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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 23rd June, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Ms. K.E. Edmunds, T.H. Jarvie, A. Parker, R.A. Penrose and E. Williams.

 

Co-opted Members: Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church), Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor – Secondary Sector) and Mr. L. Kellaway (Parent Governor – Primary Sector).

 

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

 

Also present: Councillors S.C. Egan, C.P.J. Elmore, K. Hatton and Dr. I.J. Johnson.

 

 

100            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillor Ms. R. Birch (Vice-Chairman), Councillors Mrs. C.L. Curtis and F.T. Johnson.

 

 

101            MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 19th May, 2014 be approved as a correct record subject to it being noted that   

  • Eagleswell Primary School (Min. No. 15), the membership of the Panel would be Councillors N.P. Hodges, Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Mr. L. Kellaway; and
  • Review of Library and Information Services in the Vale of Glamorgan (Min. No. 16) Recommendation (2), the schedule for charges for library services noted as Appendix A be amended to read Appendix I.

 

102            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services advised that with regard to Agenda Item No. 10 – Individual Schools Progress Meetings – Barry Comprehensive, he was a Governor of the school and could speak and vote on the matter.

 

 

103            PRESENTATION: GOOD PRACTICE INITIATIVES –

 

Prior to the presentation the Chairman took the opportunity to thank the two Headteachers for their attendance and noted that a video presentation that had been made following the inspection of Dinas Powys Infants School had been shown prior to the meeting for Members information. 

 

Cogan Nursery School

 

Following the welcome the Headteacher of Cogan Nursery School, Mrs. Pauline Rowland, then commenced her presentation by advising that in 2006 when she was appointed to the school, the school 'was not in a good place' but it had now gone from strength to strength with standards achieved in 2013 being 97% achieving at least Outcome 2 with no gender difference between boys and girls.  She advised that the catchment area was economically mixed and there were no Looked After Children currently in the school.  In highlighting the successes she referred to the following:

  • winning Outstanding Team of the Year
  • 3rd Millennium Learning Award
  • Naace Impact Award for Early Years
  • School Award for ICT
  • Eco-school, International school, Fairtrade school, Healthy school
  • Excellent Estyn inspection.

Following the inspection Estyn had advised that the overall judgement for the school was good but highlighted the school as excellent in the areas listed below:

  • Wellbeing
  • Learning experiences
  • Learning environment
  • Partnership working.

The school’s use of social media to engage effectively with the wider community had also been added to the Estyn best practice guide.  The school was of the view that the more you actually engaged with parents in their child’s learning the higher the standards the children achieved.  Reference was made to the use of the following social media formats e.g. blog, twitter, Facebook, YouTube, website, schoop, parentmail and text.  Members then viewed a video presentation in relation to a particular example that had been placed on the YouTube site which showed a story that parents could share with their children. The use of this social media site assisted in identifying all areas of learning.  There was also a system on the website which parents could access and which advised on a daily basis the school’s learning programme.  Parents’ evenings were also skyped to parents overseas in order that they could feel part of the process and be fully engaged with the school.  These were prime examples of third millennium learning.  The Headteacher concluded by stating that the success of the school was as a result of the school ensuring 'if a child cannot learn in the way we teach, we must teach in a way that a child can learn'.

 

Dinas Powys Infants School

 

Mrs. Julie Thompson, Headteacher of Dinas Powys advised that the school had been inspected in 2013 with the school’s current performance being recorded as excellent.  The school had achieved exceptional levels at Outcome 6 in all three areas of learning and 21% of the children had an outstanding achievement of National Curriculum Level 4 in reading.  The school ethos was to embrace literacy from the very beginning through all teaching including basic skills and phonics.  As the school readers became fluent they joined the school’s library club which was run by the Headteacher and provided the children with the opportunity to read chapter books and write a book review. The review included a book summary, recommendations, and an opportunity to score the book out of ten and provide an illustration.  It was notable that all children who participated in the library club achieved above the expected level in reading for their age with some of these children also achieving the exceptional Level 4 standard.

 

One of the systems that had been developed to assist was the use of the reading wheel.  Teachers also heard children read on a weekly basis and the school operated an effective use of assessment to identify the learners’ needs and a way forward.  The Estyn report referred to 'outstanding use by the school of the rich outdoor environment' with a number of gardens existing in the school, for example the story telling garden. In many lessons teachers made learning fun with the imaginative use of resources, for example some pupils had built a realistic igloo and then used it as a reading corner. The school had also embraced the 'Callio' attendance approach which had been extremely successful.

 

Following the presentations the Chairman, in referring to the work being undertaken by some members of the Committee on Progress Panels, advised that some secondary schools had raised an issue regarding pupil assessment and that on most occasions when pupils commenced comprehensive school at Key Stage 3, the  assessments differed to the assessments made by primary schools.  This issue would be pursued with the Consortium.  Reference was however, made to the use of the Inserts Package which the Headteacher of Dinas Powys stated should be embraced throughout all schools and which could identify continuous assessment from the very beginning of comprehensive school.

 

Members commended the schools on the use of IT and, in particular, the use of Skype to engage with parents who would otherwise be unable to attend parent’s evenings.  The good practice initiatives that had been highlighted to the Committee had been considered to be invaluable and it was agreed that they should be cascaded throughout schools within the Vale of Glamorgan for the benefit of all.  The Head of School Improvement referred to a conference that was being held later in the week with the use of IT and learning applications on the agenda.  This would also be a further opportunity to share best practice.  The Headteacher for Cogan advised that in particular her school had received a number of visitors from other schools who wished to witness the good practice first hand. 

 

In conclusion the Chairman took the opportunity to thank both Headteachers for attending and presenting to the Scrutiny Committee, and requested that the Committee’s best wishes for the future be extended to the staff and the children.

 

 

104             REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 30TH APRIL 2014 (CLSO) –

 

The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2014/15 was shown as below:

 

Lifelong Learning  

Revenue Budget

 

Probable Outturn

Variance

(+ ) Favourable

(-) Adverse

 

£000

£000

£000

Schools

78,605

78,605

0

School Improvement &     Inclusion

4,274

4,274

0

Service Strategy & Regulation

241

241

0

Strategic & Resources

10,249

10,249

0

Total Education and Schools

93,369

93,369

0

Libraries

2,589

2,589

0

Youth Service

1,084

1,084

0

Adult Community Education

204

204

0

Catering

1,743

1,743

0

TOTAL

98,989

98,989

0

 

It was anticipated that projected outturn for 2014/15 would be in line with the budget and this would be after making a contribution to the Capital Investment Reserve of £435k.  A graph and table setting out the variance between the profiled budget and actual expenditure to date was attached at Appendix 1 to the report, it being noted that for Schools delegated budget relating to schools was expected to balance as any under / overspend was carried forward by schools.  The Education Service was projecting to transfer £145k to reserves as part of the Voluntary Early Retirement and Redundancy Scheme, this income being in respect of reimbursements from schools relating to redundancies and retirements made in previous years and would be used to assist schools with timing payments for future retirements and redundancies.  All other services were anticipated to outturn within budget.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th April 2014, with Members noting that Emergency Powers had been used to approve the inclusion of £40k of Section 106 monies into the Capital Programme for a classroom extension at Llanfair School.  Members were also informed that Welsh Government would be providing funding for the 21st Century Schools programme, with Welsh Government notifying the Council in April 2014 that some of the funding will be in the form of unsupported borrowing instead of a revenue grant.  Although the Council would be expected to borrow, Welsh Government would provide revenue funding to cover the cost of the loan.  However, in 2014/15 this would be via a specific grant and from 2015/16 the funding will be distributed through the Revenue Support Grant.  It was noted that this would have no impact on the value of the Capital Programme, only the way in which it was funded with Cabinet and Council being requested to approve the use of unsupported borrowing.  In noting that the monitoring report was very early in the year, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2014/15 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members.

 

 

105            PROPOSAL TO AMALGAMATE DINAS POWYS INFANT AND MURCH JUNIOR SCHOOLS (REF) –

 

Cabinet approval had been sought to consult stakeholders on a proposal to create a new 420 place primary school through the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools.  The report outlined that there were two options for amalgamating the schools, one to close both schools and open a new school which had been the approach taken in relation to the proposal to amalgamate Llanilltud Fawr and Eagleswell Primary Schools in Llantwit Major.  An alternative option would be to discontinue one of the schools and change the age range of the other. 

 

Following careful consideration of the two options, it had been proposed to follow the alternative option which would provide more continuity of leadership, with Members being advised that care would be given in the consultation and amalgamation process to ensuring the ethos and traditions of Murch Junior School would be fully recognised within the new school.  In order to amalgamate the two schools the Council would need to comply with the statutory process detailed in the Schools Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and Appendix A to the report set out the anticipated timescale for the process. 

 

The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services presented the report to the Scrutiny Committee and highlighted that there was no plan to sell off any land in Dinas Powys connected to either school.  The plan, he stated, was to simply consult on the amalgamation of the two schools and that he would be chairing a joint meeting of the two Governing Bodies.  In referring to the Cabinet report it was noted that Appendix A would be amended to read 'that the date of the Objection Report to Cabinet on 1 December 2014 be amended to read on or after 1 December, 2014 to allow for flexibility, and the Decision Notification date of 12 December, 2014 be amended to read on or after 12 December 2014 to allow for flexibility'. 

 

Members of the School Surplus Places Review Group advised that the proposal had been one of the recommendations from the Group and that they were fully in support of the proposals.

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the consultation process be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

All Members of the Scrutiny Committee being in full agreement with the proposals.

 

 

106            CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM BUSINESS PLAN (REF) –

 

The Central South Consortium Business Plan for 2014/15 had been presented to Cabinet at its meeting on 23rd June and they had referred the report to Scrutiny Committee for consideration.  The Business Plan set out the Central South Wales Challenge Vision, the priorities for the Consortium, operating model and budget and performance monitoring arrangements.  Local Authorities specific appendices were being finalised.  The Central South Wales Challenge Vision marked an important shift where improvement activity was led by schools for schools.  The Vision would require a systematic shift in ownership of school improvement activity which was based from a school level.  The Business Plan referred to the restructuring of Consortium to accommodate the new Vision copy, to respond to the national model and to reflect the lessons of the first 18 months of operation.  The Business Plan would be delivered using funding provided by the Council at the same levels as in 2013/14 pending the transfer of additional functions in April 2015 from retained grant funding and from income from schools.  The Chief Learning and Skills Officer advised that the Managing Director for the Consortium had now been confirmed, namely, Hannah Woodhouse, and a smaller Joint Committee and an Executive Board was being established. 

 

The Scrutiny Committee had already committed to inviting officers from the Consortium to meetings of the Scrutiny Committee to hold them to account and to advise of the work of the Consortium.  Members, in confirming that this would be the way forward for the Scrutiny Committee in order to hold the Consortium to account, also wished to ensure that good practice through schools was being spread throughout the Vale of Glamorgan Schools and, if appropriate, throughout the Consortium.

 

A Member referred to the fact that no mention of the work of the WLGA or Wales Audit Office in respect of the accountability for the work of the Consortium was detailed in the document and many Members considered that a number of years when the Consortium was being initially set up had been lost.  The Cabinet Member stated that the new national model now provided national guidance and appeared to be a far better governance model with a more robust structure. 

 

The Chief Learning and Skills Officer stated that in her view Headteachers appeared to now have more support for the Consortium and that the results of the recent survey of Headteachers could be shared with Members in due course.  It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Central South Consortium Business Plan be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be advised that the Scrutiny Committee would continue to challenge and hold the Consortium to account on a regular basis.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In view of the contents contained therein.

 

(2)       To ensure effective scrutiny of the Consortium is maintained.

 

 

107            LOCAL AUTHORITY EDUCATION SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE INSPECTION REPORT: PROGRESS REPORT (REF) –

 

Cabinet had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration which apprised of progress to date in the implementation of the Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP).  The inspection of Local Authority Education Services for Children and Young People had taken place between 20-24th May 2013.  The report had been published on 17th September 2013 with the overall judgement by the inspectors being 'adequate'.  The capacity to improve had also been judged to be 'adequate'. 

 

The report included the following six recommendations:

  • R1       Raise standards in schools, particularly in key stage 2 and key stage 3.
  • R2       Improve the rigour and the level of challenge provided to schools about their performance and quality of leadership.
  • R3       Use the full powers available to the authority to improve schools that were underperforming.
  • R4       Make sure that planning for improvement was thorough and consistent throughout all services.
  • R5       Ensure that robust systems were in place for evaluating the outcomes of initiatives and that they demonstrated good value-for-money.
  • R6       Strengthen arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the wellbeing of children and young people.

The PIAP had been approved by Cabinet on 18 November, 2013.  The PIAP provided a comprehensive action plan to address the recommendations of the inspectors and addressed the shortcomings they observed. 

 

The PIAP had been amended to describe progress to date: in some places additional milestones had been added to assist the monitoring of progress.  Other minor changes reflected changes to staff in some posts.

 

Appendix A, attached to the report, described the progress that was being made to implement the action plan: work was on schedule in relation to the implementation of the Plan.   

 

Estyn had indicated that they would monitor progress against the recommendations by way of three monitoring visits over a twelve month period between autumn 2014 and autumn 2015. The first monitoring visit by two inspectors over two days in autumn 2014 would assess progress in response to recommendations 2 and 6.  The visit in spring 2015 would assess progress in relation to recommendations 3 and 4 and the final visit would review progress in relation to recommendations 1 and 5.

 

Members, in considering the report, noted that in relation to the scrutiny function detailed at page 21, 3.1, the review of individual school progress meetings was to be considered later in the agenda and in relation to 3.2, all the Scrutiny Progress Panel meeting reports for the four schools had now been completed with the final school, Barry Comprehensive, again to be considered on the agenda for the meeting.   It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress to date to implement the Vale of Glamorgan Council Local Authority Education Services for Children and Young People Post Inspection Action Plan as attached at Appendix A to the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T further updates be presented in due course.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure that Members were aware of the progress that had been made to implement the PIAP.

 

(2)       To consider further progress.

 

 

108            REVISED SCHOOL ATTENDANCE POLICY (CMCS) –

 

The Cabinet Member, in presenting the report, stated that following a Primary Headteachers meeting and as a result of a recommendation of this Scrutiny Committee, he had prepared a report on a revised School Attendance Policy for debate.  The main change proposed in the Attendance Policy was to tighten the discretion available to Headteachers to authorise family holidays during term time.  It was widely recognised that a child’s success at school would be affected negatively by poor attendance as lower attendance was correlated with lower attainment.  Children who did not attend regularly may not be able to keep up with their work and in a busy school day this could sometimes be difficult for schools to find extra time needed to help a child catch up. In addition, research had shown that children who were not in school were more vulnerable and could be easily drawn into crime and antisocial behaviour and were more likely to be unemployed after leaving school.  Securing strong productive links between the school and the pupil’s family was a key contributory factor to maintaining and improving attendance at school.  Improving behaviour and attendance was an integral part of a range of educational initiatives such as the Foundation Phase, 14-19 Learning Pathways and the Engagement and Progression Strategy. 

 

The Vale Education Welfare Service (EWS) aimed to provide professional, quality support to children, young people, families and schools so that children and young people living in the Vale of Glamorgan can benefit from the educational opportunities provided to them. 

 

A Callio initative had been developed regionally and enhanced locally to improve the consistency in approach to absence reduction.  Callio co-ordinators had also been appointed in each secondary school to focus more closely on proactive and preventative measures to absence reduction.  The EWS and Callio co-ordinators, together with the school based Callio Champions, provided a more holistic approach to support schools, pupils and parents to ensure regular attendance and address problems relating to absenteeism. 

 

The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010 gave schools discretionary power to grant leave for the purpose of an annual family holiday during term time. This means that parents do not have an automatic right to withdraw pupils from school for a holiday and, in law, have to apply for permission in advance.

 

Following a review of the School Attendance Policy and taking into account the Regulations and Welsh Government Guidance and the views of Headteachers, it was being proposed that all Governing Bodies be advised not to authorise any requests for holidays during term time, except where there were exceptional and extenuating family circumstances.

 

The exceptional and extenuating circumstances would include and would normally be limited to:

  • family holiday request from parents who are employed by the Ministry of Defence; and/or
  • family requests for holidays due to religious beliefs.

Such considerations may result in the school agreeing with the request and authorising the absence accordingly.  This would mean that requests for holidays during term time would not be authorised by the school unless there was a decision by the school that exceptional and extenuating circumstances applied.

 

It was understood that this would be a uniform policy across the South Central Consortium in September 2014: Bridgend, RCT and Merthyr were presently seeking to amend their policies with the policy already having been introduced in Cardiff.

 

There was an expectation that parents and carers would abide by these arrangements in order to continue to secure the best possible educational outcomes for their child/ children during their time in schools in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Where parents kept a child away from school or failed to seek permission in exceptional circumstances, the time taken would be treated as an unauthorised absence in accordance with the application of the policy.

 

When making judgements about extended absence for pupils from minority ethnic  families, schools were asked to ensure that full account had been taken, not only of the Regulations and Welsh Assembly Government guidance, but also of the situation of minority ethnic families in general and the particular circumstances relating to each individual case.  It was important that schools showed an understanding of the parents’ perspective even though the school may not be able to comply with a request for absence.   Schools should also ensure that all parents are aware of the school’s policy on absence.  In the case of minority ethnic parents, special care should be taken to ensure that the Regulations are fully explained and understood.  with interpreters being available if necessary.

 

The Cabinet Member reiterated that as an Authority, the Council had a duty to ensure that children were in school and advised Members that Headteachers had overwhelmingly voted for the proposed suggested change.  Members of the Committee fully supported the introduction of the change, with the suggestion that parents be given the information at the start of the school term in September.  It was considered important that the message was relayed to parents as easily as possible, although the Committee were aware that the policy required to be adopted by each of the Governing Bodies. 

 

A Member queried how other schools got the message across to parents with it being further suggested  officers consult with other Local Authorities to share good practice.  Although Members considered that attendance needed to be a national strategy, they felt that this was at least a starting point.  The Head of School Improvement also advised that the Estyn inspection team were taking a very strong line in relation to attendance.  Although the Scrutiny Committee could  monitor attendance levels, continue to do so and recommend the policy, it was reiterated that it was a matter for the Governing Body to enforce.  It was subsequently unanimously agreed and

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet be advised to implement in full the revised policy attached to the report for September 2014.

 

(2)       T H A T an impact evaluation report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in six months following its implementation.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To advise Cabinet of the Scrutiny Committee’s views and seek approval.

 

(2)       To ensure that a further opportunity for consideration of the impact of the revised policy is provided.     

 

 

109        INDIVIDUAL SCHOOLS PROGRESS MEETINGS (CLSO) –

 

The report provided the Committee with an update on the School Progress Panel meeting that had been held at Barry Comprehensive School by a Panel of three Members of the Committee.  In February 2013 the Scrutiny Committee had agreed to establish School Progress Panels consisting of three Members in order to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.  At the Progress Panel Meeting following the 2013 external examination results in each of the core subject areas

 

Following the 2013 external examination results in each of the core subjects the proportion of students achieving higher grades A*- C had fallen materially since the previous year including a fall from 59% to 42% in English and 52% to 43% in Mathematics. The proportion of students gaining five A*- C grades including Maths and English fell from 45% to 30%.  The purpose of the Panel had been to enable the school to demonstrate through the democratic process its ambition, capacity and commitment to rapid and sustained progress and to identify new barriers that the school may be facing which could be resolved by the actions of the Council.  The meeting had also been convened in order to establish what progress had been made to date and what further progress was required. 

 

Chairman advised that the Headteacher, in accepting that the Panel meeting was an opportunity for the school to identify its proposals in order to address the need to improve, referred to the dip in performance at Key stage 4 and advised that the school had itself evaluated critically why this dip had occurred.  Poor performance in English and Maths had led to the level 2 dip with too many students having achieved one exam but not the other.  With regard to the dip in Science, this had been considered as a result of the change in the literacy expectations for the Science examinations.  Members were further advised that other contributory factors that had been evaluated in relation to Key Stage 4 in 2013 included:

  • Transition in whole school leadership coinciding with Estyn inspection
  • Students not always on appropriate learning pathways
  • The new student tracking system was not always accurate, therefore interventions were not targeted at the appropriate students
  • A few students did not sit Maths exams or complete controlled assessments in English
  • The absence of the Head of Maths for a prolonged period of time
  • Leadership challenges in the English Department
  • Change of leadership in Science
  • Not enough consistency in classroom delivery and monitoring.

Following a review of the same by Governors the Panel was informed that a new consistent approach to departmental examination analysis had been produced and a proforma had been devised in order to analyse where improvement was needed.  The Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher met on a regular basis (fortnightly) to discuss pupil progress and the senior leaders and Links partners who also met on a fortnightly basis, had been given increased accountability with specific performance management targets leading to outcomes.  Panel Members were informed that  greater support had been provided to Heads of Departments in both English and Maths with subject specific pilot training sessions for all staff in both English and Maths being arranged and improved frequency and accuracy in student tracking.  The more precise tracking had included fine grading which had enabled the pinpointing of personalised interventions.  A Raising Achievement and Progress group (RAP) had also been established to monitor progress and develop emotional and social welling interventions and a second teacher for Maths had been appointed in December 2013 despite the school's challenging budgets.  The PiXL tracking system had been introduced within the school as a management tool to analyse vulnerable pupil groups and to increase the accuracy of tracking. 

 

Having regard to attendance, the new process whereby punctuality phone calls were made to students had improved attendance figures with regular punctuality phone calls being introduced.  The school day had also been restructured in order to assist in settling pupils into lessons which had had an impact on period 1 as it allowed pupils to start lessons on time. Appropriate personalised learning pathways for students had been established in order to ensure pupils were studying the right course.  A student progress wall had also been created in order that staff could easily identify which students were currently being mentored, those who were having interventions and details of the target groups in English, Maths and Science.  The Callio model for attendance was also being implemented and a Callio officer had been appointed.  Members of staff had also visited a boys' technical school which catered for ages 11 to 19 to ascertain good practice initiatives and to identify areas where practices may not be working as well. 

 

With reference to early entry examinations, it was noted that this worked for some pupils but not for others.  For those pupils who found exams stressful early entry was considered appropriate as it could provide them with a better understanding plus also the knowledge that they could have the opportunity later in the year to resit if necessary. 

 

Parents were also encouraged to attend meetings at the school in order to highlight address issues facing pupils and a weekend revision exercise had been arranged for 46 critical pupils.  This had been a considerable investment with 12 teaching staff giving up their time to attend the weekend which had also provided a high degree of encouragement for pupils.  Every fortnight each pupil was also seen on an individual basis to assist them to drive up their grades. 

 

The specific interventions that had been established at the school were reported as follows:

  • Extra classes created to reduce class sizes in order to make learning more effective
  • Early entry for appropriate students
  • Resetting of classes to target specific students
  • Residential revision weekend
  • SLT visiting every English and Maths lesson
  • Specialist support from local authority in English and Maths
  • Specialist LSA within lessons supporting students and providing small group tuition
  • Revision classes, lunch time classes
  • Walking, talking mocks and pre-public exams in December and March
  • Students creating personalised learning check lists.

The Panel had also queried the length of time it had taken to appoint the Headteacher, which had been approximately 18 months.  The Chairman of Governors advised that the Governing Body had not wished to rush the process but Members of the Panel considered that such a delay would have had an impact on the school.  Members raised concerns as to why the interventions had not been brought in earlier and why issues had not appeared to have been addressed when children commenced with the school in Year 7 from primary schools.  It was noted that the tracking of progress throughout the school, commencing with Year 7, had now been established.   Staffing had also been increased by the Governing Body in order that leadership plans could be produced to ensure specific interventions were appropriately put in place. Members had also been keen to ascertain how the school ensured the curriculum programme was suitable for boys and were advised that lessons were planned differently for boys with more activities being provided. 

 

Following discussions with the System Leader it was noted that the tracking of pupils' progress was inconsistent and that pupils' targets provided insufficient challenge.  Whole school data collection needed to take place more frequently and the inconsistencies in the application and monitoring of the school policies and practices needed to be addressed.  It was further recognised that in order for the school to improve and be sustainable the staff needed to be totally committed to the aspirations of the school and the Governing Body needed to challenge performance on a regular basis.  The support that had been provided to the school was quite substantial but the school's strategic plan needed to be more focused. 

 

Overall the Panel noted the package of support that had been provided and that improved results were anticipated.  However the Panel were uncertain at the time as to whether improvements in 2014 would be sufficient to meet the agreed targets and recommended that a standards committee of the Governing Body be established to assist with the challenges facing the school and to monitor and evaluate school performance. To assist this process the Panel also recommended that such a  committee be represented by other members of the Governing Body and not include the Chairman and Vice-Chairman in order that other members of the Governing Body can fully engage in the challenge process. 

 

The Panel intended to revisit the school, if appropriate, following the examination results in August 2014 and had requested that the decision of the Panel be shared with the Governing Body in order that the concerns of the Panel could be conveyed.  The Panel also recommended that whenever the Headteacher's report was provided to Governing Body, that it was provided in written format prior to each Governing Body meeting in order that effective challenge could be maintained.  The minutes of Governing Body meetings would then also be able to reflect more detail of how the Governing Body intended the school to raise standards. 

 

Should the school not make sufficient progress during the year the Chief Learning and Skills Officer would have to recommend to the Council that it exercise its powers of intervention in accordance with the School Standards and Organisation Act 2013.

 

The Chairman, in presenting the report and referring to the work of the Progress Panels, said that significant time had been taken in order to scrutinise the schools and to consider the schools’ plans that had been put in place to increase performance.  The Progress Panel for Barry Comprehensive would return following the examination results in August 2014 and the Chairman stated they would report further to the Scrutiny Committee if appropriate.

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the findings of the School Progress Panel as detailed in paragraphs 15 and 16 of the report be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T a follow up visit to the school by the Panel Members following GCSE results in August 2014 be noted.

 

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

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Committee of the findings of the Scrutiny Panel.

 

(2)       To monitor progress.

 

(3)       For Cabinet consideration.

 

 

110            REVIEW OF INDIVIDUAL SCHOOLS PROGRESS MEETINGS (CLSO) –

 

The report had been prepared as a result of the Committee’s original recommendation to undertake a 12 month review of school progress meetings that had been set up.

 

In January 2013 Cabinet had recommended to the Scrutiny Committee that invitations be extended to the Chairmen of Governors and the Headteachers of schools were performance issues had been identified, including those schools under Estyn follow up arrangements, to a meeting. 

 

The Chairman, in presenting the report, advised of the following.

 

On 18th February 2013, the Scrutiny Committee had agreed to establish School Progress Panels consisting of three members (minimum of two elected Members) to be drawn from the ten elected Members and four statutory co-opted members of the Scrutiny Committee. The Panels had been established to ascertain whether the schools had up to date and authoritative improvement plans, that they had in place arrangements to monitor the impact of the plans, to amend them as appropriate and to establish what progress had been made against each action within the plans and what further progress was required;  this approach being deemed necessary in order to seek to improve the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.  

 

Prior to each Panel meeting briefing sessions were held with the Members of the respective Panels to provide up to date information in relation to the school. 

 

At the Panel meetings the Cabinet Member for Children's Services, the Chief Learning and Skills Officer (CLSO), the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion, the schools' System Leader and the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, together with the Headteacher, Chairman of Governors and / or a representative of the school or Governing Body were also in attendance.  

 

The Chairman of the Panel was agreed amongst Panel Members and, following introductions and a short overview by the Chairman, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion provided a verbal presentation regarding the current situation and why the School Progress Panel meeting had been convened.

 

Opportunity was then afforded to the Headteacher and / or Chairman of the Governing Body to enable them to demonstrate the school's ambitions, capacity, commitment to rapid and sustained progress and to identify any barriers that the school may be facing that could be resolved by additional support from the Council.

 

The findings of the Panel were to be submitted for consideration by the Scrutiny Committee and the Cabinet for consideration.  The Panel was supported by an officer from the Education Department Management Team and the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Section.  It was also agreed that the Panel arrangements, including officer support, would be reviewed after 12 months. 

 

To date Panel meetings have been held with four schools in the Vale, namely:

  • Barry Comprehensive
  • Bryn Hafren Comprehensive
  • Llantwit Major Comprehensive
  • St. Cyres Comprehensive.

Three out of the four schools that had been visited to date received written warnings from the CLSO and were made fully aware that should the school not make rapid progress during the year the CLSO would have to recommend to the Council that it exercises its powers of intervention in the governance and management arrangements of the school in accordance with the Schools Standards and Organisations (Wales) Act 2013.  The fourth school visited was as a result of an Estyn Inspection and subsequent concerns relating to pupil attainment and about the capacity for rapid and sustainable improvement in outcomes.

 

Lessons Learned Conclusions

 

A revised procedure note attached at Appendix 2 to the report had been prepared following the four Panel meetings and it was recommended that this be adopted.

 

Panel Members had stated that full and frank discussions had taken place at the meetings and that the schools had provided information regarding the support programmes in place, together with details of initiatives that the schools had been undertaking in order to improve performance.  The schools had also stated that they welcomed the challenge for improvement and the opportunity that had been afforded to them.  Schools were advised that they could make formal presentations if they so wished, and a number of them had provided the details of the presentations prior to the meeting in order that they could be contained within the agenda.  Members had welcomed this approach and would encourage this as it allowed for preparation prior to the meeting. 

 

Panel Members had been apprised of the support commissioned, not only by the schools themselves, but by the Council and the Joint Education Service (JES). 

 

The knowledge of individual schools gained through this process had been invaluable to Panel Members, who considered that the process had allowed for in-depth discussions, exploration and the provision of detailed information in relation to the support provided to schools in the pursuit of improvement. 

 

One of the main issues identified by Panel Members, whilst undertaking the process, was that good practice should also be disseminated throughout schools within the Vale. 

 

Data tracking was an important aspect in order to monitor student progress and to screen any difficulties and could be used to target resources, track students, measure progress, assess trends in student achievement in order to make improvements where necessary.  Data capture and tracking information was considered essential to the process and should be regularly maintained and analysed.  Notwithstanding this, it was recognised that a number of schools operated different tracking / management systems and it was the Panel Members' view that one management record system which could be utilised, to include transition details, particularly from Primary to Secondary schools and for use by the JES, would ensure a consistent approach to record management, data capture and analysis.  It was suggested that this be pursued further.

 

In some instances the visits to the school had been delayed for various reasons. However, it had been considered essential that Panels visit schools as early on in the process as possible to ensure that accountability was acknowledged and challenged and any further support that was needed was identified.

 

Leadership support for the Management Team of schools was also considered essential and this should include regular meetings being held between the leadership team, Heads of Department and teachers in challenging pupil performance and addressing their needs, with the intention to access appropriate support as early on in the school year as possible.  In order to assist this process it was recognised that schools needed to establish database systems which should be readily monitored and analysed.  Regular meetings to analyse the data should also be timetabled and action points addressed by the departmental management team in relation to individual pupil needs. 

 

Schools needed to adopt levels of challenge to ensure that they were targeting the relevant groups and to ensure that pupils were placed in the right categories.  The school should identify the risks in not achieving the targets and ensure systems were established to minimise these risks.  Panel Members were informed that regular revision time was timetabled, with some schools adopting weekend revision options as well as lunch-time and evening opportunities.  Such initiatives were considered good practice as they provided further opportunities for pupils.

 

Schools should also ensure that the parents were fully informed of the process in order that they were fully apprised of their child's needs and how they would be met.  This would ensure that a consistent approach from home to school and school to home was adopted. 

 

Another key message from the process was that Governing Bodies needed to be fully informed of all issues regarding performance and the support available to schools and that they challenged the school on a regular basis. In some schools visited this was not evident.  Although these arrangements were in place they were not always as effective as they needed to be.

 

All Governors needed to fully understand their roles and ongoing development training should be pursued.  To assist this process, it was recommended that candidate role descriptions should be further developed on the role of a Governor and these should be provided to prospective candidates as part of the notification process when considering applying for the role.  (The Governor Support unit to be required to implement this recommendation.)

 

Panel Members had recommended that Governing Body Monitoring Groups be established to hold the school management team to account, which would allow them to be fully apprised of the support required to assist schools in meeting the challenges and targets and the processes and procedures the Headteacher and their leadership team intended to put in place to address such issues.  This was essential to evidence a culture of improvement existed within the school.

 

It had been identified that not all schools provided Governing Bodies with a written report prior to Governing Body meetings.  Panel Members considered it essential that all schools received a full written Headteacher's report and that it was sent to all Governors prior to the meetings of the Full Governing Body.  The reports to include details of school performance issues and the initiatives to be adopted to improve performance in order that effective challenge could be made. 

 

Attendance figures were identified as a challenge for schools with a need for schools to have a clear message in relation to the importance of attendance to pupils, parents and visitors.  This could be done in a number of ways, e.g. by raising the profile at the school, by the use of banners and graphical information.  One school had also adopted a zero-tolerance approach in respect of attendance.  Panel Members considered that the advertisement within the school was a good way to raise the profile for pupils, parents and visitors attending the school and recommended that other schools adopt similar initiatives.

 

Team leadership in the school was key to success to ensure that all staff worked together and trusted one another in the process. 

 

With regard to pupil profiling and transition from Primary to Secondary Schools, a number of schools advised that information regarding the level and ability of pupil learning was not always accurately recorded by Primary Schools.  It was recommended that further work on this be undertaken to ensure more effective moderation of teacher assessment at Comprehensive level.  A recent Australian Centre for Education Research (ACER) report (a Welsh Government commissioned report) had also highlighted that current teacher assessments were not fit for purpose.  

 

Schools should ensure that there was sufficient rigour and detail around self-evaluation and improvement planning.  Close monitoring of the standards of lessons and teaching needed to take place within schools to ensure that all staff fully understood the improvement agenda and the tracking methods to be utilised.

 

The Panel meeting process had also allowed Panel Members to "drill down" further in relation to the work of the schools and to use the opportunity to promote the sharing of good practice and initiatives that had been identified.

 

Concern was also expressed by a Panel as to the undue delay that had been taken in the appointment process for a vacant Headteacher position in 2011.  The Panel considered that such a delay (18 months) was an unacceptable period for the school to be without a Headteacher. 

 

It was envisaged that, where appropriate, the current four Panels would undertake further visits to the schools following the examination results in August 2014 and report back to the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet accordingly. 

 

It was also anticipated that in addition to Eagleswell Primary School there would be some further schools within the Vale that may be subject to formal progress reviews that would require individual progress meetings.  In view of the workload issues and the number of Primary schools involved in the process it was suggested that a meeting schedule be developed for two schools per school term to be visited by Panel Members.

 

In view of the lessons learnt as outlined above, the impact of the Panel meetings to date and the number of Primary schools subject to formal progress reviews, the Democratic Services Officer stated that the report recommended that the School Progress Panel approach be continued.  This approach not only allowed for the Council, Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment, but also provided the opportunity to monitor and evaluate the performance measures and support that was required and being put in place to ensure improvement.

 

The current approach of selecting three members from 14 members of the Scrutiny Committee was considered to have been successful, in that it allowed for a number of members to be involved in the process, gaining experience and knowledge, and also for any conflicts of interest, where, for example, a member may be a Governor of a school, to be addressed.

 

The support to the Panels had been provided by the Chief Learning and Skills Officer, the Head of Improvement and Inclusion, the System Leader for the relevant school and a Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer. The preparation for the meetings included the scheduling of meetings, agenda despatch, research required, completion of notes of the meetings and preparation of reports to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

The Scrutiny Committee had previously recognised the capacity and resource issues involved in supporting the Panel process.  Consequently, and in view of its Scrutiny Committee work programme and issues that it wished to address in 2014/15, for example Governor Training, School attendance and holding the JES to account, it had itself agreed to not take part in the Task and Finish Review prioritisation exercise that had been undertaken with all Scrutiny Committees in light of the ongoing work it was already committed to.

 

The Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer referred to the lessons learned action plan attached at Appendix 1 to the report which detailed  the actions required within relevant timescales.  Appendix 2 to the report detailed a suggested procedure for School Progress Panel meetings with the Chairman requesting Committee approval. 

It was noted in the procedure that in exceptional circumstances, should it be necessary, a special meeting of the Scrutiny Committee may be required to consider any issues raised by a Panel following a school progress meeting.

 

The Chairman also took the opportunity to thank all the members who had been fully involved in the Progress Panels, advising that they were important roles for the Scrutiny Committee to undertake in order to ascertain schools’ plans for improvement and to undertake robust challenge of schools’ performance.  He also thanked the officers for their support in the establishment of the Panels and referred to the fact that he considered that the Scrutiny Committee’s main role was in relation to performance, its promotion and achievement.  He realised the amount of time that was required in order to establish and undertake Panel meetings and recognised their value and importance as significant for the Council.  The Cabinet Member also took the opportunity to thank all involved in the process which he considered had been very robust meetings and he thanked the Scrutiny Committee for agreeing to establish the Panels on behalf of the Cabinet to assist in raising school performance. 

 

In referring to the presentations by two Headteachers earlier in the meeting and the Progress Panel’s recommendation that good practice be shared the Chairman reiterated that this be addressed by officers with the Consortium. He also advised that the Committee would be inviting representatives from the Consortium to a meeting later in the year where this matter would be further explored.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report and the Action Plan at Appendix 1 to the report detailing the lessons learnt to date in respect of School Progress Panel meetings be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Action Plan be monitored and reviewed by the Scrutiny Committee in 12 months’ time.

 

(3)       T H A T meetings of School Progress Panels continue in the format as outlined within the report and as set out in the procedure at Appendix 2 to the report.

 

(4)       T H A T all reports of School Progress Panel meetings continue to be referred to this Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

 

(5)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration, advising of the lessons learnt to date.

 

Reasons for the recommendations

 

(1-5)    In recognition of the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation in 2013 that a review of the process be undertaken in 12 months.

 

 

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