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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 21 January, 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Pupil Attainment and School Improvement: Summary and Further Proposals

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         This report summarises the contents of two recent referrals from the Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee and a Cabinet Report about pupil attainment and school improvement.  It contains information about work that is currently being undertaken and three proposals for further action.

Recommendations

1.         To note the contents of the report including the proposed development of a shared school improvement strategy through the Central South Consortium.

2.         In order to further increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment, Cabinet asks the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee to invite the Chair of Governors and the headteacher of individual schools where performance issues have been identified, including schools subject to Estyn follow-up, to a meeting of the Committee. The Committee is also asked to develop arrangements for the format of these meetings and a detailed work programme identifying the dates for inviting individual schools to attend meetings.

3.         Cabinet is invited to endorse the use of intervention powers by the Chief Learning and Skills Officer if, in the future, it becomes appropriate to do so: any use of these powers would be reported to Cabinet.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To note the good work that is being done by schools to further increase pupil attainment.

2.         To consider further action to increase accountability.

3.         Where accelerated progress is needed, to increase challenge and support.

Background

2.         On 17 December Cabinet received two references from the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee reporting pupil attainment data for the foundation phase, key stage 2, key stage 3 and provisional data for key stage 4 : the data related to the school year 2011/12.  Cabinet also received a report at the request of the Scrutiny Committee providing further information about pupil attainment at key stage 3 including individual school-level analysis.

3.         Statutory teacher assessment takes place at the end of the foundation phase (age 7), key stage 2 (age 11) and key stage 3 (age 14).  Students generally take GCSE's at the end of key stage 4 (age 16).  At each key stage the attainment of children and young people is assessed and reported at different levels both in single subjects and in combination.  Authority-wide performance is compared with previous years and with other local authorities in Wales.  Individual school data is compared with previous years and with similar schools in Wales.

4.         The references and report previously considered by Cabinet demonstrated high levels of attainment by many pupils in many schools.

5.         The references and report concluded that comparison with local authorities across Wales, place Vale performance in the Foundation Phase above the benchmarked position linked to the level of free school meal entitlement.

6.         Performance at key stage 2 has increased.  Comparison with local authorities across Wales places Vale performance across the majority of indicators well above the benchmarked position linked to the level of free school meal entitlement.  Alongside the generally strong performance the report described some under performance in writing.

7.         Key stage 3 performance has increased for six of the last seven years.  A pattern of increase over a period of six years but without further progress in 2012 was demonstrated across several performance measures at key stage 3.

8.         Progress has also been made in other authorities in Wales at key stage 3 over the seven year period:  improved key stage 3 performance has been recorded on all indicators and continued to increase in 2012.  The difference in progress between 2011 and 2012 for the Vale of Glamorgan and for Wales as a whole, means that performance in the Vale is now at the Welsh average on several indicators and therefore below the benchmarked position linked to free school meals entitlement.  For example on the core subject indicator (the proportion of students attaining level 5 in English/Welsh, mathematics and science) performance is now at the Welsh average.  Under-performance in writing is identified as a contributing factor.  The supplementary report showed that in relation to similar schools nationally, the key stage 3 performance of individual secondary schools in the Vale is too often in the lowest or lower middle quarters rather than the higher middle or highest quarters.

9.         Key stage 4 performance is principally reported as the proportion of students attaining 5 GCSE's at grades A* to C including English/Welsh and mathematics.  This measure is known as 'level 2 inclusive'.  The report considered by the Scrutiny Committee described provisional results: final results were reported orally.  In 2012 55.3% of students achieved level 2 inclusive.  Comparison with local authorities across Wales places Vale performance in line with the benchmarked position linked to the level of free school meal entitlement.  Over the last two years achievement on this measure in the Vale has reduced by a total of 1.7% from 57.1% in 2010. In 2012, four secondary schools recorded increases including an impressive gain from 51% to 66% at St Richard Gwyn and four schools recorded decreases including a fall from 44% to 30% at Bryn Hafren.

10.      The annual 'stocktake' of the performance of schools in the Consortium by the Welsh Government School Standards Unit took place on 4th December.  The stocktake concluded that the current rates of progress and improvement being achieved within schools and in most parts of the Consortium are insufficient.  The Joint Education Committee of the Consortium noted that "the challenges facing local authorities and schools across the consortium are significant and will require a raising of expectations, improvements in teaching and learning processes, a step change in the quality of leadership and management, a consistent commitment to build capacity based on an understanding of best practice, a willingness to innovate and clear lines of accountability at all levels".

11.      The Welsh Government published bandings for secondary schools for the first time in Autumn 2011 to identify which schools need support and which we can learn from.  Updated bandings based on 2012 attainment and 2011/12 attendance data and the school's socio-economic circumstances were published in December 2012.  Banding groups schools into one of five bands "from Band 1 schools which are performing well to Band 5 schools which need to improve".  The second set of bandings published on 18th December 2012 identified:       

 

School

Band 2011

Band 2012

Barry

Bryn Hafren

Cowbridge

Llantwit Major

St Cyres

St Richard Gwyn

Stanwell

Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg

 

4

2

2

4

3

3

2

1

3

3

2

4

3

1

1

4

 

 

 

 

 

12.      The banding scheme continues to attract considerable comment.  It is encouraging to note that the improved attainment at Sir Richard Gwyn and Barry and improved attendance at Stanwell has been reflected in improved bandings.  Conversely, Bryn Hafren, and to a more marked extent, Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg, have seen falls in their bandings reflecting lower performance:  Llantwit Major remains in band 4.

13.      19 schools in the Vale were inspected by Estyn in the last three years comprising15 primary schools, 2 secondary schools and 2 special schools.

·                Primary Schools

Aggregated judgements for primary schools inspected during 2010-12 are summarised below (as %):

 

Area / Key Question

Excellent

Good

Adequate

Unsatisfactory

The school’s current performance

0

73

20

7

The school’s prospects for improvement

0

73

20

7

KQ1: How good are the outcomes?

0

80

13

7

KQ2: How good is provision?

0

80

13

7

KQ3: How good are leadership and management?

0

80

13

7

 

·                Secondary Schools

The inspection judgements are shown below:

 

Area / Key Question

School 1

School 2

The school’s current performance

Good

Adequate

The school’s prospects for improvement

Good

Good

KQ1: How good are the outcomes?

Good

Adequate

KQ2: How good is provision?

Good

Good

KQ3: How good are leadership and management?

Good

Good

 

·                Special Schools

Area / Key Question

School 1

School 2

The school’s current performance

Good

Good

The school’s prospects for improvement

Excellent

Good

KQ1: How good are the outcomes?

Good

Good

KQ2: How good is provision?

Good

Good

KQ3: How good are leadership and management?

Good

Good

 

14.      Pupil performance across Wales has improved on most measures in recent years.  Progress has been made in improving examination results at GCSE and A Level and ensuring fewer young people leave school without a qualification. Performance has however increased less rapidly than in other parts of the UK.  The Minister for Learning and Skills has described the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as a wake up call to an education system that has  become complacent, falling short of being consistently good and not delivering the outcomes our learners deserve.  'Improving Schools' published in November includes a national target to increase GCSE attainment at level 2 inclusive to 65% by 2015 compared with 51.1% in 2012.

 

15.      The responsibility for maintaining and increasing the level of pupil attainment lies principally with schools.  Headteachers are accountable in the first instance to governing bodies for the work of their staff teams to provide high quality education in a safe environment to their pupils.  Governing bodies hold Headteachers to account.  The local authority as the middle tier between schools and the government provides resources, support and challenge to schools and Estyn provides an independent assessment of the standards achieved and capacity for improvement.  Since September, the authority has started to deliver key aspects of our role for school improvement through the Central South Consortium's Joint Education Service (JES):  Cabinet considered a number of reports dealing with the establishment of the Consortium.

Relevant Issues and Options

16.      The former Learning and Development department made a very significant contribution to the development of the JES including the development of the operating model and the focus on pupil-level data.  In addition to the staff who transferred to the JES, and the secondment of the former Director of Learning and Development, considerable staff time from a number of departments was given to this important development.  Inevitably this resulted in some distraction from the day-to-day work to support schools during the transition period.  Following the launch of the JES the Council, through the governance arrangements for the Central South Consortium, provides support and challenge for its operation and development to ensure challenge and support for schools is fully effective and of a high quality.  A report on the progress of the JES to date will be available for presentation to Scrutiny Lifelong Learning Committee shortly.

17.      Under the new administration and in the context of the JES the department has now fully re-focussed its activity to further increase pupil attainment and to address aspects of under-performance.  Examples of these activities are shown below:

·                Alongside the statutory school improvement functions for all schools including performance reviews, target setting and performance management provided by the JES, prioritised schools are receiving additional support from the JES.  The prioritisation is reviewed termly taking into account the latest performance data including key stage 3 and GCSE results.  Banding also influences this prioritisation.

·                As detailed in the references to Cabinet, on the basis of performance data, the department has commissioned support programmes in order to address some underachievement in writing (Big Write and Powerwrite), and mathematics (Big Maths).  Additionally the Council has introduced a new local target for all schools for reading, writing and mathematics in combination (RWM).  The fourth strand of the commissioned package is the 'plus 1' programme providing support to schools in order to increase the numbers of pupils attaining at the higher levels in end of key stage assessments.  Welsh Government analysis has shown that children who attain level 5 at the end of key stage 2 in English/Welsh and, particularly, mathematics have  an increased likelihood of achieving GCSE A* to C grades in later years and this programme is designed to maximise pupil attainment accordingly.

·                The school investment programme has been accelerated with construction underway for the innovative Penarth Learning Community to provide high quality education facilities for St Cyres Comprehensive, for the amalgamated new special school and for the wider community.  Proposals for the next phase of investment, that will seek to ensure a better match between the supply and demand for school places, are expected to be presented to Cabinet shortly following the current work of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee.

18.      Three further developments are now proposed. 

·                Work is in hand to develop a shared school improvement strategy for the consortium including targets for the consortium as a whole and refreshed school improvement targets for the Vale of Glamorgan.  This will be an important document as it will provide a more detailed framework for the work of the JES, identify the subjects and categories of school that will be prioritised in its work programmes and further enhance the Council's ability to measure JES service performance and improvement progress.  The draft strategy will be available for consideration by the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee in February.

·                Secondly the department is adopting an approach that will seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.  Estyn reports and follow-up progress are reported to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee and school-by-school performance data for secondary schools is also now reported in the public domain.  In order to build on this approach and to ensure that work to tackle weaker performance is supported and that schools are challenged to make accelerated progress, it is proposed that the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee invites the chair of governors and headteacher of individual schools where performance issues have been identified, including schools subject to Estyn monitoring, to a meeting of the Committee.  In the case of schools that are subject to Estyn follow-up, the invitation could follow the publication of the inspection report in order to discuss and endorse the post inspection action plan.  It is recommended that the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee, in consultation with schools, should develop arrangements and a work programme identifying the dates for inviting individual schools to attend meetings.  It should be noted that schools in the Vale that have been subject to special measures or Estyn monitoring have generally made good progress in addressing recommendations and making rapid improvement: this development is intended to build on that record.

·                The Council has powers of intervention which it has not to date been necessary to employ.  Extracts from 'Schools Causing Concern : Guidance for Schools and Local Authorities are attached at Appendix A which provide guidance for local authorities when they are considering intervening in schools causing concern. The current School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Bill includes proposals to clarify the powers and make it easier to understand when it would be appropriate to use these powers.  If in the future circumstances arise when it would be appropriate to do so, Cabinet is invited to endorse their use by the Chief Learning and Skills Officer:  a report would subsequently be made to the Cabinet.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

19.      There are no financial implications arising directly from this report.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

21.      There are no legal implications arising directly from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

23.      There are no equal opportunities implications arising directly from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

24.      Improving outcomes and well being for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

25.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26.      Not applicable

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

Officers Consulted

Lynette Jones, Head of Achievement

Paula Ham, Head of Strategic Planning and Performance

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

 

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