School Council Meeting

Next meeting of School Council is on Thursday 24th January at 7pm in the Staffroom. Refreshments provided. All Welcome.
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Thursday 24 January, 7pm
School Staffroom
  1. Welcome
  1. Apologies
  1. Minutes of previous meeting
  1. Matters Arising
  1. Head Teacher Report
  1. Finance Report
  1. Group Updates
    1. Management
    2. Communications
    3. Sick Children’s Hospital
    4. P.T.A.
  1. Correspondence Received
  1. A.O.B.
Minutes of Previous Meeting
Sciennes School Council
Meeting, Thursday 8 November 2012
Present: Angela Christie (Business Manager), Bruce Crawford (Chair), Lucy Gallagher (DHT), Charlotte Herthelius (Communications Group), Claire Marshall (Treasurer), Bethan McEwan (Clubs Co-ordinator), Sharon McGhee (Staff Representative), Alison Noble (HT), Alison Platts (Co-Treasurer), Kirsten Shannon, Claire Wheeler (Communications Group)
1              Welcome
BC welcomed everyone to the meeting.  He noted that AP had agreed to do the minutes but the School Council was still keen to appoint a clerk on a longer term basis.  AP would confirm if she was willing to take on the role in the meantime.
2              Minutes of last meeting and matters arising
These had been circulated in draft to those who had attended the previous meeting. 
The minutes were agreed.  One comment had been received from CH who thought the previous meeting had agreed to the proposed relocation of the Clubs within the main School Council. However, it was decided that the minutes should stand as written and that the organisational location of the clubs would be considered along with the other club related issues currently under consideration.
It was confirmed that the minutes should be circulated in draft for comment from those present at the meeting, before finalising and posting on the school website.
All matters arising would be discussed under appropriate agenda items.
3              Head Teacher report (paper circulate at meeting; attached for reference)
Staffing:  AN reported on the following:
·         SSO review:  Following conclusion of the CofE review, AN was able to confirm that Sciennes would be retaining both its janitors.  This was not the outcome in all 2 janitor schools.  The School and the janitors were delighted, and members of the School Council were also very pleased with this outcome.  The significant contribution that Neil and John made to the maintenance, upkeep and general running of the school was noted.  On the down side in relation to maintenance, AC noted that the School would no longer have its own budget and flexibility to deal with issues as they arose at a local level. Maintenance would now be dealt with through a centrally funded and managed system.  
·         DHT appointment: Lucy Gallagher had been appointed following the recent recruitment panel.  Jo Ungless had represented the School Council, and the process had been supported by the Pupil Council, with pupils meeting candidates, taking them on a tour of the school and providing views to the panel. 
·         Maternity cover:  Katherine Clark would be covering for Jennie Waters when she went off on maternity leave, with liaison and hand-over arrangements already underway.
Events/visits/visitors: AN highlighted a number of recent events and activities, drawing particular attention to the P2 Victorian Project and the P3 visit to the farm in Duns (a newly introduced and very successful outing).  She also noted the P7 Lagganlia residential – this had been a very positive experience for pupils and teachers setting the tone for the year, and she encouraged people to look at the blog.  Following on from this item, AN invited KS to speak to the meeting about her concerns about the cost to parents of excursions in general, and the P4/5 skiing, and the 2 residential trips in particular (minuted separately – see item 4 below).
Open Day (27 September) for prospective P1 families: More than 100 people had visited the school, and there had been very positive feedback from attendees.
Parking: The road outside the School now had double yellow lines, and the Police were also monitoring the parking situation, a development welcomed by the School Council.  It was thought that the new Crossing Patrol had also made a difference, reminding people of the need to drive and park responsibly near the School.
P1 enrolment:  AN was expecting an intake of 90 children but would provide an update if this situation changed.
Liaison with JGHS: Donald McDonald was keen to meet with the School Council again, and to provide updates on the decant and rebuild plans in particular.  Once arrangements were made this would be advertised to the School and to P6/7 parents in particular.
Property: The dining hall roof replacement was on target (the contractors were due to complete on 22 November), and the internal ceiling work was currently out to tender.  Painting and lighting work had taken place over the October break; School Council members commented on the improvement in the reception area in particular.
Standards and Quality Improvement Plan: The School would be inviting parents to join groups looking at various aspects of the SQIP.
Pupil Council: AN invited SM to report on Pupil Council activities.  She was working hard to raise the profile and increase the role of the PC, and was supported in this by Lindsey Dodds (P2 Teacher).  She noted that 25% of Sciennes children had stood in the recent Pupil Council elections.  Of those elected, only one had been on the Pupil Council previously.  The elections had been run very officially with polling stations, secret ballots, returning officers etc and with results announced at assembly following the election.  Current/recent issues and activities for the Pupil Council included:
·         devising a child-friendly version of the SQIP and
·         working with SMT to reassess and communicate the School’s Golden Rules
·         contributing to the recent staff recruitment process – Pupil Council reps  involved had taken their responsibilities very seriously, taking on board on board issues such as fairness and confidentiality
·         maintaining and improving good channels of communication between the Pupil Council, Pupil Council reps and classes as a whole – SM acknowledged that this needed some work and was keen to introduce suggestion boxes and to encourage class teachers to allow for Pupil Council discussion in class. 
For the future, the Pupil Council was hoping to take on the co-ordination of fundraising bake-sales, and working towards a whole school consultation in the new year, probably using an anonymous survey supplemented by discussion groups. The results would help identify issues which the Pupil Council might address further. Topics for inclusion in the survey so far included ICT and the golden credit reward system.  It was suggested that seeking views on how School Council money should be spent might be another useful topic for inclusion.
ICT: The School were continuing to work with the i-pad project, and seeing lots of benefits for the children involved.  The School recognised the wider benefits they had received from the project, and the staff involved had been happy to contribute to discussions and conference sessions and support colleagues at other schools.  The Hull University evaluation report was due shortly and was likely to attract further interest, and may also bring further benefit to the School.  Although the School would ideally like to increase its ICT/ipad resources (with some national e-procurement discounts possibly becoming available in February), the departure of the P7 1:1 class at the end of the year would provide the opportunity to assess how to make best use of the resources currently available to the School. 
4              Cost of activities and excursions
KS spoke to the meeting about her concerns about the costs of trips and activities offered by the School.  She expressed the view that the costs involved were too high for many families; she felt the school should offer one residential trip only, and should reconsider the skiing programme.  She made the following points:
·         Family budgets were already under pressure. Paying for trips meant less money was available for other family activities.
·         Families with a number of children found it particularly difficult to find the money.
·         Parents often felt obliged to allow their children to participate (because their children were very keen to do so, because they didn’t want their child to miss out/be left out/be stigmatised by not participating).
·         Many other schools only offered one residential trip
·         Other schools asked for much less money from parents for excursions over the course of the year (she cited Tollcross in particular).
·         Spreading the cost did not solve the issue as the total amount remained unchanged.
KS indicated that she was aware of other parents who shared her views and wanted the School to take account of the views of parents in reassessing the opportunities offered and the costs involved.  
There was a lengthy discussion about this issue with a range of points raised and views expressed (including some sympathy for/agreement with the points already made by KS).  Additional points made included the following:
·         The majority of children participated each year; there was a range of reasons for non-participation including cultural issues, concerns about home-sickness etc as well as financial barriers.  A small number of families chose to opt for one trip rather than the other.
·         The School already tried to ensure as many children as possible participated in the residential trips, approaching individual families to explore reasons for non-participation and offering financial support where appropriate.
·         Residential Trips were optional and the School worked hard to provide an interesting programme for those who did not attend. 
·         The School believed the residential trips to be very positive experiences for the children as individuals and for the whole year group in terms of team building.  The trips brought different benefits at different stages, and it would be very difficult to choose one trip over the other since both had equal merit for different reasons.
·         Informal feedback from parents each year about the trips was overwhelmingly positive.
·         Many children would not otherwise get the opportunities provided by the School residential.
·         The School was sensitive to the financial pressures families were under, and the issue of residential trips had been discussed several times before at School Council.
·         The School worked hard to keep the cost of trips down
·         Previous discussions had concluded that current School Council fundraising was not a viable option for increasing the subsidy for the residential trips (or providing a general across the board subsidy) because of the amount that would need to be committed to make any significant impact on the cost.  Additional fundraising by each year group was an option that could be explored (although the same issue applied about the amount of money that would need to be raised).
·         A 50% subsidy was available for families on low income – however, it was suggested that not all eligible families took advantage of this, although no firm information on this-up was available.
·         Providing the option of payment over a longer period had proved helpful to some families.
·         The option of a shorter duration residential was suggested as a way of cutting costs, but was not thought to be viable.
·         There may be grant funding available which could be used to subsidise the trips which the School could investigate.
Points raised focused largely on the residential trips.  In relation to the skiing lessons, there was some surprise expressed at the cost of the lessons offered by the School, with a view expressed that the cost did not offer much advantage over public lessons (although the cost of transport needed to be factored in). 
It was agreed that this was an important issue and that the School/School Council should:
·         investigate the views of parents on this issue (capturing the views of those whose children had and had not attended the residential would be important)
·         consider practices at other schools (re residentials offered; payment and funding options etc)
·         look at ways of helping parents spread the cost of the more expensive activities including announcing Benmore trip during P5
5              Finance
Finance report (paper circulated at meeting; attached for reference):  CM reported a healthy bank balance, and available funds of around £7000.  Funding of new gym equipment was still outstanding (anticipated to be around £1300), awaiting confirmation from the school of the equipment to be bought, and the bulk of the excursion subsidies would be paid at the beginning of the new year once the School had a clear idea of the amount involved. The wine quiz had raised over £400 and the children’s Christmas cards (a new initiative this year) would raise over £1000.  Initial feedback from parents on the Christmas cards had been positive.  The work involved for class teachers in producing the Christmas cards was acknowledged, and it was agreed it was important that they were made aware of the profit achieved.  The School/PTA would look at any scope for improving the Christmas card process for next year (eg, re timing, liaison with class teachers etc).
Bank signatures: The bank was seeking confirmation of account signatories.  These were confirmed as:
Claire Marshall, Treasurer
Alison Platts, Co-Treasurer
Bruce Crawford, Chair
Jo Ungless, Vice Chair
Janitor overtime: It was agreed that this cost would be met out of the profits of relevant events.
Independent inspection of accounts: AP reported that Simon Tiplady was currently carrying out the independent review of the accounts for 2011-12.
6              Clubs update
Integration with Active Schools programme: BM reported that the Clubs Co-ordinators had a meeting with Jonathan Wallace arranged to look at how the Active Schools and School Council sports clubs (with the exception of the parent run Football Club) might be brought together under the Active Schools banner.
Clubs review: In relation to the broader Clubs issues currently under review, a paper was being prepared and would be presented to the PTA for initial consideration.
P1/2 clubs running within the school day: Specific issues related to the running of 3pm clubs (French and recorder) for P1/2 children were raised.  Parents were coming into school to drop off/collect children and then waiting within the school, often accompanied by younger siblings, and were causing obstructions and noise disruption which was impacting on the school day for P3-7, and the running of the clubs themselves.  This practice also raised the issue of having unaccompanied adults in the School during school hours.  There was a lengthy discussion about how this might be addressed.  Options included:
·         changing the club start time to 2.50, so that children could go straight there from class without requiring parental oversight
·         club tutors/class teachers overseeing the transfer of children to/from clubs
·         requiring parents to wait outside in the playground
·         instigating a parent rota to walk the children from the playground in a group to/from clubs
As an initial step, the School/Clubs Co-ordinators would approach parents of the relevant clubs requesting that they respect the school day and wait outside or wait quietly in designated areas within the School (eg, the basement corridor, but not the library ante-room).  Other options would then be looked at if this failed to resolve the issue.
Parental input and expectations: It was agreed that, in general, it would be helpful to provide clearer and more consistent information at the start of the year relating to: requirements for parent assistance at clubs; any specific arrangements for parents dropping off/waiting for/collecting children attending clubs; transition arrangements between clubs and the start/end of the school day.
7              Group updates
AP gave a brief report on PTA activities, noting the wine quiz and Christmas card as the main activities to date.  Attention was now focusing on planning for the Christmas Fair – AP encouraged School Council members to support the event and help where they could.
The Group had meet to discuss a number of ongoing issues, and were keen to arrange a meeting of the Friends of Sciennes School Trust to discuss how current funds (including last year’s sponsor money) might be spent.  Money had already been used to buy cameras for the bike shed, and 4 bike pods for storing bikes at the back of the school, and could be used to pay for cycle trainers over the coming years.  New benches in the playground had also been bought using FSST funds. There was general support for the cycle training programme at Sciennes and a view that this should ideally be extended to younger pupils. 
Although the meeting supported the use of FSST funds for cycling and playground related initiatives, there was nevertheless a view that there needed to be greater transparency about how the FSST operated, and how it linked to the School Council.  The FSST trustees included the School Council Chair and Vice-Chair, ensuring close liaison, but it was agreed that the relationship between the organisations and they worked together needed to be properly conveyed to the Sciennes community.  It was agreed that FSST should seek views – from parents/pupils/staff – on how their funds should be spent (within their existing terms of reference). 
AC and AP would confirm the final amount raised by the sponsored swim, including the reclaimed tax which had now come through, and include a note in the flyer.
Sick Children’s Hospital
There had been a meeting with Jim Eadie MSP who was supportive of the School’s aspirations regarding acquiring additional land when the hospital relocated.  Mr Eadie had also met with the CofE Finance Convenor to discuss the issue.
Environment and sustainability
No report available – Roger was no longer a Sciennes parent, and Satish was also due to leave the School. It was agreed that the Group would not be reactivated at this point.  Any relevant issues could be considered by the School Council as a whole, and the Group could be restarted at any point in the future.
 CW reported the following Group activity:
·         Parent reps were now in place for all classes in the School, some with more than one rep.  The reps would maintain class lists and assist with communication between the School Council and the wider parent body.  Any communication to class reps would be done via the Communications Group, with the idea that this would be as co-ordinated as possible to avoid potential overload or confusion.  CW would provide a list of class reps to staff for information.
·         The Group were exploring setting up a School Council blog to help with communication and improving access to information – the wider School Council were happy to see this go ahead.
·         The Commnications Group would help promote the CofE parent/carer survey, and were then planning on running a School Council survey at the beginning of the summer term.  This would gather views on a range of issues and would help set the agenda for the work of the School Council in 2013/14.  The plan was to run an on-line survey (using Survey Monkey or similar) with the hope that this would increase the response rate and help with the analysis; ideas for topics for inclusion would be sought from the School Council/sub-groups, and the draft questionnaire would be circulated for comment.
She also gave a brief overview of the comments which had been submitted via the Comments Box; issues covered included:
·         A request for termly/yearly excursion payments on Wisepay.
·         Comments on access to musical instrument tuition, and the selection criteria used.
·         Attendance at the Christmas concert
·         Safety concerns about the traversing wall in the playground
·         The need for maintenance on the changing room doors in the swimming pool
·         School policy and practice regarding bullying
·         Comments on the viewing of DVDs in school (choice and frequency)
·         Comments on the quality of school photographs.
It was agreed that the School Council/Communications Group needed a clear process for dealing with comments submitted – ie, passing onto the appropriate person and ensuring an appropriate response was provided.  While an individual response might be appropriate in some cases, it was greed there needed to be a public record (for example on the proposed blog) of all the comments received along with a brief (summary) response.  The need to keep comments in context was also noted.  It was perhaps inevitable that the majority of comments would be negative, and it was thus important to maintain perspective in responding to comments, and to provide any relevant context regarding other feedback received. The Communications Group would consider further and agree a process for handling and responding to comments with the School Council/School. 
CW noted the need to open up School Council meetings, and it was agreed that a standing item should be added to the agenda to allow any School Council or Parent Forum member to raise a substantive issue for discussion.  This “open space” item would help ensure that the School Council was relevant to the wider parent body and that issues of current concern to parents were given proper time for debate and discussion.  A standing agenda item (as opposed to dealing with issues under AOB) would indicate the importance attached to giving all parents a direct voice. This opportunity could then be promoted to the wider Sciennes community to make sure people knew they had the option to attend and raise any issues of concern.
8              Correspondence
Two items of correspondence were reported as follows:
·         Friends of Lagganlia: Donations were being sought.  The School Council did not wish to contribute at this time.
·         Early Years consultation: Views were sought by CofE Children and Families Department on the disposal of Pilrig Child and Family Centre.
9              AOB
Two issues were raised as follows:
·         Grounds for Learning: AN reported that the School had been shortlisted for a Grounds for Learning initiative, which would bring a grant to support the development of school grounds for outdoor learning and play.  She would have more information after 30 November.
·         Parental Engagement Strategy: AN would consider this with the Communications Group.
10           Next meeting
The next meeting would be held on 24 January 2013 at 7pm.
Remaining meeting dates for the current session:
Thursday 25 April 2013, 7pm
Thursday 13 June 2013, 7pm (AGM/Parent Forum)
November 2012