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ANGUS COUNCIL

MINUTE of MEETING of the EDUCATION COMMITTEE held in the Town and County Hall, Forfar on Tuesday 21 January 1997 at 4.00 pm.

Present: Councillors BRIAN MILNE, WALLIE LEASK, GEORGE P ALLAN, HELEN ANGUS, Provost Mrs FRANCES E DUNCAN, Mrs RENATE LAMONT, GLENNIS MIDDLETON, GEORGE NORRIE, Mrs KATHLEEN M RITCHIE, RICHARD SPEIRS, Mrs SHEENA WELSH and SANDY WEST; Father M MILTON, Rev Dr R MACKENZIE, Mr PETER ANDREWS and Mr BRIAN McHARDY.

Councillor MILNE, Convener in the chair.

1. EXCLUSION OF PUBLIC AND PRESS

The Committee resolved in terms of Standing Order No 27(2) that the public and press be excluded during consideration of items 2 and 3 below so as to avoid the disclosure of information which was exempt in terms of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, paragraphs 1, 6, 8, 9 and 10.

2. TENDERING FOR SCHOOL CONVEYANCE REQUIREMENTS 1996/97

There was submitted Report No 84/97 by the Director of Education and the Director of Planning, Transport and Economic Development setting out details of the results of the tendering exercise undertaken for contracts for transport to swimming facilities in the Brechin area and recommending the award of contracts to the lowest tenderer in each case.

The Committee approved the terms of the Report and agreed that the seven contracts be awarded as set out therein.

3. TERMINATION OF SCHOOL CONVEYANCE CONTRACT

There was submitted Report No 85/97 by the Directors of Education and Planning, Transport and Economic Development regarding an incident which had taken place on 6 December 1996 involving a school conveyance contract operating to Birkhill Primary School when two wheels had detached from the vehicle and outlining the action taken by the Council to date as a consequence of the incident.

The Committee noted that the terms of future contracts would be revised to ensure that the Council had the authority to suspend contracts without incurring payment to the operator and thereafter agreed:-

(i) to note the decision to terminate the current contract ADE/2 for the conveyance of scholars between Templeton Farm Road End and Birkhill Primary School;

(ii) to note the temporary arrangement in place for the continuation of this contract until formal retendering had been undertaken; and

(iii) to request that a further report be submitted to the Committee following the outcome of any action taken by the Traffic Commissioner or Tayside Police in respect of the incident.

4. QUEEN’S NEW YEAR’S HONOURS LIST - MR HARRY FAULKNER

The Convener advised the Committee that Mr Harry Faulkner, the Head Teacher of Montrose Academy, had been awarded the OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

The Committee agreed that its congratulations be conveyed to Mr Faulkner.

5. MINUTE OF PREVIOUS MEETING

The minute of meeting of this Committee of 26 November 1996 was approved as a correct record and signed by the Convener.

6. MINUTES

(a) Teachers’ Grievance and Premature Retirement Sub-Committee

The minute of meeting of the Teachers’ Grievance and Premature Retirement Sub-Committee of 19 December 1996, a copy of which is appended hereto, (Appendix I), was submitted and noted.

(b) Special Cases Sub-Committee

The minute of meeting of the Special Cases Sub-Committee of 19 December 1996, a copy of which is appended hereto, (Appendix II), was submitted and noted.

(c) Attendance Sub-Committee

The minute of meeting of the Attendance Sub-Committee of 16 January 1997, a copy of which is appended hereto, (Appendix III), was submitted and noted.

(d) Teachers’ Grievance and Premature Retirement Sub-Committee of 21 January 1997

The Director of Law and Administration reported on the outcome of the meeting of the Teachers’ Grievance and Premature Retirement Sub-Committee held earlier in the day, as set out in the minute, a copy of which is appended hereto (Appendix IV), which was noted.

(e) Special Cases Sub-Committee of 21 January 1997

The Director of Law and Administration reported on the outcome of the meeting of the Special Cases Sub-Committee held earlier in the day, as set out in the minute, a copy of which is appended hereto (Appendix V), which was noted.

7. SCHOOL PLACING REQUESTS - EFFECTS OF EDUCATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 1996

There was submitted Report No 935 by the Director of Education intimating that the Education (Scotland) Act 1996, inter alia, amended the law as it affected parental placing requests in the following areas:-

(a) by amending the grounds for refusal of a placing request; and

(b) by introducing a facility to retain places in overcrowded schools in anticipation of new pupils moving into the delineated areas of these schools.

The Report set out steps which would require to be taken to comply with these amendments, including a review of school capacities and intake.

The Committee approved the terms of the Report and agreed:-

(i) to instruct the Director of Education to continue to encourage parents to enrol their children in their local school, but otherwise to grant all placing requests whenever possible;

(ii) to note that the wording of the statutory grounds for refusal of placing requests had been amended very slightly;

(iii) to approve the school capacities and intake limits detailed in Appendices 1 and 2 of the Report and the retention, in the circumstances described in the Report, of two reserved places per stage, or 3% of the intake limit, whichever was the greater, to enable children who moved into delineated areas of schools identified in Appendices 1 and 2 of the Report to obtain places in those schools; and

(iv) to delegate to the Director of Education discretion to accede to any placing request, notwithstanding the intake limits and designated reserved places, if the circumstances in any individual school at a given time could justify acceptance of such a placing request without allowing the school to become unnecessarily overcrowded.

8. "ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL" - CLASS ORGANISATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS AND THE EARLY YEARS OF SECONDARY SCHOOLS

There was submitted Report No 92/97 by the Director of Education (a) indicating that the Secretary of State had published Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools' Report entitled "Achievement for All" on the relative merits of organising classes by mixed ability, streaming and setting and (b) setting out possible guidelines for schools on appropriate ways of organising pupils into classes in the later stages of primary schools and also in S1 or S2 of secondary schools.

After hearing Mr Andrews, the Committee approved the terms of the Report and agreed:-

(i) to encourage informed debate about ways of making learning and teaching as effective as possible;

(ii) to affirm its support for proper attention to be paid to educational research in any informed educational debate;

(iii) to confirm its belief that a variety of pedagogical styles should be encouraged within any given class as well as within each school, and that teaching staff should be encouraged to exercise appropriate professional discretion about pedagogical style within each school’s approach to effective learning and teaching;

(iv) to confirm its belief that setting of classes by ability was inappropriate in primary schools and that the current long established use of ability grouping within primary classes, as judged appropriate by teaching staff, should be encouraged;

(v) to express regret that so little attention had apparently been given by HMI to educational research in arriving at the somewhat simplistic conclusions in their recently published report "Achievement for All";

(vi) to refute the simplistic conclusions reached in the HMI report and, instead, to commend the appropriate use of grouping of secondary school classes by mixed ability rather than by ability setting, particularly when these arrangements had been developed by a school after careful consideration of how best to make its learning and teaching most effective; and

(vii) to instruct the Director of Education to circulate guidelines for schools based on the Report 92/97.

9. A CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK FOR CHILDREN IN THEIR PRE-SCHOOL YEAR

There was submitted Report No 86/97 by the Director of Education setting out (a) the contents of a consultative draft document produced by the Scottish Office entitled "A Curriculum Framework for Children in their Pre-School Year" and (b) the terms of a possible response to the proposals based on the comments contained in the Report.

The Committee approved the terms of the Report and agreed:-

(i) to note the contents of the consultative document;

(ii) to instruct the Director of Education to submit a response to the Scottish Office on behalf of the Council in the terms set out in the Report; and

(iii) to instruct the Director of Education to provide updated information when the Curriculum Framework was published in its final form.

10. THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE - PROPOSED PILOT STUDY

There was submitted Report No 996/96 by the Director of Education indicating that an approach had been made to the Council by an individual practitioner of the Alexander Technique to be allowed to organise a course of lessons utilising the Technique. The Technique was based on a belief that patterns of body movement interfered with the proper functioning of the body and thus contributed to the development of disease. By releasing unnecessary muscle tensions, the Technique could be used to eliminate or reduce severity of a wide range of medical disorders. The approach to the Council suggested that a pilot scheme be established in order to determine more clearly whether specific benefits could be devised from the use of the Technique with pupils with learning and/or behavioural difficulties.

The Committee approved the terms of the Report and agreed, in principle, to the proposed programme of lessons in the Alexander Technique for up to eight pupils in one Angus secondary school, subject to the detailed arrangements described in the Report being effected.

11. REVIEW OF CHARGES 1997/98

There was submitted Report No 87/97 by the Director of Education recommending increases in the charges made for services provided by the Education Department, including letting of educational premises, community education, music tuition and school meals.

Mr Andrews, seconded by Councillor Speirs, moved that the terms of Report No 87/97 be noted meantime and that a decision be taken in the context of consideration of the Revenue Budget for 1997/98.

AS AN AMENDMENT, COUNCILLOR LEASK, SECONDED BY COUNCILLOR WEST, MOVED THAT THE PROPOSED INCREASES IN CHARGES SET OUT IN REPORT NO 87/97 BE APPROVED.

On a division there voted:-

For the motion:-

Councillors Norrie and Speirs, Rev Dr R Mackenzie, Mr Peter Andrews and Mr Brian McHardy (5).

For the amendment:-

Councillors Milne, Leask, Allan, Angus, Mrs Frances E Duncan, Mrs Lamont, Mrs Middleton, Mrs Ritchie, Mrs Welsh, West, Father Milton (11).

Thereupon the amendment was declared carried.

12. HIGHER STILL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME - AUTUMN 1996 CONSULTATION AND NEEDS ANALYSIS EXERCISES

With reference to Article 5 of the minute of meeting of the Education Committee of 15 October 1996 there was submitted Report No 88/97 by the Director of Education detailing the outcome of the consultation and needs analysis exercises conducted to date and advising of the Higher Still Development Unit’s planning proposals up to March 1998.

After hearing Mr McHardy regarding the problems relating to timescale and available resources, the Committee approved the terms of the Report and agreed:-

(i) to note the contents of the information leaflet on the Higher Still System produced by the Higher Still Development Unit and attached as Appendix 1 to the Report;

(ii) to note the outcome of the consultation/needs analysis exercises;

(iii) to note the serious concerns expressed in relation to timescale and resources;

(iv) to instruct the Director of Education to write to the Secretary of State advising him of these concerns;

(iv) to authorise the Director of Education to consult further with the JCC (Teachers) on the basis of consultation responses and needs analysis summaries which had already been shared with the teachers’ representatives on the JCC; and

(f) notwithstanding these concerns, to endorse the general thrust of the current Higher Still proposals, and to endorse also therefore the continuing voluntary involvement of Angus Council staff in national planning initiatives as approved by this Committee at its meeting on 15 October 1996.

13. SCHOOL BOARDS - EFFECTS OF EDUCATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 1996

There was submitted Report No 89/97 by the Director of Education indicating that the Education (Scotland) Act 1996, which had come into effect on 18 September 1996, had introduced a number of amendments to the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988. The major changes concerned the electoral process for parent members which would come into effect on 1 September 1997. Consequently, a revised scheme for the election of School Board members had been prepared, and a copy had been made available in the Members' Lounge.

The remaining amendments were already in effect and these were set out in the Report, including an amendment which entitled Councillors to attend and speak at a meeting of any School Board where all or part of that school’s delineated area fell into their electoral ward.

The Committee noted the terms of the Report and approved the revised scheme for the election of School Board members.

14. MEMBER/OFFICER GROUPS - DRAFT REPORTS

With reference to Article 6 of the minute of meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee of 10 December 1996, there was submitted Report No 1049/96 by the Chief Executive with the Member/Officer Group draft Reports Reports on Youth Strategy, Economic Development Strategy, Equal Opportunities Strategy, Rural Affairs Strategy, Community Regeneration Strategy and Valuing Staff.

The Committee, for its interest, noted the terms of the Report.