Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Conference Room 1a, County Hall, Ruthin
Councillors Geraint Lloyd-Williams and Peter Owen together with Co-opted Member Gill Greenland
Members to declare any personal or prejudicial interests in any business identified to be considered at this meeting.
The following members declared a personal interest in agenda items 6, 7 & 8 –
Councillor Meirick Davies – Governor Ysgol Cefn Meiriadog & Ysgol Trefnant
Councillor Richard Davies – Governor Denbigh High School & Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn
Councillor Dewi Owens – Governor Ysgol Glan Clwyd & St. Asaph VP Infants
Councillor Arwel Roberts – Governor Ysgol y Castell & Ysgol Dewi Sant
Councillor Gareth Sandilands – Governor Ysgol Clawdd Offa
The following co-opted members declared a personal interest as follows –
Debra Houghton – agenda items 7 & 8 – Governor Denbigh High School & Ysgol Pendref
Dawn Marjoram – agenda item 8 – Governor Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn
John Piper – agenda items 6 & 8 – Governor Ysgol Tremeirchion and child uses free school transport
ELECTION OF VICE-CHAIR
To appoint a Vice-Chair of the Committee for the remainder of the 2015/16 municipal year.
The Chair sought nominations for a Vice-Chair of the Committee for the remainder of the 2015/16 municipal year. Councillor Gareth Sandilands proposed, seconded by Councillor Meirick Davies that Councillor Arwel Roberts be Vice-Chair. In the absence of any further nominations and upon being put to the vote it was –
RESOLVED that Councillor Arwel Roberts be appointed Vice-Chair of the Performance Scrutiny Committee for the remainder of the 2015/16 municipal year.
Notice of items which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.
No urgent matters had been raised.
To receive the minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 10 December 2015 (copy enclosed).
The minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee held on 10 December 2015 were submitted.
Matters Arising –
Page 11 – Item 6 Corporate Plan (Quarter 2 2015/16) – In response to questions raised by Councillor Dewi Owens officers confirmed that despite the council’s best efforts they were unable to provide information on carbon emissions at present due to an issue relating to the energy provider’s billing system. This issue would be resolved when the council changed energy provider in April. In terms of indicators and meeting targets assurances were provided that the council was able to demonstrate a reduction in its carbon emissions. It was agreed to provide Councillor Owens with further information in that regard.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2015 be received and approved as a correct record.
To consider a report by the Head of Education (copy enclosed) providing clarification on the policy relating to Primary School Transport.
9.40 a.m. – 10.15 a.m.
The Head of Education submitted a report (previously circulated) providing clarification on the policy relating to Primary School Transport and its application. The report had been requested by Councillor Arwel Roberts in light of recent changes to transport provision in the Rhuddlan and Dyserth areas and included reference to the legislative basis for providing school transport as detailed in the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008.
Members were advised that the policy on Primary School Transport had not changed in the recent September 2015 revision. However, following this review the Service did ensure that Primary and Secondary transport to the ‘nearest suitable school’ was being applied correctly. A consequence of the correct application of the policy was the situation which had arisen in Rhuddlan. Pupil numbers attending Ysgol Dewi Sant, Rhyl from Dyserth had fallen due to the pupils now correctly attending Ysgol y Llys. As such the service from Dyserth to Dewi Sant was reassessed as the vehicle was significantly oversized for the numbers travelling. This service came through Rhuddlan where some parents were paying a small concession to use the bus; however, in changing the size of the vehicle the concessionary travel would no longer be available and as such an assessment of safe walking routes to school from Rhuddlan was undertaken. A new safety assessment of the route had been undertaken during December 2015. The assessment had concluded that, due to the increase in the volume of traffic using the A547 caused by the introduction of single lane traffic across the bridge in Rhuddlan itself, the route could not at present be deemed as a safe route to school. With a view to minimising any future risk in this area improvement works were being commissioned to the crossing on the road. Following completion of this work the route’s safety would be reassessed. Until such time as the work was done and the route was reassessed free home to school transport for affected pupils from the Rhuddlan area would be provided.
Councillor Arwel Roberts quoted from a recent National Assembly for Wales’ Children, Young People and Education Committee’s Inquiry into Welsh in Education Strategic Plans (WESPs) which referred to local authorities’ discretionary powers “to provide free transport to Welsh-medium schools regardless of the distance criteria in order to promote access to education and training through the medium of Welsh” and to their “general duty to promote access to education through the medium of Welsh when exercising functions under the 2008 Learner Travel Measure.”
Members raised the following points –
· that the Authority should utilise its discretionary powers in this area as despite proposed improvements to the crossing by Bryn Cwybr, the route would still be a hazardous one at that point and also at Bryn Cwnin
· similar problems could occur in relation to other primary school routes
· queried whether the policy was consistent with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA) guidance
· questioned whether the application of the policy in this ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To consider a joint report by the Education Manager and GwE Senior Challenge Advisor (copy enclosed) detailing the verified performance of Denbighshire schools external examination results at Key Stage 4 and Post 16 together with an analysis of results against benchmarked information and performance against other local authorities.
10.15 a.m. – 10.45 a.m.
A joint report by the Education Manager and GwE Senior Challenge Advisor (Conwy/Denbighshire Hub) was submitted (previously circulated) detailing the verified performance of Denbighshire schools external examination results at Key Stage 4 and Post 16 together with an analysis of results against benchmarked information and performance against other local authorities. [Provisional examination results had been considered by the committee in October 2015.]
The Head of Education and GwE Senior Challenge Adviser introduced the report and gave a detailed explanation of its contents to members. During their presentation they emphasised that –
· with respect to the Level 2 Threshold (5 GCSE A* - C) they had hoped that all schools would be in quartiles 1 or 2, but unfortunately there were 3 schools in the 4th quartile which was extremely disappointing
· national categorisation of schools, which had replaced the previous school banding methodology, did take account of school attendance statistics. It was pleasing to report that no Denbighshire schools fell into the 4th category
· the Welsh Government’s (WG) ‘My Local School’ website was available from the current date which gave parents and guardians a wealth of performance, school support and other associated information
· whilst Denbighshire’s attendance at secondary schools had remained static in 2014 at 93%, which ranked the local authority 21st in Wales in comparison to other local education authorities, this area was improving. Current attendance figures were in excess of 94%
· at present both boys and girls in the county performed slightly below the Welsh average for Level 2 including English/Welsh or mathematics, whilst the gap in performance between boys and girls was in line with the Welsh average
· in an attempt to avoid last year’s variance between the projected performance and the actual examinations performance a number of measures had been put in place both locally and regionally – these included individual schools setting their own targets, these targets were assessed and challenged throughout the year to ensure they were robust and were likely to be met; there was a regional strategy in place for ‘schools at risk’ for the purpose of targeting the required support to those schools; discussions on targets and performance formed part of the business at each Head teachers’ Forum meeting and also featured in regular discussions between GwE Hub representatives and Heads of Department; sample schools had been identified to work together across the region, Wales and further afield with a review to sharing best practice and a regional conference would be held on 12 February on targeting setting, best practice, etc.
· appended to the report was a copy of the GwE Business Plan’s aims and objectives in relation to educational outcomes for Denbighshire students – this detailed the work undertaken and being delivered in Denbighshire to secure improved performance and outcomes
· the main overall objective for 2015/16 was to improve the Level 2 inclusive performance from last year’s figure of 56.1%, which was disappointing, to 60.8%. If this was achieved officers would be extremely pleased. Current information indicated that this would ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
To consider a report by the Head of Education (copy attached) detailing the role and responsibilities of school governors and school governing bodies.
11.00 a.m. – 11.30 a.m.
The Head of Education submitted a report (previously circulated) detailing the role and responsibilities of school governors and school governing bodies, including the support and training available to them from the local authority, GwE and other organisations. She explained that an element of responsibility for school governors’ duties lay with the local education authorities, whilst other elements were the responsibility of GwE. Members were advised that –
· there were concerns with respect to some individual governors’ engagement in the training programme arranged by the Authority. Some governors seemed to be unaware that they could not fully fulfil their roles if they had not participated in the compulsory training courses
· various methods of training was provided for governors, e.g. face to face and on-line training packages
· Denbighshire had a Chair of Governors Association. The Head of Education attended the Forum’s meetings to discuss with members current education related matters. Despite the fact that the invitation to attend Forum meetings was extended to all school governors, the Forum was not that well attended.
Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member for Education, the Head of Education and the Education Resources and Planning Manager advised that –
· attendance at school governor meetings was an issue in some schools as was non-submission of apologies
· there were vacancies on some governing bodies. With a view to overcoming some of the problems caused by vacancies and the small size of some school governing bodies the county advertised for a pool of governors and attempted to place them at schools
· attendance records were kept for each training session and these were checked with the county’s records on school governors to ensure that they all had attended their mandatory training events. In addition governing bodies had been contacted with a request that they undertake a skills audit, results of this audit could then be used by the Governing Body to ensure they were operating effectively
· at a recent Chairs of Governors meeting the possibility of co-opting non-voting advisers on to school governing bodies had been discussed
· school governing bodies had a wide range of responsibilities ranging from building maintenance, health and safety, safeguarding and budgets. The Council’s Schools Standards Monitoring Group (SSMG) closely monitored governing bodies’ responsibilities with respect of these. Chairs of school governing bodies were invited to attend SSMG meetings when they were monitoring their particular school. In addition the local education authority’s regular meeting with GwE examined the same areas
· from Easter 2016 Governors Wales would be replacing the former Bronze Award Scheme with another similar award
· the Council was notified if a clerk to a school governing body was absent from a meeting for any reason
· the local education authority verified and challenged the membership pf governing bodies to ensure they were transparent and fair
· there was published guidance to assist governors with respect to their work on school governing bodies and to understand the ethical framework by which they were expected to abide
· the local education authority was automatically notified if a school ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
To consider a report by the Principal Manager – Business Support (copy enclosed) providing an overview of compliments, suggestions and complaints received under the Council’s customer feedback policy ‘Your Voice’ during Quarter 2 2015/16.
11.30 a.m. – 12 noon
A report by the Principal Manager – Business Support was submitted (previously circulated) providing an overview of compliments, suggestions and complaints received under the Council’s customer feedback policy ‘Your Voice’ during Quarter 2 2015/16.
The Lead Member for Customers and Libraries introduced the report and the Principal Manager – Business Support detailed its contents, with particular emphasis on the 4 year analysis trend graphs. During his presentation he explained –
· that the service was currently working on modifications to the Customer Relationships Manager (CRM) system that would facilitate the production of reports and meaningful data
· that the complaints staff had been working closely with services over recent months with a view to establishing the facts behind the figures, particularly with respect to the reasons for missing set targets
· that there would always be a number of complaints which would miss the set target dates for dealing with complaints. These would usually be complex, sometimes multi-faceted complaints, which due to their very nature would necessitate a detailed resolution process
· performance in relation to Stage 2 complaints had fluctuated more during the current year than in previous years
· 12 complaints had been received from one individual, this type of complaint and complaints against senior officers were very expensive to investigate due to the seniority of the officer required to investigate them and the length of time that officer would have to dedicate to the process.
Responding to members’ questions officers advised that –
· all complaints were acknowledged upon receipt, detailing the expected timescale for response to the complaint
· data was available on an all-Wales basis comparing local authorities’ performance in dealing with complaints
· training was offered to officers within all departments with respect to dealing with complaints and the procedure to follow
· complaints which were of an operational nature could sometimes take longer to resolve due to the need to visit specific sites etc.,
· with respect to vexatious complaints the Council could utilise its policy for dealing with unacceptable customer behaviour, officers could also contact the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ office for assistance with such complaints
· whilst the majority of services had been subjected to cuts during recent years, the number of complaints received was generally on a downward trend. However, the effect of efficiency cuts may manifest themselves in a different way i.e. a reduction in service performance
· they would check whether all compliments received by Heads of Service, be they directly from the public or via councillors, were actually recorded on the system
· confirmed that the target dates for dealing with complaints had been set by the Council as part of its work in drawing up the Corporate Plan
· it was far better to set high and ambitious targets rather than low ones which would be easy to meet
· they would ask the Senior Leadership Team to discuss the potential for lowering the threshold for registering a complaint as ‘vexatious’, albeit that this may raise the risk of being at odds with the Ombudsman’s views
· complaints received by the ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
To consider a report by the Scrutiny Coordinator (copy enclosed) seeking a review of the Committee’s forward work programme and updating members on relevant issues.
12.00 – 12.15 p.m.
The Scrutiny Coordinator submitted a report (previously circulated) seeking members’ review of the committee’s work programme and providing an update on relevant issues.
The Scrutiny Coordinator elaborated upon forthcoming items to be considered at future meetings and responded to members’ questions thereon. She reported upon the proposed scrutiny arrangements for GwE and related reports to be incorporated into the work programme together with the involvement of co-opted members in that regard. The committee also noted that the Scrutiny Chairs and Vice-Chair’s Group had directed the committee to scrutinise BT’s plans to extend broadband across the county following a request from the Chief Executive which had been scheduled for April. Finally expressions of interest were sought for a committee representative to replace Councillor Colin Hughes on the Corporate Equalities Group.
RESOLVED that –
(a) the forward work programme as detailed in Appendix 1 to the report be approved and the relevant Lead Members be invited to attend for their particular items at the next meeting in March, and
(b) Councillors Arwel Roberts and Colin Hughes be appointed the Committee’s representative and substitute representative respectively on the Corporate Equalities Group.
FEEDBACK FROM COMMITTEE REPRESENTATIVES
To receive any update from Committee representatives on various Council Boards and Groups.
Committee representatives reported upon their attendance at meetings as follows –
Councillor Richard Davies advised of changes to the Customers and Education Support Service as a result of the recent operational restructure and subsequent arrangements for a meeting of the new Service Performance Challenge Group.
Councillor Gareth Sandilands referred to the last meeting of the Strategic Investment Group during which their recommendations for capital projects had been agreed for submission to Cabinet.
Councillor Arwel Roberts reported upon on the last Schools Standards Monitoring Group involving Ysgol Bryn Hyfryd and Ysgol Emmanuel which had proved interesting and informative.
Councillor Meirick Davies summarised the main discussion points arising from the last Legal, HR and Democratic Services Performance Challenge meeting.
RESOLVED that the verbal reports from members attending meetings be noted.
The meeting concluded at 1.10 p.m.