Issue - meetings

Update on implications and the recovery plan resulting from the impact of Covid-19 in Eduation and School

Meeting: 28/06/2021 - Regional ERW Scrutiny Councillor Group (Item 2)

2 Letter and notes arising from the ERW Councillor Group on 1 March 21 pdf icon PDF 308 KB

Additional documents:


The letters and notes where reviewed and accepted by the Scrutiny Councillor Group.


Meeting: 13/05/2021 - Scrutiny Performance Panel – Education (Item 4)

4 Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) Update pdf icon PDF 100 KB

Cllr Jen Raynor Cabinet Member Education Improvement, Learning and Skills and Amanda Taylor, Head of Pupil Referral Unit and Behaviour Support Unit

Additional documents:


The Cabinet Member for Education Improvement, Learning and Skills and the Headteacher of the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) and Behaviour Support Unit (BSU) attended the Panel to update and discuss progress with Education Other Than At School Services (EOTAS).

·         The overhaul of Services has been far greater than a move to a new building. It has involved a thorough review in line with the Cabinet Recommendations and a full revision of policy, systems and operational practice at all levels to realise.  The overhaul included

·         Focus on early identification and appropriate intervention to support universal provision.  Review of Behaviour Policy for Swansea to provide a clear continuum of support to meet the range of needs in relation to pupils with Social, Emotional, Mental Health and Behaviour Difficulties (SEMHBD).  The development and enhancement of the existing Behaviour Support Team to provide earlier support to schools to improve school capacity in meeting the needs of pupils with SEMHBD and appointment of an Education Psychologist to lead on ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) initiative across all schools; specialist teacher for complex needs to support schools in meeting needs of pupils with complex needs incl. Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a specialist teacher for behaviour to support schools in developing strategies to support pupils with SEMHBD

·         Devolved funding to secondary schools to support pupils to remain in schools. £700K devolved to secondary schools annually to reduce referrals at KS4 (Planned places at KS4 for pupils with Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties reduced from 75 to 60).  Current number on roll (including pending list post lock down) 40

·         Development of single build model to host all existing PRU Centres in Swansea along with the co-location of EOTAS prevention and intervention services and development of a clear leadership structure.  

­       Review of BST offer to schools to enhance universal provision

­       Review of Home Tuition Offer to pupils

­       Review of systems and structures that feed in to EOTAS referrals across the wider Education department

­       New identity for the PRU in Swansea –Maes Derw

­       Full staffing restructure across the service

­       New leadership in place

­       Transition of all services and pupils from previous PRU sites to Maes Derw with the exception of Y11 in Brondeg

­       Development of a therapeutic/well-being approach to supporting pupils alongside a more engaging curriculum offer

·         Greater emphasis on re-integration back into mainstream schools.

­       Review of ‘remit and purpose’ of the PRU to support schools, families and colleagues in Education and Child and Family Services to have clarity or the role of the PRU

­       Review of EOTAS Panel recommendations to ensure closer scrutiny of placements and clear review process

­       Review of Referral and Admission documentation to ensure that schools and families are clear regarding aim to re-integrate and support greater school ownership

­       New model of Halfway House –Ty Canol–to work with schools to provide a part time, short term intensive intervention to support pupils at risk of becoming EOTAS

­       Review of opportunities to support pupils post 16 to transition to FE or employment

·         A more cohesive approach to working with children and young people who needed, or were at risk of needing, EOTAS services.

­       A full review of the Well-being support provided to pupils admitted to the PRU, with greater synergy developed between the work of the CFS and the PRU.

­       Dedicated Well-being team developed within Maes Derw to work closely alongside CFS Early Help Hubs

­       Every child/young person allocated a key worker on admission to support both the child/young person and, where appropriate, the wider family.

­       Development of partnerships with other agencies such as CAMHS, policeetc.

·         Maes Derw PRU – a new build, bespoke PRU facility sharing the same site as Cockett House, it facilitates the disposal of Brondeg and land at Gors Primary currently hosting the Step-Ahead. Approved FPR7 value £9.642m.  Opened to the first pupils February 2021. Project delivered within the approved budget. Transition has been phased to enable each cohort to settle. The KS4 pupils at Brondeg have not moved to avoid disrupting their final GCSE year.

The Panel was hugely encouraged by Maes Derw new build and with all the work undertaken to review and put systems and processes in place that will improve the outcomes of some of Swansea’s most vulnerable cohorts of pupils. The Panel will write to the Cabinet Member for Education Improvement, Learning and Skills giving their thoughts following the discussion.


Meeting: 22/04/2021 - Scrutiny Performance Panel – Education (Item 5)

5 Update - Additional Learning Needs Reform and its implementation pdf icon PDF 100 KB

Cllr Jen Raynor Cabinet Member Education Improvement, Learning and Skills, Helen Morgan Rees, Director of Education and Rob Phillips, Challenge Adviser


Rob Phillips, Challenge Adviser and ALN Champion attended the Panel and presented slides on the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Strategy in Swansea, discussing the following issues with Councillors. 


·         Difference between equality and equity for pupils

·         The Additional Learning Needs and Tribunal Act (ALNET) objectives, seven objectives that underlie the Act including:

1.    ALN to replace term SEN

2.    Act to cover 0-25 year olds

3.    A unified statutory plan – the IDP

4.    Increased participation of children and young people

5.    High aspirations and improved outcomes

6.    A simpler less adversarial system

7.    Increased collaboration

8.    Avoiding disagreements/ earlier resolution

9.    Clear and consistent rights of appeal

10. The ALN Code

11. A bilingual system

·         The importance of culture change in enabling its introduction.  ALN is a Directorate priority and is about making transformational changes.

·         The Swansea ALN Strategy have six priorities these are Transition, Capacity, Provision, Quality, Partnership and Assessment

·         The ALN Strategy journey includes, for example: developing person centred practice, provision mapping, training opportunities and developing statutory processes.

·         That the Act covers a much wider range of pupils than covered presently.

·         Children, young people and their families are central to the process. With the Individual Development Plans (IDP) having clear outcomes about what they intend to achieve at the outset.  The underlying principle in this is to avoid disagreements through early resolution of issues.

·         There has been person centred practice in Swansea for some time, process is built around the child.

·         Multi Agency collaboration is key

·         Carrying forward recommendations made after Special Teaching Facilities review but this is a longer term achievement

·         Inroads have been made into provision for challenging learners including the new Pupil Referral Unit provision, the Re-integration Plan and the Behaviour Strategy.

·         An ALN funding review is on the horizon.  The demands and challenges that form part of the ALNET Act and the strategy in Swansea will need to be funded so we have capacity here to do it.

·         Parents are being involved in the process at a number of levels and co-productive activity is taking place where it is appropriate.

·         Panel pleased to see Swansea at the getting a solid grip of change required and beginning to make them a reality on the ground.

Meeting: 17/12/2020 - Scrutiny Performance Panel – Education (Item 5)

5 Swansea Skills Partnership pdf icon PDF 221 KB

Members of the Partnership including Director of Education who is the Chair.


Helen Morgan Rees, Director of Education gave a presentation on the current position and priorities of the Swansea Skills Partnership (also known as PSA), including:


·         That it began from a recommendation to Cabinet June 2018 from work carried out by the Education Policy Development Committee.  With the aim of meeting the opportunities provided by Swansea Bay City Deal and to ensure robust local arrangement for partnership to feed into regional partnerships.

·         The purpose of the PSA is to

·         promote and develop Swansea as a ‘Learning City’ and to be the best in the UK

·         promote and develop Swansea as a ‘Learning City’ – aligning providers with a shared vision and values 

·         develop a local action plan to promote and develop Swansea as a ‘Learning City’ to inspire children and young people

·         in partnership develop a road map for skills or the learning pathway to reinforce the messages about agreement and collaboration at all levels in education

·         identify and further develop cohesive opportunities for Swansea learners

·         monitor and evaluate progress against the local action plan and ensuring appropriate linkage to the RLSP action plan

·         further develop careers advice including apprenticeships and work-based learning and expand the focus to include key stage 3 and primary pupils 

·         further develop initial teacher training and continuous professional development opportunities for school based staff

·         ensure apprenticeships and work-based learning align to future skills needs

·         It now needs to evolve including membership, momentum, its key focus areas, Covid opportunities.  Further work is needed to develop further.

·         Some key outcomes of the PSA so far include: Building digital capacity, advice and guidance for careers, next steps in learning and future occupations and raising awareness of the Swansea Bay City Deal.


The Panel then discussed Partnership with a cross section of its membership. 


The Panel were interested to hear and discussed:

·         It has been successful to drill down and focus on certain areas including for example on digital capacity and good quality careers advice.

·         Partnership had lost momentum a bit and there has been degrees of traction.

·         Panel pleased to hear about the positive outcomes from this partnership working including:

o   Digital learning was an obvious choice and links closely to the City Deal project and has also been useful in the current Covid situation.

o   Focusing on careers advice and guidance for learnings to help them make the right choices.

·         The Panel were keen to hear about the Platform called ‘My Choice’ has been developed and it unique to Swansea area. The Panel heard that until now advice and guidance for vocational learning was not in one place for Year 11’s to go and where opportunities are.  A platform was therefore developed to do this.  Schools can gain impartial advice and guidance, it also have common applications forms for 6th Form, Colleges and work based learning.  Learners can also see what is happening in Swansea, possible future opportunities and gives links to other websites.  Welsh Government are looking at the Platform to see how it can be shared as good practice for others to use.

·         The Panel heard that digital learning and capacity has changed completely over the past 9 months and is now a must.  It is important for young people to know what digital careers are and will be available especially with the new arena and potential job opportunities.  Discussion raised the City Deal and how it is important that young people in Swansea are skilled enough to get the top jobs as well as other available roles.

·         The Panel were also told about the continued importance of professional development for Teachers, colleges and universities in how lessons are taught using devices and technology, getting the right Pedagogy.

·         Panel was pleased to hear that the PSA was exactly what the Education Policy Development Committee had in mind when it made its recommendation to Cabinet in 2018.  Pleased to see curriculum is and will be more aligned to future skills needs locally and nationally.  The Panel agreed with the Chair of the Policy Development Committee when he said a vocational element should form part of every child’s educational experience. He was happy with what the partnership can deliver believing it needs to be a dynamic and able to change as things develop including with developing the new curriculum and general work based skills.

·         The Cabinet Member for Education Improvement, Learning and Skills told the Panel that the strength of the partnerships is having organisations on it that have their fingers on the pulse as far as the business community is concerned like for example colleges who have food links with employers.  Also that their needs to be a broader perception of what employment in the future is about, for example employers need to be flexible, with good transferable skills and able to market themselves.

·         It is time to start to think about what is next for the partnership.  Need to keep momentum and Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEETs) has been identified as it does involve a number of partners.  The example of the good work on NEETs at Pentrehafod Comprehensive School was raised.  This shows what can be achieved and with all partners involved a lot more can be achieved.

·         Councillors were pleased to hear about the commitment, knowledge and experience that individual members of the Partnership are bringing to the table and working together to improve the learning and opportunities of young people in Swansea.

·         There are a number of different partnerships out there, is there any duplication of activity was asked? The Panel heard that there are other partnerships and there is some overlap but this is not duplication and is beneficial to Swansea like for example work around the new curriculum and a good quality learning offer and there has been some benefit from regional programmes afforded by the region.

·         The Panel asked how lessons are learnt within the Partnership so it can improve.  The Panel heard that the Partnership use information locally to inform planning locally and has demonstrated that projects so far.

·         Partnership has worked well having representative from outside of Swansea like Neath Port Talbot, is positive to be able to work across borders and with a wide range of partners to the benefit of our learners.

·         The Panel were told that to improve and progress further they will now need to:

o   Revisit the purpose and original intentions and include more fresh thinking including involvement from the business community.

o   Refresh priorities moving forward.

o   Build on current momentum (critical not to lose momentum now especially moving out into the post Covid world)

o   Focus on a couple of key sub groups one of which should be NEETs.


The Panel were pleased to hear about the positive impact the partnerships is having especially in relation to digital learning and careers platform.  The Panel look forward to seeing how the Partnership develops in the future by building on these good early foundations. The Panel we would like would emphasise the need to engage the local business community and look to include it on the partnership moving forward (and will ask for further information on this aspect). Positive to see sub group to look at NEETs which is will be vital area that can be influenced by all partners moving forward.   Agreeing the next steps must include a focus on challenges faced by vulnerable learners.  Councillors thanked all those who attended the meeting saying the Panel can now see a route map for the future of the Partnership.




Meeting: 22/10/2020 - Scrutiny Performance Panel – Education (Item 6)

6 Education Recovery and Return to Schools pdf icon PDF 390 KB

Invited: Cllr Jen Raynor Cabinet Member Education Improvement, Learning and Skills and Helen Morgan Rees (Interim Director of Education)


The Panel met with the Cabinet Member for Education Improvement, Learning and Skills, Councillor Jen Raynor and the Interim Director of Education Helen Morgan Rees to discuss how education is recovering from the effects of Covid-19.  The Panel heard and discussed the following:


·         The priority in early September was to get as many pupils back to school as possible.  A period of grace until the 14 September was given by Welsh Government, when it was expected that all schools would be fully operational.  We achieved this in Swansea successfully, through the hard work of Headteacher’s and school staff and close working between all those involved in the Task and Finish Group that was set up to address this difficult time. The Task and Finish Group has now suspended activity but it will reconvene in December just to see if we need to review anything as time has gone on.

·         The development of local operational guidance to schools on top of the operational guidance offered by Welsh government was key really to the success of our recovery and our return to education in Swansea.  Including the development of a continuity of learning plan, that has served us well, especially in relation to the blended learning that is and has been required. A clear policy has been developed so that schools are far more able really to respond at short notice if children are asked to self-isolate.

·         We are making provision for free school meals during the holiday periods between now and Easter 2021, we are still providing payments and will do so, either direct payments to bank accounts or food parcels during these holidays.

·         Compulsory education started on the 14th of September and since then we have seen good, solid attendance in our schools across Swansea.  In the early part of September, we did have as many as 60 requests from parents asking to electively home educate their children. However, since September, we have seen a good rate of attendance across schools and this has remained stable for this period.

·         Very difficult decisions have had to be made by our Headteacher’s and school leaders in or to keep schools as Covid secure as possible. The Council took a stance that if they were making any decisions based on a very solid risk assessment, that the council would support those decisions and it was made very clear to them right at the start of term.  We have focused on the wellbeing of school staff and in particular school leaders. We have had to make very difficult decisions right to the start of term to make sure their establishments were working well and we have tried to encourage over governors to ask those questions of their head teachers in particular to ensure that their wellbeing is being looked after.

·         However, we do still need to challenge all the operations to ensure that they are continually operating at a safe level and those risk assessments are being implemented.  This week the Health and Safety Executive attended nine of our schools to make site visits to ensure that our schools are still Covid safe. We also received a visit a virtual visit from our education regulator Estyn.

·         In the main lock down, Councillors will have heard about a consistent set of principles for our schools to ensure a degree of consensus. We were moving forward together, and in doing so we were gaining strength by making decision with our teachers and head.

·         We have increase the use of our digital platforms including Swansea Virtual School and the HWB platform, which I spoke to you about in July, we have seen even greater uptake, which is positive.

·         Schools received a specific grant to help children catch up, called the ‘Accelerated Learning Programme’.  This was to enable them to add to their workforce capacity and learning time for specific groups of learners that need it the most.

·         We tried to adopt in Swansea a proportionate response when we saw cases coming into schools from the community. The guidance and advice comes from environmental health officers. Therefore, when a decision is made to reduce the operation in any school, it is made in partnership with the local test trace and protect service.

·         We felt it vital that during these uncertain periods that our communication with parents and the whole of any school community had to be very clear.

·         During September and October, the national curriculum was downgraded so to enable teachers to focus on the wellbeing and the welfare of children as they returned to education.

·         The catalyst of the first lockdown was used to learn and to do things differently. Therefore, the way we operate now as a Department interfacing with our school partners is very different and we do not intend to switch back on this.

·         We did provide our schools during the summer months with advice on resilience and the transition back. Also on bereavement, which was provided in conjunction with our educational psychology service here in Swansea.

·         We have had concerns about what will happen during the examinations.  There has been an independent review of examinations in respect of 2020, which will be reporting shortly. In addition, we were expecting to hear from the Welsh Government on 9 November about what will happen in 2021.


Question: Are there any children that we are struggling to be connected or to have access to computer equipment?  In the summer months, we issued a lot of kit, and adopted a very flexible approach to ensure that any digitally excluded pupil still receives that kit and the connectivity.  We will continue to monitor that carefully. We are encouraging our schools to communicate with us so we can help them if they need it, but in the main, we are confident that have what is needed.

Question:  As far as attendance goes, what are we doing about the pupils who have not asked permission to be home? Do we keep numbers relation to that?  How do we follow up on in relation to safeguarding?  Welfare officers follow up on some of those calls from schools to the home if required. We also have a safeguarding officer in education, if there are any particular concerns. We do work with others including social services to make sure that no child is left unseen and if children are not coming to school and we have no good reason, we will follow it up through our education welfare officers.

We have kept a specific list in terms of vulnerable children, so schools identify the ones they thought that were vulnerable and across Swansea schools we had about 3000.  Learners were vulnerable for many reasons.  We narrowed down that list to make sure that we were looking at the children where there was risk of harm during the lockdown period and that specific list has been scrutinised very carefully.

Question: How are we keeping track of precisely what has been and what has not been paid out?  We have always been consistent in terms of the criteria we have offered to schools and have repeated this message often, that it has to be additional, an unavoidable cost. There could be refusal in terms of what we are claiming, the stipulations we have provided to schools, we are fairly confident that that money will follow from Welsh Government. There are no guarantees and in terms of contingency if any school is in a difficult position because they have overspent and not received any credit for it, then we would have to look carefully at a recovery plan. 

Question: Are you concerned about the delay in test results coming through for school-based stuff?  What action is being taken to push forward for quicker responses and is there anything further that we could be doing as a scrutiny Panel to support this?  Yes, this is important because it is a whole council issue. The Leader and a number of cabinet members are working on this.   My understanding is that we were going to contact more of the universities and see if we can bring in more lab experience. One issue is that the school workforce do not always identify themselves as critical workers, so that is a piece of work we need to do to ensure that there taking the right box.

Question: Do you think the community hub model will be deployed again? There is no intention to revisit those emergency childcare hubs. The priority for Welsh Government and for us as education directors is to keep learning going as much as possible. There will be disruptions ahead but we can minimise these because we have made our schools as Covid safe as possible.

The Interim Director outlined the current priorities in education including:

·         Successful EOTAS provision and positive behaviour strategy

·         Additional learning needs improvement

·         Keeping learners safe

·         Building digital capacity in education

·         Implementation of new curriculum

·         Professional learning offer


The Cabinet Member Councillor Jen Raynor said that the Education Department is working fantastically well as a team, meetings including the Task and Finish Group which including a number of partners and Headteacher’s had been open and frank, which are being useful for thrashing out any problems.  There is a lot of confidence in our head teachers whose views have been seriously listened to and respected through this period.  She said she is very pleased with the way the Department is running and is more than happy at we are.


The Panel agreed to send a letter to the Director of Education that she can pass on to all school staff thanking them for their excellent work over this difficult period.