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THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 13TH JULY, 2015

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING): 22ND JUNE, 2015

 

INDIVIDUAL SCHOOL PERFORMANCE PROGRESS PANEL - BARRY COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL (DLD) -

 

The Chairman presented the report, the purpose of which was to update Members of the School Progress Panel meeting held at Barry Comprehensive School by the Panel of three Members of the Committee on 28th April, 2015.

 

The School Progress Panel meeting for Barry Comprehensive comprised of Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Councillor F.T. Johnson and Dr. C. Brown (Co-opted Member).with Mr. G. McNamara (Headteacher), Mr. A. Thompson (Deputy Headteacher), Mrs. K. Beaudette (Chairman of Governors), Mrs. A. Forte (Vice Chairman),  Ms. J. Hill (Director of Leaning and Skills), Mr. M. Glavin (Head of School Improvement and Inclusion), Dr. A. Morley (Schools Challenge Cymru - School Advisor) and Mr. G. Davies (Scrutiny Support Officer) in attendance.  

 

The report outlined that following the 2013 external examination results in each of the core subjects, the proportion of students achieving higher grades A*- C had fallen materially since the previous year including a fall from 59% to 42% in English and 52% to 43% in Mathematics. The proportion of students gaining five A*- C grades including Maths and English fell from 45% to 30%.  

 

At the previous meeting, held in January 2014, the Panel noted the package of support that had been provided and that improved results were anticipated.  However the Panel was uncertain at the time as to whether improvements in 2014 would be sufficient to meet the agreed targets.

 

The Panel meeting had been convened as a result of the recommendation of the Panel to revisit the school following the GCSE results in August 2014.  This was, therefore, 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.  

 

For Members' information, since the meeting in January 2014, a new Chairman of Governors (Mrs. K. Beaudette) and a new Vice-Chairman of Governors (Mrs. A. Forte) had been appointed.

 

The new Chairman of Governors was able to advise the Panel of the improvements made to the governance arrangements within the school.  She explained that one of the first tasks, in conjunction with members of the full Governing Body, was to look at structures within the governing body.  From this a number of sub groups had been formed with delegated responsibilities that separated out whereas such as finance, school buildings and pupil attainment.  The School Improvement Working Group was seen as an important development which was a response to the recommendation of the previous Panel visit.  The School Improvement Working Group now concentrated fully on the curriculum side of the school and had developed close links to individual faculties.  The school had also appointed a Well-being sub group that offered a lot of support to staff and pupils and was tasked with looking at safeguarding issues within the school.

 

The Chairman of Governors also stated that the role of Governors had been considered with greater responsibility now spread across a wider range of individual Governors and there was a desire within the school for Governors to better scrutinise standards, for which bespoke training had been delivered on various common themes.

 

In addition, the Panel was advised, that Governor meetings were now more closely linked to monitoring data and the progress of improvement within the school.  At each full Governing Body meeting, a detailed Headteacher’s report was now presented, that highlighted pupil performance and progress to date.  Also a joint sixth form Governing Body group had been created with Bryn Hafren, so that joint scrutiny of performance of post 16 students could be undertaken.  

 

The Chairman of Governors was able to reassure Panel Members that data / information available within the school was more considerable, in depth and detailed. The Panel was advised that the school was better able to track and scrutinise performance information and there was a greater knowledge among the members of the Governing Body.  Governors were now making better use of their own individual knowledge and experience and she commented on the greater active involvement by Governors, spread across the Sub-Groups and she praised the impact that these Sub-Groups had had.

 

In terms of improvements to leadership within the school, a number of changes and appointments had been made. These included the appointment of a new Deputy Headteacher along with a Raising Standards Leader. Also there were new Heads of Departments for English, Maths and Welsh.  Leadership roles had been developed through links established with Treorchy Comprehensive School and standardised line management meetings between the Senior Leadership Team and Subject Leaders were now regularly held.  The school had also improved the operational and management systems around students’ wellbeing and the school had improved the analysis of students’ performance data.  

 

The Headteacher advised the Panel that there was greater accountability to Governors within the school and that underperformance was routinely questioned.  There was increased accountability for Senior Leadership Team link partners and Subject Leaders with specific performance management targets linked to outcomes.  More precise pupil tracking had been undertaken that included fine grading which had enabled pinpointing of personalised interventions and the Raising Achievement and Progress Group regularly monitored progress with emotional and social wellbeing interventions.  The school had also developed appropriate personalised learner pathways for all students.  

 

Key successes at Key Stage 3 for 2014 were reported to the Panel.  For the Core Subject indicator, this had risen above the expected outcomes against modelled expectations based on Free School Meals.  During 2014, there was an upward movement within English, Maths and Science with students’ outcomes for Level 5+ and Level 6+ above the challenge position within the family of schools.

 

The school had been able to increase Level 5+ attainment for all Foundation subjects and there was an increase in the number of students achieving Level 7+.  Current tracking within the school confirmed further improvements and upward position within the Free School Meal benchmark quartiles.  

 

At Key Stage 4, in 2014, 37% of pupils achieved the Level 2 plus pass rate of five A* C grades including Maths and English.  This compared to the 30% pass rate achieved in 2013. At the time of the visit, the school was tracking a 48% pass rate at this indicator for 2015, which represented an 18% increase over two years.

 

Specific interventions undertaken for Year 11 pupils during 2014/15, in order to make learning more effective, included the restructuring of the English curriculum and the creation of extra classes for both English and Maths.  The school had also introduced a more strategic individualised approach e.g. early entry for appropriate students, curriculum restructuring, resetting of classes for targeted students, increased revision sessions for English and Maths (dependent upon early entry passes, security of data, etc.).  The school had further improved the fine level of data tracking systems and the regularity of data capture.  Regular progress reviews were also held between the Headteacher, the Deputy Head, the Raising Standards Leader, Head of English and Head of Maths.  

 

Additional interventions during 2014/15 included the Senior Leadership Team visiting English and Maths lessons.  Extra revision and lunch time classes had been brought in and the school had introduced targeted withdrawal from other curriculum time which had been revisited and updated.  During December and March walking talking mocks and pre-public exams had been undertaken.  The school had introduced personalised learning checklists for all students and for those students who had banked English or Maths, intensive revision sessions had been undertaken in the one subject they did not had.  There was an increased focus on visible leadership with a student progress board being created within the staffroom.  This was where staff could easily see which students were currently mentored or were having interventions, along with the specific target groups for English, Maths and Science.  

 

In order to embed and maintain the level of improvements within the school, the Headteacher explained that there would be an increased focus of sharing of best practice across the school at all levels.  The school would further develop teaching and learning via the coaching model and bespoke links with Cardiff High School and Treorchy Comprehensive School.  The school would look to close the Free School Meal gap and would continue the collaborative work with its pathfinder school (Treorchy Comprehensive School).  There would also be continued accelerated improvement through the Schools Challenge Cymru Programme and through the continued support from the Local Authority.  

 

In questioning the level of early examination entries within the school and the options available to students, the Headteacher advised the Panel that within Maths all pupils had taken early examinations, while in English 70% of pupils had participated.  The options available to pupils would depend upon the individual.  Pupils with As would had the chance to sit additional GCSEs whilst some on Cs would be able to undertake the course again in order to improve their grades.  Those pupils currently on Ds would be the main target group and would be receiving extra support within the school.  He went on to advise that pupils would be on different pathways and some who had English would concentrate on Maths, while those who had Maths would concentrate on English.  

 

The Panel also referred to the public perception of the school among local residents, and queried the potential impact negative press and headlines could have on future pupil numbers. To address this, the school had created a sub-group which had been tasked with looking at how a positive image of the school can be promoted.  

 

Following consideration of all evidence the Panel had determined that considerable progress had been made by the school to address the areas requiring improvement.  

 

Overall, the Panel had an improved level of confidence that the school was working towards its targets.  The Governing Body and the Senior Leadership Team had a clear view of the improvements needed and had put in place an effective plan of action.  The Panel made a positive comment about the good links established with colleagues in Treorchy Comprehensive School and the Panel recognised the input of the Schools Challenge Cymru's Advisor.

 

The Panel considered that the appointment of the new Deputy Headteacher and senior leaders had made a positive impact and was confident that the school was using tracking systems to effectively target interventions.  Also, the availability and usefulness of data / information was of a far higher standard.  

 

The Panel recognised the improvements made to strengthen the governance arrangements and the working of the Senior Leadership Team and was pleased with the Governing Body’s decision to appoint a School Improvement Working Group. The Panel considered it important for Governors to plan for the worst case scenario in respect of funding, which was linked to pupil numbers within the school and the Panel requested evidence of this to be presented at its next visit.

 

A follow up visit will therefore be scheduled to take place sometime during the autumn term 2015 to assess progress and to evaluate the school's plans.

 

A Committee Member commented that it appeared that the new Chair and Vice-Chair of the School Governing Body had played a significant role around the improvements within the school and raised a query regarding the presentation of a Headteacher’s report prior to meetings of the Governing Body. In response, the Director of Learning and Skills advised Members that this issue had been identified at the initial Panel visit, during which copies of the Headteacher report were not available to be evidenced.  She advised that at a recent meeting of all Headteachers in the Vale, there had been an opportunity for the Headteachers to assess how other schools in the Vale shared information with Governors and to look at examples of best practice.  Such an event had received positive feedback and further meetings would be arranged in the future.

 

The Committee went on to question the inability of the Directorate to identify that the school was not presenting a Headteacher’s report and questioned as to why officers were not aware.  In response to this, the Cabinet Member that the Governor Support Unit was made up of two, maybe three staff members and it was difficult for them to monitor 60 or more schools.  He also alluded to the role of the Clerks within the school and their ability in supporting Headteachers and the Governing Body.  

 

A Committee Member referred to the greater accountability apportioned to Governors at Barry Comprehensive School and queried as to what was this exactly. The Director of Learning and Skills stated that following a recent meeting with the Governing Body, around the transformation of schools within Barry, she had observed an improved level of debate from the Governors for Barry which appeared to indicate that Governors at the school were taking their responsibility very seriously.  She informed Members, that the new Chair of Governors was extremely keen to review the way that the Governing Body worked and that new structures and responsibilities had been put in place in order to allow Governors to have better understanding of the school and for Governors to hold the senior leadership team to account.  Roles and responsibilities had been distributed among a wide range of Governors in way that not been previously seen.  

 

In referring to the level of performance of Maths, Members were advised that the school target was to achieve a 61% pass rate of Grades A - C for this academic year and that current evidence indicated that the school would be very close to achieving this target.

 

The Committee, in querying the greater focus on GCSE performance as opposed to A Level results was advised that this was mainly down to Estyn’s close attention around improvements to Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.  Further to this, Members were advised that it was due to the low GCSE performance in 2013 that a formal warning letter was sent to the school and since then the school had made progress but last year was still below the required target.  The Cabinet Member also stated that at Key Stage 4, previous results within the school were low but that now the school was making real progress. He advised Members that the target pass rate of 48% represented the minimum level of achievement and further discussion would be needed if the school did not achieve this.

 

A Committee Member in querying the level of exclusions within the school was advised that the rate of exclusions for previous years was high but this specifically related to fixed term and not permanent exclusions.  The rate of exclusions within the school had stood at 400 school days and the school had been able reduced this to around 160 days per year. The school had achieved this by utilising money from Support from School Challenge Cymru and by challenging behaviours within the school.  

 

In referring to the Panel’s recommendation for the School Governors to plan for the worst case scenario in respect of funding, Members noted that this related specifically to the school’s utilisation of School Challenge Cymru money which would only be available for a certain period of time.  

 

Following this, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and School provided the Committee with some of his thoughts and observations.  He praised the impact of the new Chair and Vice-Chair of School Governors and the plan that the school had put in place.  He mentioned the work of the School Improvement Working Group which was one of the first actions implemented by the new Chair.  He also alluded to the number of Governors who had now been given greater responsibilities and referred to the six subjects within the school that were now the responsibility of six individual Governors. He made mention that Governors had taken on additional responsibilities and he alluded to the need for training for certain Governors in order to meet the minimum expectations.

 

The Committee then discussed the level of training for School Governors and the need to ensure that Governors were fully aware of their roles prior to them taking up their position.  To these points, the Cabinet Member stated changes had been made to the way the Governors were appointed and that the training provided to new Governors had been improved. This was something that the Council would look at in more detail. Further this, the Director of Learning and Skills stated that a report on Governors would be reported to the Scrutiny Committee at a future meeting.  This would include consideration around Governor training and also would look at the level of support to Headteachers and the need to ensure that reporting arrangements to Governing Bodies were consistent and effective.  

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)    T H A T the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 28, 29, 30 and 31 of the report be noted.

 

(2)    T H A T a follow up visit to the school takes places in the Autumn Term following the GCSE results in August 2015.

 

(3)    T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and/or approval.

 

(4)    T H A T Councillor. R.A. Penrose be appointed to the Barry Comprehensive School Individual Progress Panel.


Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)    To apprise the Committee of the findings of the Progress Panel.

 

(2)    To monitor progress and undertake a follow up visit.

 

(3)    For Cabinet consideration.

 

(4)    To ensure that the Progress Panel had a full quota of Members.

 

Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 22nd June 2015