Education, Learning and Leisure Committee round-up 25.08.16

Discussion of annual reports from the Chief Social Work Officer, Aberdeenshire Child and Family Protection Committee and Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) in Aberdeenshire kicked off this month’s Education, Learning and Learning Committee on Thursday, August 25 2016.

Councillors also congratulated pupils and staff on their hard work following the publication of analysis of the recent SQA exam results. They also agreed the capping of Stuartfield School and the launch of a consultation into the rezoning of the Mintlaw primary school network.

Aberdeenshire Child and Family Protection Committee Annual Report 2015

The annual report from the Aberdeenshire Child and Family Protection Committee was introduced by the Head of Children’s Services, Bob Driscoll, who summarised that this year has been one of consolidation, making sure staff involved in child protection have the right training and tools to protect children in Aberdeenshire.

Councillors welcomed the work of officers to prevent Child Sexual Exploitation, which includes for example instances of ‘sexting’, by raising awareness through schools of the dangers and asked for assurances that parents as well pupils are being engaged with.

Councillors approved the annual report and agreed to receive one on an annual basis from the committee.

Chief Social Work Officer Annual Report 2015/16

As Chief Social Work Officer, Mr Driscoll said his annual report paints a picture of a service performing well which councillors agreed with.

Councillors said it is important to acknowledge the good work of social workers, in particular their work to support Looked After Children through the provision of work placements, and welcomed the increase in people applying for jobs in the social work sector.

Chair of the council’s Social Work and Housing Committee, Cllr Anne Allan said staff should be praised for their dedication, highlighting that they do a very difficult job in trying circumstances and go above and beyond their call of duty.

Continuing Care

Councillors agreed a proposed approach to ensure the council complies with legislative requirements on Continuing Care.

Continuing Care is the support, which can range from financial to accommodation assistance, given to a young person who is no longer Looked After, to encourage them to remain longer in a care placement.

Mr Driscoll said that in many ways, practice in Aberdeenshire is already in line with these new legislative requirements which councillors welcomed in comparison to previous difficulties some Looked After children might have experienced if their care stopped early.

Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) Aberdeenshire

The Director of Education & Children’s Services, Maria Walker, gave a presentation on how GIRFEC is being implemented in Aberdeenshire, saying the 2015 Children’s Services Inspection said the council was doing well but could be a leader in Scotland with some improvements.

She explained that GIRFEC is there to make sure there are universal services available to all children and young people but that there is also targeted support available to those who need it.

Councillors welcomed the new GIRFEC structures that have been put in place, including the new local groups which have been created on a locality basis and which look at how organisations like the council, Police Scotland, NHS and voluntary bodies can get it right for children in their respective areas.

Councillors agreed the report and new arrangements and asked that area committees receive the same information so local councillors are aware and understand how GIRFEC is working in their areas.

Aberdeenshire SQA examination results: initial analysis 2016

This report was introduced by the Head of Secondary Education, Vincent Docherty, who emphasised that much of the analysis was based on initial raw data and that more in-depth figures would be available in coming months.

Councillors sent their congratulations to all staff and pupils, particularly those in the four special schools, and said they are pleased to see an improving picture emerge across Aberdeenshire.

In response to various questions on the attainment gap Mr Docherty said the council is focusing on improving outcomes for each and every pupil and it is targeting consistent and sustained improvement. Councillors were particularly pleased to see that improvement in schools like Peterhead Academy as well as schools which have benefited from recent capital investment, like the academies in Kemnay and Ellon.

Changes to Education Scotland inspections August 2016

Councillors noted changes to the way Education Scotland inspects schools, particularly the introduction of new inspection models including full inspections, short inspections, thematic inspections and neighbourhood inspections (which involves a review of a secondary school and its associated primary schools and partners).

Head Teacher at Bervie Primary School, Susan Smith, said there had been engagement with the teaching profession and unions from Education Scotland and that they had been for feedback on these plans. She said the new short-notice inspections may help relieve staff worries during the build-up to an inspection, which they often found more stressful than the inspection itself.

School roll capping: Stuartfield School

Councillors discussed a report recommending the capping of the school roll at Stuartfield School at 125 pupils for an initial year from August 2016.

Head of Resources and Performance, Craig Clement, who introduced the report, emphasised that the capping will only be put in place if absolutely needed as pupil numbers at the school are slightly lower than capacity levels at the moment.

Councillors inquired about the capacity of the three alternative schools to take any new in-zone pupils moving into the area once the cap is in place would be transported to (Auchnagatt, Pitfour and Longside). Mr Clement assured them this would be taken into account as part of the Mintlaw rezoning exercise (see below).

Councillors agreed to cap the school roll subject to officers giving consideration to a longer term solution at the school.

Mintlaw Network Rezoning Statutory Consultation Launch

Councillors considered this report in conjunction with the above report on the capping of the school roll at Stuartfield School.

Head of Resources and Performance, Craig Clement, outlined the need to look at the catchment area because of future housing developments and said the exercise would allow the council to start the process of potentially investing in the school.

Councillors agreed to both informal and statutory consultation with local stakeholders from September 2016 until February 2017 with a focus on Mintlaw Primary School, Pitfour School, Stuartfield School, Fetterangus School and Longside School.