05 February 2024

Education and Children's Services Committee February round-up

Education and Children's Services Committee February round-up.

All agenda items and reports are available to view by clicking here.

Financial performance as at 30 November 2023

Committee members were told the forecast revenue financial position as of 30 November 2023 is £3.4 million over budget. 

Director of Education Laurence Findlay stated that work was ongoing around the ECS budget including savings and opportunities to increase revenue as outlined in the report, and that he was confident that the service would be in a break-even position by the end of the year. 

Following a discussion, committee agreed the revenue budget virements - the process of transferring budgeted funds from budget code to another - and noted the drawdown of reserves to be agreed by Full Council.

Learning estates strategy - movement towards a sustainable estate

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Aberdeenshire out of school care provision

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Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative - Progress and Impact Report

Councillors considered and commented on a report into The Northern Alliance, a Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC) of eight local authorities across the north and west of Scotland.

The collaborative is made up of Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, with a shared vision to improve the educational and life chance of children and young people through collaboration.

Committee heard that Aberdeenshire continues to be an active participant in the work of the North Alliance with teachers and other practitioners, alongside their colleagues from Community Learning and Development (CLD) taking part in a range of professional groups and networks and attending professional learning activities organised through the Alliance.

Closure of Easterfield School Statutory Consultation

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Closure of Fisherford School Statutory Consultation

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Aberdeenshire Instrumental Music Service Annual Report 2022-23

Committee was asked to consider and note The Instrumental Music Service (IMS) annual report for 2022/23. The IMS operates in all 17 Community School Networks across Aberdeenshire, providing group and individual lessons. 

In 2022/23 the number of pupils accessing music tuition in Aberdeenshire was 2,734.

The service continued working on recovery following the pandemic through recruitment drives led by instructors, offers of new ways of working and more whole class projects. 

This resulted in significant increase in pupils accessing tuition in 2023/23 compared with the previous year. 

A further increase in pupils accessing tuition is anticipated for the next academic year.

Whilst waiting lists have increased by 11% since 2020, the number of pupils accessing tuition increased by 86% in the same period. 

Music Development Manager Justin Brook told the committee: “We will continue to work towards reducing waiting list with new ways of delivery, including large group, whole class projects, in order to increase access as well as continued digital solutions to provide tuitions in geographically challenging areas.”

The instrumental Music Service is currently reviewing the way in which registration works to reduce waiting list – such as the option for parents to register children for multiple disciplines.

Aberdeenshire Learning Community Partnership Annual Progress Report 2022-23

Members considered the report on the update on the Aberdeenshire Learning Community Partnership (ALCP) Community Learning and Development (CLD) Plan 2021-2024.

The ALCP CLD Plan outlines the needs, activity and identifies how partners work together to ensure that outcomes through learning are appropriately met.

Key partners include Lead Scotland, Skills Development Scotland, Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action, Aberdeenshire Community Learning and Development, Aberdeenshire Education Service, North East Scotland College, Fife College Link Centre, and Workers Education Authority.

Committee heard that the partnership has made good progress against the priorities and is now focusing on refreshing membership, reviewing the learning needs across Aberdeenshire and working with partners to set targets for the new plan.

Examples include employing staff with a mental health and wellbeing focus, improving digital skills and learning and the reduction from 17 to six Local Learning Community Partnerships (LLCP’s).

Pattern of Terms Dates, School Holidays and In-Service Closure Dates from Session 2025/26 to 2029/30

The committee discussed plans for a consultation on the pattern of school term dates, holidays, and in-service closures for the next five years from the 2025/26 school year to the 2029/30 school year.

The proposed pattern of terms dates and school holidays followed two main principles – to have broadly similar term lengths, as this is helpful to school planning, and to align with neighbouring authorities where possible, particularly with Aberdeen City Council holidays.

As dates for the City have yet to be determined, members of the committee agreed to delegate the agreement to launch a consultation with the Chair, Vice Chair and opposition spokesman of ECS.

The consultation will allow for parents, carers, pupils, and staff to give feedback.