Education Question Responses from Gail at Full Council, and Update on Council Work of Jason

  • Alongside Gail and Jason’s work assisting Caerleon residents, schools and organisations they are also active participants in Newport City Council meetings.

    All Council meetings can be viewed on the Newport City Council website: www.newport.gov.uk which includes information on Questions at Full Council.

    As Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Gail responds regularly to questions submitted both for Full Council (see below) and Questions At Any Time, all of which can be viewed on:

    http://www.newport.gov.uk/en/Council-Democracy/About-the-council/Questions-at-Council/Questions-at-Anytime

    Jason also asks questions, including to the police, and contributes to debates both in Full Council and as a Member of Scrutiny and Licensing Committee. Specifically, his opportunities outside of cabinet come from direct questions to police officers in full council where he has asked questions on parking issues and drugs and direct questions to the leader which are documented in council minutes. Examples from 11th September:

    Question to Leader of Council: Can the Leader give an update on the progress of the civil parking enforcement plans. When can we see this happening in the city?

    Question to Police Inspector: Sadly having experienced another road traffic accident outside Charles Williams school in Caerleon are you in a position to update the Council on the causes of this accident in particular if it was speed-related?

    Further information can be found on:

    http://www.newport.gov.uk/en/Council-Democracy/Scrutiny/Scrutiny.aspx

    https://democracy.newport.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=133

     

    Education Questions at Full Council

    24th July 2018

    What is the time scale for providing the SEBD Special school which has been mentioned and what other measures are in place to reduce this cost by making provision in Newport?

    Councillor Joan Watkins

     

    Thank you Mr Mayor,

    For clarification- despite Councillor Watkins’ submitting this part of the question to Councillor Cockeram, CM for Social Services, this is in fact a subject within the Education portfolio, which should have been clear to the shadow CM for Education and Skills.

    So I will provide the following response:

    In regard to the timescale for the SEBD (Social Emotional Behaviour Disorder) school:

     I have asked officers to complete a scoping exercise so that we can provide local pupils within a local provision. We are also working with other Local Authorities which have successful SEBD schools so that we can share best practice at this early stage. I believe that establishing a SEBD school in Newport will provide improved value for money.

    I am unable to provide you with an exact timeframe of when we can establish a SEBD school but I can assure you that we are assessing our capital assets in order to find a suitable venue.  I would expect this exercise to conclude by October 2018.

    I should point out that we have a previous track record of success in establishing local provision for complex needs. Ysgol Bryn Derw was the first ASD School to open in the region in September 2017. This local provision allowed us to bring back Out of County pupils into a local Special School and prevent further pupils having to access Out of County provision.

     

    In regard to reducing the cost:

    The Out of Area spend for Newport is large, however only a  few weeks ago I answered a Question at Any Time from Cllr Watkins which responded in saying that there is no national data collected across Wales to be able to benchmark this figure and provide a meaningful comparison with other local authorities.

    The Leader and I have raised our concerns to the Cabinet Secretary, Kirsty Williams AM and discussions have been held with CMs for Education from across Wales and cross party at WLGA meetings. There is strong agreement for a national review of Out of County Educational places so that we can collectively understand and address the issue.

    When I consider Newport’s Out of County spend, it is positive that pupils who have been identified as having extremely complex needs have been provided with the right learning provision, which is vitally important.  However, I am certainly very concerned about the high costs of Out of County places charged to LAs by private, independent providers.

    An example of such cost is £85,000 per annum for one pupil place in a SEBD School (Social Emotional Behaviour Disorder).

    Nonetheless, when a child requires an ‘educational’ Out of County placement, we are able to work within a relatively small radius. So pupils are largely placed in Cardiff, Caerphilly and Monmouthshire (our neighbouring local authorities).

    To put the situation in context, it would be very unlikely that any Local Authority would have all pupils with complex needs educated within their locality. Some pupils with the highest level of complex needs require such specialist support (frequent medical attention) that their needs can only be met by a specialist provider. This is right and just.

     

    April 2018

    After a recent visit in March by Estyn Inspectors St Julians comprehensive School remains in special measures. Newport High School in Bettws is also in the special measures category.  Stemming from recent Welsh Government rankings assessment, in Jan 2017 Llanwern High School slipped into the red zone.

    Can the Cabinet Member responsible for Education give a cast iron guarantee that Llanwern High School will not also sink into the special measures category and what actions are being taken to prevent this happening?

    Councillor Joan Watkins

     

    Thank you Mr Mayor,

    I am aware that there was some discussion amongst officers as to providing a response to Councillor Watkins’ question because, as you will be aware, it is very similar to the one submitted to last Council and relates to the same issue i.e. categorisation of schools, other than the last sentence. It does however provide me with an excellent opportunity to remind members and the wider public of the many successes of the Newport Education system.

    I would, therefore, like to take the opportunity to remind members that all schools, regardless of their categorisation have areas of strength. Every school’s national categorisation or Estyn report shows this. Have a look and see the good work of Newport schools linked to high academic standards, the strong focus on well-being, improving attendance and excellent parental engagement. We have a lot to be proud of and should congratulate our schools for their hard work and commitment.

    Some levels of categorisation are in place for only a short amount of time for particular issues. For example, high levels of support can be required when a school amalgamates, has a new or temporary leadership structure or has a series of staff absences which are unavoidable. Every local Authority has schools in all categories, including those in the red categorisation.

    In Newport, at present, we have THREE secondary schools, requiring additional support.

    So let’s put this in the context of:

    • Newport has the HIGHEST number of GREEN Secondary schools in the region. Newport has the highest number of green secondary schools in the region.
    • 55% of our secondary schools are categorised as YELLOW and GREEN. This compares to the regional average of 41%, 14% HIGHER than the regional average, and recognises their excellent standards and strong upward trajectory.
    • Our GCSE outcomes are contextually STRONGER than they have ever been. And our ranking has improved by 5 PLACES, 5 places, for 5 GCSEs A*-C and 6 PLACES, 6 places, above where Newport should sit within its Free School Meals national ranking position.
    • In addition, 57% of our primary schools are categorised as GREEN, 57% Green. This is 12% MORE, 12% more than the regional average in 2016-17, our latest statistics.

    These are examples of the outstanding successes delivered by this Administration. 

    Estyn and the EAS are experts in assessing areas which require further attention. In most circumstances the school has identified these themselves, through effective self-evaluation. Support plans, with clear milestones are put into place to address these short comings.

    So for those schools requiring additional assistance, a red categorisation ensures that the school receives the highest level of support from the EAS and LA. However there is also an expectation that the school (Head, Governing Body and all staff) drive the school forward. The LA is consistently assessing their capacity to do this.

    The Chief Education Officer, the Principal Challenge Adviser and myself (as Cabinet Member) meet with all these schools on at least a termly, and often monthly, basis to monitor progress and hold the school to account.

    This high level of supports enables schools to resolve the areas of concern and move out of red and back up through the categories, as we have seen with schools previously.

    I would also like to add that Newport- unlike neighbouring LAs- has never been taken into special measures with commissioners taking over the running of education. Given the high level of success noted earlier, this is highly unlikely to happen as we move forward.

    In regard to the last part of Councillor Watkin’s question my response is that Estyn are Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools and it is they that give an unquestionable judgement.

    We will continue to do everything possible at all times, however, schools are ultimately, and rightly, subject to the judgement by Estyn.

    So despite all the additional support, advice, resources and monitoring provided by this Local Authority and all appropriate agencies, a ‘cast iron’ guarantee can never be provided by us.

    In regard to Llanwern High School, all appropriate support has been put in place including regular contact between the LA, temporary Headteacher, Governing Body and EAS and progress towards educational targets for Key Stage 4 summer outcomes are looking significantly better than last year’s. Better than last year’s. They have improved. And a permanent Headteacher has been appointed to start in September.  Llanwern, therefore, appears to be on the way up in contrast to Cllr Watkins’ assertion and I am particularly pleased to see this turn around because I attended the school when it was Hartridge High School, as did a number of members in this Council Chamber. Indeed the Leader taught there for ten years!

    So, I take the opportunity again to thank Headteachers, teachers, all school staff and Governors for the fantastic work undertaken in all our schools and everything they achieve every day to continuously raise standards. I also thank everyone who works within our Education Department, for their ongoing commitment to ensuring all schools are supported appropriately.

    And I again ask Cllr Watkins to stop undermining our children’s chances with constant negative rhetoric about our schools. As I have set out previously, every school is special, with its own strengths and achievements and every teacher and learning support worker turns up every day across all of our schools with the intention of doing the very best for the children and young people in their care.

     

    26th February 2018

    Categorisation of Newport Schools

    The Cabinet Member for Education has been in post for some two years during her time of office two thirds of our Secondary Schools have fallen either into the red zone or indeed special measures.  Additionally the Alternative Education Facility and Maesglas Primary school are also in the red Zone I would add there are schools in the amber zone which also gives rise to concern.

    Would she please tell this Council what has gone wrong and is she responsible for this sorry state of affairs?  Councillor Joan Watkins

     

    Thank you Mr Mayor,

    I would like to start with correcting Cllr Watkins in regard to her comment that ‘two thirds of our Secondary Schools have fallen either into the red zone or indeed special’.

    The true facts are that ‘two thirds of secondary schools are NOT in categories as red or indeed special’.

    I repeat ‘two thirds of secondary schools are NOT in categories as red or indeed special’.

    All schools, regardless of their categorisation have areas of strength. Every school’s national categorisation or Estyn report shows this. Have a look and see the good work of Newport schools linked to high academic standards, the strong focus on well-being, improving attendance and excellent parental engagement. We have a lot to be proud of and should congratulate our schools for their hard work and commitment.

    Some levels of categorisation are in place for only a short amount of time for particular issues. For example, high levels of support can be required when a school amalgamates, has a new or temporary leadership structure or has a series of staff absences which are unavoidable. Every local Authority has schools in all categories, including those in the red categorisation.

    In Newport, at present, we have THREE secondary schools, not 6, requiring additional support.

    So let’s put this in the context of:

    • Newport has the HIGHEST number of GREEN Secondary schools in the region. Newport has the highest number of green secondary schools in the region.
    • 55% of our secondary schools are categorised as YELLOW and GREEN. This compares to the regional average of 41%, 14% HIGHER than the regional average, and recognises their excellent standards and strong upward trajectory.
    • Our GCSE outcomes are contextually STRONGER than they have ever been. And our ranking has improved by 5 PLACES, 5 places, for 5 GCSEs A*-C and 6 PLACES, 6 places, above where Newport should sit within its Free School Meals national ranking position.
    • In addition, 57% of our primary schools are categorised as GREEN, 57% Green. This is 12% MORE, 12% more than the regional average in 2016-17, our latest statistics.

    These are examples of the outstanding successes ensured by this Administration. 

    Estyn and the EAS are experts in assessing areas which require further attention. In most circumstances the school has identified these themselves, through effective self-evaluation. Support plans, with clear milestones are put into place to address these short comings.

    So for those schools requiring additional assistance, a red categorisation ensures that the school receives the highest level of support from the EAS and LA. However there is also an expectation that the school (Head, Governing Body and all staff) drive the school forward. The LA is consistently assessing their capacity to do this.

    The Chief Education Officer, the Principal Challenge Adviser and myself (as Cabinet Member) meet with all these schools on at least a termly, and often monthly, basis to monitor progress and hold the school to account.

    This high level of supports enables schools to resolve the areas of concern and move out of red and back up through the categories, as we have seen with schools previously.

    So, I absolutely do not agree that all the fantastic work undertaken in all our schools and all they achieve every day, despite some schools requiring high levels of support for specific issues, is a ‘sorry state of affairs’.

    And I thank Headteachers, staff and Governors and our Education Department, for their ongoing commitment to continuously raise standards.


    September 13th, 2018 | Caerleon Labour | Comments Off on Education Question Responses from Gail at Full Council, and Update on Council Work of Jason |

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