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Education Committee

MINUTE of MEETING of the EDUCATION COMMITTEE held in the Town and County Hall, Forfar on Tuesday 30 April 2002 at 4.00 pm.

Present: Councillors BRIAN MILNE and SHEENA WELSH, Provost Mrs FRANCES E DUNCAN OBE, Councillors JACK GIBB, DAVID LUMGAIR, STEWART McGLYNN, GLENNIS MIDDLETON, PETER NIELD, GEORGE NORRIE MBE, KITTY RITCHIE, RON SCRIMGEOUR and SANDY WEST; Rev ALAN WEBSTER, Mr PETER ANDREWS and Mr BRIAN McHARDY.

Apologies: Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Councillor ROBERT MYLES, Father JAMES FOLEY and Rev KENNETH GIBSON.

Councillor MILNE, Convener, in the Chair.

Before commencing the business, the Convener referred to the recent death of Mrs Doreen Cameron, a teacher at Maisondieu Primary School. Councillor Milne intimated that not only would Mrs Cameron be missed at Maisondieu Primary School but that her death was a sad loss to the community. He also paid tribute to Mrs Cameron on behalf of Councillor Myles who was attending her funeral this day.

The Committee joined with the Convener in offering their sincere condolences to Mrs Cameron's family and friends.

1. MINUTES

(a) Previous Meeting

The minute of meeting of this Committee of 5 March 2002 was approved as a correct record and signed by the Convener.

(b) Special Cases Sub-Committee

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

(c) Staffing Sub-Committee

The Director of Law and Administration reported on the meeting of the Staffing Sub-Committee held earlier this day. The Committee noted the decisions as set out in the minute, a copy of which is appended hereto (APPENDIX II).

2. INSPECTION OF THE EDUCATION FUNCTIONS OF ANGUS COUNCIL

With reference to Article 1 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 20 November 2001, there was submitted Report No 491/02 by the Director of Education drawing the Committee's attention to the recently published report by HM Inspectorate of Education on the education functions of Angus Council, and to the requirement on the Council to prepare and publish a follow up Action Plan.

The HMIE report confirmed the excellent work which was carried out on a daily basis by the education service in Angus and the Director paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of staff and the excellent school/community partnerships which had been fostered since Angus Council had been established. However, some areas were highlighted for improvement and, as part of the inspection process, the Council would be expected to prepare and publish a follow-up Action Plan to address the main points for action identified in the report.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to note the contents of the published report on the Education Functions of Angus Council which had been circulated previously to all members of the Education Committee by the Chief Executive;
  2. to commend the staff of the Education Department for their efforts and congratulate them on the public acknowledgement of these efforts by HMIE; and
  3. to instruct the Director of Education to lead the process of preparing a follow-up Action Plan for submission to the Education Committee at its June meeting and for publication immediately thereafter.

3. STANDING ORDERS: EDUCATION STAFFING SUB-COMMITTEE

With reference to Article 2 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 5 March 2002, there was submitted Report No 509/02 by the Director of Law and Administration reminding the Committee of its decision to delegate to the Staffing Sub-Committee powers to ratify any agreements reached by the newly formed Angus Joint Negotiating Committee for Teachers. However, a request had been received from an elected member requesting that the additional function delegated to the Sub-Committee, namely "the approval of local agreements relating to the devolved conditions of service set out in Circular SNCT8", be subject to a right of "referral upwards".

The Report indicated that, in terms of Standing Order 39(4) delegation to the Staffing Sub-Committee was absolute with no provision for "referral upwards" of decisions. However, it was for the Council to determine its own rules and procedures for decision making within its Standing Orders. Accordingly, the Committee was asked to consider whether or not it wished to recommend that the Council's Standing Orders should be amended to permit "referral upwards" of certain decisions of the Staffing Sub-Committee.

After discussion, the Committee agreed that no change be made to Standing Order 39(4) and that full delegation to the Staffing Sub-Committee should apply to all matters within its remit.

Councillor Nield proposed that Standing Order 39(4) be amended to allow for "referral upwards", but as he failed to find a seconder, asked that his dissent be recorded.

4. EDUCATION SERVICE PLAN 2001/2004: 2002-2003 UPDATE

With reference to Article 2 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 5 June 2001, there was submitted Report No 492/02 by the Director of Education advising the Committee of progress made in implementing the 2001/2004 Education Service Plan and informing members of arrangements now being made for the finalisation of the 2002/2003 update of the Education Service Plan and the production of the 2002/2003 School Development Plan Returns.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to note the considerable progress made in relation to the development priorities set out in the 2001/2004 Education Service Plan;
  2. to note the increasing impact of the National Priorities on service planning and school development planning; and
  3. to note the intention to consult widely on the draft 2002/2003 update of the Education Service Plan, and to instruct the Director of Education to report back to the Committee on the outcomes of this consultative exercise.

5. SCHOOL OCCUPANCY LEVELS

There was submitted Report No 493/02 by the Director of Education indicating that the Local Government Act 1992 required the Accounts Commission to ensure that local authorities published statutory performance indicators to allow comparison between standards of performance achieved by different authorities. The Council's Education Department was required to report on seven indicators covering the areas of pre-school experience, primary class sizes, school occupancy levels and special needs assessment.

The Report outlined the context of the Statutory Performance Indicators, occupancy levels in Angus primary and secondary schools and advised that the information would be published in the Council's Annual Report and Accounts and also in the local press by the end of September each year. In addition, a leaflet would be published in January providing performance information and seeking the views of stakeholders on the Council's performance.

The Committee agreed to note the contents of the Report for its information.

6. SCHOOL ICT REQUIREMENTS ­ RESOURCE ALLOCATION ­ 2002/2003 AND FUTURE YEARS

There was submitted Report No 494/02 by the Director of Education outlining proposals for a future ICT Procurement Strategy to provide schools with greater flexibility in determining ICT priorities in the context of the overall corporate framework whilst emphasising the importance of building on the good and developing relationships between schools and the Education ICT Team.

The Report concluded that, whilst there was a need to ensure that ICT was developed on a corporate basis, schools required flexibility to utilise resources in accordance with priorities set out in their own development plans. At the same time, absolute transparency would be required in the way resources were allocated and schools would have responsibility to manage resources effectively. The proposed model would be consistent with the devolved environment in which schools currently operated and would complement the new arrangement for providing ICT support to schools.

The Committee agreed to approve the content of the Report.

7. PROPOSED AMALGAMATION ­ TOWNHEAD NURSERY SCHOOL AND MAISONDIEU PRIMARY SCHOOL

With reference to Article 7 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 5 March 2002, there was submitted Report No 500/02 by the Director of Education providing a progress report on discussions with parents and staff about the proposed amalgamation of Townhead Nursery School and Maisondieu Primary School and seeking the Committee's approval for the formal merger to go ahead as previously proposed.

The Report concluded that the logic of amalgamating Townhead Nursery School with Maisondieu Primary School seemed irrefutable, given that 50 of the 60 primary schools managed by Angus Council currently had a nursery class attached and that, other than Townhead Nursery, no other separate free standing nursery schools were managed by the Council. However, the anxieties and concerns which had been raised were clearly genuinely held and it would be important to ensure that, both prior to the merger, and in the months and years subsequent to it having been given effect, these concerns and anxieties continued to be borne in mind and addressed systematically and sensitively.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to confirm that the amalgamation of Townhead Nursery School and Maisondieu Primary School should take effect on 19 August 2002; and
  2. to note the anxieties and concerns of some key stakeholders and instruct the Director of Education to ensure that these were fully taken into account, along with the needs of children, in planning for the merger and in ensuring that it was implemented sympathetically and effectively.

8. STANDARDS AND QUALITY IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS: RELIGIOUS AND MORAL EDUCATION 1995-2000 ­ A REPORT BY HM INSPECTORATE OF EDUCATION

There was submitted Report No 496/02 by the Director of Education advising that, in August 2001, a report entitled "Standards and Quality in Secondary Schools: Religious and Moral Education 1995-2000" had been published by HM Inspectorate of Education. Two schools in Angus had been involved in the research for the HMIE Report which had identified, nationally, a number of strengths in the learning and teaching of Religious and Moral Education (RME), especially in courses leading to external certification but had also identified main areas for improvement. Accordingly, the Report sought the Committee's approval of proposals to take forward in Angus schools, the recommendations made by HM Inspectors in the RME Standards and Quality Report.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to note the terms of the Report and the summary of the HMIE findings on Religious and Moral Education across Scottish schools, as set out within the body of the Report and the attached Appendix;
  2. to note and approve the detailed proposals for action outlined in Section 5 of the Appendix, which had been framed in the course of meetings with Principal Teachers of Religious and Moral Education; and
  3. to note the terms of the special note on religious observance which HMIE had included in the Standards and Quality Report.

9. DRAFT FRAMEWORK FOR PROFESSIONAL REVIEW AND DEVELOPMENT (JANUARY 2002): RESPONSE TO SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE CONSULTATION DOCUMENT

There was submitted Report No 497/02 by the Director of Education advising that the McCrone Agreement "A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century" had introduced a requirement for all teachers to agree an annual continuing professional development (CPD) plan and to maintain a CPD record of all professional development activities which they undertook. A Sub-Group of a Ministerial Strategy Committee had been set up to establish a national CPD strategy and provide guidance on the CPD implications of the McCrone Agreement. Responses to the draft framework document issued by the Sub-Group had been sought by 15 March 2002 and the Appendix to the Report set out the terms of the consultative response prepared by officers of the Education Department which had already been submitted to the Scottish Executive.

The Report concluded that it was reassuring to note that the procedures which were in place in Angus had attracted favourable comment from HM Inspectorate of Education. In addition, Angus procedures met the main criteria for effective professional review and development strategies described in the consultative framework document. However, it would be important to give due consideration to the need to make possible amendments to existing procedures in the light of definitive ministerial guidance which might result from the consultation exercise.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to note the terms of the Report;
  2. to note and endorse the terms of the consultative response prepared by officers of the Education Department appended to the Report;
  3. to note the main elements of the draft Scottish Executive Framework for Professional Review and Development, a copy of which had been placed in the Members' Lounge; and
  4. to note that the procedures for professional review and development in Angus, which included recently agreed arrangements for the production of annual CPD plans by teaching staff, met the criteria for Professional Review and Development Strategies proposed in the draft framework document.

10. SCHOOL MEALS (SCOTLAND) BILL

There was submitted Report No 498/02 by the Director of Education updating members on the School Meals (Scotland) Bill, the purpose of which would be to require local authorities to provide a nutritious meal, without charge, to all pupils under their management. The Scottish Parliament's Education, Culture and Sport Committee were seeking views on the Bill by 30 April 2002.

Section 4 of the Report set out a proposed response to the consultation. Whilst the desire to remove any possible stigma from pupils eligible to be provided with a free school meal was supported wholeheartedly, Angus Council had already made significant strides forward in doing just that, and would continue to strive for further improvements. Nevertheless, the concept of providing free school meals for all pupils was one which the Parliament would be advised to approach with some caution, with the financial implications of the proposed Bill requiring very careful consideration. From the point of view of Angus Council, the Bill could not be supported at all unless there was a clear and unequivocal commitment from the Executive that additional costs would be met in full by the Executive.

The Committee agreed to approve the terms of the Report and endorse Section 4 of the Report as the Council's response to the Scottish Parliament's Education, Culture and Sport Committee in respect of the School Meals (Scotland) Bill.

11. PROPOSED MEETINGS WITH SCHOOL BOARD/PARENTAL REPRESENTATIVES

The Committee agreed to note that meetings had been arranged with representatives of School Boards, which would take place at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 14 May in the Town and County Hall, Forfar and Wednesday 15 May 2002 at Arbroath High School, to which all members of the Education Committee had been invited.

12. OFFICIAL OPENING CEREMONIES

The Committee agreed to note that recent extensive new building work had been undertaken in a number of locations and that official opening ceremonies were being held to mark these achievements. These were the refurbishment of Aberlemno Primary School on Friday 17 May 2002; the extension of Birkhill Primary School on Friday 7 June 2002; and the completion of a new building for Southmuir Primary School and extension to Webster's High School on Friday 21 June 2002.

13. BETTER INTEGRATED CHILDREN'S SERVICES (DRAFT ANGUS CHILDREN'S SERVICES PLAN AND CHANGING CHILDREN'S SERVICE FUND BIDS)

With reference to Article 6 of the minute of meeting of the Social Work Committee of 1 June 1999, there was submitted Joint Report No 438/02 by the Chief Executive, the Director of Social Work and the Director of Education advising the Committee on the contents of the draft Children's Services Plan 2002-2004 and the bids to the Changing Children's Services Fund.

The Committee, for its interest, agreed:-

  1. to note the contents of the draft Children's Services Plan 2002-2004, a copy of which had been placed in the Members' Lounge;
  2. to note the details and to homologate the bids for the Changing Children's Services Fund submitted to the Scottish Executive on 1 April 2002 as detailed in the Appendix to the Report; and
  3. to instruct the Director of Education to bring the final plan and the outcome of the bidding process to a future meeting of the Committee.

14. EXCLUSION OF PUBLIC AND PRESS

The Committee resolved, in terms of Standing Order 27(2), that the public and press be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following items so as to avoid the disclosure of information which was exempt in terms of Part 1 of Schedule 7A to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, paragraph 1.

15. INVERKEILOR PRIMARY SCHOOL ­ PROPOSED MODERNISATION/EXTENSION

With reference to Article 1 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 14 February 2002, there was submitted Joint Report No 499/02 by the Director of Education and Director of Property Services detailing proposals to extend and modernise Inverkeilor Primary School, outlining the procurement process and identifying a short list of contractors to be invited to tender for the project with a view to progressing the project on a partnering basis.

The Committee, for its interest, agreed:-

  1. to approve an extension to Inverkeilor Primary School comprising five classrooms linked to the existing main building and alterations to the main building to create a nursery classroom, gymnasium/dining hall and ancillary accommodation; and
  2. to note that the total cost of the works was estimated to be £635,000.

16. VIDEO CONFERENCING

There was submitted Report No 495/02 by the Director of Education outlining proposals to pilot video conferencing in two Angus secondary schools and identifying the process for the procurement of equipment.

The Committee, for its interest, agreed to approve the content of the Report.

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