Education Learning and Leisure Committee 24th March 2016

Statutory consultation on Enhanced Provision project, a report on the Secondary School Estate and sustainability grants were among the items discussed at March meeting of Education Learning and Leisure Committee.

Enhanced provision

A review of enhanced educational provision within Aberdeenshire began in 2012. The aim of the review was to ensure that children and young people receive the right support across each cluster/area.

An extensive informal consultation and engagement process with stakeholders took place between 2012 and 2014. A nine area model was proposed and agreed setting out a range of provision in each area to better meet the needs of all pupils including those with the most need.

An implication of the new model was to make changes to existing provision and the requirement to conduct statutory consultations on nine proposals.

It was reported to committee that legislation has changed since the review process began. The original decision by ELL committee to approve the proposals was taken prior to these changes.

The committee were asked to agree revised process and timescales.

Kellands and Crimond Schools: The committee agreed to focus on the redesign of services to support the roll out of a consistent model to support children with literacy needs/dyslexia in all schools across Aberdeenshire, including informal consultation and engagement with stakeholders.

Committee and officers agreed to delete the second recommendation to recommence statutory consultation process on Crimond and Kellands if deemed appropriate. Members wanted to wait for outcome on the informal consultation and engagement before discussing this.

Relocation of Newtonhill School Provision Centre to Portlethen Primary School:  Due to the Scottish Government call-in on the Kellands and Crimond Learning Unit it was decided to take stock and progress as appropriate.
The committee agreed to allocate proportionate enhanced provision staffing in both schools to ensure consistency of support until Hillside School opens. A further paper will come before committee in May detailing revised proposal and a timescale for completion of Hillside School. Subject to approval of the committee in May, a formal statutory consultation will begin in June.

Establishment of an Enhanced Provision Centre at Mill O’Forest School:  A formal statutory consultation took place last year and a report was sent to Education Scotland. The committee agreed to a paper being brought before the committee in May as per Education Scotland’s recommendations and subject to approval by committee initiate formal statutory consultation process in June.

Other proposals agreed by committee included:

Secondary School Estate Development

Councillors approved a report on pupil capacity at Aberdeenshire Council’s 17 academies, following a review and linked to the development of the whole school estate across the area and improved use of space.

The committee was informed that the Aberdeenshire Secondary School Capacity has not been reviewed since October 1994 and the methodology did not reflect the delivery of an evolving modern curriculum. As such the existing capacity of Secondary Schools needed to be reviewed.

A document called Design Guidance for Secondary Schools and Community Campus was produced. Maxine Booth gave a presentation to committee members on their plans for Peterhead Academy and Inverurie Academy on creating more space and redesigning them to make it fit in with the curriculum more.

The idea is to create three zones, private, invited and public. This has been done at the new campuses built at Alford, Mearns and Ellon.

These zones include amphitheatres, instead of halls which could be used as two performance areas as well as a lecture hall, a viewing gallery for science classrooms, large open planned areas, more use of staff rooms which are currently only used at start and end of the day.

Councillors were impressed by the plans and looked forward to the changes being made.

Cllr Martin Ford asked why the new working capacity for Mintlaw School was lower than existing capacity. Craig Clement said it was due to temporary classrooms wrongly being included in existing capacity figures.

Cllr Isobel Davidson proposed that any decision on the report should be deferred for one cycle to allow Area Committees to comment on it. Vice Chair Cllr Charles Buchan argued that Aberdeenshire couldn’t have six different policies and that there should be one consistent approach for Aberdeenshire and proposed an amendment that the committee should agree the recommendations.

Councillors voted to agree recommendations and approved report by nine votes to seven

Fees and charges for Education and Children’s Services

Councillors were asked to approve a proposal to increase Education and Children’s Service fees by a maximum of 5%.

John Harding explained to committee that to provide greater transparency and in line with recent report from Scrutiny and Audit Committee on charging a review of all charges would take place during 2016/17. The review is to make sure fees properly reflect the cost of service. While the review is taking place they asked committee to approve increasing fees by a maximum of 5%.

Chair of committee Cllr Alison Evison said she had representations from Aberdeenshire Youth Council on this issue arguing 5% was too much. Cllr Evison proposed amending the recommendation to replace maximum of 5% with maximum of 2.5%. Officers said they were happy to support that change.

Cllr Isobel Davidson said that the 2.5% figure was arbitrary. There was no justification given for the figure in the report and there appeared to be no strategy on how it will be implemented or how decisions will be made.  Cllr Davidson argued that increasing by inflation should be considered until a more detailed report was presented to committee

John Harding said that fees had to increase due to significant pressures on service including National Insurance and salaries.

Cllr Martin Ford argued that it would be impossible simply to charge inflation rate of 1.3% as it might lead to 0.5p increases for example. He said giving officers ley way to increase to nearest 5p was right thing to do.

Councillors agreed amended recommendation that charges should increase by a maximum of 2.5%.

Sustainability Grants Scheme

At present 18 organisations ranging from Aberdeenshire Sports Council to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop receive Sustainability Grants totalling £239,000.

The awards are intended to be a contribution to the ongoing sustainability of each organisation which is valued as part of the sport and culture infrastructure in Aberdeenshire. In 2014/15 cultural organisations supported by the council increased participation by 22%.

Councillors agreed to continue the current grants allocations for 2016/17 in lieu of a review in to the overall approach to financial support for third sector Lifelong Learning and Leisure sector.

Alternative service delivery options

In 2009/10 the Council undertook a preliminary investigation in to the potential benefits of delivering some Lifelong and Leisure services through an Arm’s length external organisation before deciding not to proceed further.

This initial work has now been revisited in the current financial context. The committee was therefore asked to invest up to £50,000 for independent professional support so a detailed options analysis of the benefits of different delivery models could be undertaken.

Cllr Martin Ford said he would like the report to highlight the negatives as well as benefits of each delivery model and asked for recommendation to be changed to reflect this.

The committee agreed to the change.

Committee papers are available from http://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=274&meetid=18182