Education and Children’s Services Committee Round-up October 2018

Education and Children’s Services Committee had an unusual start on Thursday (11 October) with a screening of Boddam Primary School’s choir video. The clip was recently shown to inspectors from around the world at a conference led by Education Scotland and it was met with a round of applause by committee members.

Committee Chair Councillor Gillian Owen commented: “It’s a very positive message to begin our committee with and it’s lovely to see young people joining in in something that’s fun as well as meaningful.”

Committee then went on to hear some feedback from Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and members of the Shadow Management Team (young people who work with our senior officers) who are particularly keen to engage in this year’s budget setting process.

In addition to discussions around ‘Learning together to achieve better educational outcomes for children across Aberdeenshire’ which centred on a paper about developing a strategic approach to our school estate, another major focus for members was on attainment.

Analysis of attainment
In looking at this year’s figures for attainment and achievement in Aberdeenshire’s secondary schools, members recognised and congratulated young people, their parents/carers, teachers and support staff on the level of success highlighted. They were also keen to continue to revisit and address the attainment gap, noting recent changes in the structure of examinations as well as raising concerns about social deprivation, querying how the Pupil Equity Fund can help and underlining the focus we must have on our care experienced young people.

Members were reassured that quality improvement officers have been out discussing attainment levels in schools directly with head teachers, creating attainment action plans and following the National Improvement Framework in order to help every young person across Aberdeenshire reach their potential.

Officers have been asked to submit a report to a future meeting, providing statistical trends over a number of years in order to assess the Council’s performance against relevant council priorities.

Engaging with and involving parents and carersMembers also discussed and agreed an involvement and engagement strategy for parents and carers which recognises they have the most important influence on a child’s development and sets out a plan for engaging and enabling parents to best support their children’s learning. 

The strategy has been developed based on the Big Conversations more than 3,000 parents have already participated in, along with Scotland’s national ‘Learning Together’ action plan for family learning and as well as our own Council Priorities 2017-2022.

The next steps include consulting on the strategy alongside a Family Learning Delivery Plan with parents and carers across Aberdeenshire, and developing a charter for parents and carers to help clarify everyone’s roles and responsibilities when it comes to supporting children’s learning.

Members were keen to ensure officers address our role as corporate parents and also sought reassurance that the plans and approach would be as inclusive as possible, particularly for parents of those with additional support needs.

Educational and learning provision for Gypsy/Traveller communities Councillors also considered and agreed a paper on educational and learning provision for children and young people from Gypsy/Traveller communities. They welcomed the approach taken by the service, both in terms of encouraging children and young people to participate in learning at the same time as respecting cultural differences and the preferences of the families they are working with.

Primary School management options
Members agreed to retain current cluster head teacher arrangements pending the outcome of a wider review of management and staffing arrangements in primary schools. Ensuring there is appropriate leadership in all of our schools is very important and the agreement of this paper means existing arrangements whereby head teachers are looking after more than one school (with small numbers) can continue.

Members have asked officers to submit guidelines of good practice for shared head teacher arrangements in a report to a future meeting of the committee.

Other matters
• Councillors were also asked to note the changes to the methodology for assessing the suitability and condition of schools. They agreed reports on the outcomes of assessments will be submitted to the appropriate area committees as well as a future Education and Children’s Services Committee.
• Members also noted the mothballing of Longhaven School and agreed an update report would be brought back to committee in February 2019 after applications for nursery and Primary 1 placements for the next academic year are submitted in January.
• Education and Children’s Services Supplementary Work Plan was approved with members agreeing not to reserve approval of the business case for the Water at Work contract.

Councillors also enjoyed a briefing on child protection issues, bringing the work of social workers and officers involved in child protection to life. The focus was on multi-agency working, the roles of different partners involved in supporting outcomes for children and the importance of good communication.