IRVINE, 1 June 2010 - At a Meeting of the Education Executive of North Ayrshire Council at 1.00 p.m.
John Bell, Tom Barr, Gordon McConnell, Margaret McDougall, Very Reverend Matthew Canon McManus, David O'Neill and Gordon Smith.
E. Murray, Chief Executive; C. Kirk, Corporate Director, M. Docherty, Head of Service (Education) and L. Taylor, Service Manager, Property and Infrastructure (Education and Skills); D Nibloe, Head of Finance (Finance and Infrastructure); J. Montgomery, General Manager, and P. Shiach, Committee Services Officer (Chief Executive's Service).
Also In Attendance
J. Gibson, Headteacher, Pennyburn Primary School, Kilwinning; M. Martin, Headteacher, P. Gilchrist and A Todd, Depute Headteachers, Ardrossan Academy.
Councillor Bell in the Chair.
Apologies for Absence
Peter McNamara, John Reid and Reverend David Karoon.
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education & Skills) on the HMIE report on Pennyburn Primary School, Kilwinning.
Pennyburn Primary School was inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education (HMIE) in March 2010 as part of a national sample of primary education. The inspection covered key aspects of the work of the school at all stages.
HM Inspectors evaluated pupils' achievements, the effectiveness of the school, the environment for learning and the school's processes for self-evaluation. They examined pupils' work and interviewed groups of pupils and staff. Members of the inspection team also met the chairperson of the parent council and a group of parents.
The report by HMIE was published on 25 May 2010 and identified the following key strengths: -
Partnership working to support children and families.
The school's welcoming ethos.
Arrangements for meeting the needs of children requiring additional support in their learning.
Approaches to promoting and developing children's health and wellbeing.
The following areas for improvement have also been identified and agreed between HMIE, the school and the education authority:-
Improve the quality of the children's writing.
Ensure there are robust arrangements for moderating and validating teachers' assessments of children's progress.
Build on approaches to active learning to ensure all children think about and take responsibility for their learning and have a clear idea of what they need to do to improve.
In consultation with the designated quality improvement officer and staff, the headteacher has put plans in place to incorporate the recommendations of the HMIE report into the school Improvement Plan. The school's plan to address the recommendations will be submitted to the head of service for approval following consultation with staff and the parent council and will subsequently be shared with parents and carers.
In terms of follow-through procedures, HMIE will make no further visits following this inspection. The school's progress will be reported to parents through the normal school and local authority processes.
Mr J. Gibson, the headteacher of the school was in attendance and answered questions from Members in relation to his role in driving the improvement agenda, improvements in terms of pupils' writing and validation of their work, attendance and timekeeping, and raising the aspirations of parents and pupils.
The Education Executive (a) agreed to approve the proposals made to address the key points for action in the Inspection Report; and (b) noted the arrangements for follow-through.
2. Progress Report on Actions Relating to the HMIE Inspection of the Education Function of North Ayrshire Council
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education & Skills) on the HMIE inspection of the education function of North Ayrshire and on progress made in taking forward the main points for action.
The educational functions of North Ayrshire Council were inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education (HMIE) in October 2008 as part of its commitment to inspect and report on the quality of education in local authorities, and to help secure improvement.
The report by HMIE was published on 14 April 2009 and identified the following key strengths:-
Leadership of the Corporate Director and the senior management team;
Partnership working with other agencies and the voluntary sector to support vulnerable learners;
Quality of provision for children and young people with additional support needs;
Contribution of a range of services to improving local communities;
Quality of provision of learners of pre-school and primary age and their high levels of performance;
Inclusive approach taken to involving children and young people in a range of cultural activity, particularly music, and
Impact of innovative and creative approaches to Community Learning and Development management and practice.
The report also identified the following areas of good practice:-
Performance Information and Evaluation System (PIES);
Supporting vulnerable children at the early years;
Active learning in P1-P3;
Extended Outreach in secondary schools;
Adult Literacies Action Plan Team, and
Education Resource Service and Public Library Service.
Good progress had been made in terms of the previously identified points for action as under, and Appendix 1 to the report contained the status of each action and comments thereon.
Improve levels of pupils' attainment, particularly the performance of secondary pupils in SQA awards;
Improve the overall quality and consistency of learning and teaching in secondary schools
Continue to work to further improve the proportion of school leavers proceeding to positive destinations, and
Further strengthen the joint working of schools and other authority staff in promoting the development of community capacity.
The Education Executive (a) noted the report; and (b) agreed to (i) approve the actions taken to address the main points for action; and (ii) receive further broad progress updates through performance reporting.
3. School Estate Management Plan
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education & Skills) on the content of the School Estate Management Plan and seeking agreement for the plan to be submitted to the Scottish Government.
In 2003, as part of the Building Our Future: Scotland's School Estate strategy, the then Scottish Executive introduced new procedures for managing school properties. This approach required local authorities to produce a School Estate Management Plan to take a long term view of each authority's school estate.
Since the publication of the Council's previous plan in 2004, there have been a number of changes to the guidance provided to local authorities, together with changes in direction, culture and ethos which impact on the school estate, and which have resulted in a new strategy entitled "Building Better Schools: Investing in Scotland's Future".
Education and Skills currently manage 66 schools as part of its property portfolio in addition to nursery classes and the Arran Outdoor Education Centre. The joint aims of the Scottish Government and local authorities in seeking to develop the school estate for the future needs of education and the community were detailed in the report.
The report indicated that the Core Facts return, submitted annually to the Scottish Government, is the starting point for the School Estate Management Plan in terms of setting priorities for the future. The School Estate Management Plan follows the Scottish Government/COSLA guidelines by setting the school estate in the context of North Ayrshire. The Plan outlines the following:-
The socio economic context of the school estate in North Ayrshire;
Approaches to partnership working, maximising value and Corporate Planning;
Performance measures and resource context;
The school portfolio, and
The strategic objectives for the short, medium and long term.
A copy of the proposed School Estate Management Plan entitled "Setting the Standard" accompanied the report.
Members sought,and received assurances that the Plan, when submitted to the Scottish Government, would contain the most recent data available on school rolls.
The Education Executive (a) noted the content of the School Estate Management Plan; and (b) agreed that the plan be submitted to the Scottish Government.
4. Consultation on Regulations to Reduce Primary 1 Classes to a Maximum of 25 Pupils
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education & Skills) on the Council's proposed response to the consultation on Regulations to Reduce Primary 1 classes to a maximum of 25 pupils.
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, in March 2010, launched a consultation exercise on proposed legislation to limit Primary 1 classes to a maximum of 25 pupils. The regulations are intended to put local authorities on a sounder footing when taking decisions on placing requests, and in their efforts to balance the rights of parents to choose their child's school.
The Education (Lower Primary Class Sizes) Regulations 1999 introduced a statutory maximum of 30 pupils for Primary 1 classes. The regulations also covered Primary 2 and Primary 3 classes. The previous administration had a policy of reducing P1 classes to a maximum of 25 which was introduced administratively by way of Circular 1/2007 published in April 2007. The statutory maximum class size remained at 30.
Following judicial reviews of East Lothian Council and South Lanarkshire Council placing request decisions it became apparent that some local authorities or popular schools were experiencing difficulty, as a result of placing requests, in ensuring that no P1 classes exceeded 25 pupils, and will have similar difficulties in reducing the class size maxima further. Details of the anticipated situation for North Ayrshire Council for session beginning August 2010 were contained within the report and indicated that all Primary 1 to Primary 3 classes would contain 25 or less pupils.
Appendix 1 to the report contained the proposed response from North Ayrshire Council to the consultation document.
The Education Executive approved the response to the consultation.
5. School Transport Arrangements for Children with Additional Support Needs
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education & Skills) on an amendment to the age restrictions on vehicles used for transporting children with additional support needs to school.
In January 2000, the then Educational Services Committee agreed to set an age limit of 5 years for vehicles used to transport children with additional support needs to school. This was later amended to 6 years to match the awarding of contracts for 3 year periods to enable operators to invest in a vehicle with the possibility of winning two successive contracts.
The operation of additional support needs school transport has performed well over the years, with the introduction of the 6 year age limit on vehicles proving successful in gaining a better standard of vehicle for this service. A number of vehicles used for these school contracts are plated taxis or private hire cars licensed by the Council.
The Council recently amended the licensing arrangements for taxis and private hire cars to require vehicles to be less than 10 years old. An inspection regime has been approved which requires vehicles under 5 years old to be inspected annually, and those over 5 years old to be inspected every 6 months.
The report proposed that the contractual arrangements for vehicles used on the additional support needs school transport be amended to match those applied to taxi and private hire cars and to include the following:-
Vehicles should be no more than 10 years old;
Vehicles under 5 years old should be inspected by the Council's Internal Transport Section annually;
Vehicles over 5 years old should be inspected by the Council's Internal Transport Section every 6 months, and
That inspections for taxi or private hire car licences be accepted for additional support needs contracts where applicable.
The implementation of these amendments would be phased in as soon as possible, in line with the renewal of additional support needs transport contracts, and will cover vehicles with 8 seats or fewer.
The Education Executive (a) noted the information contained in the report, and (b) agreed to extend the age limit of vehicles to 10 years in line with the licensing arrangement for taxis.
6. Curriculum for Excellence Progress Report
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education & Skills) on further developments at national level in relation to the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence and the implications for North Ayrshire.
Since the publication of Building the Curriculum 5: A Framework for Assessment, the proposals contained in the document have been the subject of considerable debate across Scotland. There has also been speculation over whether secondary schools will be ready to implement the new curriculum from S1 in August 2010. North Ayrshire Council has indicated that its secondary schools will be in a position to implement the new courses from S1.
In March 2010 the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning announced a ten point plan to build confidence, provide support and drive forward the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence as detailed in Appendix 1 to the report. In April 2010, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) announced a number of developments aimed at supporting learners, including agreement from the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board and the SQA's Qualification Committee on the design principles of the new National 4 and 5 qualifications, which will be delivered in 2013/2014 and will replace Standard Grade and Intermediate 1 and 2 qualifications.
On 22 April 2010 the Cabinet Secretary agreed to move forward with Curriculum for Excellence and confirmed that planning for the new qualifications will continue.
On 14 May 2010, Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education announced plans to provide additional support to secondary schools and local authorities on the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence from August to December 2010. All inspections in secondary schools during this period will be postponed and a reduced programme undertaken in primary schools.
7. Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education & Skills) on the publication of Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning.
Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning sets out the following vision for outdoor learning:-
All children and young people are participating in a range of progressive and creative outdoor learning experiences which are clearly part of the curriculum;
Schools and centres are providing regular, frequent, enjoyable and challenging opportunities for all children and young people to learn outdoors throughout their school career and beyond;
Teachers and educators embed outdoor learning in the curriculum so that learning in the outdoor environment becomes a reality for all children and young people.
The report indicated that outdoor learning makes a significant contribution to literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. A three year mathematics outdoor programme for primary aged pupils has been developed by the Garnock cluster in partnership with Arran Outdoor Education Centre. This work has been showcased within North Ayrshire and has gained national recognition from Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS). An Outdoor Learning Strategy Group has been established to develop advice and guidance to schools and audit existing practice.
8. Ardrossan Academy Improvement Plan
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education & Skills) on arrangements for sustaining and improving the quality of education in Ardrossan Academy.
Ardrossan Academy was inspected by HMIE in February 2006 and a report was published in May 2006. The report identified some strengths and also some significant weaknesses in the work of the school. These weaknesses included the quality of attainment at S3/4, meeting pupils needs and self-evaluation.
A follow-through report was published in April 2008, by which time a new headteacher had been appointed.
Background information relating to the school roll, management team and staff was detailed in appendix A to the report.
The school improvement plan outlined three priorities as detailed in appendix B to the report as follows:-
Continuing to promote a Curriculum for Excellence, and
The Education Executive received a presentation from the headteacher, Mrs M. Martin, and Mr P. Gilchrist and Mr A. Todd, members of the senior management team, on the efforts made by Ardrossan Academy to improve the quality of education and recorded its appreciation of the excellent work being undertaken throughout the school.