Agenda and draft minutes

Education & Children Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 6th 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 L. Bowen and D. Jones.

2.

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

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Minutes:

There were no declarations of personal interest or party whips.

 

 

3.

PUBLIC QUESTIONS

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Minutes:

The Chair advised that no public questions had been received.

 

4.

STAFF AND PUPIL WELLBEING AND MENTAL HEALTH - JANUARY 2021 UPDATE. pdf icon PDF 512 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report providing an update on staff and pupil wellbeing and mental health as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The report outlined the additional support and preventative measures put in place by the Department of Education and Children.  Whilst focussing on the wellbeing of pupils and school staff, the report also included reference to the wellbeing of other young people who may not be in school but were still under the remit of the Department e.g. young adults in the Youth Support Service.

 

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

 

·         With regard to the reference in the report that costs are being borne by the Education Department, officers were asked if any support is received from the Welsh Government.  The Committee was advised that the Department is very grateful for all the support received from Welsh Government, however, if officers feel that additional support is needed, over and above that funded by Welsh Government, then that cost falls on the Local Education Authority.  The Head of Curriculum and Wellbeing added that any assistance from central government would be welcome, however, no announcement has been made to date;

·         With regard to the number of children and young people waiting for counselling, officers were asked how many are on the waiting list and whether that number had increased during the pandemic.  The Committee was informed that all requests for assistance are prioritised and anyone with a high level of distress will be seen first.  Officers were doing everything possible to reduce the waiting list, however, it was not just an issue of the availability of resources as accessibility and the availability of the children were also currently issues.  Although remote support is available some children prefer to wait until face to face sessions are available again and whilst understandable, this has an impact on the waiting list;

·         Reference was made to the fact that when it comes to distance learning, there are three tiers of children – those who are easy to reach, those with challenges and those with a higher degree of challenges and officers were asked how satisfied they were that they are able to reach those children in tiers 2 and 3.  The Head of Curriculum and Wellbeing informed the Committee that the pastoral team spend 95% of their team on 5% of pupils and he assured the Committee that work was being undertaken to ensure that the support network in our schools is as strong as it can be;

·         Concern was expressed that some children may fall through the net and not get the support they need.  The Committee was reminded of the importance of having a good relationship between the school and the parent with regard to distance learning.  The Head of Education and Inclusion Services informed the Committee that at the beginning of the first lockdown schools were asked to work with officers on categorising all pupils into red, amber and green in terms of distance learning so that the most  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

FINANCIAL CHALLENGES FACING SCHOOLS. pdf icon PDF 133 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report outlining the financial challenges facing primary schools.  The report detailed the current Fair Funding budget allocation to schools and efforts to distribute equitably to the range of primary schools to meet the educational needs of all learners in Carmarthenshire.  The report also outlined some key contextual influences that currently impact on the funding model in schools. 

 

Access to high quality education is a fundamental right for all children and young people and it should not depend on where you live, your social background or the language in which you learn.  A good education is one of the most important building blocks a child can receive.  It is essential that there is sufficient, equitable funding available to ensure that the education that our children and young people deserve can be delivered effectively and consistently.

 

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

 

·         Asked if there were any figures available in relation to the total expenditure on education by Local Authorities, the Group Accountant explained that this data is compiled by the Welsh Government on an annual basis and an analysis report is available.  She added that it was difficult to compare data because all Education Directorates are slightly different in each Authority with some including libraries and in some ALN is delegated whereas in others in it held centrally;

·         Asked for a breakdown of the three elements – learners, deprivation and sparsity, the Group Accountant informed the Committee that she would circulate this information by e-mail following the meeting;

·         Reference was made to the fact that the report highlighted the significant challenges in our schools and indicated that we cannot continue as we are and it was felt that it was now time to hold meaningful and measured discussions about this. The Executive Board Member for Education and Children agreed that it was a concern that some of our schools are old, in poor condition and not fit for purpose which was why the Modernising Education Programme was so important;

·         Concern was expressed at some of the levels of deficit and also in the way that some schools have coped well over the past year but some have got significantly worse.  The Executive Board Member for Education and Children explained that capacity is an issue and when a project is included in the MEP, it is because of capacity issues. The Head of Access to Education added that there is a duty on Local Authorities to plan school places and it was therefore essential to match supply with demand.  The Welsh Government requires Local Authorities to review all schools with over 10% spare places;

·         Reference was made to the fact that the Committee has been concerned about the level of school deficits and the report was useful in showing the reasons and detail behind this.  Officers were asked if it would be possible to receive a similar report for secondary schools and the Head of Education and Inclusion Services agreed to bring a report on this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

TASK & FINISH GROUP FINAL REPORT - ALN FORMULA FUNDING. pdf icon PDF 239 KB

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Minutes:

The Chair informed the Committee that he proposed to defer consideration of this report to the next meeting to enable additional information to be included.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that consideration of the report be deferred to the next meeting of the Committee.

 

 

7.

EXPLANATION FOR NON-SUBMISSION OF SCRUTINY REPORT. pdf icon PDF 119 KB

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Minutes:

The Committee received an explanation for the non-submission of the following scrutiny report and noted that it would be presented to Committee at the next meeting:-

 

  • Education Support for Vulnerable Learners

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the information be noted.

 

8.

FORTHCOMING ITEMS. pdf icon PDF 198 KB

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Minutes:

 

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the information be noted.

 

 

 

9.

TO SIGN AS A CORRECT RECORD THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE COMMITTEE HELD ON THE 23RD NOVEMBER, 2020. pdf icon PDF 394 KB

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Minutes:

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on the 23rd November, 2020 be signed as a correct record.