Agenda Item No. 7(i)
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee: 19th September, 2016
Report of the Managing Director
Individual School Performance Progress Panel Meeting
Purpose of the Report
- To provide the Committee with an update of the School Progress Panel Meeting held at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School on 12th July 2016.
- THAT the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 37 to 42 of the report be accepted.
- THAT a follow up visit will 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, following which determination will be made as to whether a follow up visit is required.
- THAT this report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and/or approval.
Reasons for the Recommendations
- To apprise Committee of the findings of the Progress Panel.
- To monitor progress and to determine if a further follow up visit is necessary.
- For Cabinet's consideration.
- 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.
- The School Progress Panel meeting for Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School held on 12th July 2016, comprised Councillors N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Councillor F.T. Johnson and Mr L. Kellaway (Co-Opted Member of the Scrutiny Committee).
- Also in attendance was Councillor L. Burnett (Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Education), Mrs. J. Hill (Director of Learning and Skills), Mrs. M. Hudson (Lead Officer for School Improvement), Mr. S. Sherman (Challenge Advisor), Mr. T. Davies (Headteacher), Mrs. A. Davies and Mrs M. Davis (Members of the Senior Leadership Team) and Mr. G. Davies (Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer).
- A meeting had been convened as a result of the recommendation of the Panel in January 2015 to revisit the school following the GCSE results in August 2015. A letter from the Director of Learning and Skills dated 20th August, 2015 placed on record the agreed targets for 2016.
Percentage of pupils achieving A* - C grades in English
Percentage of pupils achieving A* - C grades in Mathematics
Percentage of pupils achieving 5 A* - C grades including English and Mathematics
Percentage of pupils entitled to Free School Meals achieving 5 A* - C grades including English and Mathematics
Attendance during the year
- 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.
Relevant Issues and Options
- At the previous Panel meeting held in January 2015, the Chairman advised that at that time the Panel concluded that there was a measure of confidence that the school would meet the target in English as evidenced at the meeting, but it had limited confidence in the school meeting the Mathematics target, which gave the Panel cause for concern.
- The Panel also welcomed all the measures and procedures that the school had put in place, i.e. new initiatives, the pods, the lesson observations and the ME+3 project that had been introduced. The Panel had also been pleased with the decision of the Governing Body to appoint a Standards Committee and were aware that meetings were taking place with the level of challenge as mentioned by the Chairman of Governors and as reported to the Panel at the meeting. In referring to attendance, the Panel wished to see this improved upon and would urge that further work was pursued to seek that improvement.
- During the latest Panel meeting held in July 2016, the Headteacher outlined that at Key Stage 3, results for 2016 at Level 5, showed the school in a positive position, with the school being placed in quartile position 1 for all of the four key subjects and also for the core subject indicator. With regard to Level 6, he advised that the main challenge facing the school was within Mathematics, for which, the school was in benchmark quartile 4. Level 7 performance data for the school showed a strong position with the school in benchmark quartile 1 for English, Mathematics and Science.
- With regard to the non-core subjects at Key Stage 3, the school's profile was also very positive and all subjects were within benchmark quartile position 1 for Level 5 and Level 6.
- Data for Level 7 non-core subjects was also positive apart from Information technology which was in benchmark quartile 4. This would therefore be a key priority for the school during the next academic year, with actions for improvement included within the school's Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP). The Headteacher further advised that the school compared favourably to its family of schools and that the school had some of the best Local Authority averages for girls.
- In outlining performance at Key Stage 4, the Headteacher advised that attainment levels over the past four years for all the performance measures had increased. He outlined that the school performed well at Level 1 and in relation to its capped points score but that anything to do with Mathematics had been impacted by low achievement levels. For example, in 2015 the Key Stage 4, Level 2 + indicator (the percentage of pupils achieving 5 A* to C GCSE Grades including, English and Mathematics) was 42%, which was a 1% decrease on the rate of achievement in 2014.
- Performance indicators for Level 5+ Key Stage 3 for 2015 showed that all core subjects were within benchmark quartile 1 and had shown an upward trend in performance. Indicators for Key Stage 4, on the whole, also showed an upward trend with Science and English both moving up in terms of benchmarking quartiles.
- The Headteacher made specific reference to the school's Raising Achievement Plan, which outlined the areas of deficiencies and how these challenges would be tackled. The school had identified that the three key challenging areas related to Mathematics at Key Stage 4, the performance of pupils entitled to Free School Meals (FSM) and the low rate of pupil attendance.
Progress within Mathematics
- In terms of Mathematics, the Panel was advised that the school had evaluated its strengths and weaknesses within this subject and a number of improvements had been initiated. This included an increase in the amount of curriculum time for Year 11, with pupils now having eight hours per fortnight rather than the six hours that had previously been provided. The school had also undertaken early entry examinations in November 2015.
- The school had also started to provide Saturday morning sessions and these were better targeted and planned, with three Mathematics teachers per session. The school also outlined that significant support had been provided by the Central South Consortium with their Lead Officer for Mathematics having regular visits to the school.
- In outlining progress with Mathematics, the Panel noted that following the November early entry examinations, 47.2% of pupils had achieved the minimum C grade. This was 5% higher than the performance achieved during 2015 and which is set against a target pass rate of 57% for the 2016 academic year.
- The school had made progress by putting in additional sets and teachers to support the 30 or so pupils on borderline C and D grades and this cohort had been split into four separate groups. These groups were also supported by the three best Mathematics teachers.
- Furthermore, a lead practitioner for Mathematics had been appointed and whose role would commence from September 2016. The Headteacher added that all Mathematics teachers were part of a coaching programme and all had regular one to one meetings to discuss areas of improvement and to support teacher development. Furthermore, the new Head of Department that had recently been appointed, following the retirement of the previous Head, had previously worked in a school in which strong improvements in Mathematics had been achieved.
Progress around Free School Meal Pupils
- With regard to how the school aimed to improve the performance of FSM pupils at Level 2+, the Headteacher advised that focus would begin at Year 7 and would run through to Year 11. Teaching staff within the school have been able to identify Year 11 FSM pupils and the areas of focus for improvement in these pupils. A study room had been made available to all Year 11 FSM pupils at lunch time and this provided the opportunity to complete homework / coursework in school. This also allowed FSM pupils to have access to computers and printers which they may not have had at home. The school had brought in a peer mentoring scheme that gave opportunity for individual support and the school had provided pupils with new uniforms at no cost and pupils had also been offered free transport to and from school, if required, in order to allow them to attend additional revision sessions.
- In summarising progress for FSM pupils, the Headteacher explained that the school felt secure in that 26% of pupils would achieve the minimum necessary standard. This compared to the 23% that achieved the minimum four C grades at Level 2+ in 2015. The school's target for this year was for a pass rate of 32% and the Headteacher advised that the mock examination had shown that pupils were capable of achieving the necessary grades.
Progress to improve Pupil Attendance
- With regard to improving school attendance, the Headteacher advised that the rate had been around 92% for a number of years, and that in 2015 the school was placed in quartile benchmark position 4. Since then, the school had focused significantly on pupil attendance and the current rate was 94.2%, which was a 1.6% increase on 2014/15. It was therefore anticipated that this would place the school in benchmark quartile 1.
- The Headteacher advised that the improved rate of attendance had been as a result of the following initiatives:
- Delegated responsibility to the Deputy Head (Pastoral) and to the Associate Assistant Head.
- More clearly defined role for the school's Data Officer.
- The appointment of two Pastoral Support Officers in order to work with families around improving attendance.
- The establishment of an attendance professional learning community to improve discussion and also to help implement strategies that improve attendance.
- All teachers meeting in year groups before school every Thursday, in part to discuss strategies to improve attendance.
- The re-writing of school's attendance policy, which followed closely the Callio / Wise Up advice from the Central South Consortium.
- The school had also received support from the local authority in order to carry out its policies and practices.
- The Headteacher also mentioned that incentives were provided for pupils with high attendance and that on a half termly basis attendance information was sent home to parents. The school had established an attendance panel with key staff / Governors in order to meet with pupils who were under 80% attendance or heading close to that figures. The Headteacher also added that the school had used Fixed Penalty Notices, following which the rate of attendance for six pupils had improved.
School's Post Inspection Action Plan
- During the meeting, the Panel considered the school's Post Inspection Action Plan. This detailed the school's future plans for improvement and related directly to the recommendations following the Estyn inspection back in 2012.
- In response to Estyn's first Recommendation [to raise standards, particularly in those areas where there is relative underperformance, including English and Mathematics at Key Stage 3], the Headteacher went on to explain that Recommendation (1) could only be achieved if the other four Recommendations were satisfactorily completed. The school had therefore developed a number of bespoke and challenging targets for Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 and there would be a regular analysis on how each department was performing.
- With regard to Estyn's recommendation (2) and the need to increase the proportion of good and excellent teaching within the school, the Headteacher referred to the creation of pods which had been set up for Years 8, 9 and 10 staff that were used to improve the quality of teaching. Via these pods all staff had undertaken a programme developed by Dylan William and SSAT called "Embedding Formative Assessment". Teachers would regularly meet to discuss teaching strategies and would then try them out in their lessons and report back any successes to the Governing Body or the Senior Leadership Team. Another important development had been the introduction of the IRIS Connect system that allowed the school to record and share lessons electronically and it was hoped that this would be used more widely across the whole school.
- Furthermore for 2015/16, there were scheduled twilights that delivered training on aspects of teaching that were identified as weaker as a result of lesson observations in 2014/15. Twilights had taken place on effective use of plenaries, effective use of questioning and effective use of lesson objectives. Resources and materials around these had been shared with staff. The school also had a coaching programme in place, which would involve 8 or 9 teaching staff at a time. The Headteacher mentioned that the school had introduced three briefing meetings each week to look at 'quick wins' and he also advised that lesson observations had been 'beefed up' and were more regular, with partner schools invited to observe lessons.
- For Estyn's Recommendation (3) [ensure that there is a consistent and systematic whole school approach to improving pupils' literacy skills], the Panel was advised that since the Estyn inspection in 2012, the school was very satisfied with progress made. The main objective of the school was to ensure that there was consistency throughout each department and so the school had carried out a detailed audit of the literacy opportunities across all subjects. Following this, the school had created two additional teaching groups in English, in each year group, and the subject was getting increased curriculum time. Furthermore, workshops had been held for staff which provided opportunity to compare marking, this had allowed consistency when marking assessed work and reporting against the Literacy and Numeracy Framework.
- The school had also used previous Welsh national tests and also diagnostic marking as a tool to improve pupil performance. The English department had also produced a useful guidance booklet for developing literacy which was used constantly by all departments. In addition, the school had also looked at how pupils entitled to FSMs had completed the Welsh national tests, as it had been recognised that some pupils had not answered all the questions. It was felt that some pupils lacked confidence and so further walking and talking mock examinations would be provided. Finally, the school had also improved the information provided to parents with the diagnostic reports sent home in order to show parents the strengths and weaknesses of their children.
- With regard to Recommendation (4) [improve consistency in the quality of marking so that pupils receive clear advice that helps them improve], the Headteacher explained that the key aspect for the school related to audits of staff performance in this area. The school would undertake regular book reviews and there were regular checks to ensure that marking was consistent. The school had improved the level of feedback provided to pupils, although it had been identified that not all teachers were providing this to the necessary standard. The Headteacher also stated that Estyn had highlighted that the Senior Leadership Team was not getting involved enough in book reviews. As a result, this was an area that the Assistant Headteacher would be leading and she had been working closely with colleagues in Pencoed Comprehensive School. The Headteacher advised that for the school the key was to ensure greater consistency and Senior Leaders would be spending more time monitoring teachers' performance.
- To address Estyn's Recommendation (5) [the need to strengthen the quality of improvement planning to ensure plans linked closely with the findings of self-evaluation and included clear targets for improvement], the Headteacher advised that departmental improvement plans were cross-referenced with the school's improvement plan. Professional learning communities had provided an opportunity for a range of staff across the school to look at planning documents and to develop a more useful set of school improvement plans. The Headteacher explained that the school had enhanced its improvement planning which is now more focussed on the important issues as identified by Estyn.
- The Panel raised a query in relation to the level of FSM pupils. In reply, the Headteacher referred to the important role that Pastoral Support Officers had and that these were having a beneficial impact on FSM pupils. In addition, the Panel was advised that application forms for free school meals would be sent to parents and that parents would be aware of the benefit to the school from the extra funding for their children's education. The Housing Benefit section would, on regular occasions, be sent a list of those children receiving FSMs and the school would telephone those parents, for which, a form had not been returned. The School would also be able to provide assistance to parents around completing the form, and the school would automatically send forms to those parents who were no longer on the FSM list.
- In reply to a question regarding the support available to those pupils not identified as eligible for FSMs, the Deputy Headteacher advised that all pupils would be able to access the same level of provision. The school would actively target and identify pupils but the same support was available to all.
- A Panel Member queried whether all staff had shown the same level of enthusiasm in meeting the challenges within the school. In reply, the Headteacher stated that there were 60 staff members in the school and that the vast majority were supportive of the school plans. Some of these had therefore questioned the need for the school requiring monitoring. The Headteacher also stated that the school would have to identify those members of staff that were complacent and that school would use the capability procedure for those teachers that were not performing well enough.
- The Chairman of the Panel queried the current level of academic performance with Mathematics at Key Stage 4. In response, the Headteacher commented that compared to last year, the school had already achieved a 47% pass rate, which was higher than last year's 42%. For this year, 36 borderline D grade pupils had been given opportunity to undertake the examination again and these pupils had been taught by different teachers and had been given extra classes. In addition, legacy papers had also been used.
- The Panel acknowledged the improved level of attendance and the work being undertaken for free school meals pupils, but the Panel was mindful for the school to be properly focused on positive outcomes for its pupils.
- The Panel asked the school to note the shared disappointment following the GCSE results in August 2015 and also a fall in performance in Mathematics at Key Stage 4.
- The Panel recognised the positive achievements at Key Stage 3, but also understood the amount of work required to improve the quality of marking. The school's PIAP formed a useful basis for the future work required by the school and the Panel was encouraged by the plans in place.
- The Panel commented that challenges would continue ahead of Estyn's next monitoring visit which was critical to the school's future. Other challenges included the GCSE results for this summer and the need for further work on marking.
- The Panel had heard of the improvements in the Mathematics department and the Panel hoped these would come to fruition and that the new staff employed were also successful to the school's plans.
- A follow up visit will 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, following which determination will be made as to whether a follow up visit is required.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- Within existing resources with the role of school progress meetings being reviewed.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- There are no sustainability and climate change implications arising from this report
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- There are no legal implications arising from this report.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.
- Raising overall standards of achievement.
Policy Framework and Budget
- The recommendations of the report are within existing policy framework and budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- Not applicable
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Learning and Culture
Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) Report: 20th April 2015, Individual School Performance Progress Panel Meeting.
Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) Report: 7th April 2014, Individual School Performance Progress Meetings.
Mr G.Davies, Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, Tel 01446 709249
Lead Officer for School Improvement and Inclusion