24 March 2023

Education and Children's Services Committee round-up March 23

During its meeting on Thursday, March 23, Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen highlighted the council’s Foundation Apprentices of the Year award winners.

Level four/five winner was Lewis West and level six winner was Lily-Anna Barclay.

Modern and Craft Apprentice of the Year went to Emma Bernie; Graduate Apprentice of the Year went to Gavin King; and the Michael Brewis Apprentice Recognition Award went to Connor Murray.

In her update to members of the committee, the chair went on to highlight that Ellon Academy pupil Millie Urquhart will be playing for the Women’s Under 19 Scotland International Football Team.

Cllr Owen added: “This is the last committee meeting before the SQL exams, and I'd like to extend to all those sitting exams this committee’s very best wishes.”

To read and download any of the reports below, visit the committee agenda page by clicking here.

Outcome of Joint Inspection of Services for Children & Young People in Aberdeenshire at Risk of Harm

Committee members heard how the inspection considered the effectiveness of services for children and young people up until the age of 18 who are at risk of harm and looked at the difference community planning partners are making to the lives of children and young people at risk of harm. 

Partners include Aberdeenshire Council, NHS Grampian, Police Scotland Northeast, Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. 

The joint inspection rated the partnership as ‘very good’.

The committee agreed to acknowledge and support the ongoing work of Aberdeenshire’s Child Protection Committee and GIRFEC Strategic Group in driving forward improved outcomes for children and young people and thanked the children, young people and their families for contributing to the inspection outcome.

You can read the full report here and read more about the inspection here.

Update on Aberdeenshire Young Carer Strategy 2021 – 2023

Members of the committee received an update on the latest from the Young Carer Strategy.

You can read more about this item here.

Additional Support Needs Review Update

Cllr Owen introduced the report, saying: “Additional support needs is an important area of work for education and children’s services, and which has seen a significant growth in demand over the past few years.

“It is also a highly emotive area of work and one where the service is committed to continuous improvement and getting it right. This will require significant change in reform and the ASN review is designed to lead this forward. 

“Today's report provides members with an update on work undertaken to date, as well as outlining a proposed future direction for our provision.”

Head of Education Vincent Docherty told the committee that the ASN review has yet to be completed and the progress update informed committee members of the future direction of additional support needs provision.

The council’s Principal Educational Psychologist and Service Manager for Inclusion, Equity and Wellbeing Carron Douglas said: “The proposed changes to the enhanced provision model, involves placing a greater emphasis on providing targeted support to primary one and primary two children in their local mainstream school. 

“We would then return to committee at an appropriate point with a more detailed focus on these individual work streams as and when we're ready to make formal recommendations.”

Members of the committee had a lengthy discussion on the issue and agreed to hold a workshop on the matter. They noted the report and endorsed the direction the team were heading in, endorsing the proposed implementation of the Child Inclusion: Research into Curriculum, Learning and Education (CIRCLE) Framework by all Aberdeenshire Schools by the end of academic year 2024-25.

You can find further information about this item here.

Update on Developing the Young Workforce – Foundation Apprenticeships in Aberdeenshire Schools

Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) offers school pupils the opportunity to access a wide-range of work experience and learning opportunities.

Aberdeenshire Council became a lead provider of Foundation Apprenticeships launching its first courses in June 2019. 

Since then there has been a significant increase in uptake from pupils – from 208 initially to 785 in 2022/23

The committee discussed the report and the progress made with the development of Foundation Apprenticeships in Aberdeenshire schools during 2022-23.

The committee also endorsed the recommendations, including the approach to build capacity and partnership across the region, with particular relation to employer engagement.

Read more about this item by clicking here.

Summary and Analysis of Initial School Leaver Destinations 2021/22

Head of Education at Aberdeenshire Council Vincent Docherty reported to the committee that the percentage of Aberdeenshire school leavers going on to a positive post-school destination in 2021-22 was 96.7% - up on 2020/21 and higher than the national figure of 95.7%.

The majority of Aberdeenshire school leavers in 2021/22 went on to higher education (43.1%) followed by further education (27.4%) and employment (23.4%).

The committee noted the report.

Refresh of Parental Involvement and Engagement Strategy 2023-2026

Education Support Officer Christine McLennan told the committee: “The involvement and engagement of parents in their children's learning is a key element in raising attainment and achievement through the support, help and encouragement that's given at home.

“We’ll continue to ensure that parents and carers are welcomed to be actively and meaningfully engaged in their child's learning and life at school because when schools and families work together, the outcomes for children are better.”

The strategy states that:

  • Schools and Early Learning establishments will communicate with parents in ways that are easy to understand, accessible, timely and use appropriate media. 
  • Parents will be supported and encouraged to become actively engaged in their child’s learning at school, in Early Learning establishments, at home and in the local community. 
  • Parents will have the opportunity to express their views on a regular basis and have these taken into account on matters affecting the education of their children. 
  • The views of all parents can be represented to the school, education authority and others via their Parent Council. 
  • Aberdeenshire schools will work with partners to promote, support, and provide Family Learning opportunities, taking into account the diversity of parents and children.

Members of the committee considered and agreed the refresh of the Parental Involvement and Engagement Strategy 2023-2026.

Teacher Staffing

The committee received the annual report on teacher staffing which stated that whilst the underlying teacher staffing position in primary schools had stabilised, there continued to be challenges within secondary schools.

Across Aberdeenshire there are shortages in Aberdeenshire’s academies of English, maths, science, technical and home economics teachers.

All teachers must carry out a probationary period before they can gain full registration. Most probationer teachers do this through the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS) and are placed with local authorities for a fixed term of one year. 

Once their probationary period is complete, teachers can then apply for posts.

The report said that Aberdeenshire Council continues to offer the corporate relocation scheme which allows new teaching staff to reclaim eligible expenses incurred in relocation.

In addition, a new teacher recruitment agency framework has been agreed through to 2026. The agreement offers the opportunity to provide short term agency use and utilise the market to source teachers for the purpose of fixed term and permanent recruitment to council employment.

Voluntary Severance

Committee members considered the Voluntary Severance Scheme which Aberdeenshire Council ran from December 2020 over four phases in six monthly blocks. The purpose of the scheme was to assist the authority in addressing the budgetary constraints the council was under.

The scheme operated on the basis that the need for reductions in staffing levels had to be set against the continuing demand for high-quality service delivery. All applications were considered along with the needs of the service.

Within Education and Children’s Services a total of 950 applications were received and 128 employees left Education and Children’s Services - of these, 88 were Live Life Aberdeenshire employees.

Attendance & Absence in Aberdeenshire Schools 2021/22

Attendance at Aberdeenshire schools in 2021/22 was 92.4% - 2.5% lower than 2020-21. 

Authorised absence increased from 3.8% in 2020/21 to 5.9% in 2021/22 and unauthorised absence increased from 1.2% in 2020/21 to 1.7% in 2021/22. 

The 2021/22 school session was the first post-Covid year when there were no school closures due to Covid. During 2020/21, pupils were home learning and very little absence was reported.

You can read the full report here.

Secondary School S1 Admission Limits and Reserved Places

The Education and Children’s Services Committee set an admission limit and number of reserved places for each secondary school in Aberdeenshire on an annual basis.

The Committee agreed the recommended admission limit and number of reserved places for the school session of 2023-24.

You can read the report here.

Carbon Budget – Six Monthly Update

Members of the committee considered and commented on the Education and Children’s Services Carbon Budget six-monthly update which you can read here.

Aberdeenshire Community Learning and Development Services Delivery Plan 2023-2024

Committee members considered and acknowledged the Aberdeenshire Council Community Learning and Development (CLD) Service Delivery Plan for April 2023 to March 2024.

CLD targets those who are most affected by socio-economic factors and works with individuals and groups with protected characteristics. 

CLD offers informal learning to help those who want to make positive changes in their communities and personal lives. Engagement with CLD is voluntary and directed by the individual, group and community needs. 

You can read the report here.

Equality Mainstreaming and Outcomes 2021-2025 Progress Report

Business Strategy Manager Fiona McCallum told the committee that the report sets out the vast volume of work carried out across the council.

She highlighted some of the strengths including:

  • Improved outcomes for learners with a diverse range of needs, including high levels of attainment in Scottish Qualification Assessment examinations
  • A sustained progress with implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence
  • Increased levels of positive leaver destinations and positive inspections of schools and learning communities.
  • The strong relationship between the education service and HR to support the developing Young Workforce initiative, as well as ensuring the Aberdeenshire is one of the leading providers of the foundation apprenticeship in Scotland.
  • Aberdeenshire Council’s commitment to ensure that all children and young people are safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included in outlining present and future developments to enhance and improve access to quality education for all pupils.
  • The work carried out by CLD in communities, including People First in Fraserburgh which is run by adults with disabilities; The Princes Trust Youth Community Art Project which improves access in a community centre in Inverurie; the Westhill Youth Platform- Mask-ots Collective Poetry group; and Garioch New Scots Mother and Baby/Toddler Group which helps mums, new to baby groups, transition into existing groups and develop new relationships in their communities.
  • People in Aberdeenshire, particularly those who face barriers through literacy, language and digital exclusion, are provided with accessible information on services provided by the council and are supported to access these digitally where appropriate.
  • The commitment to people in Aberdeenshire that they have opportunities to fulfil their potential throughout their lives.
  • Training and resources available to support the mental, emotional, physical and sexual health of young LGBTQ+ individuals 
  • The English as an additional language service, which has helped settle young refugees into school life and enabled them to move on to positive destinations. 

The committee then noted the Policy Register Annual Review and the Financial Performance as at January 31.

Aberdeenshire Child Poverty Action Plan – Update

The committee acknowledged and supported the update to the Aberdeenshire Child Poverty Action Plan.

Buchan Area Manager Amanda Roe told the committee: “When we talk about poverty, we are talking about people not having enough resources to meet their needs. 

“That's about heating your home, paying the rent or buying the essentials for you or your children. It can mean waking up every day, facing insecurity and uncertainty, and having to make impossible decisions about money. And unfortunately, even today, it means mums, dads, carers, children and young people feel ashamed and blamed for the situation they're in.”

In Aberdeenshire people are living in poverty due to low wages, high living costs, lack of accessible and affordable flexible childcare and access to transport. 

Amanda continued: “The updated plan continues to tackle the root causes and building people's capabilities through income maximisation, employability, improving quality of life, and helping families manage the impacts of poverty. 

“The emphasis continues to be on supporting families where the risk of a child living in poverty is higher - so those priority families are lone parent families, a household where someone is disabled, families with three or more children, minority ethnic families, families where there is a child under one, and families where the mother is also young, under 25.”

The draft plan will be presented to Communities Committee next week for approval.