SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)
Minutes of a meeting held on 16th March, 2015.
Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Ms. K.E. Edmunds, T.H. Jarvie, F.T. Johnson, A. Parker, R.A. Penrose and E. Williams.
Co-Opted Members: Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church).
Non-Voting Observers: Mr. G. Beaudette (Primary Sector) and Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector).
Also Present: Councillor P.J. Clarke, S.C. Egan, C.P.J. Elmore, C.P. Franks, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, H.J.W. James, Dr. I.J. Johnson and N. Moore.
1004 MINUTE’S SILENCE –
All present stood in silent tribute following the recent deaths of four young people from the Vale of Glamorgan.
1005 ANNOUNCEMENT –
Prior to the commencement of the meeting the Chairman referred to a few housekeeping rules and subsequently asked Members of the Committee and officers seated at the table to introduce themselves. The Chairman also took the opportunity to advise that with regard to Agenda Items 4 and 5, the Democratic Services Officer had e-mailed all members of the Council, advising that members of staff potentially affected by the proposals had a direct personal interest in the issues to be considered and that following advice from the Council’s Monitoring Officer, it would be inappropriate for staff to speak at the meeting but that they could attend the meeting to hear the debate. He however, confirmed that he had requested that Trade union representatives be invited to speak on behalf of their members and subsequently informed all present of the order of proceedings for the meeting.
The Chairman stated that he was also pleased to see that the public gallery was full.
1006 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillor Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman); Dr. C. Brown (Co-opted Member) and Mr. D. Treharne (Non-Voting Observer).
1007 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 9th February, 2015 be approved as a correct record.
1008 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -
Mr. G. Beaudette declared that he was related to a Governor of Barry Comprehensive School and Ms. T. Young advised that she was a teacher at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School.
1009 REVIEW OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (AS) –
Prior to the presentation of the report by the Head of Service the Chairman advised that supplementary information which had been emailed to Members of the Committee and that was tabled at the meeting consisted of a reference from the Cabinet meeting on 9th March 2015 and included copies of an amended Appendix D to the report together with a copy of a letter from Councillor H.J.W. James relating to Rhoose Library.
In presenting the report the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources informed Members that at its meeting on 9th March Cabinet had considered the outcome of consultation on proposals arising from the Library Strategy and had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for its consideration. In referring to the background, the Head of Service stated that on 11th August 2014 Cabinet had at that time considered a number of recommendations, eleven of which had been approved with subsequent approval to consult being agreed on a further three, more significant proposed changes to library services:
- The development of community led libraries in St. Athan, Dinas Powys, Sully, Wenvoe and Rhoose.
- Reduced library opening hours in Barry, Penarth, Cowbridge and Llantwit Major
- Relocating library services in St. Athan.
The consultation which had focused on these three proposed changes had begun on 13th October 2014 and had closed on 31st December 2014. To ensure that stakeholders had had access to all of the information required to make informed comments on the strategy a comprehensive consultation document had been produced which was attached at Appendix A to the report. That document set out the findings of the Library Review, the rationale for the proposed changes and also offered information on how the Council believed these could be implemented. To further support the consultation a series of drop in sessions had been hosted at each of the Vale’s libraries, which had been designed to help promote the consultation and offer residents the opportunity to discuss the strategy and consultation process with senior officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate. The full analysis of the consultation results was included at Appendix B to the report.
Responses to Part 1 of the consultation, the introduction of community led libraries, had demonstrated that the views of residents varied greatly across the Vale, which suggested that the viability of community libraries would also vary between communities. The results had suggested that community led facilities would be viable in Dinas Powys, St. Athan and Wenvoe but such a facility would not receive significant support in Sully and would not be welcomed in Rhoose.
Of the 26 survey respondents that regularly used Sully library, only 8 had answered that they would support the establishment of a community library in their area. However, an encouraging degree of support had been shown from members of the Community Council and the Save Sully Campaign Group for the development of a community led library. Senior officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate had been invited to attend meetings with representatives of both groups during the consultation period to discuss that proposal and to explore how it could be supported by the community. Further contact had also been received indicating interest in progressing discussions and exploring opportunities for improving the use of the library through it becoming a community led facility.
There had been more responses from regular users of Rhoose than any other facility in the Vale and of the 164 survey respondents that regularly used Rhoose Library, 87% had answered that they would not support the establishment of a community led library in their area. This had also been reinforced by the views shared by those that had attended the drop in session and the public meeting that had been held in Rhoose. Although the consultation document had made it clear that the status quo was not an option, the users of Rhoose library were clear that the status quo should be maintained, particularly as Rhoose in their opinion received fewer Council services than other areas and in light of the growing population.
It was evident from the responses received that the residents of Rhoose had a great deal of passion for their local library which had been reinforced by the turn out and comments made at the drop in session and at a public meeting they had organised and which Council officers had attended on 15th December 2014. This passion suggested that there could be capacity to sustain the library as a community led facility with the support of the Council. Given that the status quo was not an option and the alternative for the libraries at Dinas Powys, Rhoose, Wenvoe, St. Athan and Sully was closure, it was advised that all five communities be offered the opportunity to make a successful transition to a community led library. The Head of Service referred to a timetable to progress the implementation of such a proposal as contained within the report and that formal Expressions of Interest should be submitted by 18th May 2015.
The Head of Service commented that a range of support and advice may be required by community groups to enable them to develop robust business cases and that this would be provided or commissioned by the Council for any community group requesting such support.
The second part of the consultation had proposed changes to library opening hours. Respondents had been asked to select one of four options and were also offered the opportunity to suggest any other ways that they considered library opening hours could be reduced. An analysis of the consultation responses had shown a clear preference for reduced opening hours that provided varied opening and closing times to allow for at least one late evening a week at all libraries.
The proposals showed an overall reduction of 41 hours achieved by adjusting the opening and closing times each day for each of the town libraries, whilst maintaining one late evening at each library. In order to meet the savings target for 2015/16, the report had proposed that the revised opening hours be implemented from 1st June 2015.
Responses to the third part of the consultation about the relocation of St. Athan Library had been inconclusive, 50% of respondents had stated that they supported relocation with a number of respondents making suggestions about alternative locations but there was no consensus of opinion about an alternative location. It was proposed that future consideration of the location of the library in St. Athan be tied in with discussions with any groups expressing an interest in running a community led library in the area.
Following the presentation of the report, the Chairman advised that he had allowed between 3-5 minutes each for public speakers to make representations to the Committee and that he had invited Trade Union representatives to attend to speak on behalf of staff on service generic issues. Due to the fact that members of staff potentially affected by the proposals had a direct personal interest in the issues the Monitoring Officer’s advice was that it would be inappropriate for staff to speak at the meeting, however, they could attend the meeting to hear the debate. The Scrutiny Committee also had no role in considering staffing related issues as a separate process existed.
The first speaker who had requested permission to speak was then invited to present to the Committee.
Mr. Riley from the Save Rhoose Library Campaign commenced by advising that in the Campaign’s view the Library Service Review that had been undertaken had been flawed and a biased survey had taken place. He stated that some time ago following the earlier consultation process, views about the involvement of volunteers to enhance the library service had been sought and there had been no issues for staff at that time, but the current review now sought volunteers to undertake the library service with staff then being left unemployed. In his view the strategy had not considered the users, the key question in the survey had been "would you be prepared to run a community library" and in his view, in asking this question, he suggested that it had been a "loaded" question. He stated that it was apparent that town library constituents also had different views to community library residents and by publishing the list of affected libraries, it had predetermined the results of the survey and had therefore been a major flaw in the process. In referring to proposals for community led libraries he advised that there was no evidence that they would be viable in the Vale. The campaign’s view was that the options for Rhoose were either closure or community led, however, he stated that closing the Rhoose facility would mean that another facility was lost to the Rhoose population. He referred to a recent Planning meeting, where a planning application for over 700 homes had been approved which he considered could result in over 10,000 people being resident in the area and that it was more facilities that would be required for such a population not a decrease. Mr. Riley urged the Scrutiny Committee to reject the Strategy and request that a further review be undertaken with the suggestion that back office services be reviewed for efficiency savings as opposed to front line services. In conclusion Mr. Riley thanked the Scrutiny Committee for the opportunity to speak at the meeting.
Mr. Rowan Hughes, representing the Unison Union, commenced by stating that he was speaking on behalf of Unison Union Library staff. The proposals, he suggested, were the largest cuts to library services that had ever been seen within the Vale and that the staff had major concerns about the cuts in hours. He stressed that the Union was not stating that there was no place for volunteers but that the Union’s view was that they should not replace staff. The report acknowledged that the status quo was not an option and that viable alternatives should be considered. Mr. Hughes questioned the research that had been undertaken and referred to a report that had been commissioned by the Welsh Government, namely Independent Trust and Community Libraries in Wales. In referring to the executive summary for that document, he stated that the Welsh Government’s view was that there had been various models developed but the only model for sustainability and viability was the model which had a close working relationship with Local Authorities and was referred to as Model C, that model he stated had also incorporated 15 hours of paid staff time. He urged the Committee to consider Model C but that if they did not accept the model, he suggested that they look at other models and referred to the example in Conwy where libraries had used existing staff from other branches.
The Chairman took the opportunity to thank the speakers for their attendance and asked Elected Members (not Members of the Committee) to come forward. Councillor P. Clarke, having been granted permission to speak, stated that he considered that it was grossly unfair that Rhoose had been categorised as a rural village library. In his view there was currently a population of over 7,000 in the area and a further 800 homes or more had been approved at the recent Planning Committee which could equate to approximately 2,000 more residents. To this end he stated that with this increase Rhoose should not have decreases in facilities but increases. He stated that on the basis of logistics, Rhoose should be provided with more facilities and that it was the general feeling in the area that Rhoose had been short changed over the years. He referred to the number of people who frequented the library, in particular those who needed to complete job applications in order to seek Job Seekers Allowance and the number of pupils who utilised the library. In referring to the consultation process he advised that he had been informed by some members of the public that at the time when officers had interviewed members of the public, not many notes had been taken and the feeling had been given that the decision for closure had already been made.
Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson, with permission to speak, advised that he was present to defend the library service as a whole, but that he wished to see the data in relation to the libraries, particularly in the context of evening opening hours. In referring to community libraries he stated that the review had been poorly handled in this regard and that any decision needed to be based on where the service was now and not looking to the future. In his view the Council did not know at this stage if the service would be viable or not. He also stated that the Review of Libraries should have been part of the Reshaping Services Agenda and that it should not have been separate to it. He raised a number of questions in relation to what would happen if there were not enough volunteers and he thought the Council was pitting communities against each other. He further queried the charges in libraries, whether the income had increased, how many "friends groups" had been set up and what the profile of the Review was. The report also suggested security cuts to the building and he queried how they would affect the safety of the staff and the building. He further stated that pop up libraries had been considered in the previous review but that these had not now been considered in the current process. He queried why and referred to a pop up library that had been established by Barry Town Council.
Councillor H.J.W. James, with permission to speak, had also submitted representations to the Cabinet for its meeting on 9th March which had been tabled at the meeting. Copies of the agenda and the tabled information had also been made available to guest speakers and for the public. Councillor James, in his presentation, referred to the increasing population of Rhoose and that it had grown steadily over the past 30 years but that over that period the library had continued to be identified as a small rural library. Since the installation of computers for the public, the use of the library by a number of older people and children had increased dramatically. The Rhoose School also supported the library and pupils gained access to the school building without going outside on the road or the pavement via the library. The Rhoose School had also objected to the proposed down grading of the library from professional staff to a volunteer run service. In his view, Rhoose was large enough to be treated as a town and in his view Dinas Powys should be treated similarly. He queried why the Rhoose Library had been deemed appropriate to be run by a community led group as in the first instance it did not have a Community Council. He agreed that in other areas in the Vale some Community Councils may be able to develop such facilities but that it was not the case for Rhoose. He referred to the limited facilities in Rhoose, i.e. the school, a youth club and the one extra football pitch that had been made available. In his view Rhoose was growing fast but the services were being withdrawn. The Council had a duty to consider the views of the population of the residents in the Vale rather than reducing all of the facilities and only keeping the three libraries in the three towns. In his view Rhoose was different to any other community in the Vale that had been affected by the closures, he referred to a number of other organisations who were actually setting up services within the area, he referred to Tesco’s and the Post Office who had recently advised that they were going to make Rhoose a priority. Rhoose was no longer small, it was being developed and the population was ever increasing. It was his view that the Scrutiny Committee should ask the Cabinet to rethink the proposals in relation to Rhoose and Dinas Powys in view of the comments made at the meeting.
Councillor C.P. Franks, with permission to speak, stated that he had received dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak and vote on issues in relation to the Reshaping Services Agenda, and advised that he had profound concerns with regard to the Library Review since the process had commenced. He had not been convinced that the consultation had been robust and he questioned the use of volunteers and he asked the Committee to undertake a further review of the service as he was not convinced that 40 to 50 volunteers could be found. He had also expected the Vale to provide information in relation to what financial contributions it would make to the process, but no information had been provided. With regard to Dinas Powys, the library there had significant maintenance issues and in order to maintain the building there would have to be a significant increase in Council Tax and the local precept.
In considering the report and the evidence that had been presented, the Member on the Committee for Sully advised that the Community Council for Sully and the Save Sully Campaign Group had undertaken further public consultation with residents. They had felt that the responses to the consultation that had been undertaken by the Council had not been representative of the population. Their consultation had, however, shown through the statistics that there was a very low usage of the library in Sully, the footfall was low and it was situated in the wrong location. Officers had been invited to a meeting to discuss their suggested proposals and to explore how Sully library could be supported by the community. The Community Council had chosen to make an expression of interest in order to continue to provide a service through a community led facility rather than see the facility diminish completely. The Member suggested that other Communities should consider undertaking a similar analysis and exercise in order to ascertain to the views of the locality in a similar way to the one that had been undertaken in Sully.
A Member queried whether the Model C suggestion referred to in the Welsh Government documentation raised by the Unison representative had been considered in the process. The Head of Service advised that the Welsh Government document had not been published until very recently. However, since publication, she could advise that Model C appeared to be very similar to what the Vale Council had proposed in the report. The major difference she stated was that Model C referred to 15 hours staffed time whilst the Vale’s model proposed a peripatetic librarian support. If necessary, support from a peripatetic community librarian could be considered to be increased. The Department had also advised Welsh Government that the current staffed hours of some of its libraries were lower than those currently being considered by Welsh Government Representations had therefore been made to Welsh Government on this aspect and they had responded that they would take it into consideration. In referring to the concept of community led libraries, the Head of Service advised that this was a new concept in Wales but it had been established in England for some time. The Welsh Government research had only focused on Wales.
The Chairman, in referring to the statistics, stated that the footfall statistics were essential in the process with the Head of Service advising that all the data had been made available during the consultation period and had been part of the initial proposals. In response to the query regarding comparisons with the communities of Rhoose and Cowbridge, the Head of Service stated that visitor numbers and issues for Cowbridge were far greater than those for Rhoose, in fact she referred to them being three to four times higher than those for Rhoose.
Following a query from a Member in referring to one of the representations that the consultation process had been unfair and flawed, the Head of Service advised that advice had been sought from professionals within the Council including the Council’s Communication and Consultation Officer and the Head of Legal Services. It was important that the consultation document was clear with regard to the exact proposal and that there was case law which supported this approach. The principles of good consultation and engagement had been taken into account.
A Member, in response to the issue of a lack of facilities in Rhoose, referred to the recent approval of a planning application in the Rhoose area, and the impact of a S106 agreement which is made with the developer. The funds received would be utilised for the community to support a number of facilities and advised that Local Members would be consulted on where that money should be spent and allocated. He also stated that this route would also be available for applications / developments in Dinas Powys and was an opportunity for Elected Members to put forward suggestions at the time to detail what facilities they would be looking for in those areas.
Prior to a vote being taken, the Chairman advised all present that only Members of the Committee, could vote on the issue as although there were co-opted Members on the Committee, under the legislation they could only vote on Education matters and the library service was not classed as such.
Having fully considered the report and the representations presented, it was moved by the Chairman that the proposed recommendations contained within the report, which included the proposed closure of Rhoose and Dinas Powys libraries (should expressions of interest not be received in developing a community led library) be amended to read that both Rhoose and Dinas Powys libraries be removed from the proposals. However, having put the matter to a vote, the proposed amendment was lost and it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the resolutions of Cabinet be accepted, and the representations as provided within the minutes be forwarded to Cabinet for consideration.
Reason for recommendation
Having regard to the evidence presented and the comments made at the meeting.
1010 BARRY SECONDARY SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION (REF) –
The report had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee by Cabinet for consideration, at its meeting on 23rd February 2015. Cabinet approval had been sought to consult stakeholders on a proposal to transform secondary education in Barry, by establishing a new mixed English medium comprehensive school, by expanding Ysgol Bro Morgannwg and by relocation to create two distinct campuses for Welsh medium and English medium education.
In presenting the report, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools advised that as a Cabinet Member and an LA Governor for one of the schools he was entitled to speak at the Committee but not vote as he was not a Member of the Committee. In commencing, the Cabinet Member stated that the case for the establishment of mixed sex secondary provision in Barry had been debated intermittently over a number of years with interest having increased in recent years to the extent that following a Cabinet decision on 15th July 2013, public consultation had been undertaken to establish the extent of local support for the principle of co-education in Barry. That consultation had sought to establish local views about the establishment of a co-educational school formed by the amalgamation of Barry and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive Schools which would operate on the two current sites. In total 951 people had participated in the consultation including parents, children and young people and members of staff. The responses indicated that:
· 81% of parent respondents supported a change to co-educational secondary schooling;
· The large number of highly positive comments offered by parents indicate that this view was strongly held;
· The social and well-being benefits for learners were the key factors driving the response;
· 75% of secondary school pupil respondents supported a change; and the possible social benefits of mixed schooling are a key factor;
· 69% of primary school pupils who participated in the consultation sessions said they would prefer to attend a mixed secondary school;
· 92% of staff respondents did not support a change to co-educational secondary schooling in Barry. Many staff had concerns about how possible change might affect them and the implications for teaching across a split site school.
Following consideration of the responses, Cabinet had instructed officers to begin a programme of work to develop detailed proposals for a change to co-educational secondary schooling and that the detailed proposals should address the concerns raised by the parents and members of school staff who felt they would not support a change. Cabinet also established at the time a Project Board to progress the work required to develop detailed proposals for an amalgamation.
With regard to Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg, the Council had recently consulted on a proposal to amalgamate the schools to create a new all through school from September 2015, and following that consultation a statutory notice had been published on 6th January 2015 to amalgamate those schools.
With regard to the capacity of Barry, Bryn Hafren and Bro Morgannwg schools, the numbers on rolls at the Pupil Level Annual Schools Survey (PLASC) 2014 as well as projected pupil numbers were shown at Appendix A to the report. The number on roll at Barry Comprehensive in January 2014 was 1,062 which included a sixth form of 197 pupils compared to a current capacity of 1,423. The number on roll at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive was 1,106 including a sixth form of 256 compared to a capacity of 1,331. Projections also showed a shortage of places in the Welsh medium secondary sector from 2020 onwards which had also been reported to Cabinet on 10th March 2014 and at that time Cabinet had resolved that â€œthe request to carry out a feasibility study to investigate how the required expansion of Welsh medium secondary education could be accommodated be approvedâ€.
Property condition surveys had also been carried out for all Vale schools with the inspections comprising a visual assessment of the condition of all exposed parts of the buildings to identify significant defects and items of disrepair. The Cabinet Member advised that the three comprehensive school buildings although generally in a satisfactory condition some elements were in poor condition exhibiting major defects.
With regard to pupil attainment and school improvement, the Council had placed on record its concerns about performance, at two of the three schools over the past two years, and the schools’ capacity for rapid and sustainable improvement. Whilst there had been improvement in some areas by these schools, performance on key measures in Key Stage 4 in particular, remained poor when compared to similar schools. Appendix C to the report showed the outcomes for the three schools against the key measures over a period of four years as well as the quartile ranking when compared to similar schools.
The report, further outlined that as part of the work carried out by the Project Board to further develop proposals, research had been carried out on amalgamations and split site education which had included desk top analysis as well as telephone and face to face interviews with leaders involved in recent, mixed gender amalgamations and split - site schools. Examples had been sought which matched as closely as possible the demographic, social and educational context of Barry and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive Schools.
In order to amalgamate the two schools the Council would need to comply with the statutory process within the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and the report detailed the process that was required to be undertaken. To aid effective engagement and communication with the schools directly affected by the proposals, it had been suggested that a Barry Secondary School Transformation Board be established. The membership of the Board to include the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher of Barry Comprehensive School, Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School and Bro Morgannwg / Nant Talwg and two primary headteachers. The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools, the Chairman of Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) and senior officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate would also be members of the Board.
In further presenting the report, the Cabinet Member referred to the 21st Century Schools investment programme and in referring to Cowbridge, St. Cyres and Llantwit Major Schools that had been part of that programme, advised that these had been prioritised because of the conditions of the school buildings. With regard to Barry and Bryn Hafren, additional funding was required and consideration had to be clearly identified for Welsh medium education hence Bro Morgannwg being part of the proposals.
The Cabinet Member also referred to the detailed options as contained within the report, available to the Council, as follows:
Option A: A new English medium school operated as a split site school organised accordingly to Key Stages and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg expanded on its current site
Option B: The new English medium school operated as a split site school organised according to pupil houses and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg expanded on its current site
Option C: Two separate English medium schools on separate sites and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg be expanded on its current site
Option D: One English medium school on one site and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg be expanded on the current Bryn Hafren site
Option E: One English medium school on one site (new build) and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg be expanded on its current site
Option F: Federation of the two English medium schools and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg be expanded on its current site
Option G: Status quo.
Although the Cabinet Member advised that Option D was the preferred option as highlighted within the report, he stressed that no decision had yet been made. It had been suggested that the Bryn Hafren site could be sold for housing but he had been advised that this would not be acceptable. His main focus was the education for the children and that it was now time for consultation to be undertaken in order for the options to be considered. However, he stated that the status quo was not an option, the Council had an obligation for Welsh medium education and that the Ysgol Bro Morgannwg site would not be sustainable in its current form for such education. Pupil number projections and parents’ preferences had been analysed with Option D being suggested as the preferred option. Appendix F to the report detailed a full breakdown of the capital costs for each option.
In referring to funding for the proposals, although no confirmation had been given by Welsh Government, he did remain confident that 50% funding would be provided.
Following the presentation of the report, the Chairman advised all present that he had invited Trade Union representatives and members of the public (not employed or related to an employee nor a Governor or related to a Governor, of the schools involved ) to make representations to the Scrutiny Committee on service generic issues. He had also invited the Chairman of Governors of the relevant schools and / or their representative to attend the meeting and give evidence. All speakers had been afforded the opportunity of between 3-5 minutes for their representations / evidence and he had been advised that some Elected Members who were not Members of the Committee also wished to speak on the matter.
The Chairman also took the opportunity to advise the public, that Members who were Governors of schools appointed by the Local Authority were eligible to speak and, if they were a Member of the Committee, were able to speak and vote. Co-opted Members on the Committee were also eligible to speak and vote unless they were Governors of schools not appointed by the Local Authority, where they could make representations but would have to leave the room thereafter. Non-voting Observers on the Committee would also have to leave the room if they had a personal / prejudicial interest in the report.
The Chairman confirmed that the following had requested permission to speak and they were in turn invited to present to the Scrutiny Committee:
- Ms. Jayne Stechfield (NASUWT National Executive Member)
- Mr. Rob Williams (NAHT) – written representations had been received
- Mrs. Kath Beaudette (Chairman of Governors, Barry Comprehensive) – written representations had been received
- Ms. Carole Tyley (Chairman of Governors, Bryn Hafren Comprehensive) – written representations had been received
- Mr. R. Evans (Governor Ysgol Bro Morgannwg) – written representations also received
- Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson (Elected Member).
In commencing her presentation, Ms. Stechfield advised that her Union welcomed the invitation to speak and would engage in the consultation process. In referring to the process that had already taken place and the fact that the initial consultation advised of 951 respondents to the issue of co-education in her view, this was a small mandate. The Union was also against the proposal for a "super" school of over 2,000 pupils as this, it was considered would be impractical. The report they believed had not addressed the impact of Free School Meals (FSM) on standards and the English schools that had been used as comparisons in developing the proposals were not considered good comparable examples. Ms. Stechfield made reference in the first instance to the uncertainty associated with the funding for the proposals as well as the vulnerability of some learners as, in the Union’s view, a large school would not necessarily lend itself to assist some learners. The Union remained unclear as to the reason why Option D had been singled out, and although she welcomed the Council’s enthusiasm to invest in schools and co-education, the Union’s preferred option would be for a smaller school as opposed to the larger school being proposed.
Written representations which had been received from Mr. Rob Williams of the NAHT, who had been unable to attend the meeting, were tabled for consideration and referred to concern in relation Option D and the potential risks involved. The Committee, in referring to the document, noted Mr. Williams’ comments that Option D would be highly reliant upon accessing Welsh Government capital funding and there was no guarantee that the Vale would be successful in accessing the required funds. The need to make provision for Welsh medium places was clearly evident, however, if the Vale was not able to access the required funding there might be a perception that the Welsh medium provision had been the main priority and driver and that the English medium provision had been compromised in order to meet the Welsh medium demand, although he stated that there were certainly no issues from his Union’s perspective with the co-educational model or the need to make provision for increased Welsh medium demand.
Ms. Kath Beaudette and Ms. Carole Tyley, Chairmen of Governors of Barry Comprehensive and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive, were then afforded the opportunity to address the Committee.
Ms. Tyley commenced by advising that neither of the two Comprehensive schools had as yet held a full Governing Body meeting to discuss the proposals. She however, referred to the positives that Bryn Hafren could offer in relation to a number of facilities some of which were not available at Barry Comprehensive School. In the main, her concerns related to the issues of the timing of the GCSE implementation and the proposed size of the school. In her opinion, Year 10 was a crucial time for young people and undertaking a phased transition would result in too much disruption. The concerns in relation to the funding for the schemes she stated was similar to those that had been raised by the representative from the NASUWT and the NAHT.
Mrs. Beaudette stated that both herself and Ms. Tyley had been new Chairs of Governors in the recent year and had both agreed to maintain an open dialogue throughout the whole process. She concurred that the representative from NASUWT had already raised a number of concerns that she had with regard to the proposals for Barry and Bryn Hafren schools and that once the consultation had commenced both the Governing Bodies would be making full submissions during that process. Mrs. Beaudette also raised concern regarding the school examples that had been used within the report to assist the development of the proposals as, in her view, they did not mirror the challenges for Barry. Mrs. Beaudette further stated that in her opinion the report had not also clearly accounted for the level of challenge associated with the kind of deprivation the Barry and Bryn Hafren schools have to currently address. It would also be essential that the management, government and leadership of the schools, together with the pastoral issues were carefully considered. The level of uncertainty that would be created for handing over the school would also have an impact on staff, parents and Governing Bodies and the Council would need to minimise all risks.
Mr. R. Evans, representing the Governing Body of Ysgol Bro Morgannwg, in referring to his written submission, advised that the Governing Body appreciated the commitment of the Vale of Glamorgan Council in seeking to further enhance the provision of Welsh medium education across the county and its aim to provide sufficient school places to cater for predicted future demand. The Governing Body supported the proposals to move to the existing Bryn Hafren School site which they believed would provide sufficient space to develop a first class school for 3-19 year old pupils for generations to come. The Governing Body, in taking that position, had adopted a set of principles which were outlined in his written representations. The Governors were also confident he stated that they could continue to manage the changes required to ensure the school’s continued success for the benefit of current and future pupils. The Governing Body had certainly realised he advised that the school was part of a wider remit. In his view Option D would appear to cater for the growth required and advised that the Governing Body would remain non-political throughout the process.
The Elected Members who were not Members of the Committee were then afforded the opportunity to speak with the Committee’s permission.
Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson commenced by seeking clarification of issues that had been raised with himself by local constituents. Why was change required now? Was there a real educational principle behind the need for change? Is Option D the best solution or the one that best fits the financial circumstances of the Council? Would Welsh Government funding be realised? Pupils in Year 4 for English language would be affected in 2020 and what was the Council proposing as part of the consultation process to ensure that everybody in the private sector plays a part in the process? The issue of size and the number of pupils on the site; the ability to teach on a large site and the facilities to be provided for pastoral care were also raised. With regard to Bro Morgannwg and the Welsh medium provision his projections forecast that the school would reach capacity on the Bryn Hafren site by 2028. He questioned officers and the Cabinet Member as to whether this issue had been considered in detail, for which the following responses were received.
The Head of Service advised that the consultation process would engage with pupils, staff and parents in the primary schools as it was the Council’s intention to engage with as many people as possible and to assist a number of workshops would be arranged. With regard to pupil projections, considerable work had been undertaken on these. Projections showed that if the current Welsh medium primary schools were all at full capacity in the future and 100% of the pupils fed through to Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg, 19,847 secondary school places would be required to accommodate them. It was pointed out that it was unlikely that all of these spaces would be required as there was currently spare capacity in the primary sector and based on current trends, not all Welsh medium primary pupils fed into Bro Morgannwg.
The Cabinet Member stated that it was his intention to ensure that a report would be brought back following the consultation to the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet and with regard to Key Stage 4 issues and transition phasing, all these would be addressed whilst considering the process and options. He reiterated that the issues for Bro Morgannwg needed to be addressed as the demands for Welsh medium education were increasing and the Council had a statutory responsibility to ensure provision was catered for.
With regard to the issue of funding, the Head of Service advised that the Council had a good record on securing grant funding through the submission of business cases to Welsh Government and was considered to have a good reputation for delivery of the 21st Century Schools Programme. Although the Council could not give a cast iron guarantee of funding, it did have a very good track record, a business case would be required to be developed which details all of the options considered as well as the preferred option and the Council would be required to demonstrate that the preferred option was the most cost effective.
The Cabinet Member took the opportunity to thank all present for their willingness to engage and again reiterated that it was the start of the process and not the end.
In referring to the question of why change, the Director for Learning and Skills advised that in terms of the culture and social development of the town, providing co-education was seen as most desirable with both parents and pupils saying co-education was their preferred option. Through research it was also an accepted fact that with better buildings educational outcomes benefited. Salford University research particularly outlined that there could be a 16% increase in performance as a result of good classrooms, which the Director stated the Council did not have in all three schools. With regard to school size, there was also no reason to believe that classroom sizes would increase. In referring to creating the sense of a smaller learning community in a large arena, she advised of American research that was available for the Council to consider. Bryn Hafren also had a level of specialist facilities that would be available for further opportunities for courses of study which would also need to be considered in line with the new curriculum Donaldson Report.
In referring to statutory consultation, the Head of Service advised that the Council was required to consult on all proposals which needed to include details of the options that were to be precluded.
The Chairman thanked all present for their representations, for providing evidence to the Scrutiny Committee and for their commitment to engage with the consultation process.
In considering the evidence, a Member referred to the considerable amount of time and discussions that had been undertaken in considering the option for co-education, and noted the proposed timetable as outlined at Appendix G to the report. It was noted that the consultation period was proposed to commence on 11th May 2015 until 6th July 2015.
A number of Members concluded that the time was right to move to co-education and accepted that for Bro Morgannwg the issue of new Welsh medium education needed to be addressed and developed. Concerns were however raised about the transition phase with Members stating that it was important to ensure that this was handled as best as possible for the pupils, staff and the school. A Member of the Committee’s School Places Task Group reminded Members that at that time the Group had also agreed that co-education should be considered.
In response to a concern regarding the limited response received to the initial consultation and whether there was a minimum requirement to make a second consultation valid, the Cabinet Member confirmed that there was no requirement regarding minimum or maximum responses but that for the next consultation, he would urge everyone far and wide to provide responses. The Council would also be engaging with all the primary schools in the area.
Following a query, from the Chairman, to the response of the consultation being that no change should be made, the Cabinet Member confirmed that the administration of the Council would not ignore the issue for Bro Morgannwg and would as a result subsequently have to request support from Welsh Government. He advised that the current Bro Morgannwg site had been built for what was currently there and that, if it proposed that the school should be altered to accommodate numbers, the Council may need to demolish the building and consider the foundations which would be a far greater financial burden than the Council may be able to agree to. He also confirmed that the Council needed to meet the demands for Welsh medium education within the county and that it was not an option to send pupils outside of county.
A Member raised concern regarding the costs associated with adapting a building that was old and the ongoing maintenance costs advising that the Council should not dismiss any school out of hand. However, Committee was advised that the cost of a new build would be in the region of £65m and the money was just not available.
Members also queried whether any new housing developments proposed had been included in the projections and in particular the numbers associated with the Waterfront development. The Head of Service stated that the projections for new developments had been taken into account as well as data on the cohorts which would be feeding into the school from the primary sector in the future. The figures had therefore been based on facts and trends.
Having considered the report and the evidence presented the Scrutiny Committee unanimously
(1) T H A T resolutions (1), (2) and (4) of Cabinet min no C2662 be noted.
(2) T H A T the consultation for the following proposals be endorsed.:
(i) The creation of a new 2,400 place mixed English medium comprehensive school through the amalgamation of Barry Comprehensive School and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School located on the two current sites from September 2017.
(ii) The expansion of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg from 1,151 places to 1,857 places from September 2020 to meet the increased demand for places.
(iii) The relocation of the new English medium secondary school to the site currently occupied by Barry Comprehensive School , Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg and Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg from September 2020, creating a single campus for the school.
(iv) The relocation of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg and Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg to the new Welsh medium campus on the current Bryn Hafren site from September 2020.
(3) T H A T the establishment of a Barry Secondary School Transformation Board including representatives of the three secondary schools and from the primary sector be agreed.
(4) T H A T, following the consultation process, a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee on the results of the consultation, prior to consideration by Cabinet.
(5) T H A T the views of the Scrutiny Committee, as outlined in the minutes, and the written representations received to date be forwarded to Cabinet for consideration.
Reasons for recommendations
(1&2) In view of the evidence provided at the meeting and in recognition of the Committees view.
(3) To ensure effective governance and management of the proposed project.
(4) For further consideration by the Scrutiny Committee and in order that the views of the Scrutiny Committee can be conveyed to Cabinet prior to consideration of the report.
(5) To advise Cabinet of the Scrutiny Committee’s views and the written representations received to date.
N.B. Mr. G. Beaudette and Mrs. T. Young withdrew from the meeting whilst this item was under consideration.
1011 REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2014 TO 31ST JANUARY 2015 (DLS) –
The Committee was provided with an update with regard to the position of the revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April 2014 to 31st January 2015. A graph and table setting out the variance between the profiled budget and actual expenditure to date was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. For Schools the budget was expected to balance as any under/over spend was to be carried forward by schools. With regard to the School Improvement and Inclusion service, it was anticipated that this area would overspend by £75k after transferring £38k from the excluded pupils reserve to fund additional alternative curriculum placements for Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 pupils and security and building works to the Pupil Referral Unit. The £75k net overspend would occur after offsetting adverse variances on the internal respite provision of £36k, independent placements of £14k, Learning Support Key Stage 4 college placements of £38k, recoupment income of £29k and behaviour support of £22k with favourable variances on Additional Learning Needs staffing and resources of £64k. Any overspend at year end would be offset by underspends elsewhere within the Directorate.
For Service Strategy and Regulation, Members were informed that the service would outturn with a favourable variance of £18k due to efficiencies within the Business Support section. It was intended that any underspend at year end would be transferred into the Libraries reserve to assist with the implementation of the Libraries Review.
In referring to the Strategic and Resources service area it was anticipated that this area would underspend by £213k after funding overspends on urgent repairs in schools of £63k and Special Education Needs transport of £10k. To be offset by favourable variances on mainstream transport of £159k, independent nursery placements of £37k, staffing of £45k and non-delegated schools costs of £45k with the intention that any underspend at year end be transferred into the Libraries reserve to assist with the implementation of the Libraries Review.
With regard to the Children and Young People’s Partnership the report noted that it was anticipated the service would underspend by £68k due to 2015/16 savings being implemented early and temporary changes to the funding of childcare umbrella groups. Again, any underspend at year end would be transferred into the Libraries reserve to assist with the implementation of the Libraries Review.
Members were informed that £164k was to be transferred into the Early Retirement Voluntary Redundancy Invest to Save reserve in respect of the schools’ early retirement and voluntary redundancy scheme and in addition, a transfer of £196k would be taken from the schools’ Long Term Sickness and Maternity reserve to fund the current year deficit on the scheme. For the Library service the department was projecting a favourable variance of £61k due to staff vacancies with the intention that any underspend would be transferred into the Libraries reserve to assist with the implementation of the Libraries Review.
In referring to the Youth Service Committee was advised that it was anticipated that the service would outturn on target after transferring £105k from the Youth Service reserve to fund the Area 41 dilapidation costs, Westhouse surrender payment and the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework in schools. The Adult Community Education area was however, proposing to outturn at revised budget after transferring £28k from reserves to assist with funding reductions from Welsh Government and Cardiff and Vale College.
The Catering service was reported would outturn on target after a transfer of £45k from the Catering reserve. There were projected underspends on the Breakfast Club of £45k, Appetite for Life Co-ordination of £14k, Premise Costs of £20k and revenue costs for the new catering system of £26k. These underspends had however, been reinvested into the service to fund kitchen equipment in schools with the transfer from the reserve being used for the same purpose. The trading account was also predicting a surplus of £57k which would be transferred to capital and used towards the cost of the cashless catering system.
Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st January 2015 and the report outlined a number of schemes.
In recognising that the report outlined a balanced budget, the Scrutiny Committee subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2014/15 revenue and capital monitoring for the period 1st April 2014 to 31st January 2015 be accepted.
Reason for recommendation
In view of the contents contained therein.
1012 SERVICE PLAN 2015/19: LEARNING AND SKILLS (DLS) –
The Service Plan for the Learning and Skills Directorate was presented for the Scrutiny Committee’s consideration with the statement that all Service Plans for 2015-19 specifically identified how each Directorate would contribute towards the achievement of the Council’s Corporate Plan, Improvement Plan and the Outcome Agreement outcomes and incorporate key measures and milestones to demonstrate such progress.
Attached at Appendix A to the report was the Learning and Skills Service Plan for 2015/19 with the Director informing Members of the key areas of note within the Plan as outlined below:
· The Service Plan 2015/19 set the context for the Directorate and identified the key challenges over the coming years.
· The Service Self-Assessment highlighted how the service was performing and what had been achieved during the previous year and informed on areas for improvement in the forthcoming year. Service outcomes and objectives were also contained within the report and Appendix 1 (pages 64 to 77) contained the Directorate's Service Improvement Action Plan for 2015/16.
· Appendix 2 (pages 78 to 93) which contained the Service's performance measures was currently incomplete as end of year data for 2014/15 was not yet available at the time of reporting to the Committee. Following a review by officers, performance measures for 2015/16 onwards would be presented to all Scrutiny Committees for discussion and agreement during July 2015.
· Appendix 3 (pages 94 to 95) detailed the Directorate's workforce requirements and
· Appendix 4 (pages 96 to 98) provided a breakdown of the savings required for the Directorate over the next three years.
The Director advised that the Department continued to maintain and monitor the Post Inspection Action Plan, and would continue to report to Committee on the Plan. The Service Plan had been agreed with the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools and the Cabinet Member for Adult Services.
In referring to pages 36 and 37 of the Plan, reference was made to improvement areas that had been suggested. Members considered that the Plan was a comprehensive document and were pleased with the service objectives being reported, the accountability of schools and the training element proposed for Governors. It was agreed that the support received from the Joint Education Service (JES) was vital in order to encourage and assist with performance. Members were also aware that improvements to the attainment of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds needed to be a continuing priority.
In response to a query from the Chairman regarding the impact of the pupil deprivation grant, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion confirmed that the Directorate was in discussions with the JES regarding the provision of such information, and that a report regarding the pupil deprivation grant had been requested for consideration for the Committee meeting in April 2015.
Having considered the report, it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Service Plan which was a comprehensive document and provided "a blue print for the future" be endorsed.
Reason for recommendation
To confirm the Service Plan as the primary document against which performance for Learning and Skills would be measured and to meet self-assessment requirements under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.
1013 QUARTER 3 LEARNING AND SKILLS PERFORMANCE REPORT 2014/15 (DLS) –
Members were informed that the quarterly performance reports had been developed to reflect the Service Plans and were designed to ensure that the Council reported performance in the context of progress against its objectives. The Director of Learning and Skills advised that the Directorate was well on track to achieving the objectives contributing to its service outcomes with 96% of actions currently either completed or on track during the quarter and 4% (4) actions slipped. Of the 40 Corporate Plan actions within the Service Plan, 90% (36) were either completed or on track with 10% (4) of actions having slipped. Of the 21 actions relating to the Improvement Objectives, 87% (18) were either completed or on track for completion. Of the remaining actions, 13% (3) have slipped. 100% (6) of Outcome Agreement actions were completed.
Of the 57 performance indicators, 24 had met or exceeded target, 16 were within 10% of target and 4 had missed target by more than 10%. Data for the remaining 13 indicators would not be collected until next quarter.
In terms of exceptional performance, the Directorate had successfully delivered:
· significant improvement in the proportion of young people achieving the Level 2+ indicator i.e. 5 A*-C GCSE grades including English / Welsh and Mathematics from 55.4% to 62.2%. Although the achievement did not meet the Council’s target of 65% it did place the Vale's performance second in Wales and provided more than 100 additional students with better access to opportunities for further study and training. The gap in performance between children entitled to Free School Meals (FSM) and that of their peers had also narrowed at Key Stages 2 and 3;
· The Youth Engagement and Progression Implementation Plan and actions taken by the Vale had been evaluated by the Welsh Government where they had identified aspects of work as examples of good practice;
· In relation to learner outcomes that had been achieved, the Cardiff and Vale Community Learning Partnership preliminary estimates showed learner success rates to be at 84% which matched the national comparator figure;
· The Penarth Learning Community provided high quality accommodation for the newly amalgamated special school, Ysgol y Deri, and for St. Cyres Comprehensive School which opened during the third quarter.
In relation to slippage, the report outlined that
· The Council had developed its own IT assessment system to enable it to improve the wellbeing, attendance and attainment of pupils. Previously, staffing issues had resulted in a stalling of the process of developing work with Sussex University to improve the attainment of pupils on FSM [CP/LS5 (LS/A056)]. Schools have a range of tracking systems in place.
· Work to develop and introduce the consortium 'Pupil Tracking' model was no longer part of the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service (CSC JES) work programme and would not be implemented in schools [CP/LS5 (LS/A075)].
· Developing reading strategies through the Library and Information Service to improve standards of literacy was aimed for completion by 31st March. An initial strategy had been written, but the strategy was awaiting approval prior to adoption [CP/LS18 (LS/A037)].
· The loss of a key post had impacted on the department not moving forward with the extension of information literacy activities in Libraries (LS/A137) (CP/LS20) (IO1). Although this work had stalled, IT classes and job clubs continued to be supported.
Members, in noting that progress had been made to narrow the gap for FSMs at Kay Stages 2 and 3, were reminded by the Chairman that a further report was to be presented on the subject to the next meeting. Members were also pleased to note the improvements that had been made in relation to NEETs, particularly in Year 11. These had reduced from 3.8% to 2.76%, although it was confirmed that this was provisional data at this time. It was also noted that there had been marked improvement in increasing attainment in adult and community learning and Members recalled the presentation at the previous Committee meeting on the service area. It was also noted that regular progress update reports on NEETs were scheduled within the Committee’s work programme, for reporting to future meetings.
In considering the items that had slipped, Members noted that the "pupil tracker model" was no longer to be pursued by the Consortium as they had considered that schools had their own systems in place which could be quality checked. However, with regard to data and the monitoring of pupil progress, Committee was informed that the Consortium was considering the development of a data warehouse system and would be exploring this initiative which it was anticipated could assist with the early diagnosis of under-achievement.
In conclusion the Chairman took the opportunity to congratulate the schools on the fact that there had been no permanent exclusions in the previous academic year.
Following consideration of the report, it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the service performance results and the remedial actions to be taken to address service underperformance be noted.
(2) T H A T the progress to date in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17, the Outcome Agreement 2013-16 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2014-15 be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To ensure the Council was effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009.
(2) Having considered the Quarter 3 Learning and Skills performance results as at 31st December 2014.
1014 IMPROVEMENT PLAN PART 1 (IMPROVEMENT OBJECTIVES 2015/16) (DLS) –
The report outlined that the Corporate Plan was a key means of the Council complying with the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 which required the Council to set improvement objectives annually and to demonstrate continuous improvement.
The Director of Learning and Skills, in presenting the report, referred to the five improvement objectives that had been proposed for 2015/16, particularly referring to the two objectives (4 and 5) that applied specifically to the Scrutiny Committee, as well as noting that the work of the Committee also contributed towards Objective 1, as detailed below:
· Objective 1: To deliver sustainable services including alternative methods of deliver as part of the Council's Reshaping Services Change Programme
· Objective 4: To reduce the number of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET)
· Objective 5: To support and challenge schools in order to improve pupil attainment levels at Key Stages 2, 3, and 4.
Appendix 1 to the report outlined the proposed objectives for 2015/16 and provided a rationale for each objective. It was accepted that NEETs and pupil attainment were the very core of the work of the department and that, as discussed earlier in the meeting, the Committee had already programmed regular update reports to be presented on the subject areas in its work schedule.
It was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the proposed Improvement Objectives for 2015/16 be endorsed.
Reason for recommendation
To ensure that the Council identifies its key annual improvement priorities for 2015/16 in line with the requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.
1015 CHAIRMAN’S ANNOUNCEMENT –
The Chairman advised Committee that it had been his intention to hold the meeting at St. Cyres Comprehensive however, in view of the items to be considered, he had requested that the meeting be held in the Council Chamber and that a new date for a meeting and tour of St. Cyres be arranged.