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Agenda Item No.10

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 23rd June 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 School Progress Panel meeting held at Barry Comprehensive School undertaken by a Panel of three Members of the Committee.

Recommendations

1.         The Scrutiny Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 15 and 16 of this report be accepted.

2.         That a follow up visit to the school takes place later in the year by the Panel Members, if appropriate, following the GCSE results in August 2014.

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

Reasons for the Recommendations

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

 

2.     To monitor progress.

 

3.     For Cabinet consideration.

 

Background

2.         In February 2013 the Scrutiny Committee agreed to establish School Progress Panels consisting of three Members, in order to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.  To date, groups of Panel Members have visited four schools namely Llantwit Major, St. Cyres, Barry and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive Schools.

Relevant Issues and Options

3.         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 Councillor C.P.J. Elmore (Cabinet Member for Children's Services), Mr. G. McNamara (Headteacher), Mrs. J. Ford (Deputy Headteacher), Dr. M. Griffiths (Chairman of Governors), Ms. J. Hill (Chief Leaning and Skills Officer), Mrs. L. Jones (Head of School Improvement and Inclusion), Ms. M. Powell (System Leader) and Mrs. K. Bowen (Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer) and Mr. G. Davies (Scrutiny Support Officer) in attendance. 

4.         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%.  The purpose of the Panel meeting was to enable the school to demonstrate through the democratic process its ambition, capacity and commitment to rapid and sustained progress and to identify new barriers that the school may be facing which could be resolved by the actions of the Council.  The meeting had also been convened in order to establish what progress had been made to date and what further progress was required. 

5.         The Headteacher, in accepting that the Panel meeting was an opportunity for the school to identify its proposals in order to address the need to improve, referred to the dip in performance at Key stage 4 and advised that the school had itself evaluated critically why this dip had occurred.  Poor performance in English and Maths had led to the level 2 dip with too many students having achieved one exam but not the other.  With regard to the dip in Science, this had been considered as a result of the change in the literacy expectations for the Science examinations.  Members were further advised that other contributory factors that had been evaluated in relation to Key Stage 4 in 2013 included:

  • Transition in whole school leadership coinciding with Estyn inspection
  • Students not always on appropriate learning pathways
  • The new student tracking system was not always accurate, therefore interventions were not targeted at the appropriate students
  • A few students did not sit Maths exams or complete controlled assessments in English
  • The absence of the Head of Maths for a prolonged period of time
  • Leadership challenges in the English Department
  • Change of leadership in Science
  • Not enough consistency in classroom delivery and monitoring.

6.         Following a review of the same by Governors the Panel was informed that a new consistent approach to departmental examination analysis had been produced and a proforma had been devised in order to analyse where improvement was needed.  The Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher met on a regular basis (fortnightly) to discuss pupil progress and the senior leaders and Links partners who also met on a fortnightly basis, had been given increased accountability with specific performance management targets leading to outcomes.  Panel members were informed that  greater support had been provided to Heads of Departments in both English and Maths with subject specific pilot training sessions for all staff in both English and Maths being arranged and improved frequency and accuracy in student tracking.  The more precise tracking had included fine grading which had enabled the pinpointing of personalised interventions.  A Raising Achievement and Progress group (RAP) had also been established to monitor progress and develop emotional and social welling interventions and a second teacher for Maths had been appointed in December 2013 despite the school's challenging budgets.  The PiXL tracking system had been introduced within the school as a management tool to analyse vulnerable pupil groups and to increase the accuracy of tracking. 

7.         Having regard to attendance, the new process whereby punctuality phone calls were made to students had improved attendance figures with regular punctuality phone calls being introduced.  The school day had also been restructured in order to assist in settling pupils into lessons which had had an impact on period 1 as it allowed pupils to start lessons on time. Appropriate personalised learning pathways for students had been established in order to ensure pupils were studying the right course.  A student progress wall had also been created in order that staff could easily identify which students were currently being mentored, those who were having interventions and details of the target groups in English, Maths and Science.  The Callio model for attendance was also being implemented and a Callio officer had been appointed.  Members of staff had also visited a boys' technical school which catered for ages 11 to 19 to ascertain good practice initiatives and to identify areas where practices may not be working as well. 

8.         With reference to early entry examinations, it was noted that this worked for some pupils but not for others.  For those pupils who found exams stressful early entry  was considered appropriate as it could provide them with a better understanding plus also the knowledge that they could have the opportunity later in the year to resit if necessary. 

9.         Parents were also encouraged to attend meetings at the school in order to highlight address issues facing pupils and a weekend revision exercise had been arranged for 46 critical pupils.  This had been a considerable investment with 12 teaching staff giving up their time to attend the weekend which had also provided a high degree of encouragement for pupils.  Every fortnight each pupil was also seen on an individual basis to assist them to drive up their grades. 

10.      The specific interventions that had been established at the school were reported as follows:

  • Extra classes created to reduce class sizes in order to make learning more effective
  • Early entry for appropriate students
  • Resetting of classes to target specific students
  • Residential revision weekend
  • SLT visiting every English and Maths lesson
  • Specialist support from local authority in English and Maths
  • Specialist LSA within lessons supporting students and providing small group tuition
  • Revision classes, lunch time classes
  • Walking, talking mocks and pre-public exams in December and March
  • Students creating personalised learning check lists.

11.      The Panel queried the length of time it had taken to appoint the Headteacher, which had been approximately 18 months.  The Chairman of Governors advised that the Governing Body had not wished to rush the process but Members of the Panel considered that such a delay would have had an impact on the school. 

12.      Members raised concerns as to why the interventions had not been brought in earlier and why issues had not appeared to have been addressed when children commenced with the school in Year 7 from primary schools.  It was noted that the tracking of progress throughout the school, commencing with Year 7, had now been established.   Staffing had also been increased by the Governing Body in order that leadership plans could be produced to ensure specific interventions were  appropriately put in place.

13.      Members were also keen to ascertain how the school ensured the curriculum programme was suitable for boys and were advised that lessons were planned differently for boys with more activities being provided. 

14.      Following discussions with the System Leader it was noted that the tracking of pupils' progress was inconsistent and that pupils' targets provided insufficient challenge.  Whole school data collection needed to take place more frequently and the inconsistencies in the application and monitoring of the school policies and practices needed to be addressed.  It was further recognised that in order for the school to improve and be sustainable the staff needed to be totally committed to the aspirations of the school and the Governing Body needed to challenge performance on a regular basis.  The support that had been provided to the school was quite substantial but the school's strategic plan needed to be more focused. 

15.      Overall the Panel noted the package of support that had been provided and that improved results were anticipated.  However the Panel were uncertain at the time as to whether improvements in 2014 would be sufficient to meet the agreed targets and recommended that a standards committee of the Governing Body be established to assist with the challenges facing the school and to monitor and evaluate school performance. To assist this process the Panel also recommended that such a  committee be represented by other members of the Governing Body and not include the Chairman and Vice-Chairman in order that other members of the Governing Body can fully engage in the challenge process.  

16.      The Panel intends to revisit the school, if appropriate, following the examination results in August 2014 and have requested that the decision of the Panel be shared with the Governing Body in order that the concerns of the Panel can be conveyed.  The Panel also recommended that whenever the Headteacher's report was provided to Governing Body, that it is provided in written format prior to each Governing Body meeting in order that effective challenge can be maintained.  The minutes of Governing Body meetings would then also be able to reflect more detail of how the Governing Body intended the school to raise standards. 

17.      Should the school not make sufficient progress during the year the Chief Learning and Skills Officer would have to recommend to the Council that it exercise its powers of intervention in accordance with the School Standards and Organisation Act 2013.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

18.      Within existing resources with the role of school progress meetings being reviewed after 12 months.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

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

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

23.      Improving outcomes and wellbeing for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

24.      The recommendations of the report are within the existing policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

25.      Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

26.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

 

Contact Officer

Karen Bowen, Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, Tel: (01446) 709856

 

Officers Consulted

Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

Head of Democratic Services

Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer