Agenda and minutes

Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 22nd June, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: virtually via Microsoft Teams - if you would like to attend this meeting live via Microsoft Teams please contact committee.services@blaenau-gwent.gov.uk

Contact: Democratic Services  5100

Media

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:-

 

Councillor Derrick Bevan

Councillor Clive Meredith

 

Service Manager Inclusion

3.

Declarations of Interests and Dispensations

To consider any declarations of interests and dispensations made.

Minutes:

Councillor Stewart Healy declared an interest in item 10 - Aneurin Leisure Trust Performance and Monitoring Report (April 2020 – March 2021).

4.

Time of Future Meetings

To consider.

Minutes:

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

5.

Special Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee Minutes pdf icon PDF 232 KB

To receive the Minutes of the Special Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on the 1st April, 2021.

 

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

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Special Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee Meeting held on 1st April, 2021 were submitted.

 

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

6.

Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee Minutes pdf icon PDF 258 KB

To receive the Minutes of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on the 20th April, 2021.

 

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

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee Meeting held on 20th April, 2021 were submitted.

 

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

7.

Action Sheet - 20th April 2021 pdf icon PDF 103 KB

To receive the Action Sheet.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The action sheet arising from the meeting of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 20th April, 2021 was submitted, whereupon:-

 

Grants Awarded to Education Directorate

 

A Member enquired why the amount of funding received for Tredegar Comprehensive School was nearly double the funding received for Brynmawr Foundation School and Abertillery Learning Community.  The Corporate Director of Education said he would look into the variances and report back to the Committee.

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding how PDG Challenge Advisors would interact and challenge Headteachers, the Corporate Director of Education explained that the Challenge Advisors would work closely with the schools to make sure that there was appropriate use of this funding across the schools and ensure that the resource was used effectively to support those learners who were targeted, in line with the grant criteria. 

 

A Member referred to the differences shown in the PDG amounts, these grants were based on the number of free school meal pupils within schools and felt that an item could be put forward on the interventions in different schools and how it was helping free school meal pupils progress.  The Member referred to the percentage of free school meals in Blaenau Gwent and enquired if this could be looked at, as he felt that not all free school meal children were having what they were entitled to and this affected grants going into schools.  He felt that information regarding free school meal entitlement was difficult to find on the Blaenau Gwent website and the link for applications should be more prominent.  He also raised concerns that free school meal assessments were now carried out every 3 years.

 

The Corporate Director of Education said that in relation to the situation around free school meals and the way that is assessed within schools, a lot of work had been carried out during the pandemic which had resulted in a significant increase associated with eligibility around free school meals. The latest position was that in the region of 1,700 children were now entitled to free school meals and the situation was being closely monitored.  The Director advised Members that there was probably a 30 to 40% increase in terms of families and children entitled to free school meals due to the impact associated with COVID around the socio-economic status of the area.  In relation to the Member’s first point, one of the briefing notes outlined some of the areas for potential spend on the Pupil Development Grants so that Members were appraised of the way that resource could be used to support learners both from an FSM and CLA perspective across the school estate.  The Director would provide anonymised information regarding this matter to Members and also ensure that the link for applications for FSM was made more prominent on the website.

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding what percentage of families were claiming FSM, the Director reported that the percentage was in the region of 30% but stressed it was a fluid  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Proposed Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 386 KB

To consider the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

The Chair advised that this was a fluid document and could be subject to change.

 

A Member commented that the report on Section 106 Agreements was an information item and felt that this should be an agenda item for Committee so that Members gain a better understanding of the benefits of Section 106 Agreements, how the money was utilised and how they link with Education, Planning and Regeneration Directorates. 

 

The Chair proposed that the report on Section 106 Agreements be withdrawn from the information pack and be presented to a future meeting of the Committee as an Agenda item. 

 

This course of action was AGREED.

 

A Member enquired if there were any reports on the Forward Work Programme regarding the large turnover of Headteachers in Blaenau Gwent and also home schooling as this impacted on pupil attendance.  The Corporate Director of Education said that as part the Forward Work Programme there were reports on both school pupil attendance and exclusions that would feature as part of the Inclusion and Improving Schools reports, there would also be updates in terms of where we are with leadership, potential changes and recruitment in those schools that are a cause for concern.

 

The Member referred to the EAS and enquired regarding value for money.  The Corporate Director of Education said there was a good working relationship with the EAS who worked closely with the School Improvement and Inclusion team.  A report had been presented to Committee previously that highlighted value for money, which was based upon two key variables i.e. whether performance was increasing and standards improving and if that was being done with less resources. The Director felt that both the Authority and the EAS were improving standards with reducing budgets during the period of public sector austerity.

 

The EAS Principal Challenge Advisor reiterated the Director’s comments and added that she was excited to be working with the new Education Directorate and Leadership team in Blaenau Gwent.  She reassured Members that the partnership, which was how the Welsh Government saw the relationship moving forward, was healthy and strong.  They held regular meetings and had excellent opportunities to look at the roles the Local Authority and the EAS played to ensure that the support for schools was tailored in the right way.   

 

The Committee AGREED that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme 2021-22 be approved; and

 

FURTHER AGREED that the information item on Section 106 Agreements be presented to the Committee as an Agenda item for consideration.

9.

Education Directorate – Recovery and Renewal Plan pdf icon PDF 522 KB

To consider the report of the Head of School Improvement and the Service Manager, Education Transformation and Business Change.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion and the Service Manager Education Transformation and Business Change which was presented to provide Members with an opportunity to scrutinise the Education Directorate’s identified priorities for recovery and renewal, as part of the response to the COVID-19 situation.

 

The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.

 

A Member referred to pupil behaviour in schools and felt this should have been referenced in the report.  The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion said that learner’s emotional states including their behaviour and the potential impact that could have on other learners was a key priority.  The report contained overarching statements of the key areas and these would be broken down into much more detailed plans i.e. learner wellbeing, emotional, behaviour etc.

 

The Service Manager Education Transformation & Business Change reiterated this point and said that this linked into the learner theme and also the school operations and support for schools around behaviour in the form of risk assessments and staffing etc. and felt this was a cross cutting aspect that would feature as part of the detailed action plans around a number of these different impact areas.

 

A Member commented that it was good to see whole school wellbeing and mental health support being given priority, and also to see support for vulnerable learners and ALN reform feature so prominently, and that parental engagement, which he felt was absolutely crucial was also listed.  He felt the plan accurately reflected the Local Authority responding to current and future changes.

 

With regard to PPE and face masks in schools a Member commented that the Authority needed to be clearer on the guidance as there was uncertainty on wearing face masks in classrooms and corridors.  The Service Manager Education Transformation & Business Change stressed there was clear guidance that in all secondary schools in classrooms and in communal areas, where two metre social distancing could not be maintained, that pupils wear face coverings and this applied across the school estate.  If there were significant issues which were presented and schools feel that under risk assessment that they could manage and put in place additional control measures, then the team could look to review that with the school.   There had been significant engagement with primary and secondary schools, special schools and all through schools and that guidance had been clearly relayed and was reinforced at every opportunity.  If there were any particular concerns the Member had the officer offered to discuss these outside of the meeting. 

 

A Member referred to the identified key impacts on education on page 55 and said that in relation to safeguarding, voluntary third sector involvement, preventative health measures and Covid-19 control measures, the report stated there had been little or no engagement and he felt this was inaccurate as there had been a lot of engagement with youngsters and their parents during the pandemic i.e. ensuring free school meals  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Aneurin Leisure Trust Performance and Monitoring Report (April 2020 – March 2021) pdf icon PDF 441 KB

To consider the report of the Corporate Director Education.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor S. Healy declared an interest in the following item and remained in the meeting.

 

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Education and the Service Manager – Young People and Partnerships which was presented to update Members on the performance of the Aneurin Leisure Trust and to clarify the future performance monitoring arrangements.

 

The Service Manager Young People and Partnerships spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.

 

The Chair commented on the improved relationship between the Council and the Trust and said this was beneficial to the community.  The Director of Operations of the Trust said there had been a team effort all round, Blaenau Gwent Council had openly engaged with the Trust to get a better relationship. He added that the Trust’s staff had done outstandingly well in supporting the Council’s response through the Covid period.

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding hubs in Libraries, the Director of Operations said they had worked closely on this project from start to finish and he felt there were no disadvantages as local residents could now use the service on their doorstep, it was also good for libraries as it opened up a whole new audience.

 

The Chair enquired regarding the possibility of leisure centres so that the service could open more than one day a week.  The Director of Operations said this could potentially present a problem in relation to staffing.  The decision for only opening one day a week was only for the first month, from 21st June until 24th July and this was due to occupancy numbers with social distancing in place, from the 25th July they would move to the new phase and reopen fully.

 

A Member commented that it was an excellent report and was pleased to note that staff had been redeployed to help with the Covid response and wanted to put on record his thanks that Bedwellty House had been opened as a Covid vaccination centre for the residents of Tredegar as the new hospital was still under construction.  He was also pleased to note that the Trust were now accessing grant funding and hoped this would help to bring the facilities up to standard and be successful going forward.

 

Another Member commented that he felt the Trust was now in a different place from 2-3 years ago and gave credit for the work undertaken in the turning the Trust around.  He said that staff morale was much better and the relationship with schools had also improved.

 

The Corporate Director of Education agreed with the Members comments on the progress that had been made and said he had attended the sport centres recently to look at the recent developments that had taken place within the fitness areas and felt the work undertaken there was cutting edge and the developments places the ALT well for the future.  He felt there was professionalism and commitment from staff across the board and expressed his appreciation to the Director  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Improving Schools Programme 2021 pdf icon PDF 379 KB

To consider the report of the Corporate Director Education.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Education, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion and the Strategic Education Improvement Manager which was presented to provide Members with an overview of those schools that have been inspected in the period, including those schools that have presented as a cause for concern, their progress and the work delivered or currently underway to continue to support them to improve.

 

The Corporate Director of Education spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.

 

The Chair enquired regarding the turnaround at the River Centre for students to get back into mainstream schooling.  The Corporate Director of Education said the River Centre was a 64 place school with 40 turnaround places and 24 permanent places and one of the considerations that needed to be developed and strengthened was the work undertaken around the 40 turnaround places.  There were concerns that learners were not being placed back into mainstream settings with the support they needed and this was a consideration linked to the pre-warning notice letter.  He added that a Service Agreement was being developed.  It would be a tripartite partnership arrangement between the Local Authority, the River Centre and the receiving school and he felt that the school needed to demonstrate more of a collaboration approach with partners in terms of working towards the return of learners back into mainstream settings and this was a priority piece of work to take forward.

 

A Member commented that it was quite concerning that the River Centre had gone from Amber to Yellow and was now in the position of a warning notice.  He referred to para 4.1.2.3 school pupil capacity and admission arrangements for learners and said there had been an on-going issue with administrative paperwork i.e. on some occasions the correct paperwork had not been forwarded to the River Centre for them to be aware of potential problems and also when pupils returned to mainstream settings the paperwork had not followed and enquired if these issues had been addressed.

 

The Corporate Director of Education felt that the categorisation of the River Centre previously as a Yellow school was a historic reflection on the status of the performance at the school and this categorisation was questionable.  The Governing Body had been strengthened with three LA appointed Governors supporting the work of the Governing Body.   Admission arrangements featured as part of the pre-warning notice letter and he felt more engagement from the school was needed, they were not currently engaging in the Additional Learning Needs Panel arrangements.  The administrative paperwork was being produced but he felt that the school needed to participate at ALN Panel when learners were being discussed for potential placement within the River Centre and again this was part of the pre-warning notice letter and that needed to be resolved with the school.

 

The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion had been in discussions with the Headteacher to identify and resolve any ongoing issues and felt it was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.