Committee round-up: Education and Children's Services 19.03.2020

PLEASE NOTE: This meeting took place before the national decision to close schools as part of Covid-19 measures was taken. 

Progress on reducing child poverty in Aberdeenshire, the uptake of Foundation  Apprenticeships in schools and consideration of how head teacher vacancies are advertised were among the issues discussed at the latest Education and Children’s Services Committee.

The meeting began with committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen and Director of Education and Children’s Services Laurence Findlay acknowledging the uncertainty facing the service due to Covid-19 and the impending decision to close schools for a prolonged period. 

Cllr Owen and Mr Findlay also paid tribute to teachers and staff across the service for the resilience they have shown during this challenging time. 

Progress on reducing child poverty discussed 

Buchan Area Manager Amanda Roe and Tackling Poverty and Inequalities Coordinator Annette Johnston gave a comprehensive introduction that explained the Scottish Government’s approach and highlighted numerous community groups that had played a part in reducing child poverty in Aberdeenshire. 

Cllr Alison Evison asked about how the service plans to ensure children and families don’t fall into poverty as a result of measures to tackle Covid-19. She wanted to know how flexible the service was to deal the current circumstances. 

Ms Johnston there is a plan in place involving partners and that she believes the current situation will help develop good practice and new ways of working which will be beneficial in reducing child poverty in Aberdeenshire in the future. 

Cllr Ron McKail offered his congratulations to the service. He said the support given to families to prepare meals and help improve their cooking was fantastic. 

Cllr Charles Buchan agreed. He said: “This plan is very important for children in my ward. I would like to sincerely congratulate Annette Johnson for the work she is doing.” 

Cllr Vicky Harper concurred. She said: “I want to add my thanks and confidence in the officers who are undertaking this work during the current crisis and beyond.”

Members of the committee supported the progress made in reducing child poverty and identified areas the Tackling Poverty and Inequalities Group could consider for the development of future plans.  

Update on Foundation Apprenticeships 

Cllr Owen and Andrew Ritchie, Lead Officer for Developing the Young Workforce, introduced the report. 

“A huge amount of effort has been put in by the team. I look forward to seeing this approach go from strength to strength,” Cllr Owen said. 

Cllr Buchan thanked Andrew Ritchie for his work, describing the programme as “one of the most eye-catching and valuable initiatives we run right now”. 

Committee vice chair Cllr Rosemary Bruce agreed although added she was a little bit concerned that more employers were not hosting foundation apprentices. 

Mr Ritchie responded that the service had altered its approach because once they met with employers face-to-face, they had a much better understanding and as a result were much more receptive. 

Cllr Doreen Mair said she wanted to pass on her thanks to officers and North East Scotland College –  which offers Foundation Apprenticeships as well as Aberdeenshire Council –  and companies who have participated. She said Foundation Apprenticeships made a real difference in the number of young people embarking on ‘positive destinations’ once they have finished school. 

The committee acknowledged the progress to date and the successful bid to Skills 
Development Scotland for Foundation Apprentices; agreed on how Foundation Apprentices’ performance will be measured and gave advice on how the service could work with employers to encourage them to take in Foundation Apprentices. 

Management of primary schools considered 

Mr Findlay introduced a report explaining changes to the recruitment of head teachers. The plans proposed that when a head teaching vacancy arises a review will take place to see if it is possible for a head teacher to be shared between two schools. 

Cllr Evison said she had initially been sceptical but having seen it work well she was now supportive. She added pressures on staff are a concern and hoped the way the proposal will be implemented would help avoid adding any additional pressures. 

Cllr Martin Ford said he felt the plans were specifically aimed at small, remote and rural schools and therefore accepted that the approach would be more appropriate in some places compared with others. 

Mr Findlay replied this was one of the reasons he wanted to receive feedback from area committees so that local expertise could be used.
 
The committee approved the change in approach to head teacher recruitment by the service. They also agreed for the service to work with area committees to discuss how the approach will work locally.
 
Other matters 

The meeting was webcast and can be viewed via the Aberdeenshire Council website

The public reports considered at the meeting can be found on the committees and meetings page