01 September 2022

Education and Children's Services (ECS) Committee September round-up

During its meeting on Thursday, September 1, Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee chair, Cllr Gillian Owen, congratulated young people on their achievements following the SQA assessment results.

Director of Education and Children’s Services Laurence Findlay gave an update on industrial action planned for September 6, 7 and 8 and highlighted that the council’s priority was in giving parents and carers advance notice of any resulting closures.

Mr Findlay also highlighted that all council-run early years and childcare settings will close on the days of industrial action, and most school lets will be cancelled.  Headteachers are in the process of sharing information on the impact to their individual schools.

Mothballing of Clatt School
The committee noted the decision to temporarily mothball Clatt School from the start of the new term. Clatt School had six pupils, with the roll not expected to increase in future years.

All pupils have now enrolled in an alternative school and officers will be keeping in touch with the families to ensure that they have settled in well. All staff have been assisted with alternative arrangements.

Mothballing is the temporary closure of a school and the situation will be monitored by officers, with an update to be provided in May 2023.

Aberdeenshire’s Five-Year Scottish Attainment Challenge Report
The committee considered a report, written in partnership with Education Scotland’s local attainment adviser, which sets out Aberdeenshire’s progress towards the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) over the last five years.

The SAC was established to promote equity in education by ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

It focuses on improvement activity in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing, reducing educational inequity and closing the poverty-related attainment gap and is a long-term strategy which aims to impact on societal culture and thinking.

Committee members agreed to a further report on stretch aims will go before ECS.

Chief Social Work Officer Annual Report 2021/22
The committee considered and commented on the Chief Social Work Officer’s Annual Report for 2021/2022.

The committee acknowledged the level of investment in children and adult social work services for the residents of Aberdeenshire as well as the commitment of social work staff in the consistent delivery of high-performing services.

Chief Social Work Officer Leigh Jolly said the report reflected on the highlights, challenges, and achievements over a long period of challenges.

These included mental health, reducing alcohol and drug related deaths, suicide prevention and engaging with communities and promoting the voice of lived experience to drive service improvement.

She also took the opportunity to acknowledge and thank staff for their “tremendous resilience and commitment” and acknowledged and thanked unpaid carers who “so often go unrecognised and yet undertake a crucial role in supporting vulnerable people within our communities”.

Corporate Parenting Annual Report 2021/22
The Committee considered and commented on the Corporate Parenting Annual Report 2021-22, alongside the new Aberdeenshire Corporate Parenting Plan.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Social Work Manager (Corporate Parenting) Andrew Dick told the committee the reporting period was a “significant challenge” for children, young people, families, carers and staff because of COVID-19, which continued to have an impact across all areas of life.

He said creative ways had to be used to ensure support was delivered to children and young people where they needed it most, adding that “we've been able to continue to make really good progress in developing new ways of supporting our children and young people”.

One of those highlighted was the success of Aberdeenshire Council’s Bright Spots Project to gather views of care experienced children and young people.

He said engaging directly with children and young people had meant that Aberdeenshire Council could ensure that priority areas of the plan were underpinned by the voice of those with lived experience of care.

He also highlighted the strong emphasis on multi-agency collaboration as well as a drive to try new creative and innovative approaches to ensure that children and young people have everything they need to thrive and succeed, reducing the gap between them and their non-care-experienced peers.

Committee chair Cllr Owen said she would write to all councillors with the report to highlight the importance of what is involved in being a corporate parent.

Aberdeenshire Children's Services Plan 2020-23 Annual Update 2020-21
The committee heard from the Director of Education and Children’s Services about the partnership plan which sets out collective ambition for Aberdeenshire children.

Mr Findlay said the partnership plan sets out the collective ambition for Aberdeenshire children and young people and “our overarching desire to make Aberdeenshire the best place in Scotland in which to grow up”.

He highlighted the five strategic priorities: Corporate Parenting, Substance Misuse, Children with a Disability, Early Years Strategy, and Mental Health.

Committee members considered and commented on the plan and its priorities and acknowledged the progress made.

Instrumental Music Service Report 2020-22
Music Development Manager Justin Brook told the committee the service had gone through a period of significant change brought about by COVID-19, budget savings and the implementation of free instrumental tuition by the Scottish Government.

Following the pausing of music centres, the service said it was working closely with instructors on new proposals and plans were in place to engage with pupils, parents and staff on what those new models will look like.

Mr Brooks said the challenges ahead would be to increase opportunity by developing new ways of working, using a blend of online and face to face lessons, and engaging with the wider community. There were also plans to strengthen links and communication between the instrumental music service, schools, and the community.

School Transport Member Officer Working Group
Aberdeenshire Council’s Passenger Transport Manager Richard McKenzie outlined the report to reconstitute the School Transport Member Officer Working Group.

He said it had previously proved very useful as a means for communication between members and officers to discuss current and emerging issues relating to school transport.
Councillors agreed to reconstitute the group and five member representatives are to be agreed.

The final two items covered the financial performance of the service to the end of July which was outlined for committee who were provided with an opportunity to consider and comment on these and committee members agreed to appoint nominated councillors to two outside bodies.

The full agenda and documents for the meeting can be found here:

The full recorded webcast can be viewed here for part one and here for part two