Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Additional Support Needs (ASN) - Guidance - Know Your Rights

At the last meeting of Fife Council I asked the Administration what percentage of young people in Fife schools are recognised as having an Additional Support Need (ASN). The response I was given -  it is just over a quarter - 29%. 

Following attending a policy conference last month on ASN provision in Scottish schools and listening a variety of speakers - some from education, others with personal experience it once again became clear to me that there is a disparity of provision, a disparity of understanding and a disparity of how information is provided to key stakeholders - parents and pupils. 

With this in mind and my own experience as having been an ASN teacher prior to being elected, I decided that further to my initial question what needed to be asked was how to ensure that information on access to certain services is made widely available - available to all. This also draw on personal experience, I have had constituents contact me concerned that policies in place in their child's school do not always reflect, what they perceive, to be the support that is required. Support can, and is sporadic, and does not always include all services - or it does for a period of time and then one or the other drops out of the approach. 

A document known as a Co-ordindated Support Plan (CSP) can be put in place to ensure that adequate input from all services (a multi-agency approach) is available to any young person who is considered to have an ASN. What is key to this document is, it is a legal document. 

Whilst some support needs are lifelong, others are not. An ASN could be the requirement for extra support to non-native speakers of English or it could be for a lifelong condition, such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder - in either case, what is essential is that young people and their parents know their rights and what they can access for support. 

Amendments to the Additional Support for Learning Act have provided young people from the age of 12 with a range of rights - including requesting a specific assessment to establish if a CSP is required - below is a list of some of these rights. 

My request is that both Fife Direct and individual school websites publish this information. Access to services should not be confusing and opaque. 2018 is Year of Young People so lets ensure the young people themselves are fully aware of their rights. 

Children's Rights

·      ask the education authority to establish whether a child or young person has additional support needs
·      request a specific type of assessment or examination (or both) at any time, including when the education authority proposes to formally identify whether a child or young person has additional support needs, or requires a coordinated support plan(a “CSP”)
·      receive information or advice about a child or young person’s additional support needs
·      ask the education authority responsible for their or their child’s education to find out whether they or their child requires a coordinated support plan, and to review an existing plan
·      request a specific type of assessment and/or examination to find out whether they or their child require a coordinated support plan
·      express their views and have them taken into account and noted in the child or young person’s coordinated support plan
·      have their case heard by an Additional Support Needs Tribunal if they are involved in a dispute relating to a coordinated support plan.
·      make a placing request to a special school if they or their child has additional support needs*
·      appeal against the education authority’s decision to refuse their placing request. The appeal would either go to an education appeal committee or to an Additional Support Needs Tribunal depending on the situation
·      agree that information can be shared about them with other agencies to support transition planning
·      use free independent mediation services*
·      request independent adjudication
·      apply to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal (called 'making a reference') for decisions about a CSP and certain other issues. In particular, a parent or young person may make a reference about the decisions of an education authority:
o   to prepare or not prepare a CSP;
o   to continue or discontinue a CSP;
o   regarding the timescales for the CSP;
o   not to comply with a request to establish whether a child or young person needs a CSP;

o   to refuse a placing request where a CSP exists, or is required but has not yet been prepared, or if an appeal against a refusal of a placing request has not yet been considered.



Monday, 14 May 2018

Food Waste Bags Distribution

Food Waste Bags Distribution - This is a note from Fife Council on behalf of Fife Resource Solutions. I will add the details also to a separate page here on the Blog for easy access. Please note this began last week (7/5/18).

On behalf of Fife Council, Fife Resource Solutions (FRS) previously delivered 3 rolls of food waste bags every 12 months for all households with a brown bin collection service. 


Survey data from 2016 shows that over 25% of householders do not use food waste bags. In addition, the survey shows that a further 10% of households use less food waste bags than that provided by FRS. Therefore, the current method for distribution is both inefficient and ineffective. 


The Fife Resource Solutions Business Plan (2018-19) outlined a saving of £120,000 by stopping the direct delivery of bags to householders and providing them instead from Recycling Centres. 



Recycling Centre Distribution 

From 7th May food waste bags will be available from Recycling Centres in Fife. A self-service container is available at each Recycling Centre. Householders are asked to take up to 3 rolls of bags every 12 months. 


Customer Service Centres Trial 
Also, as a trial, food waste bags will also be available free of charge to householders at Kirkcaldy CSC (Townhouse) from 7th May (for 6 months). Householders can collect up to 3 rolls of bags per visit. Kirkcaldy was chosen as a trial as it was the first area to receive bags last year, and therefore where households are most likely to need a new supply. If successful, then this service could be rolled out to other Customer Service Centres. 


Posted food waste bags 
Food waste bags will be posted to householders if householders were missed during delivery of food waste bags last year (April 2017 - March 2018). Householders should call the Recycling Helpline on 03451 55 00 22. 


Other options 
Householders can continue to: 
* Use newspaper to wrap your food waste 
* Put food into the brown bin loose, especially dry foods such as bread 
* Buy food waste bags from other sources provided they carry the compostable symbol shown. This will make sure that the bags will compost in our Anaerobic Digestion Plant and create compost. This includes Leisure Centres in Fife and ONFife libraries (£1.30/roll) – site list at www.fifedirect.org.uk/foodwaste





Friday, 4 May 2018

Partnership Nurseries - Additional Hours 2020

Fife has 32 partnership nurseries - these are private nurseries, that as their name suggests, are in partnership with the Council.

Increased hours provision by 2020 - a policy decision of the SNP Government in Holyrood has to be enacted by local authorities. There will be an almost doubling of funded hours - from 600 to 1,140 for all 3 & 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds. Unfortunately, as with many policy initiatives these are very top-down focussed. Local authorities are in the position whereby - decisions are made at Holyrood to be rolled out nationally and Councils have to enact the policy - often with little time, detail or, what appears to be, sufficient funding. 

Yesterday at the full Council meeting I asked the question of the SNP-Labour Administration:

"There are 32 partnership nurseries in Fife, what percentage of the increased hours provision does the Administration envisage will be provided by these nurseries?"

The response I was given was - 16%. Given that there is expected to be around 8,800 children who will be in recipient of the funded entitlement (Education & Children's Services Committee - August 2017) - the role of partnership nurseries is going to be of significance in providing this service. 

Figures provided by the Council in response to a request I made for further detail are as below:

3-4 year olds:
Fife Council - 79%
Playgroups/Private Nurseries - 16%
Childminders - 5%

2 year olds:
Fife Council - 78%
Childminders - 21%

Looking at the numbers it is clear that partnership nurseries are very much part of the Council's strategic planning for the additional hours. This led me to my supplementary question:

"By 2020 with the new service model this will include, partnership nurseries to "include paying the Living Wage". Those partnership providers I have spoken to have stated that their pay rates are in the most part in line with the Minimum Wage - which for over 25s is £7.83 as opposed to £8.75 for the Living Wage.

Given that under a Freedom Of Information request I made, it seems that of 202 place offered on the HNC Childhood Practice just over 60% of places have been filled - likely leading to an increased demand put on partnership providers to cover the additional hours. The question is - Will it be Fife Council or the Scottish Government who will make up this shortfall in wages to essential partnership providers?

If you note the second part of supplementary question - the Freedom of Information (FOI) request - this is where it become interesting. Since the Education & Children's Services Committee was presented with the information on the move towards a 1,140 hrs early years model the question I have asked, one more than one occasion, is - are we going to be able to deliver this? Increased accommodation and staff will be absolutely essential to its success.

Workforce planning and development is key to this. The Council notes:

The Scottish Government have completed some preparatory work regarding providing a competent workforce for 2020. It is estimated that in Fife Council we would need a further 400-500 Early Years Officers to deliver the additional capacity required. We expect all EYO staff to be qualified to HNC or SVQIII level in an appropriate qualification. There is currently a major shortage of suitably qualified staff to fulfil our additional requirements. 

An estimated 400-500 Early Years Officers (EYO) will be required to deliver this additional capacity. That is a huge increase in the workforce and in a very short period of time. I decided to submit a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to Fife College to discover how their workforce planning on the HNC Childhood Practice - which will lead to becoming an EYO. The table below illustrates where the College is now in the first round:

Campus
Description
Original Target 
Enrolment
 
Current
St Brycedale
Grp A
24
19
17
St Brycedale
Grp B
24
18
12
Halbeath
(Part-time/Evening)
18
10
10
Halbeath
Grp A
24
24
17
Halbeath
Grp B
24
24
20
Halbeath
Grp C
24
24
15
Levenmouth
Grp A
20
13
12
Stenton
Grp A
22
13
10
Stenton
Grp B
22
13
10
Total
202
158
123
 

The original target was 202 places - enrolment was 158 and the current number as of 1/5/18 is 123. Meaning that just over 60% of places have been filled. Now lets take that in conjunction with additional comment by the Council:
  1. Partnership agreements with other Early Learning and Childcare settings such as private nurseries, playgroups and childminders are an essential element to allow delivery of our model 
"An essential element" - in short, for the increased hours to have any hope of functioning as required partnership providers have to be on board. Leading back to my question - "Will it be Fife Council or the Scottish Government who will make up this shortfall in wages to essential partnership providers?" 

If partnership providers are essential to success of the policy they must pay the Living Wage and given the expected HNC role being much lower in year 1 than expected - is there a guarantee on who will pay this? Needless to say I was provided with a very opaque answer that insisted the funding will be available - Fife Council though the Scottish Government and this is built in as per agreements with COSLA. That though, is a simplification. 

Audit Scotland stated that Councils expect spend on the policy to have hit £1 billion by 2021-22 but the indicative Scottish Government figure is £840 million - a significant shortfall on local authorities who already have been baring the brunt of government cuts brought about by the SNP. The Scottish Government also claims to be on track with workforce planning - given the early figures in Fife I am very skeptical of this prediction. 

The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) conducted a survey which found that 97% of the 73 surveyed have not as yet adopted the Living Wage of £8.75 - Fife Council remember, insists that part of any arrangement is payment of the Living Wage. Those surveyed stated that to adopt the Living Wage would be dependent on the Scottish Government "substantially increased funding". Until that is forthcoming and guaranteed partnership providers in Fife, and around the country, are going to have an expectation to provide some of the funded entitlement with what does not look like an absolute guarantee that the Scottish Government is going to pay up the required amount. Any shortfall cannot be burdened on already stretched local authorities. 

Additional funding and realistic workforce planning are key to the success of this policy. What is unfortunate here in Fife is that due to this SNP-Labour coalition, a vocal Labour Party is non existent. It seems to be unable to question and scrutinise this SNP Government initiative (unlike the party at Holyrood which has done quite the opposite). Opposition politicians will though continue to do so.

One final point to note is that under the FOI a telling comment read: "Fife College did receive additional funding for this course, but unfortunately was unable to recruit to these places". Surprisingly (unsurprisingly?) the Administration in Fife chose to sidestep the point I made that college places may well be there but they need to be filled - as the data shows, this is not the case.











Tuesday, 24 April 2018

School Capacity - No Room At The School

This is just a short post (I have been extremely busy this past week with numerous meetings, chasing up ongoing issues and attending a policy conference - all of which I am wanting to write about later this week) on a rather surprising and disturbing account in a local newspaper last week. The article detailed the worrying narrative of a parent who was advised her son would not get a place in a Dunfermline high school following a placing request. 

The text of the letter written by myself and Cllr David J Ross can be found below. It is worth reminding readers that there is one final statutory consultation meeting to be held on rezoning proposals - that is on 23rd May at Inverkeithing High School. If you have not attended and this affects or concerns your child I would absolutely urge you to attend the final session.

I went to the presentation at Queen Anne High School this evening, which was relatively quiet - I think due to a larger turnout at the two previous ones. Having listened to parents ask officers questions I am still left feeling as I did before. It is not so much the rezoning proposals that are the issues, there is, in my opinion, more sense in this current proposal. It is the timing - the speed, the hurried approach I have been unhappy about. 

As I have stated on previous occasions, the rapid development of Dunfermline through extensive house-building around the Eastern Expansion was not something that no-one was aware of. Previous Council Administrations and Officers have been well aware there would eventually be a capacity crisis and a need to rejig zoning - therefore, this should have been a process that was done over a gradual period of time to cause the least impact on youngsters. I have heard far too many stories this past number of months of the emotional toll this lengthy process has taken and the confusion youngsters have felt when they have continued to be unsure of where they will attend high school. 
Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) is at the centre of education and that includes not only teachers, school support staff, social work and psychologists - it also includes elected representatives. This has to be kept in mind throughout this process. 

Dear Sir

We were shocked to read that a Dunfermline parent was advised her son would not get a place at Dunfermline High School following a placing request. At last month’s Education & Children’s Services Committee our group asked the question that if those affected families by the capacity crisis at Woodmill High School put in a placing request for another Dunfermline high school would it be granted? We were told, yes.

Therefore, it is very worrying to read that a family has had their placing request knocked back due to a failure by Fife Council over the past few years to recognise that such rapid house-building was going to lead to a crisis in school place availability.

It is also deeply concerning to read that Shelagh McLean describes those who won’t be able to attend Woodmill High School as having “the opportunity to attend Inverkeithing High School”. Is it an opportunity for a young person to be separated from their peer group and sent to a different school? Is it an opportunity to be sitting in April with only two months of primary school left and not know where you are going to high school? What sort of “opportunity” is this?

10,000 new homes will be built in Dunfermline and West Fife over the next two decades and we now have one high school at capacity (Woodmill) and another (Inverkeithing) that will be at capacity in four years if the revised rezoning proposals go ahead. Currently the only assurance we have is that a report will come to Committee in the Autumn that will shed some light on funding for new schools. None of this is of course of any good to those children who still don’t know what high school they will go to in four months.

Yours

Cllr Kathleen Leslie
Cllr David J Ross
Scottish Conservative & Unionist






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