Venue: Conference Room 1a, County Hall, Ruthin
Members to declare any personal or prejudicial interests in any business identified to be considered at this meeting.
Personal declarations of interest were received for agenda item 5, Verified
External Examinations and Teacher Assessments from Councillors:
· Huw Jones, governor at Ysgol Carrog and Ysgol Caer Drewyn;
· Ellie Chard, governor at Ysgol Tir Morfa;
· Hugh Irving, governor at Prestatyn High School;
· Arwel Roberts, governor at Ysgol y Castell & Ysgol Dewi Sant;
· David Williams as a parent of a child in a Denbighshire school;
· Geraint LLoyd-Williams, governor at St Brigid’s.
· Huw Hilditch-Roberts as a governor at Ysgol Brynhyfryd and Parent of a child in a Denbighshire school.
· Co-opted member Neil Chambers Roberts, governor at Ysgol y Parc and Ysgol Cefn Meiriadog;
· Co-opted member David James Lloyd, governor as Ysgol Y Llys, Prestatyn
URGENT MATTERS AS AGREED BY THE CHAIR
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 were raised.
To receive the minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 29 November 2018 (copy attached).
10.00 – 10.05 a.m.
The minutes of the meeting of the Performance Scrutiny Committee held on 29 November 2018 were submitted.
Members noted that it was Co-opted member Neil Roberts that declared a personal interest as a school governor of Ysgol Y Parc.
Agenda item 5 – Provisional External Examinations and Teacher Assessments – Page 12 – The Chair confirmed a letter had been sent to Qualifications Wales highlighting the Committee’s concerns. The Chair confirmed a response had been received from the Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales.
The Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People informed members he had received a response from Kirsty Williams AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education responding to the concerns of the Committee. Councillor Hilditch-Roberts confirmed the importance to receive the answers to concerns of the Committee for the children within Denbighshire.
RESOLVED that, subject to the above, the minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 29 November 2018 be received and approved as a correct record.
To receive information regarding the performance of Denbighshire schools in the 2018 external examinations (copy attached).
10.05 – 10.50 a.m.
The Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People introduced the joint report by the Principal Education Manager and GwE Secondary Lead (previously circulated) which presented the Committee with the verified information on the performance of Denbighshire’s secondary school pupils at Key Stage 4 (KS4) and post 16 examinations in the summer of 2018.
Following the Committee’s consideration of the provisional examination results at its November 2018 meeting the Chair had written to the Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales registering members’ concerns on the significant increase in threshold to attain a ‘C’ grade in the summer 2018 GCSE examinations, particularly in relation to the English examination, and its detrimental impact on students. A copy of the letter of response received from the Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales was shared with the Committee. In his letter the Chief Executive stated that similar concerns had been raised by GwE and as a result a review of grading’s had been instigated. This review had concluded that “the grade boundary had been moved appropriately” and therefore no further action was required. Members were advised by the Lead Member that Education officers and Education portfolio holders received a similar response from the Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales, consequently a meeting had been convened for mid-February between North Wales Directors of Education, Education portfolio holders, GwE and Qualifications Wales’ Chief Executive to discuss future external examination grading’s with a view to ensuring that future students would not suffer such volatility in grade boundaries. Education practitioners were resigned to the fact that Qualifications Wales would not instigate a further review of the 2018 grading’s, therefore they were determined that future examinations should not be subject to such significant volatility in grade boundaries. The Lead Member agreed with Committee members’ views that there was no recognition from Qualifications Wales of the impact of its decision to apply such a considerable increase in the ‘C’ grade boundary on the lives and career prospects of a significant number of individual students.
The Head of Education and Children’s Services, the Principal Education Manager and GwE’s Secondary Lead for Denbighshire:
· emphasised both officers and elected members’ disappointment that the verified results for 2018 had not changed despite their collective and concerted effort across the region in discussing the above concerns with representatives from Qualifications Wales, Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC), Welsh Government (WG) etc. (a copy of a letter from the WG’s Cabinet Secretary for Education to the Lead Member had been circulated to Committee members for information). Whilst WJEC representatives had met with Education officials, EAS officers and portfolio holders in the South East Wales region (the EAS region) to discuss similar concerns the challenge was being led by North Wales education leaders (the GwE region);
· advised that, due to their concerns, they were currently examining the provisions of the Qualifications Wales Act 2015 in relation to the WJEC’s monopoly over external examinations in Wales, to see whether the county’s schools could enter students for some examinations administered by other reputable examination boards. It was acknowledged that Welsh-medium examinations would only be administered by the WJEC; and
· confirmed that if the ‘C’ grade boundary for the English examination in the summer of 2018 would have been set at the same level as the previous year a further 107 pupils in Denbighshire’s schools, and 700 across North Wales, would have attained a grade ‘C’
Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member, Education and GwE officers:
· confirmed that the gap in performance between boys and girls had generally increased in 2018, with more girls gaining Level 2 inclusive than boys. Year on year ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
At this juncture (11.30 a.m.), there was a 10 minute break.
The meeting reconvened at 11.40 a.m.
To consider the Council’s performance at the start of the 6th Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2017-20 and the progress made in developing libraries as community hubs (copy attached).
10.50 – 11.30 a.m.
The Lead Member for Developing Community Infrastructure introduced the Principal Librarian’s report on the Library Service’s performance against the Sixth Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2017-20 (previously circulated). Also outlined in the report was the Service’s progress in developing libraries throughout the county as community hubs.
Chair and members congratulated the Service on their excellent performance in delivering against the majority of Core Entitlements and Quality Indicators (QI), as detailed in the Welsh Government’s (WG) Museums, Archives and Libraries Division’s (MaLD) Annual Assessment report (attached as Appendix A to the report). They also commended the Council on the range of services and events offered in libraries across the county for people of all ages, which were greatly valued by residents.
Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member, Head of Communications, Customers and Marketing, and the Principal Librarian:
· confirmed that, similar to other services, the Library Service’s budget had been reduced and as a consequence it had been unable to meet QI9 (spend per 1,000 population on reading materials) of the Welsh Public Library Standards;
· advised that QI13 (staffing levels and qualifications) had only been partially met because staff in the County’s libraries delivered a range of library and One Stop Shop services. Whilst not all these staff were qualified librarians the range of services delivered at the county’s libraries required a wide range of skills and officers were confident that the Service’s staff had the appropriate skills set to deliver all these services. The Head of Service informed the Committee that they were currently exploring options on how to develop a qualification for Library Service staff which could support career development within the Service. Members were also advised that in recent years more male applicants were applying for posts in the Service, this had not been the case historically;
· confirmed that library staff were trained and up-skilled on a regular basis. In the near future staff would be trained on the new Library Management System (LMS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Two staff conferences per year were held which all Library Service staff attended;
· advised that there were five professional librarian posts within the Service in Denbighshire;
· advised that Llandrillo College was delivering levels 3 and 7 courses in library skills during the current academic year;
· confirmed that the Council’s Library Service had utilised young volunteers for a number of years, this scheme was aimed at developing young people’s skills. Volunteers were used to complement and support service delivery, they were not expected to replace remunerated Library Service staff. The Council acknowledged that people of all ages were keen to dedicate some of their time to a volunteering role, with a number wanting to deliver voluntary services in libraries. As a result the Council was currently developing a Volunteering Strategy and a Workforce Development Strategy, with a view to supporting volunteers to develop their skills whilst not compromising the role of trained, remunerated staff. The aim of the Volunteering Strategy would be to add value to services and not to save money;
· advised that the issue of applying financial penalties for late returned books was being examined. If the practice was to be discontinued it would impact on the Service’s income, therefore potential new income generation schemes would need to be explored. In addition, in order to secure the return of outstanding loaned reading materials an amnesty of some sort would need to be facilitated;
· confirmed that the Service had an active marketing campaign for its service on a number of media platforms, including social media;
· advised that all members and residents had an important role ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To consider the WAO report on ‘Waste Management in Wales: Municipal Recycling’, to scrutinise the findings and the response of the council’s Waste and Recycling Service to address issues raised in the report (copy attached).
11.45 – 12.20 p.m.
The Lead Member for Highways, Planning and Sustainable Travel introduced the Waste and Recycling Manager and Head of Highways and Environment’s joint report (previously circulated) which presented the Committee with the Wales Audit Office’s (WAO) national report on Waste Management in Wales: Municipal Recycling (Appendix 1 to the report). During his introduction the Lead Member advised that the WAO expected greater collaboration between Welsh Government (WG) and local authorities with a view to increasing recycling rates and consequently reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. The WAO had made four recommendations, the majority of which were directed at WG. However, the Council had considered all four recommendations and its observations and responses to each of them was contained in the covering report.
Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member and officers advised that:
· the Council welcomed the opportunity to support Welsh Government (WG) to better understand the variations in costs between local authorities in respect of waste management services;
· the report’s recommendations supported the Council’s proposed new waste recycling model recently approved by Cabinet;
· the UK Government was expected to consult in the near future on reforming the UK packaging producer responsibility system. Under the proposed new system full costs of managing packaging waste would be placed on those businesses who used them with a view to them being able to influence their design;
· the Government was currently examining whether packaging/labelling required amending in order to provide clarity to the general public on which materials were recyclable and which were not;
· assisted collection arrangements would continue to operate as present once the Council’s new waste recycling model came into operation. However, the Service would be reviewing this service in the near future to ensure that it was only those residents who required an assisted services that were receiving it;
· in the past Denbighshire had been reluctant to adopt the WG’s blueprint model for recycling. However, things had changed over time and moving to the WG’s blueprint model within the next few years would now benefit Denbighshire and its residents due to the financial implications of not meeting WG targets. Whilst adopting the WG blueprint model for recycling was not a statutory requirement the financial incentives currently on offer made it worthwhile for the Council to adopt this model for the future;
· the Council agreed with the WAO’s recommendation in relation to improving cost and performance benchmarking methods in order to ensure that a consistent approach was used for data analysis and comparing purposes;
· the proposed new recycling model would be far more robust against market forces than the current recycling system. Whilst market forces would always be a factor the new model would provide added resilience to the Council’s service;
· initially the Council proposed to undertake a review of its waste management services at least once in any seven year period, which coincided with the average lifespan of refuse vehicles. However, WG and UK Government strategies in relation to waste management were changing on a regular basis at present i.e. consultations were expected imminently on a deposit and return scheme, reforming packaging producer responsibility etc. Dependent upon the results of these consultations waste management focus and priorities may change;
· Communities Scrutiny Committee was examining matters relating to the proposed new Waste Recycling Service design, including the proposed education and communications strategy being drawn up ahead of its introduction;
· it was manufacturers and central government who had the powers to determine the types of containers and packaging that were produced and sold, the local authority’s responsibilities centred on waste management and the ethical disposal of waste products. Both the ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
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.
12.20 – 12.35 p.m.
The Scrutiny Co-ordinator introduced the report (previously circulated) seeking Members’ review of the Committee’s work programme and providing an update on relevant issues.
A copy of the “Member’s proposal form” had been included in Appendix 2. The Scrutiny Co-ordinator requested that any proposals be submitted to herself. The Cabinet Forward Work Programme had been included as Appendix 3, the table summarising recent Committee resolutions, advising on progress with their implementation, had been attached as Appendix 4.
The date of the next meeting was confirmed, it was explained the proposed agenda item on Dolwen Residential Care Home had not progress sufficiently to enable it to be presented to the Committee at the March meeting and would be rescheduled for a future date.
The Scrutiny Co-ordinator confirmed the Chairs and Vice Chairs Group, where due to meet that afternoon, further reports may be added to the forward work programme following debate.
A list of the Committee’s representatives on the Service Challenge Groups along with the schedule of Group meetings for 2018-19 had been included in the “Information Brief” document for members’ information. Councillor Geraint Lloyd –Williams notified the Committee he was unable to attend the upcoming Service Challenge group he represent the committee on. Following discussion the Chair agreed to attend the meeting on behalf on the Performance Scrutiny committee.
RESOLVED that subject to the above, the Forward Work Programme be approved.
FEEDBACK FROM COMMITTEE REPRESENTATIVES
To receive any updates from Committee representatives on various Council Boards and Groups.
12.35 – 12.45 p.m.
Councillor Rachel Flynn and Ann Davies informed members they had attended the Community Support Services Performance Challenge meeting. It was stressed how informative and interesting the meeting had been. A copy of the notes from that Service Challenge meeting and other recent Service Challenge meetings had been circulated to members as part of the ‘Information Brief’ document.
The meeting concluded at 13:10 p.m.