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Posted by: John Brace | 16th June 2016

What were the 6 A4 pages of partially redacted minutes of a Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the name of a LGA Associate Tutor that Wirral Council disclosed voluntarily in response to a First Tier-Tribunal (General Regulatory chamber) hearing (case number EA/2016/0033) about a Freedom of Information request first made in March 2013?

What were the 6 A4 pages of partially redacted minutes of a Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the name of a LGA Associate Tutor that Wirral Council disclosed voluntarily in response to a First Tier-Tribunal (General Regulatory chamber) hearing (case number EA/2016/0033) about a Freedom of Information request first made in March 2013?

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX (the venue for First-Tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0033)

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX (the venue for First-Tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0033)

I will start by declaring an interest as I was the Appellant in case EA/2016/0033. I am also married to my McKenzie Friend in this matter Mrs Leonora Brace.


Court | Room: Tribunal Room 5, 3rd Floor, Liverpool Civil and Family Court Hearing Centre, 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 2BX

Oral Hearing
On: 16th June 2016
Time: 10.15am

First-tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber)
Case Ref: EA/2016/0033

Parties
Mr | John Brace (Appellant)
ICO (First Respondent)
Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (Second Respondent)

Before:
Mr. David Farrer QC Tribunal Judge
Mr. Michael Hake Tribunal Member
Dr Malcolm Clarke Tribunal Member

Clerk: Clare Adams


I arrived at the court building at 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool and had to empty my pockets for the security staff and pass through a metal detecting arch on the ground floor. Once we had passed through security, the case was listed on the wall on the ground floor next to the listings for Employment Tribunals cases.

We (myself and Leonora) took the lift to the third floor and checked in to the Tribunals Office there when it opened at 9.00 am.

The case was also listed on the wall on the third floor by the Tribunals Office (along with some Employment Tribunal cases). Unlike on the ground floor where the Court | Room was listed as Not Known, here it was listed at being held in Tribunal Room 5.

Surjit Tour (one of Wirral Council’s (2nd Respondent) two witnesses) arrived, Andrew Roberts (the other of Wirral Council’s (2nd Respondent) two witnesses) arrived, so did Rosemary Lyon (a solicitor for Wirral Council (2nd Respondent)) and counsel acting for Wirral Council’s, the barrister Robin Hopkins (of 11KBW).

The witnesses, barrister and solicitor involved with Wirral Council spent most of their time before the hearing started in one of the consultation rooms on the 3rd floor near the Tribunal office.

Prior to the hearing starting, Wirral Council’s barrister Robin Hopkins and myself discussed some of the matters relating to the hearing.

Having previously withheld it (relating to the minutes in item 18 Member Training Steering Group) on the rationale of personal information (section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000), he disclosed the name of Welna Bowden.

This had been withheld from minutes of the Member Training Steering Group held on the 19th March 2013 as both someone who had attended the meeting and in the sentence “The Group welcomed XXXXX XXXXXX who is an associate tutor with the LGA and will be providing an overview of the Leadership Programme for Members.”

The name of Welna Bowden was provided on a Post It note to myself (see below).

EA/2016/0033 Welna Bowden (item 18 Member Training Steering Group) Post It note

EA/2016/0033 Welna Bowden (item 18 Member Training Steering Group) Post It note

Sent to me by post before the hearing and in the open bundle at pages 117 to 122 (6 pages in total) were partial minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee held on the 28th February 2013.

Two lines at the top of page 6 (agenda item 8 – Wirral Council – Budget Issues) of the minutes of the Headteachers/Teachers Joint Consultative Committee meeting held on the were disclosed to me during the hearing itself by Wirral Council’s counsel Mr Robin Hopkins (see below).

EA/2016/0033 item 15 (Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee) Acre Lane & David Armstrong

EA/2016/0033 item 15 (Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee) Acre Lane & David Armstrong

I start with first a list of an explanation of some of the acronyms used in it.


 

ASCL – Association of School and College Leaders
AST – Advanced Skills Teacher
ATL – Association of Teachers and Lecturers
EQ – Education Quality
JCC – Joint Consultative Committee
NAHT – National Association of Headteachers
NASUWT – National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
PFI – Private Finance Initiative
PPM – Planned Preventative Maintenance
LA – Local Authority
STRB – School Teachers’ Review Body
WASH – Wirral Association of Secondary Headteachers


I have indicated where sections are blacked out and the reason given by Wirral Council. All are references to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I have also put bundle page numbers at the top left, rather than on the original they were at the bottom right. The ends of pages are marked with a double horizontal line.


117                                                                                                                    15

HEADTEACHERS’AND TEACHERS’ JOINT CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE

MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON THURSDAY, 28 FEBRUARY 2013
AT WALLASEY TOWN HALL

PRESENT:
Representing Wirral Council:
            Councillor Tony Smith [Chair]
            Councillor George Davies
            Councillor Pat Williams.

Representing the Headteachers’/Teachers’ Professional Associations:
            ASCL   " " Phillip Sheridan.
            ATL    " " Jeff Bevan, Paul Ronayne
            NAHT   " " Stephen Dainty.
            NASUWT " " Neville Reilly, [Vice Chair], John Salisbury

Representing Education Management:
            Julia Hassall   Acting Director, Children’s Services
            Stuart Bellerby SSM Secondary and Continuing Education
            Andrew Roberts  Head of Planning and Resources
            Sue Blevins      SSM-HR & Workforce Management
            withheld (first name + last name) section 40(2) (personal information) HR Officer – Schools

In opening, the Chair, Councillor, Tony Smith, introduced John Salisbury, NASUWT, and welcomed everyone to the meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ JCC.

1. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Apologies for absence were received from David Armstrong, Tom Harney, Paul Hayes, Adrian Jones, Brian McNutt, Brenda Gallie and Lynda Drennan.

2. MINUTES OF THE MEETING ON 20 SEPTEMBER 2013

RESOLVED: To approve the minutes of the meeting on 20 September 2012 as a correct record.

3. MATTERS ARISING

3.1 SOCIAL NETWORKING POLICY: Working with the LA, the professional associations have firmed up the policy to ensure that teachers are fully aware of what they can and cannot do when using social networking sites.

Neville Reilly recommended that Councillors look at website on Facebook run by parents and see some of the appalling comments made about people, including teachers. It demonstrates how easily things can get into the public domain and the ‘victims’ do not have the opportunity to refute those allegations.

4. SCHOOL TERM DATES 2013/14/UPDATE ON OPEN GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP 2014


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Phil Sheridan reported agreement had been reached at the last meeting for three alternative term and holiday dates in 2013/14 to take account of the impact on schools of the Open Golf Championship in July 2014, and makes adjustments for schools which close on polling days.

Schools have been given the three different schedules to help them consider which option would best meet their particular circumstances. There is no single solution and it is likely that there will be four or five different sets of holiday dates and staff development days, depending on how much time each school needs in the final week. Governors can use the dates flexibly to meet the needs and circumstances of the particular school.

In each of the three schedules, Monday, 2 September has been designated as a school development day, although there is no statutory requirement for the first day of the academic year to be a development day.

Neville Reilly stated that the principle has always been adhered to in Wirral that schools have the same holiday dates, because it works better for parents with children in primary and secondary schools etc. Nevertheless, the safety of the children is paramount and it is important to take as many cars off the road as possible during the event, whilst trying to avoid some schools having slightly different holidays. If the governors want to depart from the original dates they would need to consult with the teachers in the school.

Phil Sheridan explained that the flexibility is around the staff development days and traditionally schools have used different days, but he was unaware of any consultation between staff and governors in determining dates in the past.

Steve Dainty commented that Catholic schools have never had the same holidays as other schools, and it only affects a couple of days at Easter time.

The Chair mentioned the international business conference being held in Liverpool throughout June and July, and the international business centre scheduled to open in Birkenhead North in 2014. Including the 25,000 visitors expected to attend the Open, these additional events could see in excess of a million people descending on Merseyside at the same time.

RESOLVED: To agree that, given the exceptional circumstances, it is for individual schools to determine their term and holidays in the 2013/14 academic year.

5. STANDARDISATION OF THE SCHOOL YEAR

The JCC received a report on the general principles for a standardised school year, with term dates for 2014/15, based on these principles.

Stuart Bellerby stated that Wirral is the only authority that is ‘out of sync’ and the proposals are in line with practice in neighbouring authorities. He understood that the proposals have been agreed in principle but they need to go through the Committee process.

Jeff Bevan commented that the problem is having a fixed period at Easter. It works well when Easter is within the time scale, but problems arise when it falls outside.

This year, because of the extra bank holiday for the Royal wedding, some schools, went five weeks without a full week in school and due to the timing of Good Friday


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and Easter Monday, some schools had 12 days at Easter instead often. Secondary schools have two extra days’ preparation for external examinations.

Neville Reilly commented that problems have been encountered in Cheshire East and Chester and Cheshire West. The arrangement would work for the first two years because Easter falls within the period, but there would be a problem in the year after that. He continued that notwithstanding the anomalies, Wirral needs to fall in line with schools in neighbouring authorities. The professional associations would be happy for the standardised school year to be implemented in 2014/15.

RESOLVED: To agree –
   i. the general principles for a Standardised School Year;

   ii. term dates for the 2014/15 academic year.

6. ACADEMIES

Jeff Bevan stated that there was a very interesting article in the Independent which stated that over the last two years, academies have cost £8.3 million, money which has some out of the Education budget. The article went onto say that all schools are going to be cut back because of the Academies budget. Local people are supposed to be looking after local schools, but the number of civil servants employed just to look after academies has increased by 133%.
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Julia Hassall stated that academies and secondary schools have all signed up to work together through WASH with the Children’s Trust for the greater good of all children in Wirral, and there were many examples at the Schools’ Forum of ways that money is spent to improve outcomes for young people.

Stuart Bellerby stated that whilst he understood the position the associations were coming from, all 22 secondary schools/academies are still part of WASH by choice, and therefore are part or the consultation process. Every secondary school/-academy has chosen to buy into EQ, and the academies are represented on the EQ Management Board. The good relationship between secondary schools/academies and the LA Still exists.


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Block 2 (17 lines of blacked out text) – reason – section 36(2)(b) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs)
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Julia Hassall reported that Wirral was one of ten local authorities involved in a thematic Ofsted inspection on school improvement on 8/9 January.

The process involved meeting the LA staff who support school improvement and the Headteachers and staff at two primary schools and one secondary school.

The inspectors were exceptionally complementary about the responsive nature of the school improvement process and procedures in Wirral and the steps being taken to ensure that schools do not enter ‘troubled waters’. The inspectors had commented positively on primary partnerships.

The inspection had not been graded but the outcome will be incorporated into a composite report on the ten authorities to be published in the summer. The LA looks forward to receiving the report.

7. ADVANCED SKILLS TEACHERS

Neville Reilly explained that the STRB report contains a proposal that affects some NASUWT members who are currently advanced skills teachers.
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The associations described possible scenarios that could impact both on the ASTs and the schools concerned, and outlined the potential solutions that schools could be forced to follow because of pressures on funding.

Block 4 (2 lines of blacked out text) – reason – section 36(2)(b) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs)
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8. WIRRAL COUNCIL – BUDGET ISSUES

Neville Reilly commented that some of the Council’s budget reductions will impact on schools in a variety of ways. For example, the removal of free bus passes for over 16’s would affect young people who live in different parts of the Borough and attend the Sixth Form College and other post 16-establlishments, which in turn would impact on student numbers. Other proposals would affect the youth service, area teams, children’s centres, children with disabilities.

Julia Hassall replied that the Council is progressing the majority of the options put forward in the recent consultation exercise. Among the options considered by Cabinet in December was the transfer of PFI costs to the schools budget with effect from the financial year 2015/16. The costs of PPM in schools will move to schools from 2013/14. Other significant changes are concerned with Connexions, to bring in Wirral in line with other Merseyside authorities.

The bulk of the options, including those for Children’s Services, went to Cabinet on 18 February. The Council will make final decisions at the Council Budget meeting on 5 March.

Officers have worked for many hundreds of hours trying to minimise the impact of the cuts on children, and therefore on schools. The way services are delivered will be completely re-organised and schools that have a concern about a child can refer to a Gateway in their geographical area. Services will be reconfigured and restructured through a single route and managed by a single management structure.

Wirral’s Chief Executive had recommended that the management costs across the whole of the Council should be reduced by a third. A major restructuring exercise has been carried out in all the Council’s departments, beginning with chief officers, heads of services, and principal officers.

Although the target is a third overall, only a 21% reduction has been achieved in management costs in Children’s Services, and only two posts have been deleted. Consultation is ongoing with the managers affected who will have the opportunity to apply for up to four ring-fenced posts. A small number of people will remain ‘at risk’ for a further 4/6 months pending further review.

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Julia Hassall continued that in response to the specific query raised, transport will be considered by full Council. If the proposal — which includes children with special


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needs as well as Post-16 – goes ahead, there will be formal consultation with everyone affected, and any changes will be introduced incrementally from 2014.
On the subject of Acre Lane, David Armstrong is leading an assets review, which includes identifying a new location for the services currently provided at Acre Lane.

Julia Hassall clarified the information given in the media about the extent of the budget reductions. The proposals to be taken to Council on 5 March, if ratified, would produce savings of £42 million, against a target of £39 million for this year. This would reduce the savings to £27 million next year, and £69 million the following year. However, the Government has not yet announced its grants to local authorities for next year, and the figures could increase. The talk is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will ‘hit’ local authorities again when he announces his Budget in April.

      The JCC commended and thanked Julia Hassall for the  comprehensive and informative feedback on local developments.

9. STRB REPORT

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There is a desire on the part of the associations to reach agreement on a policy this time. It is hoped to bring back a revised policy to the JCC meeting in June.

10. DATE OF NEXT MEETING: THURSDAY, 6 JUNE 2013 at 4 pm.

There being no further business, the Chair thanked everyone and closed the meeting of the Joint JCC.


HEADTEACHERS’/TEACHERS’ JCC. MINUTES. FEBRUARY 2013. Page 6



The clerk Clare Adams invited myself (the Appellant), my McKenzie Friend Leonora Brace, James Griffiths (a member of the public), Surjit Tour (witness for Wirral Council (2nd respondent)), Andrew Roberts (witness for Wirral Council (2nd respondent)), Robin Hopkins (11KBW barrister acting as counsel for Wirral Council (2nd respondent)) and Rosemary Lyon (solicitor for Wirral Council (2nd respondent) to the hearing about to start in Tribunal Room 5.

Continues at What was in the 5 A4 page witness statement of Andrew Roberts (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)?

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Responses

  1. The whatdotheyknow thread about this FOI request can be read here.

    A decision of the First-Tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber) is expected in around 4 weeks time.

  2. [Neville Reilly stated that the principle has always been adhered to in Wirral that schools have the same holiday dates, because it works better for parents with children in primary and secondary schools etc. Nevertheless, the safety of the children is paramount and it is important to take as many cars off the road as possible during the event, whilst trying to avoid some schools having slightly different holidays. If the governors want to depart from the original dates they would need to consult with the teachers in the school.]

    I can’t believe someone would say this, get as many cars off the road, so children aren’t run over, so they don’t teach them to look when they cross etc, and getting cars off the road are people going to work to pay taxes to keep you lot in jobs,
    Reading all this, all i can say is teachers have far too much free time on their hands if they can come up with this load of bollocks about a bloody game of golf!

    • It took 3 years, 2 months and 4 days for Wirral Council to reveal this minutes to me.

      Those minutes were approved (without amendments) at the Headteachers/Teachers JCC meeting held on 6th June 2013.

      By the point the minutes were released to me Neville Reilley had already made a decision to retire from teaching about 5 months before these minutes were released to me.

      She retires from teaching effective from the 1st September 2016. However contact details can be found on the local branch webpage of the NASUWT.

      TBH back then (2013) Wirral Council was going rather golf crazy in the lead up to the 2014 Open Golf Championship and it continued in 2014.

      In 2014 they even asked me to take down an email on this blog inviting some councillors to the 2014 Open Golf Championship.

      The 2014 Open Golf Championship may have had an effect on travel to the schools in the immediate vicinity of Hoylake, but everyone knew it was happening so why can’t they just leave earlier to school in the morning to allow for added journey time?

      Can schools no longer deal with a child being late to school (for whatever reason)? Surely it is better they turn up late and have some schooling than the school cancel all lessons for the day because of golf?


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