Venue: Committee Room 1 - Civic Centre. View directions
Contact: Neil Barnett Scrutiny Adviser
Declarations of Interest
- Tracy McKim – Head of People, Policy and Transformation
- Rhys Cornwall – Strategic Director – Transformation and Corporate Centre
- Lyndon Watkins – Managing Director of Newport Norse
- Mark McSweeney – Director – Professional and Contract Services – Newport Norse
- Councillor Laura Lacey – Cabinet Member for Infrastructure
The Head of People, Policy and Transformation introduced the committee to the Newport Norse representatives. The Managing Director of Newport Norse provided an overview through a presentation of the joint venture plan and covered the turnover, profit sharing and covered the main points of the report such as performance monitoring and the meeting arrangements in place for review and discussions with the authority and schools in particular. The Partner advised the Committee of the pipeline of work planned with the council for the next 2-3 years but assured Members they are aware of the areas they could improve on and that they will be working harder with the council with austerity coming shortly. The Members were informed of the office based in Cleppa Park and were offered an open invitation to visit the team to see what they do.
Committee raised the following points:
- A Member felt pleased to see that the partners are working with the schools to encourage young individuals for apprenticeships. In relation to value for money, as it is important for customer satisfaction. A number of head teachers seem to hold negative opinions on the efficiency of Norse and asked the partners for their comments on that.
The Managing Director advised that over the years as with any client/provider relationship there can be tensions. The partner has evidence of those which are looked into on a case by case basis, usually out of ten, only one of those have any substance for a complaint.
The Director clarified that the Corporate Landlord Policy is the council’s policy, and that Newport Norse are the agent for the policy. The partner highlighted there are occasions where structures have been built not in accordance with respective regulation in which Norse would have to do something about it to make it safe, and appreciated that some schools may complain. It was stressed that particular buildings such as schools should be safe from a health and safety compliance view.
It was noted the partners encourage all schools to go through in terms of the education liaison groups so they can sit down and discuss with the schools – when schools get quotes for certain things it may be they are looking at different materials such as timber instead of steel, for instance. The Partner admitted generally that some suppliers may be cheaper but not by a lot and felt it was important to mention they pay their employers the living wage.
The Head of People, Policy and Transformation highlighted that it is important to acknowledge how things can be perceived from the client side such as corporate landlord policy, and it’s important for schools know what Norse is, ... view the full minutes text for item 2.
- Geraint Willington - EAS Director – Resources
- Ed Pryce – Assistant Director – Policy/Strategy
- Marc Belli – EAS Principal School Improvement Partner
- Sarah Davies – Deputy Chief Education Officer
- Sarah Morgan – Chief Education Officer, Newport City Council
- Deborah Davies – Cabinet Member for Education, Newport City Council
The Chief Education Officer introduced the Committee to the Partners and introduced the report. The Education Achievement Service (EAS) Director for Resources presented an overview and presentation of the Value for Money Report 2021-2022 and drew the Committee’s attention to the main points and invited the Committee to ask any questions they felt were relevant. It was highlighted that 5 authorities own the company and that the report is focused on the S2S (School 2 School) approach.
Members asked the following:
- A Member referred to the economy and efficiency part mentioning the 96% going to schools and asked if there is any obligation on schools to use it for improvement.
The EAS Director for Resources responded that two grants come in – the Regional School Improvement of DPP Grants and lots of sub-grants within those grants, then there is an expectation within those to be fulfilled.
EAS have been more flexible with schools, given them the money to decide what to do, the school would show us what they wish to use it and demonstrate how, which is then signed off by the panel following review. The Chief Education Officer mentioned that EAS also have a Head teacher Strategy Group which worked well for the minimum requirements and advised that the model is sensible.
- A Member highlighted the finance side, mentioned the strain from staffing levels and the cost of living crisis; despite they may have efficient funding at the moment, the Member asked if the partners could see that changing.
The Director for Resources recognised that it will be challenging moving forward with the funding from the grants and Welsh Government.
The Chief Education Officer explained that the model works on 50% grants and that is dependent on what the Welsh Government. The other 50% is from Newport City Council. It depends if they can afford EAS on annual value but assured the Committee it is excellent value for money. It was mentioned that other regional services have gone up in price but with EAS that has not happened. The contributions with Local Authorities have decreased but EAS has allowed them to retain a good service to see efficiency.
- A Member noted he found the report quite hard to read as a newly elected Councillor with the range of unfamiliar terms and phrases. The Member asked for the Partners to confirm what they would like from the discussion and asked what the local schools receive from EAS on a monthly basis.
The Principal School Improvement Partner gave an example of where a local Newport school partnered up with a school in Cardiff, both schools had similar socio-economic challenges. The children in ... view the full minutes text for item 3.