Agenda and draft minutes

Education & Children Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 28th January, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Virtual Meeting. View directions

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors T.A.J. Davies and S. Najmi.

 

The Chair informed the Committee that Mr Gareth Morgans, Director of Education & Children’s Services was unable to be present at today’s meeting due to illness and on behalf of the Committee, he wished Mr Morgans a speedy recovery.

 

2.

DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL INTEREST INCLUDING ANY PARTY WHIPS ISSUED IN RELATION TO ANY AGENDA ITEM.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The following declarations of personal interest were made:-

 

Member

Minute Item(s)

Nature of Interest

Cllr B. Thomas

7 – Proposal to Change the Nature of Provision at Ysgol y Felin

 

He is an LEA appointed Governor at Ysgol y Felin

Mr A. Enoch

6 – Proposal to Change the Nature of Provision at Model V.A. Primary School

 

He is a Parent Governor at Model V.A. Primary School

Rev. D. Richards

6 – Proposal to Change the Nature of Provision at Model V.A. Primary School

 

She is a Governor at Model V.A. Primary School appointed by the Diocese of Wales

 

 

There were no declarations of party whips.

 

3.

PUBLIC QUESTIONS (NONE RECEIVED)

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Minutes:

The Chair advised that no public questions had been received.

 

4.

REVENUE BUDGET STRATEGY CONSULTATION 2021/22-2023/24. pdf icon PDF 238 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the Council’s Revenue Budget Strategy 2021/22 to 2023/24 which provided a current view of the revenue budget for 2021/2022 together with indicative figures for the 2022/2023 and 2023/2024 financial years.  The report was based on officers’ projections of spending requirements and took account of the provisional settlement issued by Welsh Government on the 22nd December, 2020. It also reflected current departmental submissions for savings proposals after taking account of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the delivery of those savings.

 

It was noted that, whilst significant work had already been undertaken in preparing the budget, this report represented an initial position statement which would be updated over the coming month as the budget was further developed, council members are engaged and public consultation takes place.  The final settlement was due to be received from Welsh Government on 2nd March, 2021.

 

It was pointed out that Covid-19 has led not just to unprecedented additional costs but also to the collapse of important income, particularly during periods of lockdown. Taken together, it was anticipated that the combination of additional expenditure and income loss would have a £30 million impact on Carmarthenshire’s current year budgets. Authorities have submitted monthly claims, which have been assessed and to a very significant extent, fully refunded by WG. Looking ahead to next year, continued WG funding in this way has not been committed at this stage, not least because WG itself does not yet have funding confirmed as a consequence of Westminster Covid-19 related expenditure.

 

The report noted the main reasons for the Education & Children’s Services departmental overspend which was mainly due to the forecast increase in school deficit balances.

 

Although the Strategy proposed a 4.89% Council Tax increase for each of the three financial years, the Executive Board had recommended that the increase for 2021/22 be reduced to 4.48%.  This recommendation would be considered by Council at its meeting to be held on 3rd March, 2021 when setting the Council Tax level for 2021/22.  Additionally, the Welsh Government final settlement figure was to be announced on the 2nd March 2021 and any amendments required to be considered in relation to the Budget Strategy arising from that announcement would also be considered by Council on the 3rd March.

 

The Committee thereupon considered the following detailed budget information appended to the Strategy, relevant to its remit:-

 

·         Appendix A(i) – Efficiency summary for the Education & Children’s Services Department

·         Appendix A(ii) – Growth Pressures summary for the Education & Children’s Services Department

·         Appendix B – Budget monitoring report for the Education & Children’s Services Department

·         Appendix C – Charging Digest for the Education & Children’s Services Department

 

Whilst the budget proposals assumed the full delivery of all the savings proposals, together with the identification and delivery of the shortfall in savings proposals for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 financial years, further cost reductions would need to be identified for those latter years in order to maintain the current Budget Strategy and level of Council Tax. The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

AN EVALUATION INTO HOW CARMARTHENSHIRE'S EDUCATION & CHILDREN'S SERVICES DEPARTMENT RESPONDED TO COVID-19. pdf icon PDF 340 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report providing an overview of how the Local Authority and region has worked with schools and Pupil Referral Units to promote learning and support vulnerable pupils during the COVID-19 period between June and November 2020 i.e. the period after the initial lockdown when schools were reopening.

Officers in the Education and Children’s Services Department had to radically adapt the way they traditionally work in order to focus primarily on supporting schools and services so that the children and young people in our care were able to access all the support and interventions they required. It was an unprecedented period and decisions had to be taken by the Director, Departmental Management Team and Service Managers based on the information available at that time.

Over the Autumn term 2020 ESTYN undertook a thematic survey to reflect on the approach of Local Authorities, regional consortia and schools to teaching, learning and pupil wellbeing.  The review would provide Welsh Government, individual Local Authorities and regional consortia with a report reflecting their work and approaches during the lockdown period and at the start of the period when schools return to full operation. The reports will enable Welsh Government to understand the broad strengths and lessons learnt in the way Local Authorities and regions operated during this period.  It would also identify how learning from before the summer was used to support planning for and delivery of blended learning approaches and support for vulnerable learners during the Autumn term. This would also enable lessons to be learned from the most effective practice in relation to capacity, collaboration, future planning and change management which will support planned reforms in education and local government over the next few years.

The findings of these reports were positive, reflecting upon effective partnership working between all involved in the education system. However, a few areas needed further consideration and would be incorporated into the Departmental Business Planning for 2021/22.

 

The following questions/observations were raised on the report:-

 

  • Concern was expressed in relation to those schools being monitored by Estyn and officers were asked if this should be postponed until schools are open normally again.  The Principal Educational Support Adviser informed the Committee that there is a range of practice from Estyn in this regard and they are also undertaking pastoral calls to schools to ensure they are making the progress with their children and staff as is needed.  For schools in Estyn review, there is a meeting next week when schools’ progress will be discussed so instead of putting pressure on schools to produce reports, progress will be discussed by officers.  Positive feedback has been received in relation to the pastoral calls being made by Estyn;
  • Officers were asked how ERW assisted the county during the pandemic.  The Head of Education and Inclusion Services informed the Committee that ERW has been providing assistance with distance learning.  They have provided online courses for teaching staff and they have created safeguarding policies.  The Additional Needs Provision Manager added that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

MODERNISING EDUCATION PROGRAMME - PROPOSAL TO CHANGE THE NATURE OF PROVISION AT MODEL VA PRIMARY SCHOOL. pdf icon PDF 329 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

[NOTE:  Mr A. Enoch and Rev D. Richards, having earlier declared a prejudicial interest in this item, left the meeting prior to the consideration and determination thereof.]

 

The Committee considered a report detailing a proposal to change the nature of provision at Model V.A. Primary School.

 

In accordance with Welsh Government Strategic Plans, the Authority launched Carmarthenshire’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan and its vision for a bilingual Carmarthenshire. To achieve this, the Authority will deliver significant growth in Welsh medium education and training to increase the number of children and young people who become fluent in both Welsh and English and have the ability to use these languages confidently with their families, in their communities and in the workplace.

 

With this in mind, the Local Authority has a responsibility to provide its communities with the best education and opportunities possible and believes that this can be achieved through set objectives. Carmarthenshire County Council is fully supportive of the aim that all pupils are able to speak, read and write in both Welsh and English fluently by the end of Key Stage 2 and will provide services that will ensure high quality learning opportunities for all Carmarthenshire’s children, young people and adults, thereby enabling them to achieve their full potential as lifetime learners in the context of the unique bilingual nature of the County.

 

In order to support Carmarthenshire’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan and national policies in moving the county’s schools along the Welsh language continuum, it was proposed to change the nature of provision at Model VA Primary School.  It was proposed that from 1st September, 2022 the nature of Foundation Phase provision will change to Welsh medium education. This will only affect pupils starting in the Foundation Phase at the school from September 2022 onwards.  Current pupils attending the school will be unaffected.

 

With learners accessing Welsh medium education in the Foundation Phase this would, in time, necessitate setting up a Welsh Stream at Key Stage 2 to ensure continuity of provision. This would be reviewed in line with Carmarthenshire’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan.

 

The following questions/observations were raised on the report:-

 

·       The importance was stressed of taking people with us if we want the language continuum to work and officers were asked if it was possible to extend the consultation period in view of the concerns expressed.  The Head of Access to Education explained that it was not possible to go out to consultation without Executive Board approval and this report sought the Committee’s approval to recommend to the Executive Board that a formal consultation process be initiated;

·       Reference was made to the need to consult with parents and get them on board early on in the process;

·       In terms of those parents who will be the first to be affected by any changes in provision, officers were asked if contact could be made with the parents of children who attend nurseries where children progress to the school in question. 

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED

 

6.1  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

MODERNISING EDUCATION PROGRAMME - PROPOSAL TO CHANGE THE NATURE OF PROVISION AT YSGOL Y FELIN. pdf icon PDF 309 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

[NOTE:  Cllr B. Thomas had earlier declared an interest in this item.]

 

The Committee considered a report detailing a proposal to change the nature of provision at Ysgol y Felin.

 

In accordance with Welsh Government Strategic Plans, the Authority launched Carmarthenshire’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan and its vision for a bilingual Carmarthenshire. To achieve this, the Authority will deliver significant growth in Welsh medium education and training to increase the number of children and young people who become fluent in both Welsh and English and have the ability to use these languages confidently with their families, in their communities and in the workplace.

 

With this in mind, the Local Authority has a responsibility to provide its communities with the best education and opportunities possible and believes that this can be achieved through set objectives. Carmarthenshire County Council is fully supportive of the aim that all pupils are able to speak, read and write in both Welsh and English fluently by the end of Key Stage 2 and will provide services that will ensure high quality learning opportunities for all Carmarthenshire’s children, young people and adults, thereby enabling them to achieve their full potential as lifetime learners in the context of the unique bilingual nature of the County.

 

In order to support Carmarthenshire’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan and national policies in moving the county’s schools along the Welsh language continuum, it was proposed to change the nature of provision at Ysgol y Felin.  It was proposed that from 1st September, 2022 the nature of Foundation Phase provision will change to Welsh medium education. This will only affect pupils starting in the Foundation Phase at the school from September 2022 onwards.  Current pupils attending the school will be unaffected.

 

With learners accessing Welsh medium education in the Foundation Phase, the capacity of the Welsh stream in KS2 to cope with the potential increased demand for places will have to be monitored and reviewed in line with Carmarthenshire’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED

 

7.1      that the proposal to change the nature of provision at Ysgol y    Felin, as detailed in the report, be endorsed;

7.2       that it be recommended to the Executive Board that a formal     consultation process be initiated.

 

8.

TASK & FINISH GROUP FINAL REPORT - ALN FORMULA FUNDING. pdf icon PDF 267 KB

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Minutes:

The Committee considered a report providing a final summary of the work of the Task & Finish Group established to undertake a review into the model for funding Additional Learning Needs (ALN) in schools.  The financial support for ALN has experienced much pressure and strain for some time due to increasing demands on the current level of resources available. The Committee was also aware of the key changes being made by the Welsh Government in this area which will lead to a new way of delivering support to pupils with Additional Learning Needs.

 

The Task and Finish review was set up to examine the current funding formula and to consider possible alternative models to meet the requirements of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act.  The Act highlights the need for an integrated, collaborative process of assessment, planning and monitoring which facilities early, timely and effective interventions. The underlying need for a more reactive model of funding was a key consideration.

 

The key aims and objectives for the review were detailed in a planning and scoping document endorsed at the meeting held on 4th July, 2019 when it was decided to establish the Task & Finish Group, along with the membership.

 

As part of its considerations the group considered a wide range of information in the form of written and verbal reports containing current funding models and possible new parameters for funding. The group identified that there was a need for greater delegation of ALN resources to underpin:-

 

·         strengthening universal and targeted provision for children with ALN;

·         supporting schools to set in place early intervention and staged approaches in a timely manner;

·         enabling schools to meet their statutory duties to make decisions relating to Additional Learning Provision;

·         building confidence of parents/carers that needs can be met promptly without unnecessary process or dispute;

·         promptly resourcing pupils at School Action Plus;

·         reducing the requirement for statutory assessment and Statementing processes to direct funding for low incidence high need ALN pupils;

·         central pot for complex medical needs;

·         giving schools financial flexibility, enabling schools to access timely external support for children, ensuring that schools have the flexibility to meet children’s needs, and better involving schools in decisions relating to ALN.

 

The Group had regard to the Council’s current delegated funding model. For most children in mainstream schools, including those with ALNs and disabilities, funding is allocated to them through the school budget and is known as the per pupil funding.  This funding supports all learning and is used for staff salaries, including the ALNCO, facilities and ALN resources.  A percentage of the total amount of per pupil funding received by a school should be spent on providing for pupils with ALN.  In Carmarthenshire, schools are expected to allocate at least 5% of their per pupil funding to their ALN budget.

 

A series of workshops with headteachers considered various funding models.  It was agreed during these workshops that any new formula funding mechanism needed to support ALN Transformation that will reform the way in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

EXPLANATION FOR NON-SUBMISSION OF SCRUTINY REPORTS. pdf icon PDF 97 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received an explanation for the non-submission of the following scrutiny reports:-

 

  • Proposal to Relocate Ysgol Dewi Sant
  • Corporate Strategy
  • Departmental Business Plans

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the information be noted.

 

10.

FORTHCOMING ITEMS. pdf icon PDF 190 KB

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Minutes:

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the information be noted.

 

11.

TO SIGN AS A CORRECT RECORD THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE COMMITTEE HELD ON THE 6TH JANUARY, 2021. pdf icon PDF 326 KB

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Minutes:

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on the 6th January, 2021 be signed as a correct record.