Meeting documents

Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee
Monday, 18th June, 2018 9.30 am

Date: Monday 18th June 2018 Time: 9.30 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre

Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

PresentAndWithReport toReport of
COUNCILLOR HAYDEN TROLLOPE (CHAIR)
Item
No
Item/Resolution Status Action
PUBLIC
1. TUDALEN GLAWR AGENDA GYMRAEG/WELSH VERSION OF AGENDA COVERSHEET
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Agenda Coversheet (172K/bytes)
Noted
2. SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.

Noted
3. APOLOGIES

An apology for absence was received from Councillor P. Baldwin

Noted
4. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

The following declarations of interest were reported:-

Councillors J. Holt, J. Collins and L. Parsons declared an interest in Item 7 - Home to School and Post 16 Transport Policy: Consultation.

Noted
5. TIME OF FUTURE MEETINGS

Consideration was given to the time of future meetings of the Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee, it was unanimously

AGREED that future meetings will be held on a Monday at 9.30am.

Agreed
6. EDUCATION & LEARNING SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes (278K/bytes)
Cofnodion (219K/bytes)

The Minutes of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 24th April, 2018 were submitted, and the following points of accuracy were raised-

Self Evaluation Policy Document

A Member referred to page 8, third paragraph and requested that the phrase 'support and challenge' be amended to 'support, challenge and celebrate achievement' and to be included in the Self Evaluation Policy document. The Corporate Director of Education agreed to include this in the policy document.


The Member also referred to page 8, fourth paragraph and expressed his concern that he had requested that a special scrutiny meeting be held once a year not a Member Briefing Session to debate the full Evaluation Report.

The Member also requested an amendment to page 10, second paragraph that the wording 'in EAS region' be added following the words 'red category'.

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

Agreed
7. ACTION SHEET
Action Sheet (36K/bytes)

The Action Sheet arising from the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 24th April 2018 was submitted.

The Chair commented that Members had received an informative and enjoyable visit to the school, and requested that a letter of thanks be written to the Headteacher of Penycwm School.

A Member raised concerns regarding the school meal menu, which they had sight of at the visit, and also the cost of school meals. The Head of Education Transformation responded that he would raise the menu concerns with the Catering Team and that school meal prices were part of ongoing discussions in relation to Value For Money.

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the Action Sheet be noted and the information contained therein be acknowledged.

Agreed
8. HOME TO SCHOOL AND POST 16 TRANSPORT POLICY: CONSULTATION
Report (113K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (400K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (176K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (41K/bytes)
Appendix 4 (47K/bytes)
Appendix 5 (161K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Education Transformation which was presented to provide Members with an overview of the current Home to School and Post 16 Transport Policy and to formally consult with the Committee.

The Officer spoke to the report and highlighted the main points, including:

- Local authorities had a duty to publish their home to school and post 16 transport policies in line with the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008, and that the Council's policy must be made available by 1st October proceeding the academic year to which the policy relates;


- The distance limits offered under the current policy;
- Other local authorities that had reverted to statutory limits;
- The Financial Efficiency Programme (FEP) business case agreed at Council in January 2018;
- The number of pupils that would be affected by any review to the policy (Appendix 3 of the report); and
- The options presented as part of the consultation, the impact on the budget and the associated risks.

The officer also informed Members that the consultation would run from 11th June to 17th July 2018 and that to date a positive response with regards to the level of engagement had been received; 2 drop-in events held and 300 questionnaires completed.

A Member referred to paragraphs 5.1 and 5.2 of the report and enquired if there would be any adverse impact on the budget in relation to the EWS, for example.

The Head of Education Transformation responded that the Directorate would not anticipate any adverse impact on the EWS budget, as the service was already in place, however, there could be an impact on staff capacity owing to extra home or school visits that may need to be undertaken.

A Member raised two questions; namely, who had agreed the consultation options and were they predetermined, and was the main outcome of the review to make budget savings? The Member was also concerned that reviewing the policy would affect pupil attendance and standards and the impact of Universal Credit on families.

The officer responded that there was not a predetermined option, but that it was a requirement of Welsh Government that a consultation exercise should include a set of options. He continued by stating that a report had been presented to the Executive Committee, who had agreed to present the options as detailed in the report.

In response to the second question, the officer confirmed that the main driver for the review of the policy was financial and that significant revenue savings would be made over a period of time. The Officer also noted to Members that if following consultation the policy remained the same, savings would need to be made elsewhere.

In response to a question from a Member, the Corporate Director of Education informed that there was potential for the review to affect standards and that Universal Credit could have an impact.

In response to a Member's question, the officer responded that free transport was provided to children attending their nearest available school.

A Member enquired, that if a walking route to school had been deemed unsafe, would this decision be affected by a review of the policy.

The School Transport Manager responded that if the route had been deemed unsafe it would remain so, unless there had been topographical changes in that area.

A Member referred to 5.2 and the challenges faced by other authorities regarding safe routes to school and the cost implications.

The Head of Education Transformation responded that this risk had been factored into report but did not have cost implications; but if such challenges were to be faced, costs would be met from capital funding.

A Member enquired if the NEETs population had been considered in the proposals to review the policy.

The Officer responded that the population of NEETs would be considered and that very recent figures released from Careers Wales informed that NEETs in Blaenau Gwent had reduced to 1.2%; and that the views of the Raising Aspirations Group would be sought as part of the consultation.

A Member raised concerns regarding pupils navigating the A465 road and asked would any pupils be disadvantaged as a result of the policy review.

The Chair raised concerns regarding a previous consultation in Tredegar and a question that was asked at that time, whether any child would be disadvantaged as a result of Post 16 Education being established in Ebbw Vale and that the response given at that time was that no child would be disadvantaged.

The Officer responded that potentially the review of the policy could have an impact on pupils' learning.

A Member raised concerns regarding the potential cost implications for any challenges that may be faced against the potential savings.

The officer clarified that there were areas of particular concern; i.e. a judicial review in terms of legal costs; and safe walking routes to school in terms of capital costs. Regarding safe walking routes to school work had been undertaken by the School Transport Manager and this information could be provided for Members' information.

A Member raised a number of concerns:


- There was lack of public transport in some areas of the Borough and the extra costs parents may incur;
- Faith and Welsh Medium Primary schools and what would happen when those pupils transferred to sixth form;
- Safe routes to school - was consideration given for pupils walking to and from school on the dark winter mornings and evenings, and the lack of street lighting; and
- Those schools that provide their own transport how would they fit into the review.

The Head of Education Transformation responded that public transport had been raised at the events and the potential consequences would be considered as part the consultation. With regards to Faith and Welsh medium provision if the policy was changed then it would also apply to those pupils moving onto sixth form. The officer also stated that schools that currently fund transport would also be part of the review.

The School Transport Manager responded with regards to the safe routes to school, and informed Members that the criteria was determined by Welsh Government guidance and issues such as lighting are not covered, and that the routes were assessed on the assumption that a parent was taking the child to school.

A Member commented that the current level of the post 16 travel grant was not sufficient at its current level and if withdrawn could be a further barrier for young people undertaking further education.

A Member referred to 5.2 and the requirement for the review and development of the safe walking routes to school.

The Head of Education and Transformation responded that the review had now been undertaken.

A Member enquired whether it was possible to apply a means test.

The Officer responded that this was not normal practice for Council provision.

The Chair raised concerns regarding safe routes to school and enquired if the increase in the volume of traffic, that street lighting had been reduced and the changes in society had been considered as part of the review and also what had been the rationale for the current distance limits.

The School Transport Manager responded that the Council had adopted the distance limits from Gwent County Council in 1996 and had not been changed since that time.

The Head of Education Transformation informed Members that any challenges on safe routes to school would be considered on a risk based approach.


A Member referred to funding being available to erect barriers on a roadway, but nothing had been done.

The Officer responded that this would be raised with colleagues in Highways.

RESOLVED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and the views of the Scrutiny Committee on the proposal form part of the communication outturn report to the Executive.


Councillors J. Collins and L. Parsons left the meeting at this juncture.

Agreed
9. ICT INFRASTRUCTURE AND CONNECTIVITY FOR SCHOOLS
Report (135K/bytes)
Appendix 1(A) (68K/bytes)
Appendix 1(B) (113K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Education Transformation which was presented for Members to consider the Business Case for Change and a Proposed Delivery Model in relation to the future sustainability of the ICT Infrastructure and Connectivity in the Borough's schools.

The Officer spoke to the report and highlighted the main points, including:


- The Welsh Government had developed a Digital Competency Framework for the delivery of ICT across the curriculum to enable the development of a digitally skilled pupil population in the use of technologies and to prepare them for career pathways;
- Blaenau Gwent had developed a plan to address key infrastructure and connectivity needs to support the delivery of ICT in line with Framework;
- In 2014 WG's LiDW Strategy identified that by 2020 Primary schools should have 100MB connectivity and Secondary school 1GB connectivity; currently Blaenau Gwent schools have 10MB and 100MB, respectively; and
- A proposal had been developed by the Council in partnership with SRS and the ICT Strategy group, for connectivity and infrastructure to enable a consistent and adequate standard of technology and support.

The Officer also informed Members that there was a 100% buy-in from Blaenau Gwent schools.

The Chair raised concerns regarding the level of adequate support provided by the SRS.

The Officer responded that a new Service Level Agreement would be developed between the schools and the SRS.

The SRS representative informed Members that as part of the revised SLA the SRS would create dedicated Education support team that would be separate from the Corporate model.

A Member enquired if there would be support available within individual schools.

The SRS representative responded that the support currently provided in schools would not change, but the infrastructure would be changing.

RESOLVED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and the views of the Committee be considered prior to seeking Executive agreement of the ICT business case.

At the invitation of the Chair, a Member raised a query regarding Abertillery Learning Community (ALC).

The Corporate Director of Education responded that she and Council officers and officers from the Education Achievement Service would be happy to arrange a Member Briefing Session of ALC. Members confirmed that this would be acceptable and the Member Briefing session should be arranged as a matter of urgency. The Director confirmed that this would be arranged as soon as possible.

Agreed