Posted on 19/04/2023
I write this as Chair of the newly formed Education and Inclusion Scrutiny Committee, following my first year.
The Education and Inclusion Scrutiny Committee replaced the Children & Young People Scrutiny Committee, which scrutinised the vital areas of education and children’s services, and has focused upon education and schools, including responsibility for scrutinising all education provision from 3-19. The Committee has also closely monitored the work of the Central South Consortium which delivers aspects of school improvement services, commissioned by the five local authorities to provide a school improvement service that challenges, monitors, and supports schools to raise standards. The Committee has also scrutinised the Council’s compliance with Welsh Language Standards and the delivery of the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan.
A Member Induction Programme was provided for new and returning Members in May and June 2022, in preparation for holding our committee meetings, and our first meeting took place in October 2022, following the suspension of democratic business, due to the sad passing of Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, in September 2022. This first meeting allowed us to consider the proposed extensive draft Forward Work Programme (FWP), and the Committee had the opportunity to identify subject matters, in line with the Terms of Reference for the committee, as well as making amendments and additions.
The Committee received a further report at this meeting, on the implementation of the new Additional Learning Needs (ALN) legislation in place, and following scrutiny, requested that a future update to the Committee should include the priorities outlined, case studies and best practice examples, monitoring and evaluation of early years growth, and the parental engagement plan. The Committee also received two further presentations from Central South Consortium colleagues on the Welsh Government guidance on the framework for evaluation, improvement and accountability and the implementation of the Curriculum for Wales in RCT Schools, where the Committee heard first hand evidence from Headteachers on their experience of curriculum implementation.
Subsequent meetings of the Committee have provided opportunity to scrutinise the areas such as expectations of the Curriculum for Wales implementation on school transition, Community Focussed Schools, and Elective Home Education. Following presentation of this last report, the Committee noted that it wished to revisit this as part of their work programme for the next municipal year but was mindful of the significant increase in the number of children being home educated over the past two years and felt that a separate piece of work would be considered, if this trend was static or increased.
In February 2022, representatives from the Central South Consortium were invited to present their work for the period 2021-22, and the Committee maintained our challenge on their approaches to developing a school led system and to provide evidence that the service, on behalf of the five local authorities of RCT, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, the Vale of Glamorgan, and Cardiff, is continuing to provide value for money. This performance monitoring warrants regular review of its contribution to raising standards in RCT’s schools.
Following this update to the Committee, we have also scrutinised the roll-out of Universal Primary Free School Meals (UPFSM) in RCT and considered how Welsh Government funding has been utilised to support this initiative. We have received an update on school attendance data across the local authority and scrutinised the actions of the Attendance and Wellbeing Service and wider Education and Inclusion Services to increase attendance levels and have challenged the actions outlined in Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s (RCTCBC’s) Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP) for the period between 2022 and 2032, as approved by the Welsh Government.
As I take a moment to reflect on this past year, the Committee can be proud of the work accomplished, through in-depth questioning strategies. As we move to forward towards the next municipal year with anticipation, the Committee is very aware of the need to continue to consider areas of great importance to produce valuable recommendations and challenge to the Council’s Education and Inclusion Services Directorate.
Posted on 19/04/2023