IRVINE, 18 January 2011 - At a Meeting of the Education Executive of North Ayrshire Council at 2.00 p.m.
John Bell, Tom Barr, Reverend David Karoon, Margaret McDougall, Gordon McConnell, Very Reverend Matthew Canon McManus, Peter McNamara, David O'Neill, John Reid and Gordon Smith.
E. Murray, Chief Executive; C. Kirk, Corporate Director, M. Docherty, Head of Service (Education), M. Armstrong, Head of Service (Logistics and Infrastructure), S. Storrie, Project Manager, I. Wallace, Principal Psychologist and D. Carracher Co-ordinator (Pupil Support) (Education and Skills); Y. Baulk, Head of Finance, and A. Kirk, Manager (Design and Property) (Finance and Infrastructure); J. Montgomery, General Manager, (Policy and Service Reform), K. Dyson, Communications Officer and P. Shiach, Committee Services Officer (Chief Executive's Service).
Also In Attendance
K. Emberson, Chair, Stanecastle Parents Forum, and S. Mackie, Headteacher, Irvine Royal Academy.
Councillor Bell in the Chair.
1. Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest by Elected Members in terms of Standing Order 16.
The Minutes of the previous meeting of the Education Executive held on 14 December 2010 were signed in accordance with paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 7 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.
3. School Estate Proposals
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education and Skills) on the vision for the future of the school estate and seeking approval to prepare proposals arising from the review of school provision across North Ayrshire.
Education and Skills manage 66 schools as part of its property portfolio, in addition to nursery classes and the Arran Outdoor Education Centre. A significant level of revenue and capital investment is required to maintain this position. In light of the current financial position, it is considered essential to review the current estate, taking into account factors including declining school rolls, population distribution, class sizes and a flexible approach to the delivery of high quality effective learning and teaching.
In seeking to develop the school estate for the future needs of both education and the community, it is proposed to have a school estate that: -
Is efficiently run, delivers value for money and maximises public value;
Is fit for purpose in terms of condition, inclusion and suitability;
Is sustainable in terms of design and carbon footprint;
Is future-proofed for flexibility and adaptability;
Drives and supports high quality, effective learning and teaching; and
Best serves, and as far as possible, is an integral part of, the whole community.
The report proposed that the Council works to: -
Rationalise and consolidate its assets to deliver a school estate that is sustainable, maximises efficiencies and optimises use;
Place the school estate in the context of the wider community and learning infrastructure;
Create flexible and adaptable learning environments that are responsive to future change, support active learning and support multi-agency working;
Further develop the concept of a school as a community hub;
As far as possible, include additional support needs provision in all new builds and redevelopments;
Develop a different model of measuring capacity;
Invest capital funding to upgrade and adapt school stock to condition rating "B" or better; and
Use design briefs that promote energy efficiency and low carbon measures.
The schools currently serve approximately 18,700 pupils ranging from 3 to 18 years. Information on capacity, condition and sustainability of the current estate was detailed in Appendix 1 to the report.
The capital required to upgrade all secondary, primary nursery and special needs schools currently rated Condition Category "C" and "D" to Category "B" was estimated at £6 million. The average yearly expenditure on maintaining the school estate from the Central Repairs Account over the past three years was £1.90 million. Future years expenditure is projected to rise with inflation.
The Education Executive sought, and received, clarification on a number of issues including timescale for delivery, engagement with the wider community, assurances that any proposed amendments to agreements in principle will be presented to the Education Executive for approval, and the possibility of reforming the previous Member Officer Working Group.
The Education Executive agreed (a) the broad principles detailed around the vision for the future of the school estate and the delivery model outlined to achieve this; (b) to receive proposals at a future meeting to consolidate school buildings in order to deliver a school estate that is sustainable, maximises efficiencies, and optimises use; and (c) that a group be formed to facilitate Elected Member input into the rationalisation proposals.
4. Stanecastle School: Capital Works and Options Appraisal
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education and Skills) on the outcome of the options appraisal and consultation exercise and recommending a way forward to tackle both the immediate property issues at Stanecastle school and the longer-term provision of sustainable and appropriate learning environments for North Ayrshire Council’s pupils with mild and moderate learning difficulties.
At its meeting on 21 September 2010, the Education Executive agreed that the Corporate Director (Education and Skills) investigate and consult on a range of fully costed options for Stanecastle School to address the current condition of the property.
Prior to consideration of a report on the capital works and options appraisal in relation to Stanecastle School, Mrs Karine Emberson, representing the Stanecastle Parent Council and Parents Forum, submitted a presentation to the Education Executive, outlining the parents concerns, highlighting the positive aspects of the school, and requesting that the school be retained. Members of the Education Executive were also advised of a petition containing 15,950 signatories requesting that the school be retained, a Stanecastle Parents' Report and accompanying letter outlining the case for retention of the school, and letters of support from individual parents.
Mrs Emberson was then thanked for her presentation.
Thereafter the local Elected Member for the area, Councillor Sturgeon, addressed the Education Executive, welcomed certain aspects of the report, and requested that the school be retained
In January 2006, the Council's then Education Services Committee approved a Statement of Principles as a framework for procedures relation to Additional Support Needs. The Statement covered Inclusion, Equity Partnership and Quality. Full details were contained in section 2.1.1 of the report.
Following a refurbishment of the swimming pool and related areas structural problems were revealed. A Condition Survey for the school indicated that £1.389 million required to be undertaken in relation to the works identified in the survey. Within the context of declining pupil numbers and the need to rationalise and consolidate the school estate, it was necessary for an options appraisal to be undertaken to determine the best value option for the Council. Following the decision of the Education Executive on 21 September 2010, a range of mechanisms were used to consult with the key stakeholders in the options appraisal work, details of which were contained within the report.
Due to the significant costs associated with undertaking all the works required to retain Stanecastle School, a range of options were considered as under: -
Option 1 - refurbish and retain Stanecastle School;
Option 2 - Close Stanecastle School and relocate the pupils, and
Option 3 - A phased approach to closing Stanecastle School.
Full details in relation to the three options were contained within the report.
As part of the options appraisal, officers within Education and Skills assessed the educational benefits of the various options, and a detailed assessment was provided in appendix 2 to the report. Full details of the advantages and disadvantages in relation to each of the options were contained within the report. In addition, the report contained the parents' three options, those being full refurbishment, phased refurbishment or new build, together with the officers views on those options.
The Education Executive sought, and received, clarification on a number of issues raised in the report including concerns in relation to the seven year timescale of the phased approach to the closure of Stanecastle School, and the options available should there be no suitable provision within that timeframe; concerns over the closure of the school by stealth; the difficulties in relation to a "blank sheet" approach; and the opportunities presented in terms of integration with mainstream schooling.
The Education Executive agreed (a) to approve the phased approach to the closure of Stanecastle School, as detailed in section 3.3 of the report; and (b) that through the budget process, to seek up to £630,000 capital funding to undertake any essential repairs to external walls.
5. School Leaver Destinations Return 2009/10
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education and Skills) on the publication of the annual School Leaver Destinations Return (SLDR) and seeking approval to use the North Ayrshire data to target support and resources.
The School Leaver Destinations Return (SLDR) is a statistical return undertaken each year by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) on behalf of the Scottish Government. The SLDR is based on a follow-up of young people who leave school between 1 August and 31 July each year. This exercise is undertaken in September and a statistical report issued in December.
The Scottish Government uses the data on the destinations of school leavers to report against the National Indicator and increase the proportion of school leavers in positive and sustained destinations.
North Ayrshire Council uses the data to inform initiatives developed as part of the More Choices More Chances (MCMC) Strategy, to evidence the success of initiatives, measure progress against targets, and to identify areas to target resources to improve the post-school outcomes for young people.
The Scottish Government uses the following categories to record the destinations of school leavers:-
Higher Education (HE);
Further Education (FE);
Unemployed and seeking;
Unemployed and not seeking, and
The report indicated that across Scotland at the time of the SLDR, 86.8% of the 2009/10 leavers were in positive destinations, representing an increase of 1.3% from 2008/09. The corresponding figures for North Ayrshire in 2009/10 were 85.5%, representing an increase of 1% from 2008/09. The proportion of young people across Scotland entering HE or FE had risen from 61.9% in 2008/09 to 62.8% in 2009/10. The corresponding figure in North Ayrshire had risen from 66.1% in 2008/09 to 67.4% in 2009/10, which was substantially higher than the Scottish average, and the highest percentage ever in North Ayrshire. Across Scotland, 18.5% of leavers entered employment, similar to the 18.4% in 2008/09, however those figures were significantly down on previous years. In North Ayrshire 13.3% of leavers entered employment compared with 13% in 2008/09, which was a reflection of the job market in the area
The Community Planning Partnership in North Ayrshire has targeted, as a priority, the early identification of pupils who are at risk of progressing to negative post-school destinations, and has put in place a range of effective early identification programmes to assist young people. Full details were contained within the report.
As part of the roll-out of Curriculum for Excellence, schools are delivering a Senior Phase (S4-6) that is relevant to all pupils. Skills Centres operate in three North Ayrshire secondary schools providing a resource for vocational learning.
The report indicated that 16+ Learning Choices, the Scottish Government's initiative to support young people into positive destinations, has been effective in providing improved advise and support to all North Ayrshire leavers. This initiative is an integral part of Curriculum for Excellence and aims to ensure all young people approaching their school leaving date have appropriate advice and guidance. School leavers who are in a "negative destination" are case managed by Skills Development Scotland with a view to supporting them to move into suitable provision.
The Education Executive was advised of a meeting of the Smith Group, attended by the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council, where progress made by Inverclyde Council in this area had been highlighted.
The Education Executive sought, and received, clarification on a number of issues relative to the report, including Activity Agreements, evidence on which actions are the most successful in terms of achieving the desired outcomes and the work being undertaking to attract colleges and universities to North Ayrshire.
The Education Executive agreed to (a) note the information set out in the School Leaver Destinations return; (b) approve the targeting of support and resources to improve outcomes for young people; and (c) receive an annual progress report on school leaver destinations.
6. Garnock Academy Funding
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education and Skills) on developments in the Scottish Government's approach to funding and procurement of the Garnock Academy project.
North Ayrshire Council was advised by the Scottish Government in October 2009, that Garnock Academy had been selected, as one of a number of secondary schools across Scotland, to receive capital funding support of £18.8 million towards the costs of building a secondary school. The vehicle for this support was the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) who would manage the funding. This funding would not be available before July 2013.
The Council subsequently planned for this capital approach and developed a cost plan based on the Scottish Government capital injection with the balance being delivered through the Council's budget process.
In December 2010, the Education Executive approved proposals to carry out a Statutory Public Consultation on the option of a secondary and primary campus with community facilities. The estimated cost plan of £53 to £59 m was noted, together with an approved shortlist of 4 possible sites.
Subsequently the Council received formal notification from the Scottish Government that their approach to funding had been revised to a revenue grant scheme equivalent to the capital award. No reference was made to the timetable for this revised approach. The Council was also advised that the Garnock project would require to be delivered through a Non Profit Distribution (NPD) procurement model.
The report indicated that the Scottish Government has developed the Scottish Futures Trust to deliver a framework agreement (hub co) designed to manage and deliver public service projects across Scotland. This is expected to be live early in 2012.
If the Garnock project is delivered through hub co arrangements, the Council will be required to enter into a Design, Build, Finance and Manage (DBFM) type procurement model within the hub co partnership arrangement.
The Education Executive sought, and received, clarification on a number of aspects of the report, including the implications arising from the revised funding method from capital to revenue funding.
The Education Executive (a) noted the revised funding and procurement approach; (b) agreed the next steps as outlined in the report; and (c) instructed the Chief Executive to write to the Scottish Government seeking the reinstatement of the original £18.8 million funding for the Garnock project.
7. Irvine Royal Academy Improvement Plan
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Education and Skills) on arrangements for sustaining and improving the quality of education in Irvine Royal Academy.
Irvine Royal Academy was last inspected by HMIE in November 2005 and a report published in March 2006. The HMIE report identified significant weaknesses. HMIE Inspectors carried out an interim visit in February 2007 and a follow-through inspection in March 2008. In both visits the school was judged to have made good progress in taking forward the main points for action.
Background information relating to the school roll, management team and staff was detailed in Appendix A to the report. Additional information on the Irvine Royal Academy iSea Project was contained in Appendix B.
The school improvement plan outlined three priorities as detailed in Appendix C as follows:-
To promote learning and teaching which develops the four capacities and the principles and values of Curriculum for Excellence:
To raise attainment and achievement through improved monitoring and evaluation, and
To endure new management re-structuring is fully embedded and supports all staff in meeting national, local and school priorities.
The Education Executive received a presentation from the headteacher, Mr S Mackie on the school improvement plan. Members sought, and received clarification on various aspects of the presentation, including the use of CAT scoring, the demographics of the school catchment area, public perception of the school and the management structure.
Members recorded their appreciation of the work being undertaken throughout the school.