The committee scrutinised the following cabinet board items:
Cabinet Board Proposals
Library Service Review: A Sustainable Library Service 2020-2025
Members received an overview of the Library Service Review 2020-2025, as detailed in the circulated report.
Members were pleased that the outcome of the Library Service Review would be to develop a sustainable library service going forward.
In response to Members queries an update was given on how the consultation would be undertaken. It would include meetings in libraries with all interested parties, these would include Members, library users, groups and community trustees of libraries who have successfully transferred over. Also, prior to these meetings data was being collated on who users each library so that it can inform the consultation meetings. In addition, officers were attending public events to gain an understanding of why libraries were not being used.
Members identified the need to consider the effect on other community services that share buildings with libraries and how any changes would impact on communities.
Consideration would also be given, during the review to look at a variety of models of delivery for the library service that were used by other local authorities which would also inform the outcome of the review.
Officers confirmed that a report would be submitted to a future meeting of the Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Board containing the outcomes from the review for Members’ consideration.
Following scrutiny, the committee was supportive of the proposal to be considered by Cabinet Board.
Annual Pupil Performance Report 2017/18
Members received a summary of the performance of Neath Port Talbot schools and its pupils during 2017/18.
Members discussed the increase in the numbers of children in receipt of Free School Meals (FSM) and queried whether this increase was a contributory factor to the reduction in school attendance numbers. It was confirmed that it was a contributory factor as Neath Port Talbot was amongst the highest in Wales in terms of the FSM percentages but it was not the only factor. In addition, all children received the support they needed to assist them progress.
Concern was expressed at the lack of adequate initial teacher training received at Universities and the need to include in the syllabus information on how to recognise and deal with a variety of conditions that reflected in challenging behaviours in the classroom. Members felt that this should be raised with Welsh Government. Officers explained that the education department provided a comprehensive training programme for teachers in regard to Additional Leaning Needs which was well received in schools. Training programmes were developed to include any new laws, changes and information. A report would be brought to a future meeting detailing the training provided and the effectiveness of that training.
Attention was drawn to the all wales statistical data and the figures contained within that data for all councils was very close and that the attendance difference was marginal. Officers referred to the excellent work that was being undertaken by the Education Welfare Officers in working with children who are persistently absent. It was emphasised that the figures for children who are persistently absent are very low. It was explained that unauthorised school holidays during term time was still an issue. The Committee asked that information on how the Educational Welfare Officers combat consistent absenteeism be included in the next Attendance Report.
Think Family Partnership Update
Officers explained that the Appendix attached to the circulated report was sent in error and would be considered as part of the Play Sufficiency Assessment 2019 – 2022 report scheduled for Members’ consideration at the next meeting of the Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Board.
Members received an update on the progress made against the various elements of the Think Families Partnership, namely Families First, the Family Information Service, Flying Start, Children and Families Team and the Childcare Offer.
The Committee was informed that presently 113 providers had signed up to the Childcare Offer Wales and 700 applications had been received from working parents of three and four year olds. Applications were currently being actioned within 10 days and the scheme had received very positive feedback from parents and providers. Confirmation was also given that presently there were enough spaces to cover the demand. Welsh Government was looking at developing new settings to be able to increase the number of places. Analysis of postcode data had highlighted areas that had a lower take up of the offer and arrangements had been made to target those areas with an additional promotion to encourage take up
Members received confirmation that there were no plans by the Welsh Government to increase the funding to Flying Start. If new areas were to be added to the programme it would result in one of the current areas losing their provision.
Discussion took place on the variety of courses available to parents. The aim was to strengthen parenting capacity, develop and build resilience and sustain positive change in the best interests of children. It was also confirmed that all parents within the Flying Start areas were eligible to attend Parenting Classes and are either referred via an agency or self-referred. Officers explained that the effectiveness of the courses were constantly being monitored and a report would be brought to a future meeting of Education, Skills and Culture Scrutiny Committee on the impact of this initiative.
Following scrutiny, the report was noted.