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Agenda Item No. 11

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 23rd June 2014

 

Report of the Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

Review of Individual Schools Progress Meetings

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         The report has been prepared as a result of the Committee's original recommendation to undertake a 12 month review of the above arrangements and officer support for the School Progress Panel meetings that were established during 2013.

Recommendations

1.         That the contents of the report and the Action Plan at Appendix 1 detailing the lessons learnt to date in respect of the School Progress Panel meetings be accepted.

2.         That the Action Plan be monitored and reviewed by the Scrutiny Committee in 12 months' time.

3.         That meetings of School Progress Panels continue in the format as outlined within the report and as set out in the procedure at Appendix 2 to this report.

4.         That all reports of School Progress Panel meetings continue to be referred to this Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

5.         That the report be referred for consideration to Cabinet, advising of the lessons learnt of the Panel Members together with any additional views of the Committee itself.

Reason for the Recommendations

1-5.   In recognition of the Scrutiny Committee's recommendation in 2013 that a review of the process be undertaken in 12 months.

 

Background

2.         The Scrutiny Committee had previously considered a series of Inspection reports which described the attainment of pupils attending schools in the Vale and referred the same to Cabinet for consideration.  These reports described the success of pupils in those schools, highlighted the further progress that was required and provided information in respect of the support and challenge that had been subsequently put in place.

3.         In January 2013, the Cabinet recommended to the Scrutiny Committee that invitations be extended to the Chairmen of Governors and the Headteachers of schools where performance issues had been identified, including those schools under Estyn follow up arrangements, to a meeting to consider issues of performance.

4.         On 18th February 2013, the Scrutiny Committee subsequently agreed to establish School Progress Panels consisting of three members (minimum of two elected Members), to be drawn from the ten elected Members and four statutory co-opted members of the Scrutiny Committee. The Panels were established to ascertain the schools to be visited had up to date and authoritative improvement plans, that they had in place arrangements to monitor the impact of the plans, to amend them as appropriate and to establish what progress had been made against each action within the plans and what further progress was required;  this approach being deemed necessary in order to seek to improve the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.  

5.         Prior to each Panel meeting briefing sessions are held with the Members of the respective Panels to provide up to date information in relation to the school. 

6.         At the Panel meetings the Cabinet Member for Children's Services, the Chief Learning and Skills Officer (CLSO), the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion, the schools' System Leader and the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, together with the Headteacher, Chairman of Governors and / or a representative of the school or Governing Body are also in attendance.  

7.         The Chairman of the Panel is agreed amongst Panel Members and, following introductions and a short overview by the Chairman, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion  provides a verbal presentation regarding  the current situation and why the School Progress Panel meeting has been convened

8.         Opportunity is then afforded to the Headteacher and / or Chairman of the Governing Body to enable them to demonstrate the school's ambitions, capacity, commitment to rapid and sustained progress and to identify any barriers that the school may be facing that could be resolved by additional support from the Council.

9.         The findings of the Panel were to be submitted for consideration by the Scrutiny Committee and the Cabinet for consideration.  The Panel was supported by an officer from the Education Department Management Team and the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Section.  It was also agreed that the Panel arrangements, including officer support, would be reviewed after 12 months. 

10.      To date Panel meetings have been held with four schools in the Vale, namely:

  • Barry Comprehensive
  • Bryn Hafren Comprehensive
  • Llantwit Major Comprehensive
  • St. Cyres Comprehensive.

Relevant Issues and Options

11.      Three out of the four schools that have been visited to date received written warnings from the CLSO and were made fully aware that should the school not make rapid progress during the year the CLSO would have to recommend to the Council that it exercises its powers of intervention in the governance and management arrangements of the school in accordance with the Schools Standards and Organisations (Wales) Act 2013.  The fourth school visited was as a result of an Estyn Inspection and subsequent concerns relating to pupil attainment and about the capacity for rapid and sustainable improvement in outcomes.

Lessons Learned Conclusions

12.      A revised procedure note attached at Appendix 2 has been prepared following the four Panel meetings and it is recommended that this be adopted.

13.      Panel Members have stated that full and frank discussions have taken place at the meetings and that the schools have provided information regarding the support programmes in place, together with details of initiatives that the schools have been undertaking in order to improve performance.  The schools have also stated that they welcomed the challenge for improvement and the opportunity that has been afforded to them.  Schools are advised that they can make formal presentations if they so wish, and a number of them have provided the details of the presentations prior to the meeting in order that they can be contained within the agenda.  Members have welcomed this approach and would encourage this as it allows for preparation prior to the meeting. 

14.      Panel Members have been apprised of the support commissioned, not only by the schools themselves, but by the Council and the Joint Education Service (JES). 

15.      The knowledge of individual schools gained through this process has been invaluable to Panel Members, who consider that the process has allowed for in-depth discussions, exploration and the provision of detailed information in relation to the support provided to schools in the pursuit of improvement. 

16.      One of the main issues identified by Panel Members, whilst undertaking the process, was that good practice should also be disseminated throughout schools within the Vale. 

17.      Data tracking is an important aspect in order to monitor student progress and to screen any difficulties and can be used to target resources, track students, measure progress, assess trends in student achievement in order to make improvements where necessary.  Data capture and tracking information is considered essential to the process and should be regularly maintained and analysed.  Notwithstanding this, it was recognised that a number of schools operated different tracking / management systems and it was the Panel Members' view that one management record system which could be utilised, to include transition details, particularly from Primary to Secondary schools and for use by the JES, would ensure a consistent approach to record management, data capture and analysis.  It is suggested that this be pursued further.

18.      In some instances the visits to the school were delayed for various reasons.  It is considered essential that the Panels visit schools as early on in the process as possible to ensure that accountability is acknowledged and challenged and any further support that is needed is identified.

19.      Leadership support for the Management Team of schools was also considered essential and this should include regular meetings being held between the leadership team, Heads of Department and teachers in challenging pupil performance and addressing their needs, with the intention to access appropriate support as early on in the school year as possible.  In order to assist this process it is recognised that schools need to establish database systems which should be readily monitored and analysed.  Regular meetings to analyse the data should also be timetabled and action points addressed by the departmental management team in relation to individual pupil needs.  

20.      Schools need to adopt levels of challenge to ensure that they are targeting the relevant groups and to ensure that pupils are placed in the right categories.  The school should identify the risks in not achieving the targets and ensure systems are established to minimise these risks.  Panel Members were informed that regular revision time was timetabled, with some schools adopting weekend revision options as well as lunch-time and evening opportunities.  Such initiatives are considered good practice as they provide further opportunities for pupils.

21.      Schools should also ensure that the parents are fully informed of the process in order that they are fully apprised of their child's needs and how they will be met.  This will ensure that a consistent approach from home to school and school to home is adopted. 

22.      Another key message from the process was that Governing Bodies need to be fully informed of all issues regarding performance and the support available to schools and that they challenge the school on a regular basis. In some schools visited this was not evident.  Although these arrangements are in place they are not always as effective as they need to be.

23.      All Governors need to fully understand their roles and ongoing development training should be pursued.  To assist this process, it is recommended that candidate role descriptions should be further developed on the role of a Governor and these should be provided to prospective candidates as part of the notification process when considering applying for the role.  (The Governor Support unit to be required to implement this recommendation.)

24.      Panel Members have recommended that Governing Body Monitoring Groups be established to hold the school management team to account, which will allow them to be fully apprised of the support required to assist schools in meeting the challenges and targets and the processes and procedures the Headteacher and their leadership team intend to put in place to address such issues.  This is essential to evidence a culture of improvement exists within the school.

25.      It was identified that not all schools provided Governing Bodies with a written report prior to Governing Body meetings.  Panel Members considered it essential that all schools received a full written Headteacher's report and that it is sent to all Governors prior to the meetings of the Full Governing Body.  The report should clearly detail school performance issues and the initiatives to be adopted to improve performance in order that effective challenge can be made. 

26.      Attendance figures were identified as a challenge for schools with a need for schools to have a clear message in relation to the importance of attendance to pupils, parents and visitors.  This could be done in a number of ways, e.g. by raising the profile at the school, by the use of banners and graphical information.  One school had also adopted a zero-tolerance approach in respect of attendance.  Panel Members considered that the advertisement within the school was a good way to raise the profile for pupils, parents and visitors attending the school and recommend that other schools adopt similar initiatives.

27.      Team leadership in the school is key to success to ensure that all staff work together and trust one another in the process. 

28.      With regard to pupil profiling and transition from Primary to Secondary Schools, a number of schools advised that information regarding the level and ability of pupil learning was not always accurately recorded by Primary Schools.  It is recommended that further work on this be undertaken to ensure more effective moderation of teacher assessment at Comprehensive level.  A recent Australian Centre for Education Research (ACER) report (a Welsh Government commissioned report) has also highlighted that current teacher assessments were not fit for purpose.   

29.      Schools should ensure that there is sufficient rigour and detail around self-evaluation and improvement planning.  Close monitoring of the standards of lessons and teaching needs to take place within schools to ensure that all staff fully understand the improvement agenda and the tracking methods to be utilised.

30.      The Panel meeting process has also allowed Panel Members to "drill down" further in relation to the work of the schools and to use the opportunity to promote the sharing of good practice and initiatives that have been identified.

31.      In exceptional circumstances, should it be necessary, a special meeting of the Scrutiny Committee may be required to consider any issues raised by a Panel following a school progress meeting.

32.      Concern was expressed by the Panel as to the undue delay that had been taken in the appointment process for a vacant Headteacher position in 2011.  The Panel considered that such a delay (18 months) was an unacceptable period for the school to be without a Headteacher. 

Future Panel Meetings

33.      It is envisaged that, where appropriate, the current four Panels will undertake further visits to the schools following the examination results in August 2014 and report back to the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet accordingly. 

34.      It is also anticipated that in addition to Eagleswell Primary School there will be some further schools within the Vale that may be subject to formal progress reviews that will require individual progress meetings.  In view of the workload issues and the number of Primary schools involved in the process it is suggested that a meeting schedule be developed for two schools per school term to be visited by Panel Members.

35.      In view of the lessons learnt as outlined above, the impact of the Panel meetings to date and the number of Primary schools subject to formal progress reviews, it is recommended that the School Progress Panel approach be continued.  This approach not only allows for the Council, Cabinet  and the Scrutiny Committee to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment, but also provides the opportunity to monitor and evaluate the performance measures and support that is required and being put in place to ensure improvement.

36.      The current approach of selecting three members from 14 members of the Scrutiny Committee is considered to have been successful, in that it allows for a number of members to be involved in the process, gaining experience and knowledge, and also for any conflicts of interest, where, for example, a member may be a Governor of a school, to be addressed.

Support to the Panels

37.      The support to the Panels has been provided by the Chief Learning and Skills Officer, the Head of Improvement and Inclusion, the System Leader for the relevant school and a Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer. The preparation for the meetings includes the scheduling of meetings, agenda despatch, research required, completion of notes of the meetings and preparation of reports to the Scrutiny Committee.

38.      The Scrutiny Committee has recognised the capacity and resource issues involved in supporting the Panel process.  Consequently, and in view of its Scrutiny Committee work programme and issues that it wishes to address in 2014/15, for example Governor Training, School attendance and holding the JES to account, it has recently agreed to not take part in the Task and Finish Review prioritisation exercise in light of the ongoing work it is already committed to.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

39.      As illustrated in paragraphs 38 and 39 to be operated from within existing resources. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

40.      None as a direct result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

41.      None as a direct result of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

42.      None as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

43.      None as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

44.      Improving outcomes and wellbeing for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

46.      Not applicable.  However, all Members who have been involved in the Panel meetings have been consulted on the report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

47.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

Scrutiny Committee reports for Barry, Bryn Hafren, Llantwit Major and St. Cyres Comprehensive Schools presented to Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning).

 

Contact Officer

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

 

Officers Consulted

Head of Democratic Services

Managing Director

Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

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