Councillors' Attendance Statistics
Agenda and minutes
Special meeting to discuss the affordability aspects of the proposed Academies at Whitton School and Hampton Community College, Children's Services and Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 10 December 2009 7:00 pm
Venue: Council Chamber, York House, Richmond Road, Twickenham.
Contact: Gary Lelliott; 020 8891 7275; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for absence were received from Esther Mirrielees, Charles Hoseason and Paul Leonard.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct, Members are requested to declare any interests orally at the start of the meeting and again immediately before consideration of the matter. Members are reminded to specify the agenda item number to which it refers and whether the interest is of a personal or prejudicial nature.
Members are also reminded of the requirements of Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 that they should declare and not vote on specified matters if they are two months or more in arrears with their Council Tax payments.
Item 4 – PROPOSED ACADEMIES AT HAMPTON AND WHITTON
Councillor Eady declared a prejudicial interest by virtue of being a Cabinet Member and left the meeting during the ‘views’ section of this item.
REPRESENTATIONS BY MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
There were no representations.
The report updates progress on the affordability and risks of the proposed academies at Hampton and Whitton.
Report of the Director of Children’s Services and Culture attached.
[The following amendment to paragraph 4.2 of appendix 3 was tabled, so it read:
“Non-teaching staff at both proposed academies who are not already members would automatically become eligible for membership of the LGPS at the point of transfer to the employment of LST, but it would be very difficult to assess the amount of contributions that the Council could be required to cover in the event of default. The DCSF’s grant to LST would cover full salary on-costs so pension contributions would be covered at all times.”]
Before this additional special meeting, the Committee received a presentation from the project manager on the affordability of the scheme and expected timescale for development of the sites.
The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education stated that the academies process was first looked at three years ago, when ways in which school standards could be raised were being sought. The Local Authority then started seeking sponsors, which resulted in Kunskapsskolan (KSS) being named as the preferred sponsor of the Hampton and Whitton sites.
The Committee was advised that Partnership for Schools (PfS) were a government funded organisation who had responsibility for securing value for money in the construction of secondary schools. They were now expanding into primary school delivery.
The Director for Children’s Services and Education confirmed that Cabinet were being asked to give conditional permission to close both schools in August, which would then allow for other details such as agreements on school admissions to be set up with the Trust.
The Head of Legal and Electoral Services indicated that Trusts were not obliged to enter into legally binding agreements.
It was noted that Richmond upon Thames currently had a good working relationship with PfS and that the final amount available for construction would be known by the time the final business case was prepared.
The Committee received details of the expected timeline for construction at both HCC and Whitton. With this, members also obtained assurances that disruption to learners on each site would be kept to a minimum while standards of teaching were maintained with additional provision provided where necessary, particularly around exam time.
The longevity of the academies programme in central government was discussed and it was noted that the government was highly unlikely to remove funding from the scheme. The Committee was also told that work would not start until funding was agreed and secured.
Committee Members were also pleased to note that good levels of money had been received for abnormal costs as well as noting that PfS were confident that the work could be delivered within budget.
The levels of risk around staff transfer was also discussed and the Committee was content that all available measures were being taken to safeguard the Council’s employees, until their contracts were transferred.
The Committee was informed that the Teddington School rebuild was costing more because this was a single project. It did not have the value brought about by the multiple projects being offered by PfS. Teddington was also a larger site. The Local Authority had also stated that they would not provide any funding and all costs would need to be met by government money.
The budgets given to PfS developments appeared to be achievable and there had been a number of projects delivered within budget.
KSS had indicated that it wanted to take over the existing caretaker’s house and nursery school, but the Local Authority had decided to retain these as they were providing other services.
It was expected that Hampton Community College would have 67% of its buildings rebuilt. It was planned to obtain the best value possible at the Hampton site and then use this when negotiating for Whitton. It was expected that agreements for Hampton and Whitton would be obtained in the third quarter or 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 respectively. The most risk to contractors was at this stage.
The Council had responsibility for commissioning work on the sites and all 12 approved contractors would be invited to view each site. Two contractors would eventually be selected to bid for the work and each one would have to meet the costs of the tendering process.
The plans that had been presented to the Committee were in the preliminary stages of design, but the provision of new and existing buildings did seem to be the correct solution for HCC. The plans also allowed an indication of how much outside space could potentially be freed up.
The methods of teaching adopted by KSS did not abandon class based learning, although there would be a greater focus on more 1:1 teaching sessions. This method of teaching was proving to be very successful in primary schools. There would also be better provision of IT equipment. Lessons would also be planned more centrally, which enabled some teachers’ time to be freed up.
The Council would be working closely with KSS to ensure that quality teaching was provided during the construction phase. An advantage of the construction phase was that some of the temporary buildings would be of a higher standard than existing ones. It was reported that the construction of the proposed Twickenham Academy would need close liaison with the project for the new health centre particularly to avoid too much traffic congestion at one time.
The Principal Designate for the proposed Twickenham Academy has previously delivered a similar project and was bringing a lot of expertise. The work at Teddington had also proved to be a useful learning experience.
The annual intake of both HCC and Whitton would be 210 and it was noted that HCC was now oversubscribed, while Whitton was as popular as the previous year.
A level of insurance against the risks was provided for by contracts, although the rest would need to be mitigated as far as possible.
The Head of Legal and Electoral Services stated that the Cabinet would receive updates on the Council’s responsibility with regard to its employees at the sites. Staff transfer was a Council risk until the transfer date and it was recommended that the Local Authority seek an indemnity from the Trust on decisions that they took in the lead up to the transfer date.
If staff members refused to transfer their contracts of employment to the new Trust, it would not have an effect legally. Staff did not have a right to transfer to other schools. Any loss of buy in to the Council’s payroll services would either mean a reduction in the services offered, or a rise in the cost of buying in.
Staff would still be eligible to pay into the Local Government Pension Scheme.
It was noted that if KSS pulled out, the DCSF would be responsible for finding a new sponsor.
The Local Authority was seeking to be a co-sponsor, which would involve a high level of partnership working. There was currently a good working relationship with both KSS and Academies Enterprise Trust (the proposed sponsor at Shene). The Director was keen to promote the partnership approach. It was reported that the list of partnership agreements was not exhaustive,
Although there was a need for written agreements, the main area of work involved building solid partnerships, so the Council was able to maintain some influence in the Academies.
A concern was raised over the level of delegation to be given by Cabinet, although it was noted that much of this would be unavoidable.
The Committee resolved unanimously that:
1. the affordability and risks of the proposed Academies be noted.