26 March 2024

Education and Children's Services Committee round-up

Education and Children's Services Committee round-up of Thursday, March 21.

All reports can be viewed by visiting 

Chair of the committee Cllr David Keating welcomed members to the meeting and congratulated the Scots School o' the Year, Monymusk School, on its recent visit to London to showcase a book, written by pupils, at the Houses of Parliament. You can read more about this here.

Cllr Keating also wished good luck to SQA candidates for exam season beginning in May.

The next ECS Committee meeting will be held on May 30.

Financial performance as of January 31, 2024
Committee heard that the forecast revenue financial position as of January 31 is £3.1 million more than budget. To achieve a balanced budget, spending restrictions had been put in place alongside use of the Education Recovery Reserve to offset current year overspends to bring the final out-turn position balanced to budget.

Secondary catchment anomaly rezoning at Lumphanan final consultation report
The committee agreed to adopt the proposed Aboyne Academy catchment area to include the anomaly area within the Lumphanan School catchment area and rezone the Alford Academy catchment area.

The decision follows a consultation last year asking participants whether the area should be zoned to Aboyne Academy rather than Alford Academy.

Teacher staffing
Members of the committee acknowledged the report and the ongoing work on teacher staffing in Aberdeenshire Council.

The underlying teacher staffing position in primary schools remains stable whilst there continues to be challenges with staffing numbers in secondary schools.

Across Aberdeenshire there are shortages in secondary schools in English, maths, science, technical and home economics.

There was a wide-ranging discussion including pressing for an equitable allocation of probationer teachers, encouraging teachers to come to Aberdeenshire and teaching time.

Director of Education Laurence Findlay told councillors: “Our main area of concern relates to the recruitment of secondary subject teachers. 

“The council leader, ECS chair and I met with the Cabinet Secretary in December, this was a positive meeting, but it was agreed that this year's probationary allocation as part of the teacher induction scheme would take place manually.

“We would hope that come May we will see a fairer share of secondary teachers being placed in Aberdeenshire schools for starting in August compared to this year's position.” 

2023/24 based school roll forecasts
Members approved for publication the school roll projections for schools across Aberdeenshire. 

The 2023 pupil census shows that there are 20,566 primary pupils and 15,869 secondary pupils in Aberdeenshire - a reduction of 299 primary pupils and an increase of 151 secondary pupils since September 2022.

The committee heard that the reduction in primary pupil numbers is continuing across a number of years and that will be mirrored in secondary pupil numbers, particularly in the areas which aren't having high levels of house building. 

Discussion included extending Kemnay Academy, and looking at zoning areas.

Education and children's heads of service business plans
Members of the committee were asked to consider and comment on the updated education and Children's Services business plans, which detail the direction of each of the services.

Secondary school admission limits and reserved places 2024/25
The committee agreed the recommended admission limit and the number of reserve places for the school session 24/25.

Carbon budget – six monthly update
A six-monthly update outlining ECS’ Carbon Budget was discussed by councillors. 

Update on Aberdeenshire Young Carer Strategy 2021 – 2023
The Committee considered the progress over the last year of the Aberdeenshire Young Carer Strategy 2021-2023.

They heard that in Aberdeenshire there are approximately 3,000 young people who have a caring role. Many do not identify themselves as young carers and do not make their caring role known to others some may have enough support within their own family and friends whilst others may fear what might happen if they let others know that they are a young carer. 

The committee heard that Quarriers, the current carer support service, provided 273 young people with support, including organising activities to allow young people to take breaks from their caring role.

Discussion included unmet demand, research into reducing any perceived' stigma' of being a young carer, and what work oas being carried out on the new strategy.

Update on Developing the Young Workforce Foundation Apprenticeships in Aberdeenshire schools
The committee received an update from Lead Officer for Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Andrew Ritchie.

He said: “It has been a very positive year with our approach to DYW and Foundation Apprenticeships (FA), both in terms of development and growth. 

“We're seeing improved outcomes for young people and employers, including raising attainment and closing the attainment gap, and we're also seeing really meaningful and successful assessment qualifications being developed.”

The committee widely praised the work being done and was told that as part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) research into ‘Career Pathways in a Rapidly Changing World’ Rodel Foundation researchers visited Aberdeenshire in June 2023. 

The FA learning they observed was acknowledged as an example of leading international practice, with regards to the future development of secondary education career pathways.

Foundation Apprenticeships are a recognised academic qualification and are likely to have a significant impact on school attainment. Aberdeen University’s Medical School is now recognising a Pass in Foundation Apprenticeship Health & Social Care as the equivalent to a grade A in a science Higher, for instance maths, biology, physics. 

Aberdeenshire Community Learning and Development (Partnership) Progress Visit Report - January 2024
The committee considered the progress visit report - a short inspections of Community Learning and Development Partnerships that His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education carry out with all local authorities. The focus is on how well Community Learning and Development Partnerships are progressing the work of their three-year plans.

Some of the key areas highlighted include the positive impact of the move to six Local Learning Community Partnerships, reducing the number of meetings partners are attending thus avoiding delivery duplication. Partners are working well together at a local level to identify needs and plan provision and are positive about the recent structural changes.

The report also noted that the Community Learning and Development Service and partners are proactive in their use of data and local information to prioritise delivery. There is clear evidence of identified needs being met and strategies put in place to address them. Examples include The Men’s Shed in Aberchirder and targeted support to young people at risk of leaving school without a qualification.

Draft Aberdeenshire British Sign Language (BSL) Plan 2024-30
The committee considered the draft Aberdeenshire British Sign Language Plan. The final plan will be presented to Business Services Committee on April 18 for approval.

Scrutiny Referral from Audit Committee Meeting 15 February 2024 (Internal Audit Report 2407)
The Audit Committee identified a matter of service delivery for improvement, requesting the Education and Children’s Services Committee to address the two recommendations within the Internal Audit Report relating to Unallocated Funds and IR35 Compliance.

The Committee agreed that the Head of Education and Children’s Services will report to Committee with the Stage 1 Report on May 30 and will report to Audit Committee on April 17 with the Committee’s decision.

Policy Register Annual Review
The report detailed the composition of policies that are delegated to the committee. There are 10 policies, nine of which are not due to be reviewed in this year, and the kinship policy is set for later this year.