Questions to CM Education and Skills

Member question: Councillor Chris Evans, received 21 June 2018

Subject: Routes to school

Dear Cabinet Member... Please see a screenshot from my friends at Frome council in which they thank students for taking part in a cycle, scooting or walking to school day, would your administration consider introducing a similar initiative in Newport?

In line with this can you give parents children and carers a 100% assurance that all designated‘routes to school’ in Newport are safe and regularly maintained? Can you provide me with the dates from the last 18 months that routes to schools in Rogerstone have been maintained and details of work carried out.

Response:

We encourage schools to support such events via the Newport Healthy Schools Scheme. However there are no designated safe routes to school.

A ‘route’ is essentially any pavement or pathway that a child would be safe walking with the accountable parent. It is up to parents to determine whether the child should be accompanied or not.

Streetscene maintain the entire highways network. All routes are maintained in accordance with the recommendations of national codes of practice for highways maintenance management . All sites are inspected at appropriate intervals and any defects warranting intervention are repaired.

Trees, hedges, shrubs and grassed areas are also attended to on a scheduled maintenance regime with any urgent issues being attended to accordingly. Inspections records and repairs are completed on every site visit within a ward. If a ward councillor or a member of the public provides information regarding specific sites where there is an issue, Streetscene will of course arrange a site assessment and consider what needs to happen next. Issued 5 July 2018


Member question: Councillor Joan Watkins, received 13 June 2018

Subject: Out of area placements for children

What is the current cost to the council in respect of children placed out of area? And what measures are being put in place to provide the necessary accommodation locally to prevent children being sent elsewhere?

Response:

The current costs estimated for out of county education provision for 2018/19 is forecasted as £4,683,192 . This figure represents 154 pupils with specialist needs including 28 Looked After Children placed in care outside Newport.

The specialist needs of pupils range from SEBD (social emotional difficulties), ASD (autistic spectrum disorder), HI (hearing impaired), PMLD (profound and multiple learning difficulties), SLCD (speech, language, communication difficulties), VI (visually impaired), MLD (moderate learning difficulties) and SpLD (specific learning difficulties). Before deciding that there is no alternative to out of county provision, an assessment is made by relevant professional experts. Parents are also consulted to ensure that the placement is suitable for the pupil involved. 

The local authority commissions this specialist provision to best meet the needs of its learners. The numbers of pupils placed out of county in specialist provision is not collated on a national level and therefore we are unable to make comparisons with other local authorities to determine if this figure is high or low.

The reduction of out of county places is a priority within the Newport Corporate Plan 2017-2022.

A reduction in the number of current pupils placed out of county can be achieved by establishing an SEBD school in the city of Newport.  Some children and young people have such profound needs that they can only be met by the most specialist providers. This provision cannot be replicated within a local authority managed setting. Issued 5 July 2018


Member question: Councillor JM Kellaway, received 11 June 2018

Subject: Funding for school transport

Could you please ask the following question to the CM for education, not for council. 

A hard working constituent in Underwood rang the council this afternoon to find out why I had not received a form for September's school bus pass.

Only to be told that they were waiting for the funding from the Welsh government before they can send the forms out to parents who would not be surprised to find out in August that parents have to fund school transport themselves.  

Could you confirm that there are no plans to cut funding to school transport and do you find it acceptable that parents are kept waiting in order that they can make appropriate plans for their children. 

Response:

School bus pass application forms for new applicants are currently being printed and will be available in the next two weeks having been updated in line with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Passenger transport do not issue forms for pupils of statutory school age who have previously been issued with a bus pass as theirs will automatically be renewed.

Application forms for post 16 transport will be made available at the end of June in line with normal practice. 

There are currently no plans to cut funding to school transport. Provision of school transport for eligible pupils up to the age of 16 is a statutory duty of the local authority. 

While passenger transport regrets the delay in sending out application forms for new pupils, it was the introduction of GDPR which has adversely affected the timescale. Issued 18 June 2018


Member question: Councillor D Fouweather, received 4 June 2018

Subject: Supplementary question to school transport

Having received your response re: school transport I have now had sight of a school bus pass. It reads: 

This permit must be shown on every journey and upon demand by any authorised person. It is available for use Monday to Fridays during term time only for a journey to and from school between the hours of 07:00 and 09:30 and 15:00 and 18:00 a journey after morning school is permitted on recognised half day holidays.

Therefore why are children being charged £1.10 to use the pass after taking part in after school activities.? You are in breach of the terms and conditions on the bus pass. Will you now reimburse all those children who have had to pay additional funds?

Response:

Dear Councillor Fouweather,  

The statutory duty of the local authority is to provide home to school transport at the start and finish times of the school day. This does not include journeys that are taken following after school clubs.

Presently we are not aware of any operators who allow free travel outside of normal school times. I will ensure that the information on the school passes is made clearer and that officers in the transport unit follow up this matter with transport operators to ensure consistency of communication. Issued 18 June 2018


Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 16 May 2018

Subject: School preferences

Can the cabinet member tell me how many children failed to get into their preferred first choice of 

1. Primary school

2. Secondary school

Response:

The normal admission round is the phrase used to describe admission to the reception (primary) and Year 7 (secondary) groups in September of each year. In terms of the September 2018 normal admissions round, the current position is as follows. Note that no in-catchment applications were refused in the normal admissions round. 

Secondary (Year 7) - the application window was open between 2 October 2017 and 30 November 2017, with decisions issued 1 March 2018. Of the 1,558 places allocated, 1,537 (98%) were in accordance with parental preference.

21 of the 1,558 could not be offered a preference school, but were offered a place at the catchment school as an alternative.

18 pupils (only four Newport residents) are initially without an offer but were invited to submit alternative preferences for consideration in a later round.

Currently 173 places are still available across the city, 144 English-medium places and 29 Welsh-medium places. 

Primary (reception) – the application window was open between 1 November 2017 and 12 January 2018, with decisions issued 16 April 2018. Of the 1,591 places allocated, 1,564 (98%) were in accordance with parental preference.

27 of the 1,591 could not be offered a preference school, but were offered a place at the catchment school as an alternative.

12 pupils (only six Newport residents) are initially without an offer but have been invited to submit alternative preferences for consideration in a later round.

Currently 152 places are still available across the city, 148 English-medium places and 4 Welsh-medium places. Issued 1 June 2018


Member question: Councillor Chris Evans, received 17 May 2018 

Subject: Secondary school places - Bassaleg

1) Is it true that there is a shortage of school places at Bassaleg?

2) how many children in the last two years have been denied places at Bassaleg?

3) have children been forced to attend schools elsewhere in Newport?

Response:

As part of the normal admission round, not including late admissions for the Year 7 group in September of each year, the council has not refused any in-catchment applications for places at Bassaleg school over the last two years. 

September 2017 - the application window for the September 2017 admission round was open between 3 October 2016 and 30 November 2016. When these applications were processed, 29 preferences for places at Bassaleg school were refused, all of which related to children confirmed as living outside of the catchment area for the school. In terms of late applications, five were received from children living in the school catchment area, and these were all refused. However these pupils were all subsequently offered places from the waiting list before the start of the academic year and are therefore now attending Bassaleg school. 

September 2018 - the application window for the September 2018 admission round was open between 2 October 2017 and 30 November 2017. When these applications were processed, 59 preferences for places at Bassaleg school were refused, all of which related to children confirmed as living outside of the catchment area for the school. In terms of late applications, one has been received to date from a child confirmed as living in the school catchment area and this has been refused due to the fact that the year group is already fully subscribed. This child is currently on the waiting list for a place at the school and will be considered automatically should any places become available between now and 1 September 2018. Issued 1 June 2018


Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 16 May 2018

Subject: School transport policy

The council recently changed its policy on school transport. In the past if a child stayed in school to take part in out of hours activities they would have still been able to use a Newport Transport bus free of charge by showing their school bus pass.

This has now stopped and any child who fails to catch the school bus is now faced with an option of either having to pay or walking home. These children would all be entitled to free transport under the three mile rule. 

The council has now also decided to allocate children specific buses. This means that they have to catch the same bus every day. However, some of these children would use a different bus in the evening as they may go to a grandparent or if they are from a family where the parents have split up they could be going back to a different address. This decision now means that those children have lost the right to use a free school bus and now have to pay. This sometimes results in the children having to get a bus into the city centre and then another bus to their final destination. 

It is also worth noting that some of these children will come from families where there are financial difficulties and the cost of bus fares is challenging for them. This policy change could result in children from poorer backgrounds being unable to stay after school to take part in sporting or academic activities. 

I would be grateful if you can tell me who made this decision and the reason why. This change in policy is unfair and may put some children at risk. I understand that the schools were not informed of this change and it only came to light when parents started to complain.

Response:

There has been no change to the Home to School Transport policy. If a route is contracted then pupils would only get home to school and then school to home transport at the contracted times and not outside of this. This has always been the case. If pupils have dual residency, for example where parents have separated,  they can apply for a separate pass for the days they are travelling to another address. Issued 31 May 2018


Member question: Councillor Kellaway, received 4 May 2018

Subject: Breakfast Club funding

Dear Cabinet Member could you please explain what you are doing to make up the funds that have been slashed from breakfast clubs. To some schools these breakfast clubs have proved beneficial in improving wellbeing nurturing and academic results.

Response:

Newport City Council fully supports free breakfasts for primary school pupils. In fact, the number of breakfast clubs across the city has risen from 7 to 38 over the last 5 years, despite no increased funding from Welsh Government. 

In order to ensure as many clubs as possible can operate a new funding model is being introduced to maintain fair and equal distribution of the available money. 

From September 2018, breakfast clubs will be granted funding for up to 40 minutes’ worth of supervisory costs. Although this may in some instances be less than currently received (some clubs may reduce their opening by 20 minutes), it demonstrates this Authority’s continuing commitment to support the operation of clubs above and beyond the 30 minutes recommend recommended by Welsh Government. Issued 14 May 2018


Member question: Councillor C Evans, received 1 May 2018

Subject: Condition of High Cross Primary

Dear Cabinet Member, please see communication below which I'm forwarding to you upon the request and with the permission of the parent/neighbour, you will read that parents and carers are rightfully concerned about the terrible state of High Cross Primary School you'll further recall I raised the issue with you last year, the current situation is now dangerous with the  'Junior building currently fenced off due to falling of large blocks of cement from a great height'

Will the Cabinet Member visit the school as a matter of urgency to see the sorry state for herself and will you also make adequate monies available to improve conditions in the short term and update parents on long term plans to improve facilities at High Cross Primary, does she agree, that in the 21st Century our children deserve better than crumbling schools?

Response:

All concerns that have been raised in regard to High Cross Primary School have been referred to Newport Norse, who provide Newport City Council with specialist technical support in relation to the maintenance and repair of school buildings.  Newport Norse has been directed by myself and the Chief Education Officer to assess all issues raised by the school, ward Councillors, parents and residents and to ensure all necessary actions are taken as a matter of urgency, with health and safety being paramount. We have been informed that due to extreme weather conditions this winter, an external concrete window sill crumbled and fell off.  This is clearly of great concern and I immediately instigated an urgent investigation.  At the same time, to ensure the safety of everyone using the school site, areas have been cordoned off by Newport Norse as a precautionary measure. We expect the technical and overall condition survey to be completed shortly. Health and safety and statutory compliance will continue to be a principal consideration.

I am being kept fully briefed on a daily basis and once I have all the most up to date information from the surveys I will contact the head teacher to meet and discuss the results prior to any decisions being made. Issued 10 May 2018


Member question: Councillor J Watkins, received 5 April 2018

Subject: Provision of school fencing

I learnt today that perimeter fencing is to be provided for three schools as a security measure. How is this work to be funded and what will be the cost?

Response:

Councillor Watkins will be aware that Planning Committee granted permission for new fencing at Alway Primary, Ringland Primary and St Gabriel’s RC schools on 4 April. The estimated cost of the three schemes is £93k and will be covered by the additional capital funding for schools approved by Cabinet in the 2017/18 budget for use by 31 March 2019. Issued 18 April 2018


Member question: Councillor J Watkins, received 5 February 2018

Subject: PRU and Welsh grading statistics

Why is no grading showing for the Newport Pupil Referral Unit in the recent Welsh grading statistics for schools? Given this facility is an alternative education provision for children surely a grading as to its effectiveness must have been awarded.

Response

Welsh Government do not publish nursery schools or Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) categorisation.  Special schools were published last year for the first time.  

However Newport always includes the categorisation of its PRU in any reports submitted to Scrutiny or Cabinet. Please see the current school and PRU categorisations for Newport below. I note that the PRU is now categorised as red. This ensures that the PRU receives the highest level of support from the LA and EAS. This does not mean that the PRU does not have any established good practice, it has a number of strengths. 

A support plan has been put in to place to ensure that the PRU has a clear upward trajectory. This plan includes: 

  • Support to secure at least good standards of teaching and learning across the centre which is externally verified
  • The development of more effective systems to monitoring attendance across the portfolio of provision
  • The completion of a new pupil tracking audit to establish the ALN needs of all the pupils in the provision
  • The development of a more effective tracking system to ensure all ALN needs are being appropriately met
  • The review of existing interventions focusing on impact on pupils achievement and attainment
  • The review of existing qualifications on offer to ensure that they are fit for purpose and provide the most appropriate challenge for all pupils
  • Engagement and sharing of best practice with other PRU’s across the region 

Regular meetings are taking place in order to monitor the progress of the PRU and ensure that timely improvement is made. Issued 20 February 2018

 

2017 18

School name

Step 3

Alway Primary

Yellow

Bassaleg School

Green

Bridge Achievement Centre

Red

Caerleon Comprehensive School

Yellow

Caerleon Lodge Hill Primary School

Green

Charles Williams Church in Wales Primary School

Yellow

Clytha Primary School

Green

Crindau Primary School

Green

Eveswell Primary School

Green

Fairoak Nursery

Green

Gaer Primary School

Green

Glan Usk Primary School

Green

Glasllwch C.P. School

Green

High Cross Primary

Yellow

Jubilee Park Primary

Yellow

Kimberley Nursery

Yellow

Langstone Primary School

Green

Llanmartin Primary School

Yellow

Llanwern High School

Red

Lliswerry High School

Yellow

Lliswerry Primary School

Yellow

Maes Ebbw Special

Amber

Maesglas C.P. School

Red

Maindee C.P. School

Yellow

Malpas C.I.W. Primary

Yellow

Malpas Court Primary School

Green

Malpas Park Primary School

Green

Marshfield Primary School

Green

Millbrook Primary School

Green

Milton Primary School

Amber

Monnow Primary School

Green

Mount Pleasant Primary

Green

Newport High School

Red

Pentrepoeth C.P. School

Green

Pillgwenlly C.P. School

Green

Ringland Primary

Yellow

Rogerstone Primary School

Green

Somerton Primary School

Amber

St Andrew's Primary School

Green

St David's R.C. Primary School

Green

St Gabriel's R.C. Primary School

Yellow

St Joseph's R.C. Primary School

Yellow

St Julian's Primary School

Green

St Julian's School

Red

St Mary's R.C. Primary School

Yellow

St Michael's R.C. Primary School

Green

St Patrick`s R.C. Primary School

Yellow

St Woolos Primary School

Green

St. Joseph's R.C. High School

Green

The John Frost School

Amber

Tredegar Park Primary

Yellow

YG Bro Teyrnon

Yellow

Ysgol Bryn Derw

Amber

Ysgol Gyfun Gwent Is Coed

Yellow

Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd

Green

Ysgol Gymraeg Ifor Hael

Green

 


 

Member question: Councillor J Watkins, received 6 September 2017

Subject: Investment in 21st Century Schools

Please see further questions to Cllr Giles re: the above  

  1. What specifically are the planned improvements to Bassaleg and Caerleon comprehensive schools?  
  2. Will the planned improvements at the above schools as promised under Band B 21st Century Schools be in any way reduced as a result of monies allocated to the new Welsh school which was not in the initial plan?  
  3. A new school at Jubilee Park together with the plan to make Rogerstone Primary a three form entry will place significant pressures  with regards to accommodation and staffing structures at Bassaleg High School. Are there any plans to alter high school catchment areas to accommodate additional entry numbers at Bassaleg?
  4. Are the additional funds required to accommodate the growth of these schools part of the 21st Century initiative allocation  or will further monies have to be found?
  5. What statistics do you have for potential further growth for Newport?  
  6. Will the monies from this funding stream provide fully for the equipping of new schools at Glan Lyn and Llanwern?  
  7. Given the dire condition of buildings in some of Newport's schools and a need for urgent upgrade and refurbishment, was it a wise decision to undertake the delivery of a new school at this time, ie the new Welsh school? Surely repairs and refurbishment to existing educational buildings should have been the priority. I note it is acknowledged that whereas the teaching and learning is of primary importance, the quality of the learning environment very much adds to and supports pupils' aspiration and achievement

Response

  1. We are seeking to make improvements to the school premises and increase the capacity of both schools. The potential expansions would see Bassaleg increase to 2000 and Caerleon to 1800 pupils. The details of the plans will depend upon the finally agreed funding from Welsh Government. At present, we have submitted our Strategic Outline Plan, which is a proposal for a match-funded £70m programme and have indicated where our priorities for investment are within Band B. Band B covers the period April 2019 – 2024.   
  2. Funding to date for the Welsh medium secondary school was from the separate Band A of the 21C programme. The three schools are all part of the Band B proposal.  Decisions about specific developments at the schools will depend upon the finally agreed funding from Welsh Government. 
  3. See above. The plan is to increase the capacity of Bassaleg High School as part of our Band B proposal.  
  4. We have included within our bid realistic budget for these. Following the fit-out recently completed at Jubilee Park Primary we are confident that the budgets are sufficient for furniture and IT provision. 
  5. Our objectives for Band B are to ensure sufficiency of school places as well as make improvements to the learning environment.  Demand for Welsh medium education from parents has grown steadily in south east Wales and the decision to establish a Welsh medium secondary school was taken following considerable public consultation and was funded with contributions from Welsh Government, Newport and Monmouthshire.  Issued 25 September 2017

Member question: Councillor J Watkins, received 31 July 2017

Subject: Funding for 21st Century Schools

While we welcome investment in schools there are questions and concerns re: the current proposals as follows:  

Bassaleg and Caerleon Comprehensive schools are both in need of major investment in terms of the learning environment. School buildings are in very poor condition and should therefore be at the top of the list for investment.  

Why is it necessary to provide further investment for the new Welsh school? The initial investment should have been sufficient to support its delivery. Was the investment not adequate to support that?  

Relatively new schools in terms of age are included in the list ie Rogerstone and Maindee. What is the criteria for them now requiring further investment why are they being prioritised?  

Glanlyn and Llanwern Primaries together with the proposed school development at Whiteheads, why is there a requirement for private funding to deliver these? What is meant by private finance? Will this involve PFI (Private Finance Initiative) given that this has created massive debt issues for schools in the recent past?  Or is there to be a reliance on developers providing 106 monies? While helpful they can only provide for a small portion of funding required to deliver a new school. 

St Julian’s School, currently in special measures, is absent from the list.  Is there no benefit to this school by its inclusion? 

Response:

  1. Bassaleg and Caerleon Comprehensive schools are both in need of major investment in terms of the learning environment.  School buildings are in very poor condition and should therefore be at the top of the list for investment.  

The secondary school projects are the top priority within the proposed 21st Century Schools Band B Programme, with the highest level of funding allocated. The works planned will significantly improve the education facilities at Bassaleg School, Caerleon Comprehensive and Ysgol Gyfun Gwent Is Coed.

 2. Why is it necessary to provide further investment for the new  Welsh School?  The initial investment should have been sufficient  to support its delivery.  Was the investment not adequate to  support that?  

Initially, Duffryn High School, now known as The John Frost School, was the next proposed school to receive significant improvement and potential replacement following the Newport High School and Llanwern High School rebuilds.  

Following the building of two new teaching blocks that are due for completion in 2018, and the remodelling/improvement works to the existing two buildings occupied by The John Frost School, there remains the building which will be inherited by Ysgol Gyfun Gwent Is Coed.  

The Ysgol Gyfun Gwent Is Coed building, known as Block 1, while being available to use as an education facility requires further improvement in the form of significant remodelling or replacement. The funding required to develop Block 1, was not available within the 21st Century Schools Band A programme.

Significant investment has been made on The John Frost School and Ysgol Gyfun Gwent Is Coed sites but moving forward into the 21st Century Schools Band B timeframe it is essential that further investment is made. 

 3. Relatively new schools in terms of age are included in the list i.e.  Rogerstone and Maindee.  What are the criteria for them now  requiring further investment why are they being prioritised?  

Building sufficient capacity in the appropriate areas across Newport is a major factor within the Band B proposal. The council’s statutory duty must be met and both Rogerstone Primary and Maindee Primary have sites in the appropriate areas with grounds that are believed to be capable to accommodate further expansion. This will enable both schools to increase to 3 form entry. This option will significantly increase the number of school places available to pupils in areas where there are high levels of demand.   

 4. Re: Glan Llyn and Llanwern Primaries together with the  proposed school development at Whiteheads. Why is there a  requirement for private funding to deliver these?  What is meant by  private finance?  Will this involve PFI (Private Finance  Initiative) given that this has created massive debt issues for  schools in the recent past?  Or is there to be a reliance on  developers providing 106 monies?  

The proposed schools currently known as Glan Llyn Primary and Llanwern Primary schools will be built and provided through the Section 106 legal agreements as part of the development.  The main cost for building these schools will be met by the housing developer contributions.  However, neither school will receive furniture and equipment under the agreements so this has been included within the Band B submission due to the substantial costs.  

The Band B submission is based on capital funding through capital reserves, prudential borrowing and Section 106 contributions which will need to be received by the council prior to the projects being completed.  There will not be any private funding initiatives used to fund the programme.

 5. St Julian’s School currently in special measure is absent from  the list.  Is there no benefit to this school by its inclusion?  

The Band B submission took all schools within Newport into consideration.  Schools prioritised in the proposed programme were deemed to require funding to comply with the statutory obligations by provided access to schools and to improve facilities of the worst conditioned schools. The proposal has limitations due the level of funding, however the funding envelope is considered affordable. The programme will not address all existing issues but future capital maintenance programmes will continue to prioritise areas of most need.

Issued 14 August 2017


Member question: Councillor C Evans received 20 July 2017

Subject: 21st Century Schools

With reference to the welcomed decision to apply for '21st Century' school funding from the Labour run WG, and the approval by cabinet to seek said funding recently.  

Whilst I have concerns about the principal of the application/lottery style funding process applied by WG, my deeper concern is about applying for funding for selected schools in Newport and particularly Rogerstone and not others, 

It's welcomed to hear that Rogerstone Primary is to be put forward, the access/parking chaos around the school is of particular concern locally and is in serious need of improvement and I'm told this makes up part of the funding application, however some of my neighbours have asked why Highcross has been left out?  as you are probably aware the school is in dare need of being brought into the '21st Century' and currently suffers from a host of issues, including poor tiny 'early 20th century' classrooms with paint peeling off the walls, a tiny cloakroom and, very poor canteen facilities etc all this despite the wonderful PTA's efforts to upgrade facilities from their superb fundraising activities. 

One of the questions being asked is 'has this administration forgotten about Highcross Primary?

Response:

The 21st Century Schools Band B submission is an ambitious yet affordable programme which will be considered by Welsh Government.  The primary focus is the statutory duty in providing sufficient pupil places across the city.  Newport has a burgeoning population and every effort is being made to provide the right school in the right place.   

Work will continue with all Newport schools to address maintenance within the capital maintenance funding which is provided on an annual basis.  All projects are allocated funding on a priority basis and High Cross Primary School is included in this process.

Date issued: 31 July 2017