensure challenging targets are set against the Council’s measures for improvement, reflecting its commitment to continuously improve services whilst mindful of significant financial and service demand pressures over the coming year.
357 OUTCOME AGREEMENT 2013 – 2016: END OF YEAR REPORT FOR 2013/14 (DLS) –
The Council had entered into four previous agreements with the Welsh Government (Policy Agreements in 2001-04 and 2004-07, an Improvement Agreement in 2008-2010 and an Outcome Agreement in 2010-2013). These agreements were based on the premise that we share common objectives and that agreements could be entered into to assist in achieving these objectives. Welsh Government paid a grant to the Council to incentivise achievement of targets, to the value of £1.2 million annually.
Under the new Agreement there were fewer outcomes (reduced from 10 to 5) to reflect the difficult budgetary decisions councils have to make. Some of the grant (30%) would now be targeted to address known weaknesses rather than given as an unhypothecated reward. Finally, the agreement had to be linked to the WG 'Programme for Government' and to the Vale's 'Single Integrated Plan' (Community Strategy.
Appendix 1 to the report provided details of progress against actions and performance measures along with a summary of the outcomes achieved. Outcome 2, detailed at paragraph 13, the details of which were addressed on pages 8 and 12 of the Appendix, referred to increasing school achievement. Members were informed that the Council had been fully successful in achieving the intended outcomes for the year. All targets with the exception of 2 were met. Failure to achieve the target of 86% for schools securing a judgement of good or better by Estyn was due to one school not securing the expected grades out of 14 inspected during the year. The reason Estyn gave for the school receiving a poor inspection result was that the inspection team had been presented with a unique situation where Union activity and advice given to staff (which was later found to be incorrect) prevented teachers giving certain documents to the inspection team. Had this school secured the expected grades then the Council’s target of 86% would have been achieved. The Council was working proactively with the school to improve Estyn judgements. Of the 14 schools inspected, 7.1% secured the highest 'excellent' judgement for performance and provision, with 14.3% securing an excellent award for the quality of leadership. The shortfall in the performance of formerly Looked After Children who were known to be engaged in education, training or employment related to a small cohort of young people (27). Whilst every effort was made to keep in contact with this cohort, the Council was not always successful. Work continued to engage and support this group to access appropriate training, education and employment opportunities to meet their needs
Following the advice from the Director of Learning and Skills that work to reduce the number of young people who are NEET was a continuing priority and that a further report would be brought to Committee, it was
(1) T H A T the achievement of year 1 outcomes be noted.
(2) T H A T the Scrutiny Committee continue to scrutinise closely during 2014/15 the areas where the Council would not achieve its actions and targets and that it consider proactive action to ensure that they are achieved in 2014/15.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) That the Committee is advised of the achievement of the outcomes listed in the Agreement.
(2) The Vale is fully successful in achieving all agreed outcomes in order to Welsh Government to release the performance incentive grant.
358 SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT – MAY 2013 TO APRIL 2014 (DR) –
In accordance of Section 6.03d of Article 6 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Constitution Scrutiny Committees were required to report annually to Full Council on their workings and make recommendations for future work programmes and amended working methods as appropriate. The Constitution also provided that Scrutiny Committee's Work Programmes for the municipal year be included in the Committees' Annual Report.
The Annual Report included details of the work of all the Scrutiny Committees for 2013/14, together with details of the Forward Work Programme, which would include:
· performance monitoring
· revenue and capital expenditure monitoring
· Improvement Plan
· budget proposals annual reporting
· Service Planning annual reporting
· Decision-tracking of the Committee recommendations
· receiving progress reports on various issues
· any other matters that the Committee considers appropriate.
Having considered the report, it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the draft Annual Report for the period May 2013 to April 2014 be approved and be submitted to Full Council in September 2014.
Reason for recommendation
To approve the draft Scrutiny Committees' Annual Report to allow it to be submitted to Full Council in September 2014.
359 RESHAPING SERVICES – A NEW CHANGE PROGRAMME FOR THE COUNCIL (REF) –
At its meeting on 11th August 2014 Cabinet had agreed in principle to instituting a "Reshaping Services" strategy and change programme and had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for consultation.
The report highlighted that the central government’s austerity drive had created a period of unprecedented financial pressures in the public sector. The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s budget had already been squeezed for 2014/15 with further substantial savings necessary in 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18. The latest draft Medium Term Financial Plan estimated that this would equate to a reduction of over £10m in 2015/16 and £32m in total over the next three years. Failure to deliver the required level of savings would not be an option for the Council and, according to many analysts, a period of permanent austerity was now likely for Councils for the foreseeable future.
It was clear that the scale of the challenges to come would mean that "business as usual", however well managed, would not be enough. Continued incremental cuts to budgets would simply lead to a steady decline in the quality and availability of public services, dissatisfaction among those who use the services and poor staff morale. The challenge was therefore to consider alternative delivery models for services across the Council as only in this way could the Council hope to maintain a broad range of services and to an acceptable standard.
A strategy encompassing the various models for service delivery and how it was proposed they be considered was set out at Appendix 1 to the report. The delivery of the strategy would be very challenging and was proposed to be done through the means of a comprehensive change programme involving the Council, its staff, partners, service recipients and other stakeholders. It was also anticipated that the programme as outlined within the report would be driven and largely conducted in-house with existing staff, however, additional external expertise would be required to advise in areas where in-house expertise was lacking, particularly in untried (for the Council) models for service delivery.
Appendix 1 to the report referred to alternative delivery models, for example:
· joint provision with other public sector bodies
· delivery by external partners
· Council-owned companies
In considering the options the report recognised that despite the magnitude of the savings required, the Council had no option but to identify ways of making them.
In response to the view that Education should not be separated from the approach, the Head of Service advised that the Education Service was contributing to the savings agenda and it was only Schools who had received budgetary protection.
Having considered the report, it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In recognition that further consultation would be undertaken and a further report would be presented to the Committee in due course.
360 PROPOSAL TO AMALGAMATE YSGOL GYFUN BRO MORGANNWG AND YSGOL GYMRAEG NANT TALWG (REF) –
Cabinet had referred the report as part of the consultation process to the Scrutiny Committee from its meeting on 14th July 2014. Cabinet approval had been sought to consult stakeholders on a proposal to create a new 1,361 place all-through school through the amalgamation of Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg by discontinuing Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and changing the age range of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg to admit children from the age of 3.
On 18th February 2014 the Chair of Governors and Headteacher of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg and Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg contacted the Council and requested that the schools be amalgamated following a resolution of the full Governing Body on 27th November, 2013. To make changes of this nature a statutory process would need to be undertaken, including consultation with stakeholders. At the request of the Governing Body any consultation undertaken would be done in partnership with the Headteacher and Governing Body of the schools.
Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg had been federated in September 2012 under a single Governing Body and Headteacher. The Headteacher of the secondary school was Headteacher of the federated school and the teacher in charge of the Primary School was an Assistant Headteacher within the senior leadership structure.
The federation of Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg enabled the schools to benefit from the following:
· a consistent vision and shared values across the schools
· shared professional learning community
· consistent engagement with parents across the primary and secondary phase
· expertise across the full age range
· professional development opportunities for staff within a through school environment
· increased focus on the key transitions particularly between Key Stage 2 and the secondary phase ensuring that gains in learning were built upon year by year with the minimum of disruption as the child moves through the learning structure(s).
The Estyn Inspection of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg in 2009 described the school as "a very good school with many outstanding features"; Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg has not been inspected. Both schools were currently in Category B for challenge and support from the Central South Consortium. In 2013 Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg was in the Welsh Government's top banding group.
Although the schools were federated under a single Headteacher and Governing Body they continued to be two separate entities and this resulted in unnecessary and duplicated processes. Examples included:
· the schools had separate budgets which did not support the sharing of resources across the schools as effectively as would be the case with a single budget and also required separate financial management and accounting processes to be carried out not only by the schools but also by the Council;
· each school was required to submit separate pupil census and other data returns;
· an unnecessary primary to secondary school admissions process;
· separate accountability and inspection regimes;
· lack of clarity in relation to communication lines from outside agencies including the Local Authority departments. Duplicate visits from Consortium System Leaders.
It was considered that the amalgamation of the two schools would provide a more effective framework to support the new school to build on the strong foundations already established through the Federation.
In order to amalgamate the two schools the Council would need to comply with the statutory process detailed in the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013.
The Head of Service advised that in considering the options the recommendation would be to discontinue Nant Talwg which would enable resources to be utilised more effectively across the two schools.
Having considered the report, the Scrutiny Committee
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the resolution of Cabinet as below be endorsed:
(1) That consultation be authorised from 22 September, 2014 for a period of 7 weeks on a proposal to create a new 1,361 place all through school through the amalgamation of Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg by discontinuing Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and changing the age range of Ysgol Bro Morgannwg to admit children from the age of 3.
Reason for recommendation
To assess the level of support for the proposal to amalgamate Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg into an all-through school on the existing site.
361 ADULT COMMUNITY LEARNING SERVICE RESTRUCTURE (REF) –
Approval had been sought to restructure the Adult Community Learning Service (ACL) with effect from 1st September 2014 in response to the published changes to the funding provision to the Welsh Government Adult Community Learning Grant and the franchise funding from Cardiff and the Vale College (CAVC).
The Welsh Government’s (WG) "Delivering Community Learning for Wales@ Policy" document (Appendix 1 to the report) clearly identified the priority groups for the ACL grant. These were: "anyone aged 16 and above accessing an ACL Basic Skills and / or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programme, including contextualised basic skills and citizenship courses, those who are not currently in education, employment or training and are in receipt of benefits or support excluding state retirement pension) and those aged 50 plus who are not in full time employment".
Furthermore, it highlighted the requirement to develop outcomes and interventions to support those priority groups into sustained education, employment and training. The purpose of the WG grant funding was to support the delivery of the targeted outcomes set out in the policy and this should now become the core business of the ACL service.
The ACL service delivered Basic / Essential Skills (Numeracy Literacy and ITC) and ESOL funded by CAVC through a franchise agreement. This funding covered the cost of tuition, qualification / accreditation fees, hire of premises, creche facilities and the management of the learning programme. Based at the Barry Open Learning Centre this strand of the service provided post 16 learners the opportunity to improve their skills for everyday life and increase their employment prospects.
The wider benefits of ACL to community wellbeing were well documented. In order to maintain a universal learning offer the ACL service must build on the success of its current leisure learning offer and develop a sustainable full cost recovery delivery model.
The targeted provision would be planned in partnership with relevant stakeholder organisations and representation from the priority groups to ensure that it addressed the needs of learners form those groups. Delivery would be planned to ensure that suitable progression routes and learning stepping stones would be in place to guide learners from initial engagement. This would be achieved by learning taster sessions, leading to accredited courses and then into further education and / or employment, helping students to move out of poverty. This provision would for the most part be free to learners identified as being from the priority groups.
Establishing two separate and distinct learning offers ensured that the leisure strand of the service would not form part of the externally, measured service. This would be achieved by removing the non-priority learners from the data count and would also remove the requirement for "leisure leaners" to complete complex government specification enrolment forms. New class fees and concessions were agreed by Cabinet on 16th June 2014. Accreditation for this type of learning would be optional and would be subject to a further fee. An internal quality monitoring cycle would ensure that standards were maintained and that the valuable soft outcomes and learner achievements were not lost.
Several other local authorities in Wales had already adopted this two strand delivery approach with the full backing of WG and Estyn. The further education sector had also been operating this type of learning model for a number of years with many colleges utilising commercial courses to subsidise adult basic education learning.
The service would do all that it could to ensure that there was provision available for all learners including those who may not be within the priority groups but could not afford to access the leisure provision. A number of short (5-10 week) courses would be offered which would allow progression opportunities for current learners and a wide range of learning opportunities would be offered in conjunction with a range of partners. The ACL service would also encourage the development of learning clubs and ensure self-funded local groups were well supported. The service would continue to work closely with the third sector.
The report also outlined that, with effect from the academic year 2014/15 (1st September 2014), the WG ACL grant would be reduced and notification of the likelihood of a further 10% cut in grant funding from the academic year 2015/16 had also been received from Welsh Government. Members were reminded of the previous Committee meeting where a presentation on the ACL service had been presented and were further advised that further consultation with staff and relevant Trade Unions was to be undertaken. The Head of Service took the opportunity to also advise the Committee that the report referred to in Part II of the agenda was no longer considered a confidential matter as it had been shared with staff and the trade unions. The Committee considered that the issues referred to in the Part I reference and report were fair proposals in light of the current funding situation and, as a result, no discussion of the Part II item took place at the meeting.
It was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the current situation be noted, it being accepted that the Committee will continue to monitor the service area through its normal reporting mechanisms.
Reason for recommendation
In noting the recommendations of Cabinet, Estyn and WG and in view of the Committee’s monitoring and scrutiny role.