|4||The Chairman welcomed all participants and members of the public to the meeting.|
He explained the purpose of the meeting was to deal with a call-in request relating to a decision made by Cllr K Meeson, Cabinet Member for Education, Children and Young People on 10th December 2008 in respect of Alcott Hall and Coleshill Heath Primary Schools.
The Chairman also explained, for the benefit of participants and members of the public, the Council's Executive/ Scrutiny functions and how they complement each other in policy and decision making.
He reminded the Committee that its role was to consider whether, in the context of the grounds contained in the Call-In Notice, all relevant factors were taken into account by the Cabinet Member in reaching his decision and that the decision was a reasonable one, in the circumstances.
The Chairman read out the decision that had been called-in, which was:
The Cabinet Portoflio Holder for Education, Children and Young People:
i)Approved that Officers commence the representation stage of the statutory process for the combination of Alcott Hall and Coleshill Heath Primary Schools through the closure of Alcott Hall Primary School from September 2010;
ii)Approved that Officers continue to work closely with the Governing Body of the two schools as we move forward with the proposal; and
iii)Approved the changes to primary school catchment areas for September 2010 subject to the approval of the school reorganisation proposals by Cabinet in Spring 2009.
The Chairman read out the list of documents that had been supplied with the agenda.
The Chairman then called upon the signatories to the Call-In Notice to address the Committee. Cllr Cornock and Cllr Nash had submitted their apologies as they were unable to attend the meeting.
Cllr Craig addressed the Committee in relation to Ground 1 of the Call-in Notice and explained that he felt that the report submitted to Cabinet Member incorrectly represented the consultation responses. Cllr Craig drew Members' attention to paragraph 1.4.4 of the Report to Cabinet Member and the statement that "there is support for the proposal to combine the schools for 2010". He explained that the consultation responses expressed concerns about pupils being in temporary accommodation for up to five years, and he had noted some fifty responses listing this.
Cllr Craig explained that in relation to Ground 2 of the Call-in Notice that it was his recollection that the Council's policy was that the sale of land from school combinations would be used to fund the school building programme, and not any savings made from the combinations.
The Chairman then invited the Cabinet Member to respond to the grounds of the Call-in Notice and any other comments made by the signatories.
Cllr Meeson addressed the specific grounds of the Call-in:
Ground 1 - In relation to the assertion that incorrect information was contained in the report to Cabinet Member, Cllr Meeson explained that the paragraph highlighted by the Call-in Signatory was one small section of the whole report that clearly emphasised that the transitional arrangements were of concern to parents. He explained that it was made clear from the paperwork and at the decision making session that the community would prefer to wait until the new building was available, however finance was needed for the new school building. Cllr Meeson referred Members to the report from the Governing Body attached to the report as Appendix A1, which stated that the Governing Body objected to the proposal, and rejected to the combination of the schools in 2009. Cllr Meeson explained that he had previously made decisions to bring the two schools together, and he had modified the decision to take into account the views and wishes of the Governing Body that the schools should not combine in 2009. Cllr Meeson explained that he had taken into account the clear view from the Alcott Hall community that they were not supportive of the proposal.
Ground 2 - In relation to the claim that Council policy was that the sale of land, and not savings from school combinations would be used to fund the school building programme, Cllr Meeson explained that the Council policy was set in 2005-6, and there were a number of reports to and decisions made by Cabinet, and Cabinet Member for Education, Children and Young People regarding this. He referred Members to a number of these reports, which outlined that revenue savings from each school merger would contribute to the Council's 20% towards the cost of the School Building Programme. Cllr Meeson reiterated that this policy had been in place for three years, and was endorsed by the then Group Leaders.
The Cabinet Member then answered questions from the Committee, as follows: -
He confirmed that account had been taken of the delayed timescales of the School Building Programme and commented that it is not known how the current economic situation will impact upon the building programme. Cllr Meeson explained that his decision was that it was better to bring the schools together pending the building programme so that all pupils could transfer into the new building together as soon as it is ready;
He reiterated that at this stage it is not possible to be specific about the timescales for the new building;
He commented that with the existing number of pupils, they could all be accommodated with the addition of two temporary classrooms, but the proposal is for five additional temporary classrooms to meet the requests to continue to provide smaller group teaching
The Chairman invited Mr Graham Saward, Chairman of the Federated Governing Body of Alcott Hall and Coleshill Heath to address the committee. He explained to Members that since the Cabinet Decision making session there had been email correspondence challenging whether Mr Andy Ball, who addressed Cabinet Member at the decision making session, had been speaking on behalf of the Governing Body. Mr Saward confirmed that Mr Andy Ball had been representing the Governing Body at Cabinet Member's decision making session and had the full support of the Governing Body.
The Chairman invited Mr David Dunkley, Executive Head Teacher of Alcott Hall and Coleshill Heath Schools, to address the committee. He explained that the Federated Governing Body had been working hard to bring the two schools together and had been meeting weekly through a Task and Finish Group to consider the practicalities of the combination of the two schools. He explained that there is confusion because people have felt that they have been left out of the consultation process. He reiterated that the summary sheet attached to the report to Cabinet Member as Appendix A1 was a clear summary of the Governing Body's views.
The Chairman then invited Mr Any Ball, a parent and community member, to address the committee. He explained that he felt that parents had not been given the full facts during the consultation process and there had been no reference to the fact that savings from the combinations of schools would go into a general pot of money for the school building programme. He explained that he felt it was important that parents had all the facts before they were asked to express their views through the consultation process. He also explained that he felt that the report of the Acting Corporate Director of Education and Children's Services does not make reference to the Governing Body decision and the negative feeling towards the combination of the schools. He commented that there were only 83 responses to the consultation packs, but the drop-in sessions were well-attended but it wasn't clear how these views were captured. He explained that parents were disillusioned and felt that the combination of the schools was a done deal.
Cllr Meeson clarified that at his decision making session, it had been clear that Mr Andy Ball was speaking on behalf of the Governing Body, and his comments were taken into account. He explained that it was only after the decision making session that a query arose about whether his views were representing the Governing Body.
In relation to the consultation process Cllr Meeson explained that 2,200 consultation packs were sent out but only 83 had been returned, but the Council did arrange public consultation meetings and produced a frequently asked questions document in response to the questions that arose through the consultation meetings. He said that the Council had done its best to consult on the proposals.
The Committee asked for clarification of the Governing Body position and it was clarified that the Governing Body rejects the proposal for the combination of the schools through the use of temporary classroom facilities before the new building is available.
The Committee then debated the specific grounds of the call-in. In relation to ground 1, whilst some Members felt that there had not been enough information given to Cabinet Member about the views of parents, the majority view (5 votes to 2) was that the Cabinet Member had been given correct information reflecting the range of views captured through the consultation process, and the Governing Body position had been made clear and was taken into account by Cabinet Member.
In relation to ground 2, the unanimous view was that it was clearly stated financial policy of the Council that savings from the combinations of schools would go towards the Council's 20% contribution to the school building programme.