Meeting documents

Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee
Monday, 9th July, 2018 9.30 am

Date: Monday 9th July 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
Item/Resolution Status Action
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Agenda Coversheet (232K/bytes)

The Chair said he was sad to report that Alyson Carrington's mother had recently passed away and the Committee stood as a mark of respect.


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


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors:

P. Baldwin, J. Holt and Mr. T. Baxter Co-opted Member


No declarations of interest or dispensations were reported.

Minutes (287K/bytes)
Cofnodion (230K/bytes)

The Chair reported that due to extenuating circumstances the minutes of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 18th June, 2018 were in draft form. As a result the Chair said he would allow Members to make comments other than accuracy points, whereupon:-

Item No. 6 Action Sheet (Penycwm School Visit)

A Member referred to the visit to Penycwm School and said he had commented that the reverberation in the school hall could be a cause for concern for pupils with hearing difficulties. Another Member said he had requested information regarding school meals and catering contracts.

In response the Chair confirmed that discussions were ongoing regarding the school estate and their participation in the school meals contract, and the Head of Education Transformation would be submitting a report in due course.

The Head of Education Transformation confirmed that the corporate SLA group were working very closely with schools. There were a number of SLA's up for review from April 2019 across the whole of the school estate, and this review would include catering and cleaning.

Item No. 7 Home to School and Post 16 Transport Policy: Consultation

A Member referred to the 5th paragraph on page 7 of the minutes 'A Member raised two questions', and said he had commented that two Task and Finish Groups had been established previously and both decided not to proceed. He had also asked whether the money spent on the Home to School and Post 16 Transport review was value for money.

Item No. 8 ICT Infrastructure and Connectivity in Schools

A Member said he had asked that progress of Abertillery Learning Community be reported back, and the Corporate Director of Education confirmed that this would be reported via the School Improvement Programme report.

The Committee AGREED, subject to the foregoing, that the minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

Action Sheet (51K/bytes)

The Action Sheet arising from the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 18th June, 2018 was submitted.

The Chair thanked the Corporate Director for a speedy response to the requests for Members Briefing Sessions on the Abertillery Learning Campus.

The Committee AGREED that the Action Sheet arising from the meeting held on 18th June, 2018 be noted.

Report (82K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (852K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Scrutiny Officer which was presented to seek approval of the
Education and Learning Scrutiny Work Programme for 2018-19.

A Member suggested that a report on the outcomes of the National Numeracy and Literacy Tests be submitted in September or October.

In response the Corporate Director explained that these were currently included within Teacher Assessments. However, Local Authorities across Wales were currently in discussions regarding changes to the accountability measures and what level of detail could be published in the future. The Corporate Director confirmed that a Member Briefing session was in the process of being arranged on the reporting and accountability arrangements moving forward.

The Chair and Member expressed concern and said that this data was critical for the role of Scrutiny in terms of monitoring school performance. The Corporate Director said the feeling was that we may be able to publish data at Local Authority level, but possibly not at individual school level.

Scrutiny meeting date 15th October, 2018 - ALN Reforms

In response to a question raised the Inclusion Lead Officer said this item would provide an opportunity for Members to give their views on the approach taken in preparation of the changes as a result of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018, and how the changes could be tailored for Blaenau Gwent.

In response to a further question, the Officer confirmed that a Member Briefing Session was held in the Autumn Term and all Members would receive the Scrutiny report, however, he would be happy to present an updated Member Briefing in the Spring Term.

Scrutiny meeting date 7th January, 2018

A Member stated that a review of the previous year's EAS Business Plan should be received in January 2019 to ensure that they are meeting their objectives.

The Education Improvement Manager confirmed that the outturn of this year's Business Plan would be submitted to Scrutiny in January 2019.

In relation to the Schools Standards Monitoring Group item scheduled for January's meeting a Member said the SSMG meetings were always an area of good practice for Blaenau Gwent and that these meeting should be continued as soon as possible.

The Officer agreed with the Member's comments and confirmed that subject to discussion with Headteachers and the Executive Member a report would be submitted in relation to the future work of that Group.

Special Scrutiny Committee TBC - Summary SER

A Member referred to discussions at the Scrutiny Committee held on 24th April, 2018 where a Special meeting was requested to consider the full Self Evaluation Report. He said consideration of the full SER would give a better indication as to how the LEA was performing, particularly at individual school level.

In response the Corporate Director said in terms of making information more accessible the summary SER would highlight the key areas of progress, improvement and where further improvements were needed. A Members' Briefing Session would also be convened.

A brief discussion ensued when a Member said it would be beneficial to hold Scrutiny Committees in schools. The Chair confirmed that a number of previous meetings had been held in Tredegar and Brynmawr Comprehensive and alternative venues would be looked at during the year.

The Committee AGREED, subject to the foregoing, the Forward Work Programme for the Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee.

Report (161K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (442K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (290K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (302K/bytes)
Appendix 4 (315K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Education which provided Members with an update on inspection outcomes during the Spring Term 2018 for St. Joseph's Primary School, Glanhowy Primary School, Abertillery Learning Community and Acorns Nursery (non-maintained setting).

St. Joseph's Primary School

The Education Improvement Manager presented the Inspection Report for St. Joseph's Primary School, and confirmed that the Inspectors awarded a judgement of 'Good' against all five inspection areas.

The report recognised that nearly all the pupils at the school make good progress as they moved through the school and they acquired appropriate literacy and numeracy skills and learned to apply these effectively across the curriculum. The quality of teaching was good, and Teachers and support staff know their pupils well and worked as a cohesive team to help pupils achieve their potential. Nearly all pupils enjoy going to school and have positive attitudes towards learning, they have good manners and show respect for one another and for adults. The school benefitted from strong leadership and governance with a clear focus on providing a secure future for pupils through good quality learning experiences.

Estyn made three recommendations for improvement, namely:-

R1 Improve pupils' oracy skills in Welsh in Key Stage 2
R2 Develop outdoor learning in foundation phase
R3 Ensure governors act as critical friends

Glanhowy Primary School

The EAS Officer presented the Inspection report for Glanhowy Primary School. The Inspectors awarded a judgement of 'Good' against all five areas of inspection.

The report recognised that most pupils made good progress in developing their skills as they moved through the school and applied themselves well to the stimulating lessons and benefitted from the good quality teaching they received. Throughout the school most pupils with additional needs achieved well, and nearly all pupils in the learning resource base make steady progress.

Nearly all pupils behave very well and have a positive attitude to their learning. The Headteacher promoted a clear vision and provided strong leadership to an improving school and the Governors understood their role and supported the school effectively. Self-evaluation procedures successfully identified appropriate strengths and areas for development, and processes around school improvement are effective.

Estyn made four recommendations for improvement, namely:

R1 Improve selling and standards of handwriting
R2 Raise standards in use of oral Welsh
R3 Ensure that pupils understand more clearly what they should achieve during lessons in Key Stage 2
R4 Ensure assessment is consistent and accurate when judging higher levels of attainment

A Member who was also a Governor at the School reported that the Deputy Headteacher would be retiring at the end of the school term, and also Mrs. Ann Thomas who had been a dinner-lady at the school for 47 years. He asked that a letter be sent on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee to thank them both for their valued contribution to the School.

Another Member said he was very pleased with both reports and they demonstrated the hard work and excellent progress that had been made.

The EAS Officer referred to R3 for St. Joseph's Primary School, i.e. to ensure the Governors act as critical friend, and pointed out that the report made reference to the fact that it was a newly established Governing Body, and also recognised the importance of leadership.

In relation to Glanhowy, the EAS Officer said the strength of leadership was a relevant step in the progress made and the School was one of the lead learning network schools for Welsh, and also provided school to school support for other schools.

In response to a question raised by a Member the EAS Officer explained that whilst the Estyn judgement for both schools was 'Good' there was evidence of excellent aspects of work being undertaken, particularly in relation to wellbeing in St. Joseph's Primary and the leadership of Glanhowy School. It was about continuing to work with those Schools and the arrangements in place, and also gleaning good practice from others.

The Chair asked whether Officers were confident that the relevant plans were in place to drive the schools forward, and the Corporate Director said the recommendations formed part of the ongoing plan that underpinned the work of the Challenge Advisor along with the EAS. The recommendations would be kept under constant review to ensure that they were included in the improvement plans, and that appropriate pace of progress was being made through those plans.

The EAS Officer said it was important to note that the EAS was changing the way it worked with schools. Schools subject to high level intervention with multiple plans in place supporting the school would now have one very comprehensive School Development Plan incorporating all recommendations, and this work was a priority for the EAS moving forward.

In response to question raised by the Chair the EAS Officer explained that R2 for St. Joseph's Primary was a direct reference to the outdoor learning provision within the school setting.

Abertillery Learning Community

The Corporate Director of Education presented the Inspection Report for Abertillery Learning Community. The Inspectors awarded a judgement against the first four inspection areas of 'Adequate and needs improvement' and 'Unsatisfactory and needs urgent improvement' against inspection area 5 (Leadership and Management). The following recommendations for improvement were made:-

R1 Improve Standards, in particular outcomes at the end
of key stage 4
R2 Improve standards of behaviour in the secondary phase
R3 Improve the quality of teaching
R4 Improve planning for progression of skills, including the Welsh language, and the breadth of the secondary phase curriculum
R5 Improve the quality and impact of leadership at all levels, including in self-evaluation and planning for improvement
R6 Provide robust financial management to address the deficit budget

The report recognised that the Abertillery Learning Community had a supportive and inclusive ethos where many pupils felt part of a caring and safe community. However, strengths seen in the primary phase of the school were often not seen in the secondary phase.

In general teaching and assessment was effective in the primary phase but there was too much variation in the quality of teaching in the secondary phase. Staff in the primary phase had created an innovative and well-structured curriculum. However, the curriculum at Key Stage 3 was not planned well enough to enable pupils to build successfully on prior learning, and the current curriculum at Key Stage 4 offered too limited a range of options.

In terms of leadership, the quality and impact varied too much and overall leadership had not impacted enough on improving provision and standards in the secondary phase. In the primary phase, senior and middle leaders were effective, but significant weaknesses in the leadership of the secondary phase had not enabled the school to self-evaluate or plan for improvement well enough. Consequently, this had not led to sufficient improvement on important aspects of the school's work, in particular pupil outcomes at Key Stage 4 and the quality of teaching.

The Corporate Director said the support package put into the School, via the EAS, was unprecedented. There was support for leaders within subject areas and also leaders at a much higher level. In terms of progress to date the Corporate Director confirmed that an Interim Principle had been appointed and started on the 1st July, 2018, and he had already met with all pupils and staff. He was working very closely with the LA on a budget plan to address the significant deficit, and he was also planning to meet all parents at an open meeting on 18th July, 2018. The Corporate Director reported that the full Governing Body would be meeting later that evening whereby the LA nominated Chair of Governors would be formally appointed.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding the projected GCSE outcomes for the year, the Corporate Director said the L2+ had improved over the previous 3 years, but this was starting from a very low baseline. It was difficult to project what the L2+ outcomes would be, but she was confident it would be an improved position on the 25% last year.

A Member asked the Corporate Director if she was confident that the School could be turned around.
The Corporate Director said where the LA had invoked its powers of intervention in other schools they had improved, but she was not under-estimating the extent of the challenge in Abertillery. School improvement plans had been in place since last year, but concern regarding the pace of improvement was recognised. With the support package in place the Corporate Director said she had a measured sense of confidence, but the challenge was significant.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding pupil numbers, the Corporate Director confirmed that the figures had increased year on year which was positive, and this momentum needed to be maintained moving forward.

The Head of Education Transformation said the key factors for establishing the new Abertillery 3-16 school was raising education standards, and also to ensure a stable pupil population within Abertillery as pupils from the catchment area for the secondary phase were migrating out of county. The financial arrangements of the Learning Community needed to be secure to remain sustainable moving forward.

A Member sought an explanation on the plans in place to address the school budget deficit, and the Corporate Director confirmed that there was a sense of urgency by the Governing Body to address the deficit. She explained that during the last year the leadership structure had grown, and economies of scale which needed to be addressed were not necessarily effective. However, the Governing Body were now showing real engagement and a determination to address the deficit and had devised savings targets in key areas which would be considered at the meeting of the Governing Body tonight.

A Member asked whether the current school structure was sustainable in light of the significant budget deficit.
The Corporate Director confirmed that a deficit reduction plan had been devised and would be considered by the Governing Body at its meeting tonight. The plan would include options for consideration relating to the whole Learning Community, so it was vitally important that the Governing Body was well informed with facts and figures to ensure good debate. She confirmed that this plan was underpinned but a substantial piece of work to ensure that the options for consideration would effectively reduce the deficit.

In response to a question raised regarding the appointment of a permanent Principle, the Corporate Director confirmed that the new Interim Principle was committed to addressing the work that was needed to improve the school. However, it was a significant task and at this point in time would not present as an attractive offer to potential candidates. Stability was needed whilst this work was being undertaken, and it was felt initially that two terms would give a reasonable amount of time to implement the measures needed to make improvements so that the setting would present itself in a far more suitable and professional offer for a Senior Leader in the future.
A Member sought assurance that the appropriate support was in place for the Governing Body.

The Corporate Director said a key factor in dealing with schools causing concern was cultural change right through the system, including the Governing Body, and it was clear from the Inspection Report that the Governing Body had not supported or challenged the School effectively since it opened. However, to bring about cultural change the position of Chair needed to be addressed, and also additional Governors brought in with the skills and expertise required to provide an external perspective on the work of the Governing Body, and to learn from the good work being undertaken elsewhere. She confirmed that support had been maintained, along with EAS support, and an experienced Vice-Chair was also now in place, supported by LA nominated Chair of Governors.

The Corporate Director confirmed that the Intervention Panel continued to meet on a half termly basis to evaluate the extent of progress made and would continue to evaluate, support and challenge until it felt that the School was beginning to function effectively.

Acorns Nursery - Non-maintained setting

The EAS Officer presented the Inspection Report for Acorns Nursery. The inspection framework differed from the school framework, and the Inspectors judgement of 'Good' was recorded against the setting's current and prospects for improvement. Judgements of 'Good' were also recorded against the 7 quality indicators of teaching, care support and guidance, learning environment, leadership improving quality, partnership working and resource management; whilst learning experiences was judged 'Adequate', and no judgement being provided for standards and wellbeing as the number of children present at the time of the inspection was too few to report on without identifying children.

Estyn made four recommendations as follows:-

R1 Improve planning to identify the learning focus more clearly in adult led and free choice activities
R2 Use assessments to plan the next steps in children's learning effectively
R3 Implement improvement plans and monitor their impact effectively
R4 Plan effectively for future expenditure to meet the setting's improvement targets and resource needs
The EAS Officer confirmed that work had already commenced on an action plan to address the recommendations and bring about improvements.

A Member sought clarification on the fact that the setting was registered for a maximum of 20 children aged between two and four years old, but at the time of inspection there were 29 children on the roll. The Corporate Director undertook to report back on this matter.

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, and provided challenge to make improvements prior to approval by the Executive Committee.

The EAS Officer took the opportunity to report that following Estyn's recent visit, Rhos-y-Fedwen Primary School was no longer under Estyn review.

The Chair asked that a letter of congratulations be sent on behalf of the Scrutiny Community, and that letters also be sent to St. Joseph's Primary School and Glanhowy Primary School on receiving such pleasing inspection reports.

Report (346K/bytes)
Appendix (74K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Education which provided an opportunity for Members to scrutinise the Band B implementation proposals for the period 2019-24.

The Head of Education Transformation spoke to the report and highlighted points contained therein. He said at this point in time the report clearly outlined those projects where funding was available. Any further bids to the capital programme to invest in further developments would be subject to full Council approval.

A discussion ensued when the Officer said that the secondary school remodelling was complex with works to
be undertaken on existing school sites, and more preparation was needed to minimise the impact on learners. He said the timeline was draft and there would be a degree of flexibility, but match funding requirements needed to be considered.

A Member asked the Officer what projects could be achieved through prudential borrowing. In response the Officer explained that the original Band B programme was 19.6m, and Welsh Government had given the Council an 'in-principle' agreement to support the programme with a 50% match funding requirement from the Council. As a result the Council would have to secure an additional 4.3m to deliver the total programme. He confirmed that bids would be submitted to the capital programme during the Autumn 2018 and the potential for prudential borrowing would also be explored. Any additional capital that may be generated through the capital bids and prudential borrowing would be used to undertaken re-modelling works, particularly across the secondary school estate, in line with the priorities identified in the Band B programme.

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and the order of implementation of the agreed priorities be accepted, including timescales, as set out in the implementation plan at Appendix 1.