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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 7 September, 2015

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services & Schools

Strengthening arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the wellbeing of children and young people

Purpose of the Report

1.    To seek authority to enter into contracts with The Viewpoint Organisation (Europe) Limited ("Viewpoint") to develop an online wellbeing assessment service and accompanying software licence and, if necessary, Sussex University regarding use of wellbeing questions.

Recommendations

1.    That delegated authority be given to the Director of Learning and Skills, the Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Schools and the Head of Legal Services to agree the terms of contracts with Viewpoint and, if necessary, the University of Sussex and to enter into the associated contract(s).

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.    To agree contracts with Viewpoint and, if necessary, Sussex University so as to strengthen the arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the wellbeing of children and young people.

Background

2.    The work stream around the social and emotional wellbeing of pupils in the local authority originated from the National Behaviour and Attendance Review [NBAR] Project.  This was a research project in which a small number of pupils in Bridgend and this local authority self-assessed online using two questionnaires developed by Sussex University: 'My Feelings' and 'My Class'.  Pupils with lower wellbeing were identified, interventions provided and the impact then evaluated.  The research has now ceased.  The work within the local authority has continued.

 

3.    The Estyn inspection in May 2013 recommended that the local authority "strengthen arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the wellbeing of children and young people."  A number of actions were taken to meet this recommendation and during the first monitoring visit, Estyn stated that "generally, the local authority monitors well the impact of the NBAR project on pupil wellbeing.  However, the full impact of improvements in wellbeing on teaching and learning, and on the broader outcomes for pupils in their daily lives, are not evaluated effectively.”

 

4.    The current IT platform which the local authority uses to assess pupil wellbeing, created and managed by the University of Sussex, was not intended for such large scale nor focused use.  Since its creation, the work on pupil wellbeing in the local authority has grown and strengthened, and all eligible schools currently assess the wellbeing of their pupils using this website.  The website can sometimes crash and can only be accessed on a limited range of devices (PCs).  It does not always reliably save the data, resulting in incomplete data sets.  It also requires a member of staff in the local authority to create codes (for anonymity) for each class and pupil assessed, and to download, label, store and forward data to schools.  The data is analysed at a local authority level by the ICT and Data Team, though this is a complex and lengthy task due to the way in which the data is received.

 

5.    Further to these operational issues, the system requires that all pupil data is anonymised.  Schools have ad-hoc methods of linking anonymised data with pupils, though this is not always reliable, particularly when children move onto new classes.  The processed data is returned to schools as a PDF file (paper copy) and therefore schools are unable to store the data electronically nor process the data further.  The current system does not enable schools nor the local authority to effectively look at pupils' progress with wellbeing over a period of time.  Monitoring pupil wellbeing over a period of time may help to predict the likelihood of difficulties with mental health and supports a number of current Welsh Government strategies around improving wellbeing.  Co-production with health is felt to be a useful way forward.

 

6.    The Estyn monitoring visit commented that "…the full impact of improvements in wellbeing on teaching and learning, and on the broader outcomes for pupils in their daily lives, are not evaluated effectively,” will be better achieved by an IT platform which enables the local authority and schools to link pupils' wellbeing data with data relating to their learning, and any other relevant data held by the local authority.  This is currently not possible within the current system due to the anonymity of pupils.

 

7.    A great deal of time and effort has been spent on trying to overcome the barriers to progress the action necessary to address the Estyn recommendation.  A number of options were investigated but were found not to be the solution needed.  This caused a delay to progress.

 

8.    The IT platform provided by Viewpoint offers a reliable system of online assessment of pupil wellbeing, which can be accessed through a number of devices (PC, tablet, phone) with an interface that is very child centred.  It is also secure, pupils can be identified and their progress over time monitored.  Further to this, it enables the import of other data held by the local authority (attainment, attendance, FSM etc.) and correlation of this data with the wellbeing data.  Schools are able to prioritise relevant wellbeing interventions in order to improve learning, attendance etc. and to assess the impact of these interventions.

Relevant Issues and Options

9.    All eligible schools within the local authority are engaged with the existing wellbeing work.  They are familiar with, understand and trust the existing assessment questionnaires My Feelings and My Class.  The questionnaires are considered to be valid measures of pupil wellbeing.  In order that schools remain engaged, and that pupil wellbeing continues to be assessed in a valid and reliable way, it is proposed to use the existing questionnaires within the new Viewpoint IT assessment platform.  

 

10.    The questionnaires were developed by the University of Sussex.  The university has agreed for their use in order to support the work of the local authority in improving pupils' wellbeing, though it does have concerns about any commercial interests of Viewpoint.  Contractual provisions around the limitations of Viewpoint's commercial interests are necessary in order for the university and the local authority to be reassured that any profit made by Viewpoint is reasonable and proportional.  Without this concern being covered the university will not consent to the local authority continuing to use the My Feelings and My Class questionnaires and this will reduce the impact of work in meeting the related Estyn recommendation.

 

11.    In the longer term, it is intended to share the assessment system with other local authorities, and at this point the university has requested payment for use of its questionnaires - this will need to be written into a future formal agreement.  Further to these issues, the local authority has requirements around intellectual property, ownership and distribution of the software created.    

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

12.    Input from legal services is currently being obtained in relation to the drafting of underpinning arrangements to facilitate these proposals.   It is anticipated that input will be required on an on-going basis until around September 2016.

 

13.    After a year of implementation, the new IT platform will eliminate the need for a member of School Improvement and Inclusion Service [SIIS] staff to carry out the lengthy data labelling, storage and transfer tasks. This is a significant portion of the post.  It will also eliminate the complex and lengthy analysis task of the ICT and Data Team.  Further to this, it will eliminate the need for SIIS officers to make up the paper data packs which are sent to schools.

 

14.    Investment in the project is estimated at £16,000 which will be funded from the Families First grant funding.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

15.    The new IT assessment platform will eliminate the need to produce paper data packs for schools.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

16.     It will be necessary for the terms of the respective contracts to be agreed and contracts signed.

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.    The Estyn monitoring comment that "…the full impact of improvements in wellbeing on … the broader outcomes for pupils in their daily lives, are not evaluated effectively" is currently being partly met by use of population level crime and disorder data.  The Viewpoint IT platform provides a system which enables import of crime and disorder data at a personal level, to enable the local authority to better understand, predict and therefore intervene early with individuals to reduce rates of crime and disorder.  This is a longer term option.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.    The current system provides the full assessment in written English only.  Viewpoint is able to offer assessment which supports equal opportunities:

  • Language access - a number or languages can be offered.
  • Literacy levels access (dyslexia) and visually impaired - the assessment can also be spoken.
  • Moderate to severe learning difficulties - pre-teaching is available and symbols or pictures offered to support understanding and responses.
  • Gender - children can select their most preferred screen background and character.
  • Age - three different versions of the assessment are offered.
  • Impulsivity and attention - pupils have the option to complete short sections at a time.
  • Behaviour, emotional and social difficulties - the assessment results are particularly pertinent for this group of children.  
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder - some of our pupils have become overwhelmed when asked to complete the full assessment.  Shorter versions are offered to these children.

19.    Further to the improved access to the assessment, the local authority will be able to analyse the wellbeing data in relation to PLASC categories (and Welsh language), to identify and better support any salient wellbeing issues for particular groups of children.

Corporate/Service Objectives

20.    Service Objective 3: To promote health and wellbeing and ensure the safety of learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

21.    This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

22.    Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

23.    Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Gill Toon, Principal Educational Psychologist

Officers Consulted

Sarah Burgess, Senior Lawyer

Sean Granville, ICT and Data Support Manager

Mike Glavin, Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill

Director of Learning and Skills

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