IRVINE, 28 April 2004 - At a Meeting of the Educational Services Standing Sub Committee of North Ayrshire Council at 2.00 p.m.
Jacqueline Browne, Drew Duncan, Jean Highgate, Father Matthew McManus, Donald Reid and Elaine Shaw.
J Travers, Corporate Director, L Owens and J Leckie, Heads of Service, C Quinn, Senior Adviser, and A McGonigle, Adviser (Educational Services); and A Osborne and B Tudhope, Corporate & Democratic Support Officers (Chief Executive's).
Councillor Browne in the Chair.
Apologies for Absence
Elisabethe Marshall and Peter McNamara.
1. Service Performance Reports for Year Ended 31 March 2004
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Educational Services) on the year end performance report for each of the main service areas within Educational Services.
The Council's performance management framework requires mid-year and end-of-year performance reports to be presented for scrutiny by Members. The Sub Committee considered the mid-year position at its meeting held on 28 January 2004.
Officers reported on the performance highs and lows for the six months ended 30 September 2003 and on the immediate priorities for Educational Services as follows:-
Exceeding national percentages in school leavers entering full time courses in higher or further education
Favourable comparison with comparator authorities in SQA examinations and 5-14 attainment.
Steady improvement in 5-14 attainment at all stages.
Better use of statistical information at authority and school level to improve performance.
Increase in the number of young people participating in sport and physical activity.
Increase in the number of young people participating in the arts.
Improved attainment for disadvantaged pupils through Early Intervention Initiative.
Increased integration of pupils with additional support needs in mainstream schools.
Establishment of mainland outreach service from Arran Outdoor Education Resource.
Level of uptake of CPD opportunities for teachers is lower than anticipated.
Level 3 SQA awards in S4 declined from previous year.
Secondary school accommodation requires upgrading to meet modern standards.
Take forward the PPP initiative and other measures to improve accommodation.
Improve Level 3 SQA awards in S4.
Increase uptake of CPD courses for teachers.
Maintain attainment gains from Early Intervention.
The Sub Committee enquired whether the shortage of supply teachers has had an impact on the uptake of CPD courses by teaching staff. The Corporate Director (Educational Services) confirmed that teaching staff are keen to undertake courses and that the shortage of supply teachers can impact on their ability to attend these. However, arrangements are in place to provide courses on a twilight basis and through in-service developments. The Government has set targets in relation to the uptake of CPD courses and work is being done to ensure that the authority can meet these.
The Sub Committee also enquired if there has been a noticeable decline in the number of applicants for Head Teacher and Principal Teacher posts. L Owens, Head of Service confirmed that there had been a reduction in the number of applicants for these promoted posts, not just within North Ayrshire but nationally. She also highlighted that although the number of applicants had reduced, the quality of applicants remains very high.
North Ayrshire Leisure Limited
Improvement in visitor numbers to sports facilities through the development of health and fitness at the Magnum Leisure Centre, Auchenharvie Leisure Centre, Vikingar! and Garnock Swimming Pool.
Improvement and upgrading work at several premises, partly financed by partnership funding.
Establishment of Body and Skin Care Services in November, 2003.
Involvement in Activate North Ayrshire providing sports activities in schools and linked to the community.
Some aspects of facilities require to be refurbished or developed.
There is a need to improve the existing provision of sports pitches.
Further investment in upgrading of facilities eg. Vikingar!, development of children and family area at the Magnum, improvements to customer reception areas in Auchenharvie Leisure Centre and Garnock Swimming Pool.
Continue the developments of IT systems and extend to include golf courses.
Work with partners to develop a strategy for provision and development of sports pitches.
The Sub Committee highlighted that the performance information provided shows a fall in the number of swims and enquired as to the reason for this. J Leckie, Head of Service advised that this was an interim figure designed to give Members a snapshot of performance and that he did not anticipate a decline in the number of swims.
Library and Information Services
Improvement in all Statutory Performance Indicators for 2002/03.
Positive performance compared with Scottish targets and comparator authorities.
Implementation of the People’s Network to support the Community Learning Strategy.
Development of the Online website to support Libraries, Learning and the Education Resource Service.
Development of the Primary School Library Improvement Plan.
Launch of Booksp@ce, a web based reading initiative.
Effective development of management information systems through the Talis Library management system.
Poor Internet access speed and technical failures have resulted in many complaints and impacted on the new SPI: No. of times computers are accessed per 1000 population.
Delay in publishing the library catalogue on the Internet until migration to the 45 MB line is achieved.
Creating a strong culture of reader development in libraries for adults and children with a strategic focus on design and presentation, supported by a refurbishment programme funded from the Capital Programme.
Sustaining and improving the People’s Network infrastructure.
Publishing the library catalogue on the Internet and moving towards further E Government targets: online transactions including book renewal and reservations.
Continuing commitment to creating increased Community Learning provision, both extending First Step Learning opportunities and creating opportunities for progression and referral to partners.
The Sub Committee requested an update on the current position of the review of library opening hours/days.
The Corporate Director (Educational Services) advised that in his view it would not be appropriate to undertake public consultation until funding to expand the service provision has been identified. He confirmed that work is being done to identify funding and that the Library and Information Service Management Structure is currently being reviewed.
The Sub Committee highlighted that it may not be the case that the Service needs to be expanded but rather that opening hours/days may need to be reorganised. They also highlighted the importance of consulting the public at an early stage in relation to proposed changes to service provision.
Following discussion, the Sub Committee agreed that the Corporate Director (Educational Services) progress the review of opening hours/days for libraries.
Community Learning and Development
Launch of North Ayrshire Youth Charter outlining the commitment between young people and service providers.
Popularity with users of North Ayrshire Youth Information Portal.
Participation of partners from statutory, voluntary and community services in Community Learning and Development Action Plans across North Ayrshire.
Participation of young people from Ardrossan in completion of community building project.
Positive evaluation of North Ayrshire Adult Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan 2004-2006 by the Scottish Executive’s Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department.
Successful conference for International Women’s Day.
Provision for young people is uneven across the area and uptake could be improved.
Learner support structures are not developed evenly across all areas.
Self evaluation needs to be improved with a greater focus on learners and learning outcomes.
Limited influence on public policy and delivery of service by community organisations.
Improve ability of service teams to plan and self-evaluate their work.
More systematic approaches will be introduced to the branding and marketing of provision for young people to increase uptake.
Individual Learning Plans will be developed more systematically to help to ensure more effective learning outcomes and progression for learners.
A systematic approach will be developed to the delivery of training and support programmes for community organisations within the area.
The Sub Committee highlighted that some Community Associations felt that the Service had become too rigid and did not support them to the same extent as in previous years and enquired if there has been a change in national service provision.
The Corporate Director (Educational Services) advised that the Scottish Executive had produced a Policy Document which places an expectation on the Service to concentrate on Learning. However, support should still be provided to Community Associations. He recommended that Members should contact J Ward, Head of Service if they have any concerns about support to Community Associations.
The performance information provided showed an increase in sickness absence. The Corporate Director (Educational Services) confirmed that the Council’s Absence Policy provides guidance on dealing with sickness absence.
Arts and Cultural Services
Implementation of Youth Music Initiative.
Increased participation by children in arts activities.
Development of projects with national arts companies.
Increased numbers of visitors to museums.
Improved communications through Loop magazine.
Development of arts drop-in facility on nursery campus.
Extension of festivals programme.
Development of international opportunities for participation in the arts.
UK award for North Ayrshire Schools Concert Band.
Poor range of performance venues.
Limited availability of exhibition spaces.
Inconsistent evaluations of arts activities.
Limited use of new technology in promoting arts.
Arts opportunities for schools limited by curriculum priorities.
Progress Scottish Arts Council (SAC) bid to upgrade Harbour Arts Centre.
Identify opportunities to incorporate performance areas in new school buildings.
Audit current arts activity and standardise evaluation procedures.
Introduce computerised booking system.
Make publicity material available on web-site.
Deliver arts in schools in line with curriculum guidelines.
The Sub Committee enquired whether the Flagship Concert Programme had proven to be cost-effective. L Owens, Head of Service confirmed that the programme was cost effective and that a small profit had been made in the last financial year.
Discussion took place on the lack of venues for exhibitions and concerts etc within North Ayrshire and the Sub Committee enquired if Vikingar! in Largs was being utilised. L Owens, Head of Service confirmed that the Arts and Cultural Service do use Vikingar! and that North Ayrshire Leisure Limited provide a number of events at the centre. However use is limited due to the size of Vikingar! and availability of technical equipment backstage.
The Sub Committee congratulated the staff on achieving the UK Gold Award for Schools Concert Band.
Children's Outreach Services
Increase in use of Toy Library.
Provision of after school activities for children with additional support needs
Delivery in-house of Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) level 2 and 3 in Playwork.
Delivery of training opportunities on business planning and working with children with additional support needs.
Dissemination of information to local childcare providers.
Securing of external funding to facilitate development of new services
Difficulty in providing out of school care (OSC) in rural areas.
No formal process for regular consultation with customers.
Lack of an integrated approach to the development of play opportunities across the authority.
Professional Development and Review (PDR) process not fully implemented across the service.
Low uptake of training for part-time staff.
Identify innovative solutions to the need for flexible out of school care services in rural areas.
Develop a system for regular feedback from customers as a way of shaping services.
Develop a Play Strategy for the authority.
Increase access to PDR for staff.
Devise flexible approaches to training for part time front line staff.
Prepare for the introduction of registration with the Scottish Social Services Council.
Continue to assist groups to achieve financial self-sustainability.
L Owens, Head of Service confirmed that the toy library storage facility is at its maximum capacity.
The Sub Committee was informed that the Scottish Executive will advise authorities of available funding for the Play Strategy in due course and that funding may also be sought from the Changing Children’s Services Fund or the Childcare Strategy.
The Sub Committee further enquired whether staff from Eglinton Country Park and housing developers would be involved in the Play Strategy. L Owens, Head of Service confirmed that there will be a Multi-Service approach to producing the play strategy and all relevant services and external agencies including housing developers would be involved.
Annual visitor figures for Eglinton Country Park returned to levels prior to foot and mouth outbreak in 2000/2001.
Continued to provide quality environmental education for pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in North Ayrshire and beyond.
Secured external funding from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) for Ranger Service for the period 2004-2007.
Developed close links with Ways to Walk group and train staff as walk leaders.
Promoted benefits of Local Nature Reserve declaration at Stevenston Beach and consolidated working group with Members and officials.
Built close links with youth organisations culminating in Royal Visit at Eglinton Country Park for Duke of Edinburgh Award Group.
Built on conservation work through John Muir Trust and trained one member of staff as group leader.
Developed links with Royal Highland Educational Trust and facilitated launch in Ayrshire at Eglinton Country Park in April 2004.
Contributed to development and implementation of new access legislation through the Access Steering Group.
Poor condition of bridges within Eglinton Country Park.
Difficulties arising in connection with the provision of catering for visitors.
Insufficient opportunities for Ranger training for new staff.
PDR process not begun for new staff.
Progress plans for bridge restoration and repair.
Explore approaches to improving catering provision.
Identify training opportunities for new Ranger staff.
Begin PDR process with new staff and update existing staff.
The Sub Committee enquired if the work required to the bridges at Eglinton Country Park had been a result of a lack of funding. J Leckie, Head of Service confirmed that outstanding work on the bridges at Eglington Country Park had been due to issues relating to the ownership of the bridges but this has now been resolved and this work will be taken forward.
Discussion also took place on catering provision at Eglinton Country Park and it was suggested that the Council should consider providing this service. J Leckie, Head of Service confirmed that Development and Promotion has responsibility for this and that this suggestion will be considered when a review of the current provision is carried out in the Summer.
2. HMIE Reports on Primary Schools 2002/2004
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Educational Services) on the outcome of inspections in North Ayrshire Primary Schools by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education during the period June 2002 and December 2003.
The Sub Committee received a presentation from L Owens, Head of Service and C Quinn, Senior Adviser (Educational Services) on the HMIE Inspection Programme.
In September 2002, a report was presented to the Educational Services Committee to advise of the outcomes of inspections between April 1998 and June 2002. At that time schools were assessed on 32 performance indicators set by HMIE. Subsequently, the number of indicators was reduced to 21 and the report provided an analysis of the performance levels for schools during June 2002 and December 2003 based on the 21 indicators.
North Ayrshire Primary Schools continue to perform well with over 87% of indicators being judged as 'Good' or 'Very Good'. The Advisory Service is working closely with individual schools to take forward those areas requiring improvement and strategies are in place to achieve further improvement.
HMIE has further revised arrangements for inspection, reporting and follow-through with effect from 1 January 2004 and schools will now be judged against 15 indicators. These new arrangements were previously reported to the Educational Services Committee. To date no reports have yet been published on any North Ayrshire schools using the new indicators.
3. Future Agenda Items
The Chair advised that the Sub Committee has the opportunity to raise items of business and to seek further information or clarification on specific service areas and requested that Sub Committee Members submit suggestions for future Agenda Items.