Agenda and minutes

Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 15th September, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: remotely via Microsoft Teams

Contact: Democratic Services  5100

Note: Due to a technical fault there is no recording of this meeting available 

Items
No. Item

1.

Simultaneous Translation

You are welcome to use Welsh at the meeting a minimum notice period of 3 working days is required should you wish to do so.  A simultaneous translation will be provided if requested.

Minutes:

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

 

2.

Apologies

To receive.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors
L. Parsons, G. Collier and Alun Williams.

 

3.

Declarations of Interests and Dispensations

To consider any declarations of interests and dispensations made.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.

 

4.

Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee Minutes pdf icon PDF 260 KB

To receive the Minutes of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 26th February, 2020.

 

(Please note the Minutes are submitted for points of accuracy only).

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee Meeting held on 26th February, 2020 were submitted.

 

The Committee AGREED that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

 

UPDATE - RETURNING TO SCHOOL DURING THE

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

 

At the request of the Chair, the Interim Corporate Director Education provided a verbal update on returning to school during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

The Interim Director confirmed that a full report would be presented to the next Scrutiny Committee covering the emergency response to date and an update on the reopening of schools.

 

It was reported that the process to re-open the schools had been a strategic approach with the formation of Executive Planning Groups for both primary and secondary school sectors. There were two planning days and two transitional planning days included into the process with specific targeting of certain year groups. The Education team with corporate support developed guidance to support the reopening of schools and this included health and safety advice and the undertaking of risk assessments.

 

It was reported that all schools in Blaenau Gwent opened fully on the 7th September. This had been in advance of the Welsh Government requirement of 14th September. In terms of attendance, it was advised that as of week commencing 7th September attendance was at 84% which dropped to 81% by the Friday, the reasons for the reduction in attendance was not yet known.

 

The Interim Corporate Director Education continued that there have been 4 confirmed Covid-19 cases in schools at present. There was one case in a primary school which had not impacted other pupils and 3 pupils in a secondary school. The guidance was revised to take account of these cases, for example school assemblies would not take place and face masks are encouraged in communal areas. The school based staff attendance is being monitored by OD and so far 20 staff are self-isolating, although it was anticipated that this number could increase.

 

A Member asked if the officers were confident guidelines were being followed and also asked what support was in place for parents.

 

The Interim Corporate Director advised that the guidance would be enforced at the next planning meeting on Friday and clear messages have been provided to the schools and parents.

 

Another Member asked if an infected pupil had a sibling in a different school what would be the advice to parents. The Education Transformation Manager explained the process and it was felt that guidance available for parents needed to be clear. The Officer reiterated that these messages are being provided and would continue to be available to parents.

 

Further concerns were raised in relation to guidance and it was stated that it was crucial that the appropriate information was available for schools, parents and pupils.

 

A Member commended school based staff for their dedication in getting the schools back up and running.

 

In response to a question raised in relation to Welsh Government monies, it was asked if  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Action Sheet - 26th February 2020 pdf icon PDF 214 KB

To receive the action sheet.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The action sheet arising from the meeting of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 26th February, 2020 was submitted.

 

The Committee AGREED, subject to the foregoing, that the action sheet be noted.

 

6.

Time of Future Meetings

To consider.

Minutes:

The Committee AGREED that future meetings be held at 10.00 a.m. 

 

7.

Proposed Scrutiny Forward Work Programme 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 385 KB

To consider the report of the Chair of the Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Chair of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee.

 

A discussion ensued around School Inspection Reports and Members noted the importance of the Inspection reports which are statutory items and should be available on the agenda to be scrutinised by Members. The Interim Corporate Director concurred with these comments and the Chair thereupon proposed that School Inspection reports be presented as part of the agenda going forward.

 

The Committee AGREED this course of action.

 

The Committee AGREED, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1.

 

8.

Home to School and Post 16 Transport Policy 2021/22: Approval and Publication (by October 1st 2020) pdf icon PDF 519 KB

To consider the report of the Education Transformation Manager.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Education Transformation Manager which was presented to seek the views of Scrutiny Members in relation to the review of the Blaenau Gwent Home to School and Post 16 Transport Policy for the 2021/22 academic session.

 

The Education Transformation Manager advised that the Council had a duty to publish the home to school and post 16 transport policies. The Council’s policy must be made available by the 1st October proceeding the academic year to which the policy related. The policy has been reviewed by the Education Transformation, Inclusion and Transport teams, along with Children’s Services and the Manager noted that the revised document was attached at Appendix 1 and referred to the minor additions, which had been proposed.

 

The Education Transformation Manager further referred Members to the budget implications and advised that the Home to School Transport budget was approximately £1.9m, and the Post 16 budget was approximately £133,290 per annum. The Policy was last reviewed in September 2019 and adopted in October 2019. The policy would ensure that there was an appropriate framework to aid delivery and therefore reduce the risk of overspend relating.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely theEducation and Learning Scrutiny Committee considered the Home to School and Post 16 Transport Policy 2021/22 (Appendix 1), and recommended it to Executive Committee for approval.

9.

Blaenau Gwent - Post 16 Partnership Agreement pdf icon PDF 411 KB

To consider the report of the Youth Service Manager.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Youth Services Manager which was presented to provide Members of the Scrutiny Committee with an opportunity to scrutinise a proposal to establish a Blaenau Gwent Post 16 Partnership Board to oversee the strategic development of academic and vocational provision for learners across the County Borough.

 

The Interim Corporate Director Education advised that there was a strong partnership arrangement between the Council and Coleg Gwent. The Learning Zone delivered an annual performance report to the Council which featured as a key component of the Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee’s Forward Work Programme. In addition to the Learning Zone, a number of post 16 Work Based Learning organisations provide alternative training opportunities across Blaenau Gwent and the Aspire Apprenticeship programme was delivered by the Authority.

 

The Interim Corporate Director added that Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone’s performance continued to improve and the transformation of post 16 provision across the County Borough had delivered more post 16 learners, a wider range of courses, particularly for vocational provision and improved attainment levels. The strong partnership continued to progress and a systematic approach was in place to share data at both a strategic and operational level. The partnership would be developed further through the establishment of a Post 16 Partnership Board with representation from the Education Directorate, Coleg Gwent, work based learning providers and Blaenau Gwent secondary school settings. There would also be representation from colleagues in Regeneration to encompass the broader skills and economic development agenda, contributing towards the Blaenau Gwent Employment and Skills Plan. The Interim Corporate Director Education added that it was hoped that the Partnership Board would be in place by the autumn term and welcomed comments on the draft Terms of Reference for the Blaenau Gwent Post 16 Partnership Board.

 

The Scrutiny Committee would monitor progress going forward as reports would form part of the Forward Work Programme.

 

A Member raised concerns in the relation to the number of post 16 training being undertaken out of the County. The Member felt that a high number of pupils was going to neighbouring Boroughs as the courses was not available in Ebbw Vale. It was important that Blaenau Gwent offered a wide range of options to give these young people aspirations.

 

The Interim Corporate Director Education advised that some young people have always chosen to go to other campuses, e.g. to undertake Horticultural Studies at the Usk Campus. There was a reduction in pupils attending a neighbouring 6th form, however this year the amount of A Levels awarded had actually increased and this was against the national trend increasing the previous year figures. The Interim Corporate Director added that a number of learners were now increasingly opting to study vocational courses.

 

Concerns were raised around the grant funded Aspire programme and it was felt that without guaranteed grants to maintain Aspire apprenticeships these opportunities could be lost to young people.

 

The Interim Corporate Director Education advised that both Inspire managed by the Youth Service and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Blaenau Gwent Education Services DRAFT Self – Evaluation Findings pdf icon PDF 527 KB

To consider the report of the Interim Corporate Director of Education.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Interim Corporate Director of Education.

 

The Interim Corporate Director advised the report provided Members of the Scrutiny Committee with an opportunity to scrutinise the findings of ongoing self-evaluation processes undertaken within the Education Directorate, across the Council and with key partners. The Interim Corporate Director further spoke to the report and highlighted the key points as outlined in the report.

 

Councillor B. Summers left the meeting at this juncture.

 

A Member asked what financial implications had Covid-19 had on schools in terms of teachers self-isolating, the need for replacements to be sought and would this be covered by the monies to be received from Welsh Government.

 

The Interim Corporate Director Education advised that during the closure of schools some revenue savings had been made, therefore some school balances had improved, however budgets were being monitored closely. In terms of Welsh Government funding, the monies received had assisted with for example enhanced cleaning in response to Covid-19.

 

Further discussions ensued in relation to KS4 and A Level results as well as how the Directorate had performed. It was also felt that the impact Covid-19 had on schools needed to be taken into consideration as well as the need for blended learning going forward. It was anticipated that schools would need to provide this blended form of learning going forward therefore it needed to be effective. These issues would be important during the next 12 months.

 

The Interim Corporate Director Education responded that if any schools were causing concerns these would be flagged up via the appropriate process and brought to Members via the Improving Schools report.

 

The Interim Corporate Director Education noted the points raised and advised that the advert for the post of Corporate Director was currently live and it was anticipated that an appointment would be made in October.  He advised that the Directorate was also recruiting a School Improvement Leader and this advert was also live.

 

In response to a question raised in relation to new elective home learners, it was advised that a small number of parents had requested to home school their children.  The Inclusion Manager added that the Directorate had been proactive in addressing parents’ anxieties when an enquiry had been made and it was hoped that following these discussions their concerns had been addressed.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 2; namely Members scrutinised the information detailed within the report and contributed to the continuous assessment of effectiveness by making appropriate recommendations to the Executive Committee.

 

11.

Revised LA Governor Policy pdf icon PDF 428 KB

To consider the report of the Strategic Education Improvement Manager.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Strategic Education Improvement Manager which was presented to consult Members of the Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee on the revised Local Authority Governor Policy prior to consideration by the Executive Committee.

 

The Chair referred to the recent LEA Governor Panel and noted his request for the meeting to be clerked. He felt that it was important that the decisions made at the panel were recorded formally as applicants are permitted to request a Freedom of Information request to have sight of discussions. The Officer confirmed that this had now been agreed with Business Support and agreed to include this arrangement in the report to be presented to the Executive Committee.

 

The Committee AGREED this course of Action.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend, subject to the foregoing that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1.