Agenda and minutes
Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 21st December, 2017 2.30 pm
Venue: Meeting Room 1, Guildhall
Contact: Tracy Davies Scrutiny Facilitator
Apologies for Absence
An apology for absence was submitted on behalf of Councillor T Alan Edwards.
To sign as a correct record the Minutes of the Meeting held on 16 November 2017
AGREED – That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 16 November 2017 be signed as a correct record.
To consider the report of the Head Finance
The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/115/17s to assist the Committee in considering and agreeing its work programme. Members considered the report and referred to the following matters in debate:
· That the appointment of co-opted members to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee be considered at the January meeting to enable recommendations to be made to Council in February 2018.
· That the outcomes of the School Performance Task and Finish Group be included in the Committee’s annual education standards report.
· That the Committee’s review of the work programme be deferred from January to February 2018 to enable budget and consultation feedback to be included.
AGREED – That, subject to the aforementioned, the work programme be agreed.
To consider the report of the Lead Member for Organisation – Finance, Performance, Health & Safety and Governance
The Lead Member for Organisation – Finance, Performance, Health & Safety and Governance submitted a report (HF/122/17s) to enable the Committee to scrutinise the specific budget proposals for 2018/19 and 2019/20.
The Committee considered each savings proposal in turn and asked questions of the Lead Member and officers present. Particular comments were made regarding the following areas of the budget:
Education Enrichment – Health and Wellbeing – Reshape Education Enrichment and Intervention Services
· Further information sought in respect of the proposal. The Head of Education confirmed that the proposed savings referred to the final element of a three year savings proposal. It was noted that the savings had been realised early and so this proposal reflected the removal of the £167k from the department’s budget.
Education Effectiveness – Reshaping of music service/delivery
· The Head of Education provided further detail in respect of the budget for and tuition hours provided by the music service, the number of pupils in Wrexham in receipt of music tuition from the service and the number of those pupils who were in receipt of free school meals.
· Clarification sought whether any alternative service models had been developed in light of the proposed savings. The Head of Education advised that this had not yet been undertaken as to do so might prejudice the decision. Members were assured that the music service would not cease. The model of delivery may however differ dependent on the outcome of the proposal. It was noted that further discussions would be undertaken with schools to clarify the level of music service provision that they would wish to purchase going forward, following which the service would be modelled accordingly.
· Significant concern regarding the potential detrimental impact upon GCSE music, the Eisteddfod and the Urdd, the limited ability for schools to meet the shortfall in funding, the potential disproportionate impact on low income families if parents were required to meet the funding shortfall, the additional benefits of music to a pupil’s personal development and concern that no alternative service provision models had been explored. In light of this the Committee did not support the proposed level of savings.
· Some Members suggested a phased reduction in the budget allocation for the service and some Members of the Committee were in support of allocating a fixed budgetary sum of £50k to protect vulnerable pupils.
Whole department – Maximise use of grant funding
· Reported that this was a challenging proposal however officers were confident that this could be realised.
Work Based Learning – Look at driving more surpluses from iTEC in line with assigning greater costs to it; consider the e-learning portfolio to draw down against the training costs
· Reported that this saving, which was a legacy of the previous administration, would be challenging as it represented targeting surplus income generation.
Schools Challenge Cymru – Cease transition budget to Schools Challenge Cymru schools
· Reported that the Welsh Government time limited School Challenge Cymru budget programme had ceased in 2016 and in order to mitigate the risk of schools ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
To consider the report of the Lead Member for People – Education
The Lead Member for People – Education submitted a report (HEd/31/17s) to provide Members with a progress report on Wrexham Pupil Referral Services.
The Lead Member reported that the significant progress that had been made by the Wrexham Pupil Referral Service had resulted in the service being removed from the Estyn list of providers requiring significant improvement and praised the hard work undertaken by the Head teacher and staff. The Committee then considered each recommendation in the Post Inspection Action Plan in turn and commented as follows:
Recommendation 1 – Improve pupils’ attendance
· Noted that the overall attendance of pupils had increased significantly and the number of unauthorised absences had reduced.
· Staffing restructure and curriculum changes had been a significant factor in the improvement.
Recommendation 2 – Improve pupil behaviour and ensure that all staff manage pupil behaviour effectively
· Noted that review of behaviour policy and continued professional development had resulted in the improvement.
Recommendation 3 – Ensure that the PRU, management committee and local authority work together effectively to raise standards
· Reported that more effective calendar planning, quality assurance activities and local authority human resources and finance officer support had been effective in progressing this action.
· Members acknowledged that the timing of the initial Estyn visit had not allowed time of the restructure of the service to be embedded.
Recommendation 4 – Improve the process and quality of self-evaluation
· Improvement arising from robust self evaluation process, accountability measures and a more integrated service.
· Clarification sought on the pupil capacity of the service. The Head teacher reported a notional capacity of 60 pupils however a statutory responsibility remained to provide education for any excluded pupil.
· Commenting on the increase in the level of exclusions at key stage 3 a Member queried whether additional work was being undertaken to feedback and support schools in relation to inclusion practices.
· In response to a comment regarding the impact upon mainstream schools arising from delays in pupil referrals to the service it was noted that the current WPRS provision was considered to be appropriate for the county borough, with support provided to schools, where appropriate, in respect of alternative curriculum provision and inclusion.
Recommendation 5 – Ensure that improvement planning identifies priorities for development with suitable resources, timescales and actions
· Arising from improved leadership capacity across the service and support from secondary schools in the development of an attainment tracking process, developing the new Key Stage 3 curriculum and staff induction.
Recommendation 6 – Address the shortcomings in safeguarding identified during the inspection
· Reported that the building defects had been addressed, a new ‘time out’ room and the development of a ‘use of force’ policy had progressed this action.
In conclusion, Members congratulated the Education department, Head teacher and staff for the hard work in progressing the action plan and significantly improving the service.
AGREED – That future reporting of outcomes from the Wrexham Pupil Referral Service be included in the annual Education Standards report in October 2018.