19 October 2020

Committee round-up: Education and Children's Services 08.10.20

An update about Education and Children’s Services’ response to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, a proposal regarding the plans for Peterhead Community Campus, and efforts to meet the Scottish Government’s target of 1140 hours of early learning and childcare were among the items considered at the most recent Education and Children’s Services Committee.

Committee members updated about Covid-19 measures

Director of Education and Children’s Services Laurence Findlay gave a verbal update about the service’s response to Covid-19, sought the committee members’ input about transition arrangements, and advice on the frequency of committee updates on Coronavirus.

Cllr Alison Evison noted that Community Learning and Development (CLD) had a huge opportunity in developing young people and their resilience during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Cllr Anne Simpson praised the service for the comprehensive report which mentioned CLD. She commended staff across the service for their ability to upskill and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and praised CLD in particular for reaching young people that schools can’t.

Cllr Ron McKail passed on his thanks to CLD noting that the report had given him a greater understanding of its contribution.

Members agreed for Education and Children’s Services to provide verbal updates to future committee meetings regarding the service’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic and acknowledged the response to the ongoing pandemic.

Re-location of Peterhead Academy considered

Maxine Booth, Quality Improvement Manager in the Learning Estates Team, and Learning Estates Team Leader Rachael Goldring presented a report to the committee regarding a consultation on the re-location of Peterhead Academy to the Kinmundy site as part of the proposed Peterhead Community Campus.

Members of the Buchan Area Committee gave feedback about the consultation at an area committee on September 15. The report recommended the Education and Children’s Services Committee to consider them. 

Cllr Evison asked if recognition could be given to the previous administration’s work and that of Craig Clement’s team in 2016, which in her view helped the council get to its current position, and enquired if the Director of Education and Children’s Services could ensure the history of the project is reflected in future reports.

Cllr Martin Ford queried whether the consultation was valid if the date no longer applied and asked whether the consultation had to be redone.

Craig Clement, Head of Resources and Performance, said the consultation was valid as the Education and Children’s Services Committee would need to approve Peterhead Academy’s relocation to the Community Campus site in Kinmundy.

Asking a supplementary question, Cllr Ford wondered which parts of the proposed community campus would remain and which would go.

Committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen, Mr Clement and Mr Findlay explained that the item was merely considering the relocation of Peterhead Academy, and that the other items of the proposed community campus will be covered in separate reports which will be considered by the relevant area and policy committees.

Cllr Karen Adam asked whether the work to support Peterhead town centre will happen whilst the building of the planned community campus takes place rather than once it is built.

Mark Mitchell, the Estates Programme Manager, said a study identified that during lunchtimes, breaks and after school a number of academy pupils already shopped at a large supermarket outside the town centre, meaning the impact on the town centre once the campus is built could be minimal.

Regeneration and Town Centres Manager Christine Webster added it is important for the work to happen concurrently.

Cllr McKail asked if businesses would be encouraged to locate to the planned community campus site.

Mr Mitchell said a study suggested spend in the town centre is likely to remain steady. Cllr Owen added trade did not suffer in Ellon when the town’s academy moved to its current site on the outskirts.

Cllr Ford said safe walking and cycling routes are needed to encourage young people to develop habits when journeying to and from school. He added by starting at school pupils could be taking up healthy habits that could be sustained in adulthood. 

Members of the committee noted Cllr Evison’s request that the Peterhead Community Campus project had been a council priority since 2016 as well as being the main project in the service’s plan between 2016 to 2019.

Councillors also noted that the Director would acknowledge the project’s history in future reports to the committee.

The committee members also agreed with the proposed recommendation that Peterhead Academy should be relocated to the Kinmundy site as set out in the report.

Increases to fully funded early learning and childcare hours discussed

Craig Clement and Early Years’ Service Manager James Martin presented a report updating committee members on a revised timescale on the delivery of fully funded early learning and childcare hours available at council-run nurseries and private provider childcare settings.

In April this year, the Scottish Government removed the legal requirement for all local authorities to offer 1140 fully funded hours of early learning and childcare in August due to the restrictions in place to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the Scottish Government is reviewing arrangements for implementation dates, although no revision timeframe has been finalised.

The report recommended from November all funded providers working in partnership with the council will offer the full 1140 entitlement. Council-run nurseries will move to the increase in proposed phases:

• 20% offering 1140 hours in full by December.
• Between November and February, 30% will offer 1140 in full, with the remaining 70% offering 900 hours.
• From February to April, 50% of settings will offer 1140 in full, with the other half offering 900 hours.
• From April to August the majority of settings will offer 1140 but there may be exceptional cases meaning some may need to adjust up to August.
• The report said parents and carers can split their 1140 funded hours between council and private settings.

Cllr Evison welcomed the report saying the recommendations will make a huge difference to families across Aberdeenshire.

Cllr McKail asked how parents will know there has been a change in funding arrangements.

Mr Martin said a letter will be sent to all settings explaining the arrangements. Settings would then need to explain the arrangements to parents and engage with them to ensure they meet their needs.

Members of the committee agreed the updated timeline proposed in the report.
For more information please visit the Aberdeenshire Council website to read a news release relating to this report.

Other matters

• Committee members heard about the progress made with kinship care in Aberdeenshire over the last decade.
• Members of the committee learnt about the extra layer of support the Virtual Head Teacher is providing to care experienced young people.
• The development of a school sustainability policy was also considered by the committee.
• Arrangements to Foundation Apprenticeships were also discussed by the committee.
• The agenda and all the reports in full are available on the Aberdeenshire Council website.
• A webcast of the meeting is also available.