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Declarations of Interest
Ms Jessica Shulman, Parent Governor Representative, wished to put on record that she worked closely with Mr Alun Harding, Headteacher of Codsall High School, in relation to minute no.91.
Mr Philip White, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Employability and Skills, wished to put on record that his wife was a secondary school teacher, in relation to minute no. 91.
RESOLVED – That the minutes of the Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee meeting held on 18 June 2020 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Learning and Employability
The Skills and Employability Service provided Community Learning through a range of formal and informal programmes for adults across the County. It provided programmes that supported people and their families to gain skills needed to progress in the world of work and to support parents to give their children the best start in life. Community Learning offered engaging “first steps” learning opportunities as a way of increasing participation for people who were least likely to engage in adult learning and to prepare learners for more formal learning, as well as offering inclusive programmes to the community that helped prevent social isolation through poor health.
Members heard that this Service was funded through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and worked with schools, colleges, third sector organisations and local community groups across Staffordshire. 90% of Service delivery was through commissioned provision to a range of sub-contracted partner organisations. The four priorities for the Service were:
· to develop the skills, confidence, motivation and resilience of adults of different ages and backgrounds;
· to support individuals to progress towards formal learning or employability;
· to support individuals to improve their health and well-being, including mental health; and
· to develop stronger communities.
Members received details of the learning framework, the 2019-2020 academic year performance for terms 1 & 2, and funding. The funding criteria for adult learning was for those outside of compulsory school age, therefore 18+ years of age.
In particular Members received details of the Service response to Covid 19 and its immediate and long-term impacts. The Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Employability and Skills acknowledged the challenge the Service had faced during this crisis, and particularly paid tribute to Amanda Darlington, newly appointed Community Learning Manager, for managing the crisis whilst being new in post.
Members noted there had been good engagement of learners across five of the eight districts and that further work was needed to improve engagement in South Staffordshire, Staffordshire Moorlands and Newcastle. Consideration was given to the reasons for this, including whether there was any correlation between levels of need and employability. It was noted that enrolment for adult learning courses had been low in Newcastle in previous years and members asked for further data to identify the reasons for this and what was being done to address the issues identified.
One of the consequences of the Covid 19 crisis was a more rapid move to all on-line learning and Members noted the challenges that had emerged. Going forward Members asked whether the on-line offer would remain a significant part of the Service offer. In particular they noted that any geographical differences in offer were removed with on-line courses, which was beneficial. However, they also shared concerns that homes without access to appropriate IT equipment would be disadvantaged, asking that consideration be given to how access to equipment could be achieved, through possible loan equipment to communities and/or individuals. The use of libraries in accessing equipment was also discussed to help combat digital exclusion. Wellbeing issues were highlighted ... view the full minutes text for item 90.
Covid 19 school Update
Oral Report of the Cabinet Member for Learning and Employability
The Chairman welcomed the newly appointed Cabinet Member for Education and representatives of Staffordshire Headteachers: Ms Claire Evans, Executive Headteacher (The Mease Federation St Andrew's CofE (C) Primary School & Mary Howard CofE (VC) Primary School); Mr Chris Best, Executive Headteacher (The Meadows Special School & Springfield Special School); and, Mr Alun Harding, Executive Headteacher (Codsall High School, Perton Middle School & Bilbrook Middle School), who shared their experiences of the challenges faced during the Covid 19 crisis and how these had been addressed.
The Cabinet Member shared with the Select Committee his pride in the way Staffordshire schools had risen to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Almost all schools had remained open throughout, including bank holidays, half term and Easter breaks. There had been over 200 pieces of new guidance and/or legislation, all of which had been taken on board. An Education Reference Group had been established to provide a forum for discussion around the new guidance and approaches to the issues faced. Select Committee Members heard details of the level of commitment shown by schools in supporting the most vulnerable, in providing continued learning for those not able to attend school and in working towards opening for the wider year groups.
The Select Committee heard from headteacher representative Mr Alun Harding about the initial shock of the impact of Covid 19 and understanding of the issues faced, the online learning resources for children and the effective safeguarding measures established. This was swiftly followed by adapting the model as new guidance was developed and more children came back into school. They had developed a blended learning approach, a mix of on-line and app learning, physical resource packs sent home and pastoral care by staff to ensure pupils were contacted weekly. Contact and engagement had been monitored, with form teachers contacting those pupils where gaps in engagement occurred. The expectation was that there would be considerable anxiety around returning in September, particularly around the logistics of large numbers of children moving around the school, specifically when considering the buildings layout. A further concern was around pupils who have had little routine or structure over the pandemic months and their necessary adjustment.
Ms Claire Evans told members that she had combined those pupils entitled to attend the two primary schools within her federation and run out of one school during lockdown. She felt there had been some positives from the experience, including:
· natural team building for staff, with staff pulling together to address the challenges;
· putting the school at the heart of the community again;
· more flexibility with the curriculum, developing a curriculum which focused on positive mental health and providing for their children’s needs;
· re-establishing good home/school relationships;
· a successful phased return for children of every year group;
· although there were restrictions on classroom layout, pupils had responded well and enjoyed working in their own space;
· children had reacted well, developing skills for the future of adaptability and resilience; and
· improved social work links.
Less positive had been the amount ... view the full minutes text for item 91.
The Select Committee considered their work programme, noting that this had been amended following a Triangulation meeting between the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Deputy Vice Chairman, Cabinet Members and Officers. In addition to these amendments members noted and/or requested the following changes:
· Staffordshire Air Quality – report moved back to November to allow for the impact of Covid 19 to be included;
· request for a standing monthly update item on the economic health of the County, highlighting any business failures, business growths, unemployment/employment figures etc to inform the work programme going forward; and,
· an update on today’s discussions around schools and school transport during the Covid 19 crisis to the November Select Committee, considering the issues tackled in re-opening, with the same headteacher panel invited to attend.
RESOLVED – That the amendments to the work programme be agreed.