Agenda Item No 10

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee: 18th September, 2018

Report of the Managing Director

Overview of the work of the Central South Consortium Scrutiny Working Group

Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide an update to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee on the work of the Central South Consortium Scrutiny Working Group after the first year of its establishment.

Recommendation

  1. That the overview of the work of the Central South Consortium Scrutiny Working Group as detailed in the report, and the revised Work Programme for the Scrutiny Working Group for the next academic year attached at Appendix A to the report, be considered with any comments from the Scrutiny Committee reported back to the Scrutiny Working Group for deliberation.

Reason for the Recommendation

  1. To consider the work undertaken by the Scrutiny Working Group in order to strengthen the relationship between the Scrutiny function and the Central South Consortium and ensure best practice is shared.

Background

  1. On 23rd October, 2017 Cabinet agreed to scrutiny arrangements of the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service consisting of a Working Group consisting of the Chairs of Education Scrutiny in each of the participating Local Authorities (or a nominated person other than the Chair), supported by a nominated Scrutiny officer in each case (Minute C107 refers).
  2. The Scrutiny Working Group's Terms of Reference are to consider standing items such as:

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

(ii)  Regional performance trends;

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

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

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

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

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. A summary of the issues scrutinised is below:
  • The Scrutiny Working Group confirmed its work programme items for 2017/18 and approved that the forward planner was flexible and could be reviewed at the end of each meeting to ensure additional focus, expertise, and impact was achieved at each meeting.  It was agreed that additional scrutiny of items could be requested by Members of the group before each meeting, with the Central South Consortium providing relevant speakers as required.  Additionally, Members of the Working Group used the opportunity to discuss the sharing of best practice in Scrutiny, including reviews of public speaking at scrutiny meetings.
  • A presentation by the Managing Director of the Central South Consortium which provided an overview of the work undertaken by the organisation.  The presentation covered the Consortium's performance, accountability, governance and evaluations of impact.
  • The Group reviewed information on the latest attainment results.  With regards to Foundation Phase Data, there had been year on year improvements above the expected level.  With regard to Key Stage 2 Data, there had been a slight decline in Welsh, but other indicators had performed above the expected level of progress.  For Key Stage 3, year in year improvements at and above the expected level were noted, however it was becoming increasingly difficult to find areas of improvement. Members of the Working Group requested being able to see how attainment for Additional Learning Needs and Eligible for Free School Meals pupils had improved over time, and queried if performance data was available to assess if attending summer learning programmes was having an impact.  It was noted that the data for Key Stage 4 was unverified and was difficult to compare with previous years, due to changes to the English and Mathematics examination papers which had contributed to a drop in attainment.  The Working Group requested a breakdown of the special schools data for additional scrutiny.
  • The actions undertaken by the Central South Consortium to address any concerns and share best practice with attainment results was also considered.  Such actions included: requesting Challenge Advisors to investigate any drop in examination performance at Key Stage 4, asking schools to submit their recalled examination papers so that a shared bank of resources could be created to provide a diagnostic tool for teachers, and paying for all secondary schools to have access to Additional Learning Provision that could provide detailed information on each school's key Stage 5 Regional Performance Data.  The Working Group have also requested that future performance data include a section on Looked After Children.
  • The Central South Consortium business plan update detailed success criteria and milestones, as well as updated regional and national data comparisons with the intention to use this information to help identify good practice.  The Central South Consortium's Senior Lead for Leadership and Workforce Reform informed the Working Group of the Consortium's plans around cluster working and maximising partner schools' access to pioneer school expertise.  The Working Group considered the Consortium's response to the group challenge: "To what extent is the region using e-technology to support schools in relation to the new curriculum" and members requested the Senior Lead for Leadership and Workforce Reform investigate if the e-learning platform for Governors would include a safeguarding module.
  • Further information was sought by the Group regarding the Consortium's work on wellbeing, with particular reference to mental health, and concerns were raised about support for Children Looked After and the length of time it took organise Pupil Referral Unit placements.  A presentation from the Central South Consortium's Pupil Deprivation Grant and Looked after Children Regional Lead, which provided National and Regional Comparisons, was subsequently received.  The Officer identified areas of best practice with Challenge Advisors to be shared through the Consortium and informed the Group that whole school approaches to Learner Support were producing good results, and that a series of Task and Finish Groups had been set up to tackle the issue, as significant research showed that children from deprived areas had lower education performance.  The Scrutiny Working Group have requested further information on attainment levels for Young Carers and Refugees and to include any information on reductions on funding for Children from Armed Forces Families.
  • Updated on the ongoing review of National Categorisation, with it being noted that Welsh Government wished to change the categorisation process to reduce / avoid unfair comparisons while maintaining accountability.  The Group considered the benefits of different colour categorisation systems, noting that the NHS had moved away from RAG status as it did not allow for helpful comparisons between different areas.
  • Using the Scrutiny Working Group as an opportunity to share good practice, a Member informed the Group that their Local Authority had hosted a festival of learning which provided an opportunity to share excellence in the County's schools. The emphasis had been on Learner and Staff, with many cross-sector organisations attending, including the Central South Consortium.  Future festivals, it was noted, would seek to obtain more cross-county involvement.
  1. The revised Work Programme for the Scrutiny Working Group for the next two academic terms is attached at Appendix A to the report.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. There are no direct resource implications as a result of this report.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no direct sustainability and climate change implications as a result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. There are no direct legal implications as a result of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no direct crime and disorder implications as a result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. There are no direct equal opportunities implications as a result of this report

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. Working with Partners to Achieve an Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale; continuing to improve standards of achievement for pupils through sharing excellence between schools and the targeting of resources.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The recommendations of this report are within existing policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Not applicable as the matter is a county-wide issue.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Learning and Culture

Background Papers

N/A

Contact Officer

Mike Willmott, Assistant Democratic Services Officer

Officers Consulted

Principal Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer

Operational Manager Accountancy

Legal Services

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Managing Director