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Agenda Item No. 7

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 17th February, 2014

 

Report of the Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

Individual Schools Progress Meetings

 

Purpose of the Report

1.    To provide the Committee with an update on the progress meeting at St. Cyres Comprehensive School undertaken by a Panel of 3 Members of the Scrutiny Committee. 

Recommendations

1.         That the Scrutiny Panel findings as detailed in paragraph 18 – 21 of this report be accepted.

2.         That further reports be presented to the Scrutiny Committee, if appropriate, following progress updates with the System Leader and Head of School Improvement and Inclusion.

3.         That a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee following the Panels  re-visit to the school in autumn 2014.

4.         That this report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and approval.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To apprise Committee of the findings of the Scrutiny Panel.

2.         In recognition of the Scrutiny Panel’s intention to monitor.

3.         To monitor and follow up the recommendations of the Scrutiny Panel.

4.         For Cabinet consideration.

Background

2.         In February 2013 the Committee agreed to establish School Progress Panels consisting of 3 Members of the Scrutiny Committee (a minimum of at least two elected members) to be drawn from the ten elected members and the four statutory co-opted members.  This approach was agreed in order to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.  Although Estyn Reports, follow-up progress reports and school by school performance data is regularly reported to the Scrutiny Committee the panels enable schools to demonstrate through the democratic process their ambitions, capacity and commitment to rapid and sustained progress and the opportunity to identify any barriers that they may be facing which could be resolved by the actions of the Council. 

Relevant Issues and Options                                         

3.         To this end a School Progress Panel Meeting took place on 9th January, 2014 which consisted of Councillors N.P. Hodges (Chairman), Councillors Ms. R. Birch and R.A. Penrose ( Panel Members), with Councillor C.P.J. Elmore (Cabinet Member), Ms. J. Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer, Ms. L. Jones, Head of School Improvement and Inclusion, Dr. J. Hicks, Headteacher, Mrs. A. Males, Chair of Governors, Professor D. Sanders, Governor, Mr. P. Wolstenholme (System Leader) and Mrs. K. Bowen, Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer in attendance.. 

4.         The School had been placed in Estyn follow-up with a number of recommendations having been identified with a clear focus on standards and GCSE results.  As a result of the GCSE results in 2013 concerns had been raised in relation to improvements for the future and minimum targets had been agreed between the school and the Vale of Glamorgan Council officers.  The purpose of the meeting was : to establish that there were up to date and authoritive plans in place to address the concerns, to establish that the school had arrangements in place to monitor the impact of the plans, to amend them as appropriate, to establish what progress had been made and what further progress was required. 

5.         The Estyn Report of the school had judged standards to be adequate but on two key measures they had fallen since the Inspection.  Of note however, was that the  benchmark performance in 2003 at Key Stage 3 and at Level 5+ had improved for all measures but this was less notable for science at Levels 5 and 6 where performance was now located in the top quartile positions. 

6.         At the Scrutiny Progress Panel  meeting Members were informed of the progress that had been made to date in relation to the Post Inspection Action Plan ( PIAP) and in particular that the Callio Model for school attendance was being used to assist with increasing pupil attendance.  The School's PIAP referred to 6 objectives as detailed below:

·         Objective 1 - To raise standards and improve performance to all key stages in line with the mean of similar schools

·         Objective 2 - To improve pupils attendance so that it meets the mean of the Family of Schools and is in the top half of schools with similar FSM entitlement i.e. to improve the school attendance to 94%.

·         Objective 3 - To ensure that there is consistent and systematic whole school approach to the improvement of pupils literacy and numerous skills

·         Objective 4 - To improve the quality of teaching and assessment

·         Objective 5 - To strengthen leadership at all levels to provide more rigour and challenge to secure improvements in standards and quality teaching

·         Objective 6 - To improve the rigour of self-evaluation and improvement planning particularly in analysing data.

7.         The Headteacher was afforded the opportunity to provide a presentation to the Panel with specific reference to progress in relation to the above objectives.  In referring to non-attendance in schools the Chairman advised that the Scrutiny Committee would be looking to debate the subject at a future Scrutiny meeting with a view to making recommendations to the Council's Cabinet.  The Headteacher advised that he operated a zero tolerance approach for attendance which Members were aware was also operating in another school within the Vale.

8.         Members noted that attendance had been taken seriously by the school with many initiatives being used to address non-attendance including the use of text messaging as a tool.  The school also operated a reward system, where following the donation of a number of portable IT tablets pupils were praised for their attendance together with a prize draw taking place during the school year where the pupil with the highest attendance can receive a pc tablet. Raising the profile within the school had also been evident with Members referring to the use of banners and graphical information to apprise pupils, parents and visitors throughout the school of its importance..

9.         In order to monitor and track pupil progress in the curriculum it was noted that there was currently no pan-Wales or Central South Consortium tracking system in place and that schools developed and used different systems. The Headteacher provided the Panel with details of the current tracking system used at St Cyres which was namely  the Pixl initiative.

10.       In referring to the Literacy and Numeracy Framework an audit had already been undertaken at the school which had provided a positive picture.  The Panel were presented at the meeting with a copy of information which outlined the additional support that had been put in place for the school and noted the further targetted support that was required.  The school was currently working with an officer that had been appointed by the Welsh Government to support this initiative but it was also noted that  recent changes that had been made to the curriculum by Welsh Government had resulted in an increase in work for all schools. The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion is hopeful that post 2015 things will settle down with the national picture being much clearer. 

11.       Notwithstanding the above, the Panel was informed that short term actions have already been identified by the school in order to address the situation together with the following initiatives:

·         the Leadership team observe lessons with the view that good practice is shared

·         Heads of subjects have been made more accountable for their subject areas and pupil progress which has received the full support of the Governors

·         the Headteacher has personally reviewed the targets set for English

·         the school was also working within departments to ensure that English was developed in all aspects of school subjects

·         school learning walks are encouraged

·         the Governing Body receive presentations by the Heads of Faculty and have established a Governor Forum whereby Governors take an interest in subject areas

·         regular meetings with the schools System Leader take place to progress actions against  the PIAP.

12.       The System Leader who was present at the meeting considered that the PIAP was fit for purpose and was confident that if it was effectively implemented it would result in the school being removed from Estyn monitoring in October 2014.  Relevant elements of the PIAP were also included in Faculty Improvement Plans.  The Governing Body had engaged fully in the discussion about the schools performance during the presentations of the school's Annual Report and they were also able to interpret the data and have challenging conversations with the System Leader and Headteacher about the school's performance.  The school was also making use of external support from the Welsh Government funded Education London programme which was focussed on improving GSCE English and Maths.  It was the schools aim to ensure that every child received an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) in order that progress at each stage of school life could be monitored and relevant support identified and provided.

13.       Prior to exams pupils were also taken through mock exam papers including the detail relating to the consideration and length of the papers with teachers also reiterating the importance of understanding the questions.  The Headteacher was confident that the monitoring arrangements that were in place for English and Maths allowed for the  appraisal of progress and identification of issues for where targeted support would be required which is undertaken on a termly basis. 

14.       The Panel was advised that a slight increase in Governor Meetings to monitor performance had been arranged and that the Chair of Governors also attended School Council Meetings on a regular basis.

15.       The current free school meals figures were reported as 14.88%, should  4 more pupils be placed in this category, the school would then be taken into the next benchmark.  The Headteacher was of the view that stigma for free school meals for pupils had been removed due to the introduction of the cashless payment system at the school.

16.       The new Penarth Learning Community School was welcomed with the opportunity that each pupil would receive a pc tablet in order to supplement learning which would include the opportunity for them to access workbooks to continue with their learning. Parents would also be able to gain access to identify what would be required from their child in relation to self-evaluation and improvement planning.  All plans would also be revisited with half yearly updates being provided and meetings held with all Heads of Faculty  and the Links Service.

17.       With regard to the current on-going evaluation process this was said to be being reviewed by teachers on a weekly basis recognising that different pupils had different circumstances and needs with the staff being requested to identify the issues as early on in the school year as possible.  It was evident that the school was reliant on its data capture and looked carefully at the evidence in order to target proper support where needed.

18.       The school had agreed with the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion minimum targets for the current academic year and having considered all the information the Panel concluded that there were early signs of progress on the implementation of the PIAP with more monitoring required with a continuing focus on its full implementation. 

19.       The Panel also recommended that a Governor Task Group be established to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the PIAP and to liaise with Heads of Faculty on initiatives for further improvement on Objective (1) this to be co-ordinated and managed by a named Deputy Headteacher.  Although the Panel was pleased with the progress in relation to pupil attendance they stated that the system should continue to be monitored and tested.  The Panel  also acknowledged that work on Objective 3 was at an early stage with more work being required.  In relation to Objective 4 the quality of teaching assessments deemed good or better showed a marked improvement, however, the Panel have also requested to receive evidence of external moderation.

20.       In noting that the school was at an early stage of implementation of its PIAP, notwithstanding all the information presented and the discussions at the meeting the Panel have also requested to receive regular updates on progress from the System Leader and Head of School Improvement and Inclusion.

21.       The Panels overall conclusion was that it had a measure of confidence at this stage in the process that the PIAP would be implemented and the agreed minimum expectations would be met. However, the Panel will be monitoring progress through  officers as indicated in paragraph 19 above and have advised that a planned future return meeting to the school will take place in the Autumn following the examination results.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

22.       Within the existing resources with the role of School Progress Meetings to be reviewed after 12 months.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

24.       There are no legal implications arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

26.       There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

27.       Improving outcomes and wellbeing for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

29.       Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

30.       Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Karen Bowen

Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer

Officers Consulted

Head of Democratic Services

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill

Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

 

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