Agenda and draft minutes

Education Consultative Committee - Thursday 9 February 2023 2.00 p.m.

Venue: Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham. S60 2TH

Contact: Samantha Mullarkey, Governance Unit  01709 822054 or 01709 822062

No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting held on 13th October, 2022


Consideration was given to the minutes of the previous meeting held on 13th October, 2022.


It was noted that since the last meeting Dean Fenton, Head of Access to Education, had since retired and the Committee wished to pass on their best wishes for a long and happy retirement.


Agreed:-  That the minutes be approved as a correct record.


Matters arising from the previous minutes held on 13th October, 2022


With regards to Minute No. 12 (Free School at Dinnington) an update was provided on the action being taken on staff welfare concerns, previously raised by Trades Unions following the site visit and liaison with staff.


A number of options were being considered as private staff space and orders being placed for reconfiguring certain areas.  The challenges facing recruitment were also acknowledged.


A further discussion would take place with the management of the Elements Academy for confirmation of action taken and this would be fed back formally to this Committee.


Further to Minute No. 13 (Free Schools, Trusts and Academies) there had been further dialogue, including with the DfE, in terms of the inaccurate processes being followed for the transfer/merger process of two large Multi-Academy Trusts and the speed in which they had been set up.


Discussion ensued on the areas covered by the two Trusts and the challenges being faced with having to sort out the problems with the merger.  Trades Unions were a little more comfortable having direct access to the Heads of respective schools to address any further difficulties.


With regards to Minute 16 (SEND Sufficiency Phase 4 Update) apologies were offered for a written update not being provided.  However, it was confirmed that five of the SEND Resource Bases were in the process of being delivered.  A further update report would be submitted to the Cabinet in April, 2023 incorporating the current Safety Valve arrangements.


The 100 additional SEND places would also address a range of need and positively contribute to the mainstream offer.


Further information was also provided on the Post 19 transition process for SEND pupils and it was now noted that Thomas Rotherham College would support 25 placements when initially this had not been approved by the DfE.  The majority of the other further education SEND places via RNN. 


Rotherham was applauded for changing national policy for Post 19 education and the excellent progress being made in the SEND improvement journey with ongoing dialogue continuing.


The Committee took note of the lengthy discussions involving matters that had considered at the previous meeting.  It was, therefore, suggested that SEND Sufficiency be included as a Standing Item on the agenda so updates could be received in a timely fashion.


It was also agreed that as part of the agenda planning process Committee Members be asked if they wished to submit any items for consideration for the forthcoming meeting’s agenda.


Further to actions arising from each meeting and if these had been addressed, it was suggested that an Action Log be circulated from each meeting and this include an update as to action taken.  This Action Log would then be included on the agenda for information only.


Violence to Staff Statistics


Consideration was given to the Violence to Staff Statistics circulated with the agenda papers.


The Committee would have found it helpful if when there were trends if the relevant schools could be identified or if schools could be grouped together.  Whilst reporting of incidents had improved it still was not clear that if several reported incidents on the same day were relative to one incident or if there were in actual fact several separate incidents. It was also noted that vandalism of school property was on the increase.


Service representatives would investigate further if there were any GDPR restrictions with identifying schools as this data was not that of the Local Authority.


Agreed:-  That the report be received and the contents noted.


(2)  That service representatives investigate if there were any GDPR restrictions with identifying schools.


Term Dates 2024/25


Consideration was given to the calendar submissions for the 2024/25 academic year for community and voluntary controlled primary, secondary and special schools, which had been circulated to schools as part of the consultation for the 2024/25 academic year.


The outcome responses and feedback on the two options for a traditional or fixed calendar were outlined.  The options for consideration had been circulated to all schools, Trades Unions and Parish Councils. 


Barnsley, having opted for a traditional calendar were now considering a revision to align to their direct neighbouring authority in Wakefield.   Doncaster and Sheffield had moved to a fixed calendar and were, therefore, aligned.


Rotherham had fixed its calendar this year and the final decision on the school term dates for 2024/25 lay with this Committee.


There were strong representations for both calendars, but with Barnsley opting for a traditional calendar this was presenting further challenges across the region.


Rotherham was an importer of staff and, therefore, there were many merits in aligning the school term dates across South Yorkshire would help parents, especially those who lived or worked in neighbouring areas.


The Committee, in deliberating the advantages and disadvantages of both fixed and traditional calendars, believed it appropriate to have a more South Yorkshire wide alignment and opted for a fixed calendar for the 2024/25 academic year.


Agreed:-  That the calendar for the 2024/25 academic year for community and voluntary controlled primary, secondary and special schools be fixed.


School Organisation (and Expansion) - Update


Consideration was given to the latest position on school organisation and expansions where it was confirmed that reports were also in the process of being submitted to the Cabinet on the update numbers for Section 106 Agreements and contributions to schools and also on the formal closure of the Rowan Centre.  The Asset Management Board would then consider various options for the future and best use of the Rowan Centre building.


Agreed:- That the update be received and the contents noted.


Free Schools, Trusts and Academies - Update


Consideration was given to the latest position for Academy Conversions as at October, 2022.


It was noted that the conversion for West Melton Junior and Infant School took place in January, 2023 and the Academy had since changed its name to Highfield Farm Primary School.


The Willows had now also joined the Nexus Multi-Academy Trust.


In terms of Newman School discussion and work remained ongoing in light of the various challenges and complexities involved. Information had been shared with the DfE, with whom the Local Authority had a good working relationship, but not shared wider.  Further information would be provided in due course.


Building work was on track with a projected completion date of late June/July.  Additional capital funding had been required to address the mandate of delivery in light of Historic England’s involvement whilst linking with SEND Sufficiency Phase 4.


Newman School was highly valued by parents whose pupils attended and in the investment of its staff, which was its real strength.


With regards to Bramley Grange Primary School, an independent standalone Academy for The Grange Trust, they were receiving support from the White Woods Primary Academy Trust following their need for improvement.


Milton School at Swinton was being supported by the DfE along with wraparound support from the Local Authority.  The Advisory Board were due to meet later this month and give due diligence to Milton School’s progress to join a large Multi-Academy Trust.


Agreed:-  (1)  That the update be received and the contents noted.


(2)  That an update be provided on progress with Newman School at the next meeting.


Industrial Action - Verbal Update


Consideration was given to the latest position with regards to the industrial action that had taken place and on future proposals.


The normal timetable would be delivered wherever possible alongside normal daily duties.


It was important to ensure that the flow of information continued and that definitions and expectations were clear.  The DfE had indicated that children of key workers would continue to receive their education, but it was unclear as to how this as determined.  This required further clarification from Human Resources.


Further industrial action was planned during this academic year.


Agreed:-  (1)  That the update be received and the contents noted.


(2)  That the DfE be contacted to clarity the definition of “key worker” status.


Any Other Business


There were no other items of business for discussion.


Date and time of next meeting


Agreed:-  That the next meeting of the Education Consultative Committee take place on Thursday, 22nd June, 2023 at 2.00 p.m. at the Town Hall.