Agenda Item No. 4

The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee: 3rd October 2016


Report of the Managing Director


Review of Individual Schools Progress Meetings


Purpose of the Report

  1. The report has been prepared as a result of the Committee's decision in June 2014 to monitor the action plan in 12 months of a review of the arrangements for the School Progress Panel Meetings that were established during 2013.


  1. That the current approach of selecting the Panel Members when appropriate be continued.
  2. That the contents of the report and the Action Plan at Appendices 1, 2 and 3 detailing the lessons learned to date in respect of the School Progress Panel meetings be accepted.
  3. That the Action Plan continue to be monitored and reviewed by the Scrutiny Committee in 12 months' time.
  4. That all reports of School Progress Panel meetings continue to be referred to this Scrutiny Committee for consideration.
  5. That the report be referred to the Central South Consortium's Managing Director for consideration.
  6. That the report and recommendations above be referred for consideration to Cabinet, advising of the lessons learned in respect of the Progress meetings that have taken place to date, together with any additional views of the Committee itself.

Reason for the Recommendations

1-6.    In recognition of the Scrutiny Committee's recommendation in 2013 that a review of the process be undertaken in 12 months.


  1. The Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) had previously considered a series of inspection reports which described the attainment of pupils attending schools in the Vale and referred the same to Cabinet for consideration. These reports described the success of pupils in those schools, highlighted the further progress that was required and provided information in respect of the support and challenge that had effectively been put in place.
  2. In January 2013, Cabinet had recommended to the then Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) that invitations be extended to the Chairman of Governors and Headteachers of schools where performance issues had been identified, including those schools under Estyn follow up arrangements, to a meeting to consider issues of performance.
  3. On 18th February, 2013, the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) subsequently agreed to establish School Progress Panels consisting of three Members (minimum of two Elected Members), to be drawn from the 10 Elected Members and 4 statutory Co-opted Members of this Scrutiny Committee. The Panels were established in order to ascertain whether the Schools to be visited 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.
  4. Prior to each Panel Meeting, briefing sessions are held with the Members of the respective Panels to provide up to date information in relation to the school.
  5. At the Panel Meetings the Cabinet Member for Children's Services, the Director of Learning and Skills, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion, the School Challenge Advisor and the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, together with the Headteacher, Chairman of Governors and/or a representative of the School Governing Body are all usually in attendance.
  6. The Chairman of the Panel is agreed amongst Panel Members, and following introductions and a short overview by the Chairman, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion provides a verbal presentation regarding the current situation and why the School Progress Panel Meeting has been convened.
  7. Opportunity is then afforded to the Headteacher and/or Chair of the Governing Body to enable them to demonstrate the school's ambitions, capacity, and commitment to rapid and sustainable progress and to identify any barriers that the school may be facing that could be resolved by additional support from the Council.
  8. The findings of the Panels are to be submitted for consideration by the Scrutiny Committee and also to Cabinet for its consideration. The Panel is supported by an officer from the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Section.
  9. In total, Panel meetings have been held within five secondary schools and two primary schools, namely:
  • Barry Comprehensive
  • Bryn Hafren Comprehensive
  • Llantwit Major Comprehensive
  • St. Cyres Comprehensive
  • St. Richard Gwyn R/C High School
  • Eagleswell Primary School (now defunct)
  • Fairfield Primary School.
  1. Over the past twelve months and since the previous update report, meetings have been held at Barry, Bryn Hafren and St. Richard Gwyn Secondary schools, along with Fairfield Primary school.
  2. Panels re-visits to both Barry and Bryn Hafren schools have evidenced that progress has been made, but in some areas performance and pupil attainment levels were below the required targets. Both schools continue to be monitored and GCSE results for 2016 will be considered prior to any further follow up visits.
  3. Also, in March 2016, a Progress Panel was convened for St. Richard Gwyn R/C High School following a fall in pupil attainment in 2015. An update report on this meeting was provided to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee on 23rd May 2016.
  4. On 23rd June, 2014, following a review of the process, the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) agreed an Action Plan and recommended that an update report be provided on an annual basis. The Action Plan was developed following a desk top review of the work of the Panels and lessons learned to date.
  5. The Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) received an update report at its meeting held on 7th September 2015. This detailed progress on the implementation of the Action Plan, along with an evaluation of the impact of the Panels and also an evaluation of responses received to a survey sent to Panel Members, senior officers, Challenge Advisors and the schools' representatives. It is planned that a further survey be undertaken during March 2017.
  6. A procedural note had been developed of the work of the Panels which had been reviewed as a result of the lessons learned at that time. A copy of the latest procedure note is attached at Appendix 4 for Members' information.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Attached at Appendix 1 is an update of the Action Plan and shows the progress that has been made with each individual action for visits held between April 2013 and June 2014. The majority of these that were reported on at the previous update report have been completed, although a number are still on going.
  2. Appendix 2 illustrates further improvement actions observed by Panel visits conducted over the period; July 2014 and September 2015. A summary of progress made to date is contained within the appendices but is also set out in the following paragraphs.
  3. As part of the previous review, it had been identified that schools need to ensure that proper teachers' planning is completed in the correct manner and in the correct format. Teachers' planning, usually completed on a fortnightly basis, is seen as a vital part of medium and long term curriculum planning. Furthermore, the need for close monitoring of teachers' planning by the Senior Leadership Team of a school was also highlighted. Over the past 12 months, it has been identified that all schools have rigorous systems in place to monitor teachers' planning and it is evident from Challenge Advisors' reports that this is taking place.
  4. Another aspect for improvement was the development of shared accountability for those schools which are part of the 'School Challenge Cymru' programme. Officers of the Directorate had observed that their knowledge of schools within this programme was not as complete as those schools supported directly through the Central South Consortium. Officers considered that there needed to be a strengthening around the sharing of information and consultation between the 'School Challenge Cymru' Advisor and the Learning and Skills Directorate. This has been progressed with discussion with the Managing Director of the Central South Consortium. It has been noted that information from Accelerated Improvement Boards, established in the 'School Challenge Cymru' schools, is being shared with the relevant officers, and this is being fed into the Directorate's action plans.
  5. It was also highlighted that the links established through the 'School to School' initiative was fairly positive and it was considered that this should be assessed to ensure that a similar level of support and improvement has been observed across other schools in the Vale. The impact of the 'School to School' initiative has been monitored by the Central South Consortium, and their evidence regarding progress will be issued over the forthcoming months.
  6. Since the last update on the Action Plan, in September 2015, four additional actions have been included as a result of Panel visits to Barry, St Richard Gwyn and Bryn Hafren Secondary Schools and also to Fairfield Primary School. These are shown in Appendix 3.
  7. Good practice has been identified in relation to raising pupil attendance within Secondary schools and the Panel has recognised the improvements made at Barry and Bryn Hafren. These improvements, that will be shared as 'best practice', relate specifically to:
  • The creation of an 'Inclusion Room' to support the learning of excluded pupils;
  • Outreach Service set up in local community area to engage with hard to reach parents;
  • School's attendance policy and individual pupils' attendance are shared with parents and pupils;
  • Incentives given to reward high attendance;
  • Attendance Panels made up of key staff and Governors set up to consider cases where pupils' attendance is low i.e. below 80%.
  1. Recent Panel visits have shown that an important consideration for schools is to have a programme in place around teacher development. It is therefore recommended that these be shared across the Vale as 'best practice':
  • The appointment of a dedicated Teaching and Learning Coach to actively consider and promote teacher development.
  • Use of IRIS Connect (or similar) to visually record and share individual lessons considered to be excellent.
  • All teachers to have a Personal Development Programme.
  1. In visiting Fairfield Primary School, it was reported that as this school did not have its own nursery provision, difficulties existed in the accessing of data for pupils transiting from local nurseries. The school highlighted that in some instances pupil data was not as complete as it should be and that the sharing of data presented problems. It is therefore recommended that a review of pupil data be undertaken to identify any issues and that, where appropriate, data sharing protocols be developed between Primary schools and nurseries.
  2. One other area of development was around encouraging senior leaders to undertake leadership courses so that this could be strengthened. This should also help to assist to identify aspiring leaders and should lead to schools being more effectively and efficiently run.
  3. Progress around these four additional actions will be reported to the Committee in a year's time.

Future Panel Meetings

  1. The current approach of selecting three Panel Members from 14 Members of the Scrutiny Committee has been considered and is recommended to continue. This approach has allowed for a number of Members to be involved in the process (taking account of any potential conflict of interest), gaining experience and knowledge.
  2. Members have expressed the wish to visit 'coasting schools' in order to help push up standards even further, in addition, to visits to high performing schools as a way to identify and share 'best practice'. It is planned that following provisional categorisation of schools, which should be known in October, that a timetable of visits can be determined after the autumn term.
  3. It is also anticipated that any future visit to Fairfield Primary School will be considered after the school's categorisation and benchmarking positions are known.
  4. As previously stated, further re-visits to Barry, Bryn Hafren and St. Richard Gwyn Secondary schools will be reported to be considered when GCSE results are published in August 2016, and the close monitoring of the performance of all schools in the Vale by the Directorate will continue.

Support to the Panels

  1. The support to the Panels has been provided by the Director of Learning and Skills, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion, the Challenge Advisor for the relevant schools and a Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer. The preparation for meetings includes the scheduling of a pre-meeting, agenda dispatch, research required, completion of notes of meetings and the preparation of reports to the Scrutiny Committee.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. As illustrated in paragraph 32 to be operated from within existing resources.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. Raising overall standards of achievement.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The recommendations in this report are within the existing Policy Framework and Budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Not applicable, however, all Members who have been involved as Panel Members have been consulted on the report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Learning and Culture.

Background Papers

Scrutiny Committee reports for Barry, Bryn Hafren, Llantwit Major, St. Cyres and St.  Richard Gwyn R/C Secondary schools along with Eagleswell and Fairfield Primary schools which have been presented to the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) / Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee and the Cabinet.

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) Report: 7th September 2015, Review of Individual School Progress Meetings.

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) Report: 23rd June 2014, Review of Individual School Progress Meetings.

Contact Officer

Mr. Gareth Davies, Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer

(01446) 709249

Officers Consulted

Head of Democratic Services

Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

Legal Services

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Managing Director