Venue: Council Chamber - County Hall. View directions
Contact: Elizabeth Patterson
To receive apologies for absence.
No apologies for absence were received.
County Councillors M Alexander (Portfolio Holder for Education) and A Davies (Portfolio Holder for Finance).
C Turner (Chief Executive and Director of Education), A Clark (Head of Education), M Evans (Senior Manager School Transformation), E Palmer (Head of Strategy, Performance and Transformation Programme), (Sarah Astley (Schools Transformation and Welsh-Medium Education Programme Manager), S Ling (Communications and Engagement Officer) and E Patterson (Scrutiny Officer).
Declarations of interest
To receive declarations of interest from Members.
No declarations of interest were received.
Declarations of Party Whip
To receive disclosures of prohibited party whips which a Member has been given in relation to the meeting in accordance with Section 78(3) of the Local Government Measure 2011.
(NB: Members are reminded that under Section 78 Members having been given a prohibited party whip cannot vote on a matter before the Committee.)
No declarations of party whip were received.
To authorise the Chair to sign the minutes of the following meeting(s) as a correct record:
· 25th May 2019
The Chair was authorised to sign the minutes of the meeting held on the 24th May 2019 as a correct record subject to the following amendment:
On page 10 the range of cost per pupil in the primary sector should read £4,700.
To undertake pre-Cabinet scrutiny of the report on the Review of Sixth Form Provision Powys 2019.
· Scrutiny briefing
· Draft Cabinet report
· Appendix 1 Review of Sixth Form Provision Stage 1
· Appendix A – Learner Survey 2019
The Senior Manager School Transformation presented the report draft report ‘Review of Sixth Form Provision 2019’.
Attention was drawn to the vicious circle that had developed with falling learner numbers leading to and decline in grant funding leading to a constrainer offer leading to falling learner numbers. There has been a significant fall in numbers in recent years, retention rates are low and falling, there are a conservative estimate of 500 pupils travelling out of county to access Post 16 education, collaboration to date has not halted the decline.
Cllr M Alexander and C Turner join the meeting 14.20
The Welsh Medium offer does not meet the requirements agreed in the Powys Welsh in Education Service Plan, standards are an issue and the current system is broken or very close to being broken.
The case for change has been made and this is recommended to be in the form of a three stage approach:
· Stage 1 (initial recommendations) including new branding, a new marketing campaign and an increased digital offer.
· Stage 2 – an engagement exercise with stakeholders
· Stage 3 – Report and business case to Cabinet with final recommendations
Parallel to this a review of sixth form funding is required and will be undertaken by the Funding Formula Review Group.
The move to digital learning is welcomed with the potential to keep sixth form bases open providing pastoral care. However, it is necessary to review secondary school concurrently as there will be potential impacts on this sector as a result of the post 16 review.
The service are working with Ceredigion to introduce e-sgol and the digital kit has been provided to start this in September 2019. This will be an early indicator of the way forward but it will be necessary to monitor the quality of provision and outcomes.
The Post 16 review is being undertaken separately from a review of Secondary provision because the service have learnt from past experiences of school reviews that achievability is important. It is the Post 16 sector that is in crisis and is unsustainable and needs urgent review.
Has the service looked abroad, for example Australia, to see how digital learning can be applied?
There is a lot of information on providing digital learning within Wales at university level. The issue will be how the sixth forms embrace digital learning. Welsh Government are investing in digital learning over the next few years and a number of key components are in place now.
The Portfolio Holder noted that the digital agenda is being adopted by schools on a proactive basis.
The evidence for digital learning is not coming across within the report and the decisions being made are not supported by evidence within the report.
Why is it obvious that Scotland is evidenced for digital learning? Do Powys schools have the equipment and digital connectivity to support digital learning?
Scotland have been using digital learning for some time.
Not all of Powys has the equipment but Welsh Government are committing a ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
To undertake pre-Cabinet scrutiny of the report on Schools Major Improvements (Welsh Government Grant Programme).
Additional grant funding was been received from Welsh Government in March 2019 but notification was received too late to amend the report which scrutiny had sight of and the report to Cabinet was deferred. The current report before Committee has been updated and is listed for Cabinet on 30th July 2019. The programme has been reshaped to take into account the additional £1.78million Welsh Government grant for School Major improvements. £566k of the £2,003million is to be used from the agreed Powys budget for school improvements for 219/20 with the remaining £1.4million to be used in 2020/21.
Can it be confirmed that none of the schools identified for work are at risk of closure?
Any schools with less than 70 pupils will be subject to consideration before major repairs are authorised although it is necessary to ensure that pupils in all schools are taught in a safe environment. It may be that some urgent work is necessary in schools that may close.
Could investment be held on those schools that are in a catchment with surplus places?
As there are a high number of surplus places, in some places 50% resulting from a long term failure to grasp the nettle, this would not help in allocating funding.
Scrutiny need to be assured that the authority is investing wisely.
The Portfolio Holder noted that a preliminary look at school data meant that reviews would be announced shortly.
Should the authority be fitting sustainably fuelled boilers rather than oil-fired boilers?
It is necessary to balance a number of factors when looking to replace boilers
including use of green energy sources, reliability, value for money and overall costs for retro-fitting. New schools have been built to passivhaus standards but retro-fits are more complex and the use of sustainable energy sources is not the only factor to be considered. Some sustainable energy sources need more user input and schools that have these systems need to be trained in their use.
The costs for resurfacing the carpark in Llandysilio seem considerable. Is this accurate?
The costs outlined in the report are estimates however, there are extensive rules relating to school carparks.
Is the contingency of £50k this year and £199k next year realistic?
Contingency funds should be higher however the programme is flexible and if urgent matters arise then of necessity the programme will be refocussed. The programme needs to be kept in constant balance.
Cllr B Davies left
Given the flexibility of the programme how is it decided what items are deferred?
The programme is based on a priority matrix and schools know where they sit within the programme.
Cllr L Roberts and G Thomas left
Can scrutiny be assured that the Major Repairs are providing value for money?
The Portfolio Holder confirmed that procurement rules apply and best value has to be provided.
To receive a verbal update from the Chair of the Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee.
This item was deferred to the next meeting on 19th July 2019.
Appointment to Working Groups
To appoint Members to the following joint working groups:
· School deficit budgets
A joint working group consisting of three members from Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee and three Members from Finance Panel to consider school deficit budgets
· Transformation/Major Change Projects
A joint working group consisting of three members from Economy, Regeneration, Communities and Governance Scrutiny Committee, two members each from Health and Care Scrutiny Committee and Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee, one or two non-scrutiny Members and 1 member from the Finance Panel. This group will look at transformation projects such as the North Powys Wellbeing Programme.
This item was deferred to the next meeting on 19th July 2019. The Chair asked Members to consider these appointments ahead of the next meeting.
To receive an update on the ERW Joint Scrutiny Group from the scrutiny representatives from Powys.
· Report of meeting held on 3rd June 2019 by Vice-Chair
· Update by Scrutiny Officer
This item was deferred to the next meeting on 19th July 2019.
To receive the response to scrutiny observations on school budgets.
The next meeting will be held on 19th July 2019 at 2.00pm.
· 19th July 2019 2.00pm Schools Service Budget
Complaints, Compliments and Comments
· 19th August 2019 – tentative. Hold in case needed for pre-Cabinet scrutiny of items for Cabinet in September 2019
· 7th October 2019 Standards (provisional)
Inspection outcomes 2018 – 2019
Specialist Centre provision
· 18th November 2019 ALN update