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Agenda Item No. 5

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee: 23rd May, 2016

 

Report of the Managing Director

 

Individual School Performance Progress Panel Meeting

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide the Committee with an update of the School Progress Panel Meeting held at St. Richard Gwyn R/C High School on 1st March 2016.

Recommendations

  1. THAT the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 34 to 37 of the report be accepted.
  2. THAT an update report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in the Autumn following the GCSE results in August 2016.
  3. THAT this report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and/or approval.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To apprise Committee of the findings of the Progress Panel.
  2. To monitor progress.
  3. For Cabinet's consideration.

Background

  1. School Progress Panels consisting of three Members were established in February 2013 in order to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The School Progress Panel meeting for St.Richard Gwyn R/C High School comprised Councillors N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Councillor R.A. Penrose and Dr. C. Brown (Co-Opted Member of the Scrutiny Committee). Also in attendance was Mr. S. Grech (Headteacher), Mr. P. Burke (Chairman of Governors), Mr. S. Lord (Deputy Headteacher), Mr. M. Glavin (Head of School Improvement and Inclusion). Mrs. M. Hudson (Challenge Advisor) and Mr. G. Davies (Scrutiny Support Officer).
  2. In September 2015, the Director of Learning and Skills forwarded a letter to the Chair of Governors which placed on record the Department's concern about the capacity for rapid and sustainable improvement with regard to outcomes. The letter also highlighted that during 2015 and compared to 2014, pupil attainment at Key Stage 4 had decreased for most of the key indicators. For example, the proportion of pupils attaining 5 GCSE A* to C grades including English and Maths had reduced to 56%, which was a 2% drop on the performance achieved in 2014. Furthermore, the proportion of pupils attaining A* to C grades in Science fell from 82% to 71%, in Maths fell from 64% to 62% and in English fell from 76% to 70%.
  3. Therefore, the Panel meeting provided an opportunity for the school to demonstrate through the democratic process its ambition and commitment to rapid and sustained progress and to identify any barriers that the school may be facing which could be resolved by the actions of the Council.

Outcomes at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4

  1. At the meeting, the Panel was advised of the progress of the current cohort pupils (152) at Key Stage 4 for this academic year.
  2. The school had set itself ambitious targets in order that it could be classed within the top 25% of similar schools in Wales. The school reported that it was on track for all pupils to achieve the Level 1 indicator (5 GSCEs at Grade A*-G), and was confident that it would meet its target of 90% of pupils achieving the Level 2 indicator (5 GCSEs at Grade A*-C).
  3. In terms of the Level 2+ indicator, for 2016, the school has set a target of 70% of pupils achieving 5 A*-C GSCE grades including English (or Welsh as a first language) and Maths. During January 2016, the school had reported that 57% of pupils had achieved the minimum pass rate and the latest data for February indicated that this had risen to 64%. The Headteacher explained that the school would be concentrating on those borderline pupils and that this would result in a revised timetable and an increase in curriculum time.
  4. For GSCE English, the school's performance target for 2016 is for 80% of pupils achieving at least a C grade. As at January 2016, 68% of pupils had achieved this minimum, which during February had increased to 76%.
  5. With regard to Maths, the Headteacher explained that the school was currently in a very strong position and that performance was well above where the school was last year. At the time of the Panel meeting, 65% of pupils had achieved the minimum C grade, which was set against a target of 75%. The Headteacher advised that it had been identified that Maths was an issue and that the situation had been improved through staff changes and an amended timetable and also through the input of the Deputy Head who gave support to targeted lessons. The Headteacher further advised that a modular Maths paper had been used for marginal pupils and this had provided them with an extra opportunity to sit the examination and provided them with more focus and a higher degree of confidence.
  6. For Science, the school was tracking 85% of pupils achieving the minimum C grade and it was reported it was on track to hit its target of 89%. With regard to the Core Subject Indicator (the percentage of pupils achieving at least a GCSE grade A*-C in each of English or Welsh first language, Mathematics and Science), again the school reported that it was confident that it would hit its target (70% pass rate) with 62% of pupils having reached the required minimum standards as at February 2016.
  1. In relation to Key Stage 3, the Headteacher advised that the school was also evidencing a level of improvement in standards and that performance targets for 2016 were above attainment levels achieved in 2015. He stated that there was a relentless focus on standards in teaching and that there was a commitment to improve leadership at all levels.
  2. A Panel Member asked for more detail around what the school was doing in respect of Level 6 and Level 7 pupils at Key Stage 3. In response, the Headteacher stated that for the school an important development had been the rearrangement of classes. He mentioned that all classes had pupils of mixed abilities and that the more able and talented pupils were interspersed into all classes because it was considered that this created healthy competition. He also added that pupil data was now at a fine level and based on upper, middle and lower categories. In addition, internal moderation by the Central South Consortium had taken place which provided the school with a reference point and a description of the attributes that Level 6 pupils would possess.
  3. The Panel questioned whether the more able and talented pupils were being challenged enough. The Headteacher agreed that more could be done by the school and that a pupil's ability should be recognised sooner and at the start of the academic year. He stated that some teachers had been reluctant to categorise pupils to the higher levels and some were unsure of the process. Further to this point, the Deputy Headteacher added that there was now a different mind-set of the pupils, particularly in relation to knowing what they needed to do in order to achieve better results. The Panel further questioned whether there was an issue with the school identifying the more able and talented pupils or was this an issue around the provision for taking this forward. In reply, the Headteacher stated that it was both and that this was more developed in some departments than others. He added that that this was something that the school was working on.
  4. Other contextual data for the school highlighted that the current rate of exclusions had dropped to 30.5 days when compared to the same time period last year which was 57.5 days. In addition, overall pupil attendance for this academic year was currently at 94.5% (target being 94.6%) and teacher absence due to sickness was low at around 3% of the staff team.

The school's plans for improvement

  1. The Headteacher outlined to the Panel, that upon his appointment in April 2015, it was recognised that the school was very traditional when it came to its leadership, structure and approach to learning. He stated that one of his main priorities had been to do with gaining the trust of the staff to ensure that they were fully on-board with the school's plans for improvement. It had, therefore, been important for him and the senior leadership team to give a commitment to the staff that they would be supported.
  2. To address specific areas for improvement, a School Improvement Plan has been devised, which is based on the following four key strategic objectives:
  • Learning: to improve and share effective teaching and learning practices across the curriculum
  • Ethos: to further promote opportunities to develop wellbeing and the Catholic/Welsh identity
  • Achievement: to raise attainment of all learners particularly at Key Stage 4
  • Development: to improve the development of leadership at all levels
  1. The Headteacher advised that the plan would be reviewed through line management approximately midway through the year and more formally on an annual basis in conjunction with the school's self-evaluation process and document. The review would be informed following engagement with the staff and would be led by groups of teachers that would be tasked with looking at specific learning aspects within the school.
  2. The teaching staff in the school had also identified seven features that they considered would make up an "excellent lesson". This is referred to as the St Richard Gwyn Seven (SRG7) and is made up of the following:
  • High expectations of/for all
  • Differentiation progress for all
  • Best use of time, pace and challenge
  • Regularly check student progress
  • Independent, paired and group learning
  • Positive, Catholic learning environment
  • Model 'excellent' outcomes
  1. The Headteacher explained that because the school wanted all lessons to be excellent, the school would regularly discuss and evaluate the effect on learning from these seven features. All teachers had been given opportunity to observe 'excellence' and the SRG7 has therefore informed how teachers undertake lesson planning and how teachers plan for good lessons. The Panel was advised that this has led to improved "differentiation" within the school which had allowed pupils to progress at an improved rate.
  2. In relation to lesson observations, the Headteacher advised that this had been revised in order to make evaluations of the SRG7. Furthermore, all teachers have formal observations at least once a year and there was also opportunity for peer observations. Both of these were aimed at showing the teachers what could help them to improve. The school has also devised a calendar of events, which was attached to the school's handbook and this enabled teachers to identify when lesson observations were due to take place and this allowed teachers to better plan their workloads.
  3. The school has looked at performance management and this has led to a revision of the school's policy towards this, which is now closely aligned to teaching objectives and outcomes. The Headteacher explained that the school's internal monitoring system was closely aligned to how teachers were performing against the SRG7. This gave the school an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of lessons and helped teachers to identify those aspects that required improvement. The Headteacher added that as a result of these initiatives, standards within the school were improving. The school had also recognised that the curriculum needed to be changed and this has led to the school's most able teachers, teaching the most challenging pupils and the more marginal groups.
  4. The line management process in the school has been streamlined which is now married up to performance management. This has enabled line managers to identify any areas of improvement that teachers need to consider. Other improvements included the development of raising standards co-ordinators for English, Maths, Science and for Year 11. Their work would be focused on specific groups of pupils such as those pupils with English but not Maths and those who had Maths but not English. These groups of pupils would also receive pastoral support from the core subject leaders and would be informally supported by the senior leadership team outside of the classroom environment.
  5. The Headteacher advised that it had been recognised that not all of the skills of the teaching staff were being fully utilised and one of the challenges was around increasing the opportunities for teachers to develop. Therefore, the school has actively looked at building up staff capacity and at succession planning. In addition, a co-ordinator for personal development has been recruited who has devised a personal development programme for the teaching staff. The school had also considered that it was important to create more professional opportunities for its staff and so the school has developed leadership roles at the middle leadership level.
  6. The Headteacher, in explaining how these improvements would be implemented, advised the Panel that the school had recognised the requirement to develop leadership roles at all levels which could lead to many teachers working towards achieving a recognised qualification. The school would also share ideas and best practice with other schools and a formal review of staff training would be undertaken. The senior leadership team had also made a commitment that there would be a greater presence of senior leaders out within the school, although capacity to provide this was an issue. At least one lesson would be observed each day, being divided out between members of the senior leadership team. This allowed the school to record and report on good lessons, around which a learning and teaching folder has been created so that the school could share what a good lesson should look like.
  7. The Panel queried how the school supported those staff that may not be on board with the school plans for improvement. The Headteacher explained that this related to a very small percentage of staff and there were a number of approaches that the school had used to ensure that staff bought into the school's vision. For example, he advised that the Deputy Headteacher had met with those staff that had shown some reluctance and so opportunity had been given to discuss and resolve any issues.
  8. The Panel questioned the effectiveness of pupil tracking within the school, to which the Headteacher replied by stating that an example of good tracking could be highlighted with the projection of pupil attainment for the January set of examinations. For these, the error margin of the school's tracking system, for many indicators, had shown a 1% difference either way (+/-) when compared to the actual percentage pass rate achieved. The error margin for the Level 2+ indicator was slightly higher at around 4%. Overall in terms of rigour, this meant that the school would know what the pupils needed to do in order to improve.
  9. The Challenge Advisor in providing some of her observations, advised that there was now a greater focus on outcomes and standards within the school and she felt confident that the school was making progress. She mentioned that the school had a challenging set of targets and that it had in place a clear vision of its objectives. She stated that there was now a different feel to the school and that there was more clarity around what the school wanted to achieve. She also stated that teaching methods and systems had been revamped and there had been an effort to improve "differentiation" which was starting to have an impact. She also mentioned the support provided by the senior leadership team which was also having a positive impact, as was the new timetable that had been devised.

   Governance Arrangements

  1. In outlining changes to the Governing Body, the Chair of Governors stated that the membership of the Governing Body was being refreshed and this would provide a better understanding around the school's future direction. Furthermore, the Panel was advised that the school possessed its full complement of 21 Governors and recently two new Parent Governors had been appointed along with two new Foundation Governors.
  2. In terms of Governor training, the Panel was informed that a skills audit of all Governors was being undertaken and the Chair of Governors made positive comments around the training package that was provided by the Governor Support Unit which was focused on performance, the use of data and outcomes.
  3. The Governing Body was also keeping a close eye on staffing issues and had affected staff changes, particularly in relation to those individuals who were not fully on board with the school's plans for improvement. The Governing Body was however, mindful that as some departments were very small, any changes could have a profound impact.
  4. A Panel member queried if Governors undertook learning walks, which would have more to do with getting a feel of the school as opposed to monitoring. In answer to this, the Chair of Governors replied by stating that there was an expectation that this would be delivered through the staff within the school.
  5. In answer to the Panel's question about the support of parents, the Headteacher explained that in general terms, parents were supportive of the school's plans. He had met with some parents who had raised concerns and he advised that interaction with these had been positive.

Panel's Decision

  1. Following consideration of all evidence, the Panel determined that it had a reasonable level of confidence that the school would achieve its targets for improved performance. The Panel regarded that the school had effective plans to improve results at Key Stage 4 but the Panel felt that the school should closely monitor its targets at Key Stage 3, particularly for Level 6 and Level 7 pupils.
  2. The Panel recognised that the work of the Governing Body was improving but would encourage members of the Governing Body to undertaken occasional learning walks and Subject Link visits.
  3. The Panel felt that although the school had developed a training strategy, it suggested that the school look to establish links and dialogue with other schools and outside peers to broaden opportunities for learning and development.
  4. Finally, it was noted that a follow up visit would be considered sometime during the Autumn term 2016, following the publication of the GCSE results in August. These results will be the subject of a report to Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee, following which determination will be made as to whether a follow up visit is required.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. Within existing resources with the role of school progress meetings being reviewed.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no sustainability and climate change implications arising from this report

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. There are no legal implications arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. Improving outcomes and wellbeing for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The recommendations of the report are within existing policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Not applicable

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Learning and Culture

Background Papers

Contact Officer

Mr G.Davies, Scrutiny Support Officer, Tel 01446 709249

Officers Consulted

Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

Legal Services

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills

 

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