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									                      MINUTE OF EDUCATION EXECUTIVE GROUP MEETING
                                       27 April 2005
                                 Rosebery House, Edinburgh

Present:

Spokesperson

Rev Ewan Aitken, Edinburgh, in the chair

Council Representatives

Pam MacDonald,                             Aberdeen City
Richard Stroud                             Aberdeenshire
Jack Gibb                                  Angus
Brian Fearon                               Clackmannanshire
Thomas Farrell                             East Ayrshire
Maureen Talac                              East Lothian
Eric M Gotts                               East Dunbartonshire
Mary Montague                              East Renfrewshire
Andy Anderson                              Highland
Alasdair Urquhart                          Moray
Peter McNamara                             North Ayrshire
Charles Gray                               North Lanarkshire
Janice Annal                               Orkney
George Hayton                              Perth & Kinross
Bill Manson                                Shetland
Alan Murray                                South Ayrshire

Apologies – noted

Officers

Colin Dalrymple, Depute Director of Education, Edinburgh
Michael O’Neill, Director of Education, North Lanarkshire

COSLA

Anna Fowlie, Team Leader, Children & Young People Team
Brenda Campbell, Corporate Adviser (part meeting)
Jane Kennedy, Policy Manager, Children & Young People Team
Jason McDonald, Policy Manager, Children & Young People Team
Sylvia Murray, Policy Manager, Children & Young People Team
David Jones, Director, Dialogue Youth
Fiona Bradley, Health Officer, Dialogue Youth




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1.      Introduction

(a) New Member

In welcoming members to the meeting, the Spokesperson introduced Cllr Mary Montague, East
Renfrewshire, who had replaced Jim Fletcher following his appointment as Council Leader.

(b) Proposed joint event with the Scottish Executive

The Spokesperson advised of the intention to hold a joint event with the Scottish Executive in
autumn – along similar lines to the Youth Justice event in January – on the inter-related themes of
discipline, behaviour, additional support needs etc.

In approving the proposal, members noted the need for representation at the event and agreed to
provide details of possible speakers and good practice illustrations.

Education and Community Learning

2.      Dialogue with Minister – Report Back

The Spokesperson updated the Group on the continuing dialogue with Peter Peacock, Minister for
Education and Young People. That dialogue had included the 53,000 teachers proposals (item 5
on the agenda refers); inclusion; and the respective roles of the Scottish Executive and local
authorities. He advised that he, and Group representatives present, had been pleased to hear the
Minister reconfirm his view of the strong, continuing role for councils in relation to the education
service; that given work ongoing at a corporate COSLA level on an agreement with the Executive,
the development of the protocol previously discussed would not be pursued meantime; but that the
dialogue with the Minister would continue and would provide a separate focus for education only
issues.

The Group noted the position.

3.      21st Century Comprehensives in North Lanarkshire

Councillor Charles Gray, and Michael O’Neill, Convener and Director of Education respectively in
North Lanarkshire Council, gave a presentation on the 21st Century Comprehensives initiative in
their Council. They reminded the Group of the context of the Initiative – the aim to raise
achievement for all; gave details – what they were and what they were not; summarised their aims
and the practical implications for the schools involved (eg bringing college lecturers into the school
to teach classes and providing specialist classrooms for courses relating to beauty therapy and
building trades); how the initiative linked with the wider community; and touched on wider issues
and how it was hoped to develop the initiative further in the future with schools concentrating on
enterprise and the expressive arts. In essence the schools involved were already schools of
ambition, providing enhanced opportunities for all pupils in the schools’ catchment areas to take
part in sport and music and, importantly, opportunities for the associated communities to use the
facilities also.

During the ensuing wide ranging discussion members’ questions covered aspects including: the
implications for inclusion, discipline, placing requests, absences, resources, staffing and school
board involvement.

The Spokesperson thanked Cllr Gray and Michael O’Neil on behalf of the Group for their
stimulating presentation; noted the challenges the initiative set for the future of comprehensive
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education; and agreed that COSLA would pursue with the SQA the question of the formal
recognition of SVQ and City & Guild qualifications in the assessment process of a school’s
achievements.

4.      Schools of Ambition Programme

The Group was updated about developments in relation to the Scottish Executive’s Schools of
Ambition programme.

It was noted that: 28 councils had submitted applications for a total of 43 schools; councils which
had not submitted applications would be able to apply for the second tranche of the scheme; the
next stage of the process would involve visits to the schools by HMI (which would involve local
authority representatives) to discuss the applications in detail; and that the successful schools
would be announced in June with a project start in August.

After discussion, it was agreed that local authorities should be involved in the announcement stage
of the process and that the Executive be advised to ensure such involvement.

Resourcing

5.      Teacher Numbers

The Executive Group considered the circulated report regarding the local government financial
settlement and its allocation of funding to increase teacher numbers to ensure 53,000 are in post
by August 2007.

The report reminded members of the origin of this commitment – the Partnership Agreement - and
the fact that this initiative was fully funded in the settlement for 2005/07; advised that the Executive
had now sought COSLA’s views on the allocation of the associated £128M resources; that it was
open to COSLA to devise its own allocation formula but that the two options proposed by the
Executive were:
    i)      distribution through GAE; or
    ii)     distribution based on a calculation using 2003 school census data.

The ensuing discussion highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of both options and
identified a number of issues including: the flaws inherent in the GAE distribution system; the fact
that time constraints meant the development of an alternative was not possible; and the need for
any distribution method to be based on up to date statistics – particularly important when a school
role is rising.

In noting that the COSLA decision on the matter would be taken by COSLA Leaders, the Group
agreed for its interest to support the adoption of the GAE option.

The Group further agreed, having discussed the Minister’s view that distribution through GAE
could lead to the 53,000 target not being met, and having recognised the fine distinction between
ring fencing and flexibility for councils, that members be reminded of the absolute necessity to be
able to evidence how funding has been used to meet agreed outcomes. Any inability to
demonstrate successful outcomes would weaken COSLA’s negotiating position in future and
damage the credibility of local authorities in future negotiations, such as the forthcoming review in
2006 of the National Teachers’ Agreement.




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6.          COSLA/ABTA Holiday Discount Scheme

The Executive Group considered the circulated report proposing a COSLA/ABTA (Association of
British Travel Agents) scheme whereby parents/guardians who adhered to school holiday dates
would be offered discounts on holidays by travel agents participating in the scheme. The trialling
of such a scheme – initially on a pilot basis prior to roll out across Scotland - was considered
worthwhile, given the continuing rise in the number of pupil absences from school for holidays.

After discussion it was agreed:

      i)       that the pilot scheme be developed; and
      ii)      it be remitted to the Spokesperson and ADES representatives to develop the initiative
               with ABTA and to report back.

7.          Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Bill

The Executive Group gave preliminary consideration to the Scottish Executive’s consultation on
the draft Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Bill with its proposals to, inter alia, make further
provisions for the involvement of parents; abolish school boards; and establish parent forums for
schools.

Members’ comments identified concerns about the lack of accountability of the parents’ forums;
the abolition of existing good practice with school boards in those areas where arrangements
worked well; the need or otherwise for guidance on the establishment of forums; and the
desirability of piloting alternatives to school boards before abolition. The apparent lack of
connection in the draft Bill between the school and its role in the community and for community
members to be able to input was also raised.

It was noted that COSLA would submit a formal response to the consultation and that to ensure
that response was truly representative of member councils’ views, these views must be provided
timeously to COSLA.

8.          Review of Collaboration between Schools and Colleges

The Executive Group was given an update on the Scottish Executive’s Review of Collaboration
between Schools and Colleges, the proposed date for the publication of the new strategy (12 May)
and arrangements for the piloting of the new method of working. Essentially this would involve a
school/college collaboration framework designed to ensure effective local decision-making; quality
checks including HMI evaluation; SQA development of new vocational courses; and a Scottish
Executive review of the occupational standards and guidelines on provision for the TQ(FE).

Having been advised that a more detailed briefing note would be issued with the minutes of the
meeting, the Group noted the position.

Workforce Development

9.          Protection of Children (Scotland) Act

(i)         Vetting of Councillors

The Executive Group considered the circulated report regarding the implementation of the
Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 and in particular the requirement to vet elected


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members whose responsibilities could involve contact with children – in practice the majority of
councillors.

The report explained that any individuals included on any list, or subject to any orders which
identified them as disqualified from working with children, were prohibited from sitting on relevant
committees. The responsibility for ensuring that elected members on such committees are not
disqualified rests with local authorities.

Following consultation with member authorities earlier in the year, COSLA had:

        a) Sought independent advice from a group of solicitors, which had led to the production of
        draft guidance for both councils and councillors which did not, however clarify the issue of a
        council’s ability to vet its councillors; and
        b) Organised a focussed discussion between elected members and Scottish Executive
        and local authority officers on the matter which had identified two possibly courses of
        action: (i) a role for the Standards Commission in undertaking the vetting; or (ii) councils
        assuming the vetting role in a similar way to that undertaken for its staff members (subject
        to clarification of a council’s statutory ability to do this).

After discussion the Group noted that:
    i)     guidance would be issued on the matter as soon as possible; but
    ii)    in the meantime, despite the fact that responsibility for vetting rests with local
           authorities, members should be aware of the COSLA view that it would be
           inappropriate, and possibly illegal, for a Council employee to initiate a disclosure check
           on an elected member given that elected members are not Council employees; and
    iii)   following the local council election in 2007, there would be a requirement for all new
           councillors with relevant remits to be vetted.

ii)     Vetting of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The Executive Group considered the circulated report regarding the implications of the Protection
of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 for asylum seekers and refugees seeking employment working
with children or vulnerable adults, an issue which could represent a significant barrier to
employment.

The report summarised the position regarding the process for checking new appointees; advised
that it was open to organisations to undertake retrospective checks of their employees if they
chose to do so; and set out the particular issues relevant to asylum seekers and refugees,
including the practical difficulties of checking people who had recently arrived in the country; the
frequent absence of original documentation; and the reliability of intelligence from overseas
countries.

Having noted that the problem was not confined to the teaching workforce, and agreed that
differing standards for asylum seekers and refugees would be unacceptable, the position of the
matter was noted pending further clarification and the issue of advice.


iii)    Letting of Council Premises

The Executive Group considered the circulated report regarding the implications the Protection of
Children (Scotland) Act 2003 had for the letting of council premises. The report advised of the
establishment of a short-life officer group with representatives from a range of organisations to
prepare guidance for local authorities on the matter and attached a draft of that guidance on which
comment was now sought.
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After discussion the Group noted that the officer working group was scheduled to meet on 28 April
and that the guidance should be issued shortly after its clearance by COSLA Leaders.


Integrated Children’s Services

10.          Early Years Inquiry

The Group considered the circulated report regarding the National Review of the Early Years and
Childcare Workforce initiated by Peter Peacock, Minister for Education and Young People in 2004
which included COSLA’s written submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee on
the matter.

After discussion, during which members discussed their concerns and experience of early years
provision, and specifically the need to avoid any split level provision, the report was noted.

11.          AOB

The Group noted that:-

      i)        a ‘positive press’ group had been established to consider action COSLA might take to
                ensure fair coverage of education/school issues;
      ii)       the Spokesperson had had a productive meeting with representatives of the
                Headteachers’ Association Scotland; and
      iii)      with regard to the version of the Code of Practice on the Education (Additional Support
                for Learning) Scotland Act, members’ assistance might be sought in lobbying MSPs on
                the Parliament’s Education Committee to secure further amendments to the Code.

Dates of Future Meetings

12.          It was noted that the Group’s future meetings in 2005, all in Edinburgh, would be held on:

Thursday 16 June;
Thursday 1 September; and
Thursday 1 December.




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                                                                                       Annex


BRIEFING NOTE ON THE REVIEW OF SCHOOL/COLLEGE COLLABORATION


1.0 This briefing note provides an update on the strategy for school/college collaboration, which
    will be launched on the 12 May. This is a culmination of an extensive consultation process,
    which also acted as a pilot for a new approach to consultation by the Executive.

2.0 The strategy document forms part of a wider national aim ‘to encourage locally relevant links
    between schools, FE colleges and local employers to ease school leavers' transitions into
    further learning, training or employment’. The review sought to enhance collaboration between
    the sectors and to broaden and deepen school pupils' learning opportunities through a more
    flexible school-based curriculum.

3.0 Primarily, the strategy seeks to allow 14 to 16 year old pupils the chance to develop their skills
    by opting for further education courses during part of the school week. It recognises that
    college education can provide a context that best engages some pupils. It is not exclusively
    vocational, and colleges present the opportunity for pupils to study some non-traditional
    subjects, such as Higher Sociology, which may not be taught in their school.

4.0 The strategy outlines measures to:

       work with the Scottish Qualifications Authority to develop nationally recognised
        qualifications in vocational subjects as an alternative to, for example, Standard Grades;
       make clear that all secondary and special schools should have effective, meaningful and
        appropriate partnership with at least one college for S3 pupils and above; and
       establish long term funding arrangements to replace the current funding mechanism that
        disadvantages colleges in providing courses to pupils.

5.0 COSLA was fully involved in developing the strategy, which was a model of good consultation
    by the Executive. Our involvement included participation in various working groups, close links
    with Civil Servants, participation in formal written consultation exercises, and several focussed
    discussion sessions with young stakeholders through Dialogue Youth.

6.0 The consultation process itself was interesting, in that it gave a ‘platform’ of 500 words within
    the paper to some key stakeholders interested in the subject-matter. This included COSLA and
    EDES.

7.0 The approach was in response to a criticism that stakeholders are not engaged early enough
    by the Executive in the policy development process. The Executive will now have to decide
    whether or not this was successful, and whether to roll it out across other consultations.

8.0 Some of the key themes of the review were:

       managing supply and demand and funding responsibilities;
       implications for schools and colleges; and
       pupil welfare and support



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9.0 Pupil welfare and support is a key point, and one that still requires consideration. The
    Association of Scottish Colleges are keen that there is sufficient flexibility to allow pupils to
    enjoy a different environment, and one which does not turn colleges into schools. This includes
    flexibility about the people able to deliver lessons, but may also relate to such things as
    campus security, and pupils’ interaction with other older students.

10.0 To this point, we have been very positive about the overall process and final strategy.
   However, pupil welfare is something that is a potential political hot potato. It would be very
   helpful for COSLA officers to get a flavour of the political feeling about this.



Jason McDonald, Policy Manager
0131 474 9371 jason@cosla.gov.uk
27 April 2005




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