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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 7th April, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. K. Edmunds, H.C. Hamilton, T.H. Jarvie, F.T. Johnson, A. Parker, R.A. Penrose and E. Williams.

 

Co-opted Members:  Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church) and Mr. L. Kellaway (Parent Governor - Primary Sector).

 

Non-voting Observers:  Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education) and Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector).

 

Also present: Councillor C.P.J. Elmore.

 

 

1019   APOLOGIES –

 

These were received from Councillor Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Dr. C. Brown (Co-opted Member – Secondary Sector).

 

 

1020   MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 17th March, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

1021   DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

Ms. T. Young declared an interest in Agenda Item. No. 7 in that she was a teacher at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School.

 

 

1022   SCHOOL ADMISSION ARRANGEMENTS 2015/16 (REF) –

 

The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services presented the reference which had been forwarded to the Scrutiny Committee for information.  At its meeting on 24th March 2014 Cabinet had been advised of the conclusion of the Council’s statutory consultation exercise on school admission arrangements for Community Schools in accordance with the Education (Determination of Admission Arrangements) (Wales) Regulations 2006.  It was noted that a local authority had a statutory duty to consult on school admission arrangements annually and School Admission Arrangements must be determined by 15th April 2014 for implementation for the academic year 2015/16.

 

The report outlined that the Local Authority had consulted on minor changes to the existing Admissions Policy which were based on the requirements of the School Admissions Code July 2013.  The changes were as follows:

 

·         A requirement that admission authorities’ oversubscription criteria included alongside "Looked After Children", "previously Looked After Children" as the first criterion in all instances

·         The setting of common offer dates on which decision letters must be issued on a phased basis (refer to table in Appendix A to the report)

·         A requirement that waiting lists were maintained until 30th September where schools were oversubscribed

·         Additional exceptions to the class size legislation

·         More opportunities to vary existing admission arrangements without reference to Welsh Ministers.

 

The Local Authority had received seven written responses to the consultation exercise with one response in favour of the change in admission arrangements, five had been opposed or had serious concerns with regard to the proposed catchment changes and one had sought clarification.  It was noted that four of the respondents had been parents, one a Chairman of Governors, one an Assembly Member and another a parent governor. 

 

The main themes emanating from the consultation exercise in terms of the proposed changes to catchment areas and the Council’s response to each issue was attached at Appendix C to the report.

 

The review had specifically focused on a revision to the catchment areas of Barry Island, Colcot, High Street, Oakfield, Palmerston, Ysgol St. Curig and Ysgol Dewi Sant Primary Schools as detailed below

 

·         Barry Island Primary – transfer of the Knap area to High Street Primary School catchment area

·         High Street Primary – incorporate the Knap area within the school catchment area

·         Oakfield Primary – transfer of the Pencoedtre Lane area to Colcot Primary and the Pencoetre development to Palmerston Primary School

·         Colcot Primary – incorporate the Golwy-y-Coed estate within the school catchment area

·         Palmerston Primary – incorporate the Pencoedtre development within the school catchment area with the exception of the Golwy-y-Coed estate (as above)

·         Ysgol St. Curig – transfer of the Rhoose area to Ysgol Dewi Sant

·         Ysgol Dewi Sant – incorporate the Rhose area within the school catchment area

·         Ysgol Nant Talwg – transfer the Blackberry Drive area of the Cwm Talwg estate, to include Thistle Close and Bramble Avenue, from Ysgol St. Curig to Ysgol Nant Talwg.

 

The Cabinet Member confirmed that the Council was committed to ensuring that the views of residents were considered in any consultation and that these had been carefully considered. 

 

In considering the report the Chairman expressed his pleasure that the changes referred to that had also been identified following the Scrutiny Committee school surplus places review were to be addressed.

 

It was subsequently,

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the School Admission Arrangements for 2015/16 be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the contents contained therein.

 

 

1023   CORPORATE SAFEGUARDING (CLSO) –

 

Members were provided with an update on the work that had been undertaken to improve arrangements for safeguarding children and young people.  A similar report had also been presented and agreed by Cabinet at its meeting that afternoon, however, the Cabinet Member confirmed that the Committee had a more up to date version in respect of current progress. 

 

The report itemised various aspects of the work, namely the setting up of the Corporate Safeguarding Steering Group, progress throughout its Action Plan, the implementation of new policies for schools and corporate Human Resources (HR) policies such as the Safer Recruitment Policy.  The report also set out how the Council monitored policy implementation through scheduled work in HR, through the Internal Audit work programme and through the Safeguarding Monitoring Matrix approach that had been adopted in the Learning and Skills Directorate.  It also outlined the results of the recent Recruitment Audit and further explained recent changes to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) arrangements.

 

An action plan appended to the report at Appendix 1 addressed the relevant issues, which detailed the actions, success criteria, start and finish dates, resources and progress to date.  Appendix B detailed the new employees who had started employment in posts covered by the Safer Recruitment Policy during the period 1st September to 1st December 2013 with outstanding documentation. 

 

The Chairman stated that the report identified the volume of work and detailed the number of professional abuse / part 4 investigations that were being undertaken.  Members, in accepting the importance of corporate safeguarding, subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the work undertaken to date be noted and that six monthly update reports be presented to the Committee.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that the Council and its schools continue to adopt good safeguarding practices in their procedures and policies.

 

 

1024   SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DR) –

 

The Committee was advised of progress in relation to uncompleted recommendations made by the Scrutiny Committee for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Quarters.  Members’ views were requested relating to progress against each recommendation, where further action may be required to ensure the required action was undertaken and to confirm any actions as completed.

 

Following consideration of the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the following recommendations be deemed completed as outlined below:

 

09 September 2013

Min. No. 381 – Summary of School Inspection Reports for the Summer Term 2013 (CLSO) – Recommended

(4)   That progress on the Post Inspection Action Plan for St. Cyres Comprehensive School be presented to the next meeting.

 

 

 

To be reported in the Summer term 2014.

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

20 January 2014

Min. No. 777 – Regulatory Reports – Improvement Tracking (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That the Audit Committee be advised of the Scrutiny Committee’s intention to continue to robustly monitor and evaluate school performance particularly in the absence of a Joint Scrutiny Committee of the Joint Education Service.

 

 

Referred to Audit Committee to be held on 28th April 2014.

Completed

Min. No. 779 – Summary of School Inspection Reports for the Autumn Term 2013 (CLSO) – Recommended 

(2)   That a letter be sent to the schools judged good congratulating them on their successful inspections.

 

 

 

Letter sent on 6th February, 2014.

Completed

17 February 2014

Min. No. 850 – National Model for Regional Working (REF) – Recommended

(2)   That Cabinet be advised that it was the intention of the Scrutiny Committee to consider the role of Governors and the training and level of support required at a future meeting.

 

 

Cabinet, on 24th March, 2014 noted the contents of the report. (Min. No. C2250 refers)

Completed

 

Min. No. 852 – Progress Report on the Development of a Youth Cabinet and Youth Mayor Position for the Vale of Glamorgan (CLSO) – Recommended

(2)   That a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee on the way forward for a member/s of the Vale Youth Forum to be represented on the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) and that Cabinet be informed of this intention.

 

 

 

 

Added to work programme schedule and referred to Cabinet meeting on 24th March, 2014 at which the contents of the report were noted.  (Min. No. C2251 refers)

Completed

The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services confirmed that a Youth Cabinet had recently been appointed from the Vale Youth Forum.

Min. No. 853 – Individual Schools Progress Meetings (CLSO) – Recommended

(4)   That this report and the views of the Scrutiny Committee be referred to Cabinet for consideration and approval.

 

 

Cabinet, on 24th March, 2014 noted the report and thanked the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) Members for their continuing work with the schools.

(Min. No. C2249 refers)

Completed

17 March 2014

Min. No. 963 – Improvement Plan Part 1 (Improvement Objectives 2014/15) (CLSO) – Recommended that the proposed improvement objectives for 2014/15 be endorsed and the reports as outlined above be submitted to Committee as and when appropriate.

[NEETS; Improving Attendance; Implementation of Callio Strategy]

 

 

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 964 – Summary of School Inspection Reports for the Autumn Term 2013 (CLSO) – Recommended

(2)   That a letter be sent to the school congratulating them on the overall judgements following the inspection.

 

 

 

Letter sent on 27th March, 2014.

Completed

 

(2)       T H A T the following progress be confirmed as detailed below and the recommendations be deemed as completed:

 

14 October 2013

 

Min. No. 496 – Scrutiny Decision Tracking of Recommendations (DR) – Recommended

(3)   That dates be considered with the Individual School Progress Working Group for Llantwit Major Comprehensive school in order for a return visit to made.

 

 

The report for Llantwit Major school had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee at its meeting held on 17th March 2014.

Completed

09 December 2013

 

Min. No. 666 – School Performance Report for the end of Key Stages 4 and 4 (REF) – Recommended that individual school progress meetings be set up with St. Cyres, Bryn Hafren and Barry Comprehensive Schools be set up as soon as possible.

 

 

The report in relation to Barry Comprehensive School would be presented in due course and Bryn Hafren was on the agenda for this meeting.

Completed

 

(3)       T H A T the remaining recommendations deemed as ongoing be accepted.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To maintain effective tracking of Committee’s recommendations.

 

 

1025   INDIVIDUAL SCHOOLS PROGRESS MEETINGS (CLSO) –

 

The Chairman presented the report which provided the Committee with an update on the progress meeting held at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School that had been undertaken by a Panel of three Members of the Committee.  The Panel had comprised of Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Councillor Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Mr. L. Kellaway (Co-opted Member) with Councillor C.P.J. Elmore (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services), the Headteacher, the Chairman of Governors, the Chief Learning and Skills Officer, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion, the Democratic and Scrutiny Officer and the Scrutiny Support Officer in attendance.

 

The report outlined that following an Estyn inspection of the school, the Estyn monitoring visit had concluded that the school should not move from the follow up category since insufficient progress had been made and concern expressed about the capacity for rapid and sustainable improvement and outcomes.  Whilst clear improvements had been made in 2013 compared to 2012, the progress had been insufficient to meet the agreed target or to match the achievement in 2010 or 2011 and as such the school's performance was affecting the school's ability to meet the Level 2+ indicator and the core subject indicator. 

 

The improved school performance in 2013 for the Level 2 threshold of 5 A* - C grade GCSEs including English and Maths was accepted, but the performance was still below the family of schools, the Vale average and the all-Wales average. Improvements had however, been made in Key Stage 4 although more improvements would be needed if minimum expectations were to be secured. 

 

The school was a single sex school for the age 11-16 with a joint sixth form with Barry Comprehensive School.  Following the inspection in May 2012 one of the issues for action had been the underperformance in certain aspects of Key Stage 3. The school had initiated several changes which included increasing the number of teaching groups in Year 9, the appointment of two additional English and two additional Maths teachers for Key Stages 3/4, targeted mentoring support for Level 5 borderline pupils, close data monitoring for CSI combination subjects and additional LSA targeted support for literacy and numeracy..

 

The school performance of pupils gaining 5 or more GCSEs at any grade for the Level 1 threshold had risen slightly in 2013 and remained ahead of the family, the Vale of Glamorgan average and the all-Wales level.  The Level 2 threshold performance had risen by 13.7% and overall the school performance had exceeded the family mean by 15.9% and the family girls by 11%.  For the Level 2+ threshold including English and Maths the school had improved performance against the results in 2012 by 8.7%.  Staff had also visited a number of other schools and considered the strategies and interventions that had been used and had taken the best for Bryn Hafren. 

 

Although the Panel was made aware that the Headteacher would be retiring at the end of the summer, the Headteacher had advised that it was his intention to ensure that sustainable strategies were put in place in order to further improve performance at the school.  A range of interventions had been agreed, including extra lessons, outside expertise, lunch time work clubs which had also been undertaken during the half term and been paid for out of the PDG fund.  A new Head of Department in English had also been appointed and the second in Maths was focussed on the challenge agenda.  The Headteacher also met on a regular basis with the English and Maths Heads of Departments and reported in detail to the Governing Body.  It was noted that the Heads of Departments viewed the role of Governors as a critical friend and any changes to the Key Stage 4 curriculum were agreed with the Governing Body.

 

The School was moving to the SIMS management information system which would provide further robust data and information as a management tool with the intention that the system was installed into every classroom to allow teachers to monitor progress.  A Governors monitoring group had been established and regular monitoring of the school's performance at Key Stage 4 was being reported against all key stage 4 indicators with particular emphasis on the core subjects.

 

The Headteacher was of the view that the school would comfortably exceed figures for English but may be very close in Maths.  The school was however, also having very high stay on rates for extra revision lessons and there was also spare teaching capacity for Maths.

 

In referring specifically to improving performance in the key core subjects the school had also initiated several changes which were detailed at paragraph 13 to the report.  The school was also targeting pupils who needed to improve their English or Maths as well as those who needed to address both.  There were some queries regarding the accuracy of teacher assessments in Maths with the suggestion that there was the need for a review of systems and processes in the Maths Department.  The System Leader would also be spending more time with the school and senior leadership team in monitoring activities for the progress of targeted Year 11 D/C borderline pupils. 

 

The Panel had raised concerns at the potential for instability of leadership with the Headteacher retiring in the summer but considered that a positive move had been made by appointing a Governor Panel in relation to performance.

 

The Panel’s overall conclusion was that it had some measure of confidence that the school would meet the target in English but limited confidence in Maths, which also gave concern for the Level 2+.  The Panel however, as stated above, welcomed the decision of the Governing Body to regularly monitor school performance by establishing a Governing Monitoring Group.  They noted the robust actions that had been taken in the leadership of the English department and that some changes had been made in the Maths department.  However, in order to further boost the school's capacity to drive improvement the Panel suggested that the Council's officers work with the school to consider commissioning an external review of its Maths department and to discuss further the categorisation of the school with the Consortium, with the opportunity of accessing further support.  The Panel also emphasised the importance of timely and thorough delivery of any interventions for pupils and that the GCSE results in 2014 would be critical to Estyn's judgements in October 2014. 

 

The Chairman, in conclusion, referred to the fact that in respect of early entry examinations this was a contentious issue, particularly in light of the recent WJEC performance in schools where examinations had been marked differently from previous years.

 

In considering the report Members raised concerns in relation to consistency of approach in light of the retirement of the Headteacher and any potential impact for the appointment in respect of the consultation being undertaken for the new school.  The Head of School Improvement advised that Governors would be interviewing for the position on 8th April 2014 and all prospective candidates had been given the information in relation to the consultation for co-education.  It was hoped that a start date for the appointment of the Headteacher could be agreed for September 2014 with the Council providing support as appropriate. It was accepted that the transition although difficult would be exacerbated further with the addition of the anticipated examination results and the Estyn follow up.

 

With regard to the findings that had been identified in relation to school transition assessments from primary to secondary school, Members asked whether this was an issue for all schools. The Chairman confirmed that this had been an issue which had been mentioned at all the Panel meetings. The Head of School Improvement confirmed that in previous years SATS had been used to measure performance but that as these had now been abolished teacher assessments were provided. However, a recent Acer report had, advised that teacher assessments were not fit for purpose. It was also accepted that comprehensive schools received children from a number of primary schools throughout the Vale with it being recognised that teacher assessments varied from all schools.  It was further accepted by all present that early read across was required to assist performance in English and Maths.   

 

In referring specifically to the reference in paragraph 13 of splitting the potential C/D teaching sets into smaller classes it was noted that these were made up of 6 to 12 children per class.  It was fully recognised that the earlier children were supported the better chance there could be to change C/D grades.

 

In conclusion, the Chairman reiterated the role of School Governors and reminded Members of the Committee who were themselves school Governors of their responsibilities to challenge and hold the school to account in respect of performance. 

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Scrutiny School Progress Panel findings as contained within the report be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T a follow up visit to the school take place later in the year by the Panel Members, as appropriate, following the GCSE results in August 2014.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for its approval and consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Committee of the findings of the School Progress Panel.

 

(2)       To monitor and undertake a follow up visit if appropriate.

 

(3)       For Cabinet consideration.

 

 

 

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