Agenda Item No. 7(ii)
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 Fairfield Primary School on 22nd June 2016.
- THAT the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 38 to 41 of the report be accepted.
- THAT an update report be presented to Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee, within the next six months, following publication of progress in the Foundation Phase and key stage 2 and also in relation to school categorisation and benchmarking.
- 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.
- 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 Fairfield Primary School comprised Councillors N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Councillors Mrs R. Birch and R.A. Penrose.
- Also in attendance was Mrs. S. Lewis (Headteacher), Mr. J. Dunlop (Chairman of Governors), Mr. P. Buxton (Challenge Advisor), Mrs. L. Convey (Assistant Headteacher), Dr. J. Edwards (Assistant Headteacher), Mrs. M. Plummer (Lead Officer for School Improvement and Inclusion). Ms. J. Hill (Director of Learning and Skills) and Mr. G. Davies (Scrutiny Support Officer).
- On the 25th April 2016, a Cabinet report requested that the then Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) conduct an individual School Progress Panel meeting.
- 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 meeting, the Headteacher relayed that since 2011, the number of pupils on the school roll had increased from 202 to the current level of 292. The Headteacher explained that for the school many children often arrived at Year 6, whereas for other schools most pupils arrived at Nursery. Pupil transition from nursery was therefore a challenge for the school.
- It was highlighted that Fairfield Primary School did not have its own nursery provision and this meant that the school was not always fully aware of the numbers coming into the Reception Year and that they came from several different nursery provisions. Therefore, within the school, social relationships had to be a focus on entry to Fairfield as they were not coming from one nursery in which pupils would already know one another. The school had also recognised that a number of children came from out of area and in some instances the level of social skills was very low, so the starting point for some of the pupils varied, with children possessing varying degrees of social skills and mobility.
- The Headteacher advised that difficulties also existed due to the various approaches to learning undertaken by a number of nurseries within the area. The school had found it difficult to access information on pupils from out of catchment or county. Therefore, the school sometimes had gaps in knowledge background of pupils and the school considered that the free flow of communication could be improved. The Panel was informed that out of the 43 children within the current Reception Year, the school considered that 30 pupils had the necessary core data with them on arrival from the respective nurseries.
- The Headteacher also advised that it had been identified that some children were being sent to other local schools particularly those with their own nursery provision.
- The Panel was made aware that the catchment area of the school was quite small and pupils came into the school from a diverse range of backgrounds and communities.
- In addition, the Panel was asked to note that the school was recognised as the second most challenged school within its family, with a high proportion of Special Educational Needs (SEN), ethnic minority and English as additional language (EAL) pupils.
- With regard to the number of SEN pupils, the Headteacher advised that over the last three years the number of pupils on a School Action Plan had been higher than that of the local authority average. In addition, the proportion of pupils with Statements had been higher than that of the local authority average during the last five years. These pupils would have been previously supported by a resource base within the school, but this had since closed during the summer of 2015.
- Furthermore, the proportion of pupils from ethnic backgrounds was high and currently stood at 20%, which was more than twice that of the local authority (average 9%). The Panel was also advised, that the proportion EAL pupils on the early language acquisition stages that were below the competent level, was currently at 75% and this was higher than that of the local authority (63%) in 2014/15.
Progress at Foundation Phase
- In relation to 2016 outcomes for the Foundation Phase, it was noted that three pupils had not achieved the Foundation Phase Outcome 5+. This was due to their special educational needs and also issues around attendance. The school had been able to work closely with these individual pupils and they had been supported through several interventions.
- An analysis carried out by the school during 2015 of the Foundation Phase, identified that the number of children attaining Outcome 5 had increased over the past three years across Language, Literature and Communication (LLC), Mathematical Development (MD) and also Personal and Social Education (PSE). In addition, the school advised that boys were performing in line with girls for all subject areas and the school compared favourably to its family and to the local authority averages.
- Furthermore, in LLC, MD and PSE over the previous three years, the 2015 analysis, found that the school had been able to increase the proportion of children attaining Foundation Phase Outcome 6. However, for each of the three subject areas, the school was lower in comparison to its family average and in 2015 had been placed within benchmark quarter 3. This had therefore been highlighted as an area of development within the school's Improvement Plan.
- The Challenge Advisor, in outlining progress in relation to benchmarking advised that during 2015, for the Foundation Phase Outcome 5, each of the three areas of learning were in either quartile positions 1 or 2. Outcomes for 2016 were predicted to be very similar with the only difference being in literature, which had dropped when compared to 2015. With regard to the upper level (Outcome level 6+) performance for 2016 had surpassed 2015 and the school was predicted to be in benchmarking quarter 2 for all of the subject areas.
Progress at Key Stage 2
- In relation to key stage 2, an analysis undertaken by the school during 2015 highlighted that the relatively small cohort of children had affected the positive outcomes, with each pupil accounting for 3.5 to 4%. With regard to Level 4+, the Headteacher informed the Panel that outcomes had improved over the past three years (2013, 2014 and 2015) for English, Mathematics and Science. Improvement had also been seen in the CSI and this had remained stable in 2015. Of pupils at Level 5+, in 2015, there had been a decrease in outcomes for English and Science, although it was highlighted that Mathematics had shown good progress.
- Furthermore, for Level 4+ in 2015 for English, Mathematics and Science, the school was in benchmarking quarter 4. However, disaggregated data showed that for English, the school was in benchmarking quarter 2, while in Mathematics the school was in position benchmarking quarter 3. With regard to Science, the Panel noted that the school remained in benchmark quarter 4 but had missed the 3rd quartile benchmark by 0.9%.
- In terms of the predicted benchmarking for 2016 at key stage 2, the Challenge Advisor informed the Panel that for outcome Level 4+, the performance in English was expected to drop by 3%, which equated to the performance of one individual pupil. It was therefore predicted that the school would be in quarter 3 for English and Science and quarter 2 for Mathematics and the CSI. However, at the upper level (Level 5+), for the three subject areas, the school had made good progress and was predicated to be in benchmarking quarter 1.
Progress around Pupils Entitled to Free School Meals
- Improving the attainment levels for pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) was a specific area of development for the school. It had been identified that non FSM pupils were outperforming FSM pupils in most areas. In detailing progress, the Challenge Advisor explained that performance of FSM pupils was improving, but the small number of pupils did make the data unreliable. In the Foundation Phase for 2016, there were only four pupils on the FSM register, while at key stage 2, there was only one FSM pupil on the register.
Improve Pupil Attendance
- In terms of pupil attendance, although this had increased over time, in 2015, the school had dropped into benchmark quarter 4. During that year, the school exceeded the attendance target of 94.9% by 0.9%, which had been impacted by four children. In order to support these families, referrals had been made to the Educational Welfare Officer. The school had also introduced the Callio system which had resulted in improvement.
Progress in relation to the School Improvement Plan
- The Challenge Advisor outlined progress in relation to leadership and teaching and he confirmed that progress had been made in most areas and at both key stages, particularly at the higher levels. Pupil level data indicated that all SEN pupils had made at least two levels of progress between Foundation Phase and key stage 2, with some making three levels of progress. The Challenge Advisor also reported, that although a variety of assessment for learning strategies were being carried out, the evidence suggested that these could be further developed. In addition, the school would further evaluate the impact of its strategy for FSM pupils.
- In outlining the progress made in relation to specific actions, the Headteacher advised that regular peer lesson observations were now being undertaken, from which positive elements had been recorded. These had also been verified by the schools' Challenge Advisor. In relation to the marking policy, the Headteacher stated that all staff had been part of an internal review. As a result of this, a summary of the marking codes was now displayed in classes and in pupil work books. Book scrutiny by the senior management team had also allowed for the monitoring of the marking policy, around which a consistent approach had been identified. This marking scheme had been moderated, which evidenced that codes were being used in classes and were also placed in the front of books for pupils to access.
- The Panel queried the school's use the codes within its marking system and questioned how much cross-examination of marking was being undertaken in order to ensure consistency. In reply, the Panel was informed that termly moderation is undertaken for English, Maths, Science and Welsh. In addition, subject leads would undertake moderation across cluster groups of pupils. Recently the codes for marking had been reviewed which had previously been based on two stars for good work and a target for improvement but this had now been replaced with two stars and a prompt.
- The Panel was further advised that in order for the school to allow greater time for dedicated individual reflection time, it was reported that book scrutiny had identified that prompts were being used across all year groups. In addition, the new timetabling had ensured that each class had allocated time to review marking and prompts as well as allowing pupils to have adequate response time.
- In highlighting areas of strong performance, the Headteacher explained that over time there had been an improvement in outcomes. Teaching standards were considered to be an area of strength as it was reported that the quality of teaching was consistently 'good or better'. This had been moderated by the Challenge Advisor. Focus within the new School Improvement Plan was to move 40% of teaching from good to excellent and robust systems were in place involving use of Continua within the school and across the School Improvement Working Group.
- The school reported that it was also able to successfully identify specific groups of pupils that needed additional support and the school considered that it was effective in using data to track progress and to raise standards. The school outlined that analysis and the use of data meant that the school was effective at tracking pupil progress and also at highlighting those pupils requiring intervention.
- In terms of the school's ability to improve, the Headteacher outlined that focus during 2015 had led to improved self-evaluation procedures. Improved procedures were now in place following additional input from the Central South Consortium particularly in regard to literacy and science. The school's ability to improve was also highlighted by effective use of the Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG) that had been targeted at specific groups of pupils; although the Challenger Adviser had identified that the school could further evaluate the value for money regarding use of its PDG.
- The Headteacher highlighted that the school had a distributed leadership model, in which, roles and responsibilities were assigned to a number of teachers and senior leaders. An important element around leadership was the internal professional learning communities which included all staff in the development of procedures and policies.
- The Headteacher also mentioned that the majority of pupils would go on to attend Stanwell Secondary School, even though the school was a feeder for St. Cyres. She informed the Panel that last year, out of 43 pupils, 6 went onto St. Cyres.
School Governing Body
- During the Panel meeting, the Chair of Governors made comments on the following points:
- a review had been carried out around how the Governing Body worked;
- a new structure had been introduced that included three new Sub-Committees; Standards, Provision and Leadership & Management;
- there had been improvement with the Governing Body around the effective use of performance data; and
- the Governing Body had received good training from the Council.
- In reply to a question on the impact of the school's Standards Committee, the Panel was advised that this Sub-Committee had met twice so far. It was felt by the school that this new Committee would be beneficial in raising overall standards. The Panel was also advised that the school had created two additional Committees of the Governing Body which included a Committee responsible for provision within the school and also a leadership and management sub-committee. The Chair of Governors stated that over the last few years, a number of Challenge Advisors had been supporting the school and each had their own ideas for improvement and it was therefore difficult for the school to understand which strategic plan it should follow.
- A Panel Member queried the involvement of school Governors, particularly in relation to undertaking learning walks. In response, the Chair of Governors advised that learning walks had been recently discussed at a full Governing Body meeting and it had been agreed that learning walks would be undertaken by all Governors. The school was also encouraging informal chats between Governors, the teachers and pupils and the school had recognised that it was important for Governors to understand how they could influence performance within the school and how they could ensure that the teachers had the tools in place in order to drive improvement.
- Furthermore, the Headteacher added that reports on progress around improvement targets are presented to the full Governing Body meetings, and certain Governors are aligned to support certain subjects.
- In addition, the Chair of Governors also outlined that the school wanted to encourage children to come from all different backgrounds and the school recognised that this was just as much an area of strength as it was a challenge. He stressed that the school wanted appropriate resources, to support SEN/ALN pupils that there was also a need to stabilise the pupil numbers coming into the school in order to improve the financial position of the school. The Chair of Governors highlighted three priority actions that he had been raised in a letter to Director of Learning and Skills, dated 16th June 2016:
- The importance for the school to have its own nursery provision.
- Additional funding to support Mobility, SEN and EAL.
- Recognition that the school was in fact a feeder school to Stanwell; this would encourage parents to consider Fairfield.
- Following consideration of all evidence, the Panel was pleased to see the start of the restructure to the Governing Body and in particular with the setting up of a Standards Committee and the Panel was pleased that Governors were undertaking learning walks. The Panel noted the assessment undertaken of the difficulties within the school and also the improvements that the school had made, but the Panel was not sure that all of these were fully embedded, such as marking and the school's approach for self-evaluation.
- The Panel was keen for the school to promote itself within the local community and the Panel noted the concerns raised around nursery provision. The Panel believed that the school would benefit in having greater data analysis of the common cohort of pupils (from reception to year 6) as well as late starters.
- Overall, the Panel considered that the school was working hard but there was still some work to do.
- Finally, it was noted that a follow up visit would be considered sometime during the next six months, following publication of the school's categorisation and benchmarking positions.
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
Mr G.Davies, Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, Tel 01446 709249
Lead Officer for School Improvement
Rob Thomas, Managing Director