Cyflwynwyd gan:Cyng. / Cllr Gareth Thomas
i. To implement a teacher and assistant staffing structure pilot, increasing the teacher : pupil ratio at one Language Centre for a year, and to monitor it closely to identify whether it affects the quality of the education and the children's attainment.
ii. To remove the TLR allowance for teachers at every Language Centre, and incorporate the after-care as part of the core Language Centres provision, thus abolishing the existing after-care post.
iii. To enable more time to consider the pilot findings, to approve funding to bridge the gap that will continue to exist after implementing ii above until the findings of the pilot are known.
The item was submitted by Cllr GarethThomas
i. Implement a teacher and assistant staffing structure pilot, increasing the teacher : pupil ratio at one Language Centre for a year, and to monitor it closely to identify whether it affects the quality of the education and the children's attainment.
ii. Remove the TLR allowance for teachers at every Language Centre, and incorporate the after-care as part of the core Language Centres provision, thus abolishing the existing after-care post.
iii. Enable more time to consider the pilot findings, to approve funding to bridge the gap that will continue to exist after implementing ii above until the findings of the pilot are known.
Submitted - the report noting there would be a need to decide how the Council would address the need to reduce the Language Centres' budget by £96,000. Attention was drawn to the fact that the language centres were achieving outstanding work.
It was added that an internal consultation had been held with staff, unions and at various Council meetings. The background of the Language Centres was explained noting that they had been funded by a grant from the Welsh Language Board, with the Council providing match funding. It was expressed that when the Welsh Language Board had been abolished, the Welsh Government's Welsh in Education Grant had gone on to fund the Centres. It was added that Welsh Government had brought 11 of the education grants together under the heading of the Education Improvement Grant (EIG) and this included the Welsh in Education Grant. It was expressed that the Education Improvement Grant had been cut every year since 2014/15, and by taking inflation into account, the cut was 34% in real terms, but it was added that over the years, the Language Centres had received full protection throughout all of these cuts. It was expressed that in 2018/19 that a cut of 10% had been made to the Welsh Government's Education Improvement Grant, leading to a £61,000 deficit in the Welsh Language Centres' budgets. It was noted that the Council had been able to bridge this deficit for this year.
Attention was drawn to the Foundation Phase which had seen a reduction of 32% since 2014/15 which equated to £1.2 million or approximately 70 classroom assistants. It was expressed that the work of immersing Foundation Phase children in the Welsh language was outstanding. It was expressed that the Welsh Government's settlement for this year was neutral, however it was a cut in real terms given inflation in salaries and pensions. Consequently, it was noted that the reorganisation was needed in order to be cost efficient.
It was expressed that an internal consultation had been carried out, in line with Human Resources guidelines. A list of organisations and individuals the Cabinet Member and the Education Department had received correspondence from in relation to the Language Centres was noted, namely Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, Cylch yr Iaith, Popeth Cymraeg, CYDAG, RhAG, Town and Community Councils, Merched y Wawr branches, along with a vast number of individuals. Attention was drawn to three areas of concern that had arisen in this correspondence, namely objecting to the change, changing demography and the quality of the education (in the event of changing the structure).
The Head of Education and the Education Corporate Services Officer noted the current situation noting the staffing structure for the five Welsh Language Centres across the county, namely 4 primary centres and one secondary centre and drawing attention to the number of pupils attending the centres. They expanded upon the consultation process and emphasised that it was not a public consultation, rather an internal process of consulting with staff and unions only, because of the possibility of a change to their terms of employment. The options that were consulted upon were noted, and the department had drawn up criteria for the options.
A summary of the Unions' observations was provided noting the need for teachers to be specialists in order to ensure effective language immersion, to be able to plan lively, carefully structured lessons and the need to lead the centres in each other's absence. In addition, the Union had asked for clarity on some points in the context of the restructuring, suggesting the need to trial the teacher : assistant ratio for 16 children first, before making any decisions. It was expressed that the Dolgellau Language Centre, which was currently staffed by a Teacher and an Assistant had submitted their observations individually noting that they had been operating on an Option 2 basis for 16 years, and with great success. It was expressed that they were full and at times they had more than full capacity and were able to deliver the requirements of the course with a Teacher and an Assistant.
Attention was drawn that following the consultation on the four options that a further consultation had been held following a procedure from Human Resources on the option noted below:
Option under Consideration
· Every Language Centre to remain open.
· One non-contact Leader for all Language Centres, with the ability to teach at any of the Language Centres as required.
· A staffing structure of a Teacher and Level 4 Assistant at every Language Centre.
· After-care provision to become a part of the core provision of every Language Centre.
A summary was provided of the observations made by the unions on behalf of the Language Centre staff on the option in question noting that some educational issues included the need to consider arrangements relating to the number of children educated in a classroom. The Unions' observations regarding the role and responsibilities of the teacher and the management of the centres were provided, including a consideration of TLR responsibility payments. Additionally, there was the need to consider the possible challenges regarding the role of the Leader in being responsible for the primary and secondary provision and any differences between the two curriculums was noted.
It was expressed that discussions had been held at the Welsh Language Committee, the Education and Economy Scrutiny Committee and at the Full Council and the main concerns were noted including concern about losing specialist teachers; the impact of increasing the teacher : pupil ratio on the quality of the education and children's attainment; along with the lack of evidence to show that the changes consulted upon would not have a negative impact on the provision. It was emphasised there were three proposals that would address the concerns:
I. It would be possible to maintain the current staffing situation and address some of the deficit by changing the staff's terms of employment, i.e. remove the teachers’ TLR, remove the leadership tier in relation to terms of employment at every Language Centre, and incorporate the after-care as a part of the core provision of the Language Centres, thus abolishing the existing after-care post.
II. A pilot could be held of the staffing structure of a teacher and assistant, increasing the teacher : pupil ratio at one Language Centre only for a period, and for it to be closely monitored.
III. Implement any of the options consulted upon and meet the financial deficit in full.
It was noted that options I and II would not meet the budget shortfall in full, and there would be a need to find the shortfall every year if option I was chosen. In relation to option II it was noted that bridging funding would be required.
Observations arising from the discussion
- It was asked how the Teacher : Pupil Language Centres’ ratio compared with the ratio in schools. It was expressed that following the Grant cuts the ratio was higher in schools, and it was noted that Estyn had noted that Gwynedd schools were maintaining standards of education despite the higher ratio.
- It was emphasised that Gwynedd Council had to make the decision to cut the grant to the Welsh Language Centre but it was the Welsh Government that was cutting grants. It was expressed that these cuts made the Councillors question whether the Government was serious about its target of a million Welsh speakers. It was added that there was a need to press on the Education Minister and the Welsh Language Minister to end cuts to school grants. It was expressed that the Department and the Cabinet Member had been lobbying and holding regular conversations with the Ministers but that so far there was no mention of any more money being available. It was reiterated that it was heart-breaking that the Government was offering additional money with one hand and then cutting grants with the other.
- It was emphasised that the Cabinet was not prepared to support any option that enabled any of the Language Centres to be closed, noting, that they did not want the level of quality to fall either.
- After-care was discussed noting that the after-care work varied from Primary to Secondary. It was expressed in relation to Secondary that after-care work was part of the Centre's core provision. It was reiterated that concerns had been raised about the lack of after-care contact with pupils within the Primary Centres.
- The new Language Centre in Bangor was discussed noting that money had been approved for a capital bid to build a new Centre, however there was no revenue funding available to fund it in future. It was added that the application for a new centre emphasising the Council's commitment to the Language Centres.
- It was asked why the department had not reviewed the provision sooner. It was expressed that the main reason was success in terms of standards and that children were fluent but it was noted that it had become apparent that it would have been sensible for the department to consider the Language Centres over the years.
- It was asked why teachers of the Language Centres received a TRL allowance in addition to their salaries, and it was explained that this was because it was a historical addition and there was possibly a need to look into the matter further.
- A discussion was held on Option II asking how the department would monitor the impact. It was noted that there was a need to monitor the Centres as schools and they would be discussed at the Cabinet's performance monitoring meetings which would be discussed at the Cabinet. It was added that there was no specific performance monitoring procedure in place at present.
- Option III was discussed expressing the need to disregard it although this was the only option that met the financial deficit. It was expressed that it was not wise to change the Teacher : Pupil ratio without first holding a pilot scheme.
- It was asked that if it were decided to go for a pilot scheme, how much money would be needed to bridge the financial gap. It was expressed that it would be possible for the Council to find the money to bridge the temporary gap but there would be a need to be explicit on what the structure would be.
- It was expressed that it would be possible to use some elements of option I to specifically abolish the after-care post and to incorporate the function in the core provision of the Language Centres and to abolish TLR allowance for every Teacher. It was anticipated that this would be a saving of approximately £45,000 a year.
- A discussion was held on combining some elements of Option I and II, noting that if a pilot scheme were needed there would be a need to measure it for a year and then assess the teacher : pupil ratio and whether it would have any impact on the quality of the education and the children's attainment.
Awdur:Garem Jackson/ Debbie A W Jones