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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 20th April 2015

 

Report of the Director of Learning and Skills

 

Individual School Performance Progress Panel Meeting

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To provide the Committee with an update on the School Progress Panel meeting held at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School by a Panel of three Members of the Committee.

Recommendations

1.         That the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraph 27 of the report be accepted.

2.         That an update report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in the Autumn following the GCSE results in August 2015.

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 Progress Panel.

2.         To monitor progress.

3.         For Cabinet consideration.

Background

2.         School Progress Panels consisting of three Members were established in February 2013 in order to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.

Relevant Issues and Options

3.         The School Progress Panel meeting for Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School comprised of Councillors N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Mr. L. Kellaway (Co-opted Member of the Scrutiny Committee); Councillor C.P.J. Elmore, Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Schools, Mr. T. Davies (Headteacher), Mrs. C. Tyley (Chairman of Governors), Mrs. J. Hill (Director of Learning and Skills), Mr. M. Glavin (Head of School Improvement and Inclusion), Mr. S. Sherman (Challenge Advisor) and Ms. A. Davies (Member of Senior Leadership Team and Member of the Governing Body Standards Committee) and Mrs. K. Bowen (Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer).

4.         A meeting had been convened as a result of the recommendation of the Panel in February 2014 to revisit the school following the GCSE results in August 2014. 

5.         In November 2014 the Director of Learning and Skills had forwarded a letter to the Headteacher which placed on record the Department's concern about the capacity for rapid and sustainable improvement with regard to outcomes.  The letter also highlighted that pupil attainment at Key Stage 4 had improved on most measures and that on a number of measures the school continued to perform well compared with other similar schools.   However, concern remained in relation to the key measures of performance at Level 2 in Mathematics, English and for a proportion of students attaining 5 A* - C grades including English or Welsh and Mathematics where performance continued to be weaker than other similar schools. 

6.         Attendance levels had also not increased as rapidly as other schools and was in the bottom quarter compared to other similar schools. 

7.         The Central South Consortium Education Service had however, set aside a significant number of days to challenge and support the school to achieve the targets required.  Should the school not meet the minimum targets a formal warning letter would be issued at that time. The minimum targets for 2014/15 which had been agreed with the school were as follows :-

2014/2015

Minimum agreed target

Level 2 English

63%

Level 2 Maths

54%

Level 2 Plus

48%

Attendance

93.3%

 

 

8.         The Panel meeting 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.

9.         At the Panel meeting in 2014 the Chairman advised that at that time the Panel had some measure of confidence that the school would meet the target in English, but limited confidence in Maths, which had also given concern for the Level 2+.  The Panel also suggested that officers work with the school to consider commissioning an external review of its Maths Department and to discuss further the categorisation of the school with the Consortium with a view to accessing further support.  Members  also suggested at that time that the school consider early entry examinations in the future and welcomed the decision of the Governing Body to regularly monitor school performance by establishing a Governor Monitoring Group.

10.      For Members' information, since the meeting in February 2014 a new Headteacher, Mr. T. Davies, and a new Chair of Governors, Mrs. C. Tyley, had been appointed to the school.

11.      At the Panel meeting held in January 2015 the Headteacher referred to the awareness by staff that the school needed to improve however he confirmed, that in Key Stage 3 all subjects had seen progress being made at Level 5+ since the last inspection in 2012.  Comparison with like schools had also improved as the benchmark profile improved, plus the fact that in nearly all the subjects the school was outperforming the family of schools' average.  However, whilst there had been progress at Level 5 in comparison with other schools work needed to now focus at the higher levels of 6 and 7 where the statistics were not showing such favourable comparisons.  With regard to Key Stage 4, progress had been made since the previous inspection although the results in August 2014 had shown that key targets had not been met and that attendance levels had not increased as rapidly as others.

12.      Since the GCSE results in 2014 a number of measures to improve performance had been put in place, by the Headteacher following his appointment, as outlined below:

  • Both the English and Maths Departments offered a number of revision sessions for example regular after-school clubs, revision days before exams and early morning revision sessions on the day of examinations.
  • An ME+3 project had been established which had encouraged more strategic focus on level 2+.  These meetings discussed progress and challenged staff in order to facilitate improvement of borderline pupils at D/C+ to improve the Level 2+. 
  • Extra classes had been created in English and Maths
  • Year 9 pupils had commenced English and Maths GCSE courses which would support early entry in later years.
  • Resources had been targeted for English and Maths for targeted pupils with more feedback being obtained in relation to borderline pupils.
  • Newly purchased Apps and Twitter were used to aid pupil revision.
  • In relation to the revision clubs some girls were specifically targeted to attend sessions.
  • For Maths, Set 2s had been given an additional teacher to split the class into different tier pupils which offered an increased level of teacher support,
  • Regular Saturday morning revision sessions had been run with attendance on all occasions being over 30 of the 40 targeted pupils.
  • Since Christmas the ME+3 project had increased in pace with 10 Saturdays being identified for extra English and Maths sessions with additional pupils being invited to attend.

13.      The Panel was further informed that the school would be considering hiring a Maths teacher to work with a targeted group from April to May 2015 and the school currently worked closely with the Consortium staff to assist with English and Maths. However it was accepted that such provision may not be able to be sustained year on year and that some of the measures had only be introduced following the examination results in August 2014.  The school had adopted a new and improved evaluation system which had a strong focus on lesson observations and an increased dialogue between the school's leaders and staff was now taking place.  All 65 teachers had been observed during the team and a common lesson observations proforma had been used to record strong features of lessons and areas that required improvement.

14.      Teachers were being charged with making improvements on suggested areas by the time of the second observation for  Spring 2015.  Following the analysis of the lesson observations suggestions for improvements had been made.  Teachers had also been allocated teaching pods and all staff were undertaking a programme called "Embedding Formative Assessments" and regularly meeting to discuss teaching strategies.  Members of the pods also peer observed each other to aid discussion around strategies.  The self-evaluation system included pupil voice exercises, book reviews, scheme of learning audits and department / year team reviews which the Panel was informed had fostered dialogue and appropriate support and challenge. 

15.      In referring to the Governing Body, Members were informed that this had been reshaped and a new Standards Committee had been introduced that had been charged with understanding data relevant to the school and to offer appropriate challenge. 

16.      The agendas and minutes of the Governing Body meetings were made available at the meeting for Members' information.

17.      The Headteacher stated that he was confident that all staff were now fully on board with the initiatives and the need for improvements.  Following the measures that had been put in place since his appointment a number of positives had been received from staff.  Estyn had also made positive remarks regarding the procedures that had been put in place and the accountability measures that had been undertaken following their visit a week prior to the Panel meeting itself. 

18.      Ms. Davies, a member of the School Senior Leadership Team and a Member of the  Governing Body Standards Committee, assured Members that the lesson observations and lesson pods were working extremely well and that although staff had recognised that they were a good school, this had not previously been able to be fully evidenced. 

19.      The Chairman of Governors informed the Panel that the Governing Body had also taken on board the recommendations, of the previous Panel meeting, Estyn and the targets advised by the Local Authority.  She further stated that she had also been able to attend staff meetings to share the information with staff and the Governing Body and confirmed that the letter from the Director of Learning and Skills regarding targets had been circulated to all Governors and considered by the Governing Body.  Panel Members were reassured that the information was now being presented to the Governing Body for their consideration. 

20.      The Challenge Advisor also confirmed that rapid improvements had been made to the leadership and management of teaching during the Autumn term, which now provided a much more secure basis for systematic improvement and quality of provision.  The impact was evident in terms of the actions of senior and middle leaders of the school, as well as an understanding of good teaching by teachers.  However, there was little evidence yet of the impact on the standards achieved by pupils and, as such, he had deemed progress to be reasonable but not strongly so. 

21.      Since the Headteacher 's appointment more structure had been developed to the challenge and accountability procedures and the standard self-evaluation form used by all departments drew on a wider range of evidence to evaluate performance.  Overall, the Headteacher advised the Panel that there was progress and improvement in standards to Key Stage 4 which was strong in English but slower in Maths.  The ME+3 project, which had been introduced by the Headteacher, noted that a full range of strategies was being employed although a considerable number of pupils needed to improve in Maths and to this end, the school needed 54 pupils to perform well.

22.      In referring to support provided to the school, the school itself had joined the pathfinder project with the Central South Consortium, was linked to Pencoed Comprehensive school who had been deemed successful in a number of areas and the Headteacher of Llantwit Comprehensive had also been assigned as a mentor.  There had previously been no teacher in the school with the responsibility for teaching and learning but rigorous plans had now been put in place to assist teachers. 

23.      The Council's Head of School Improvement concurred that the rigorous plans would assist the Headteacher to assist staff and make changes as necessary.  The Consortium performance tool was also being used in order to progress the development of teachers and their pay would also be progressed appropriately if they met their agreed targets. The Headteacher confirmed that he had a good leadership team but they needed to be empowered.

24.      With regard to attendance figures for the Autumn, this now stood at 92.18% with the minimum attendance target being 93%. Acknowledgement was made that the school was not as focused on attendance as it should be, but that there was considerable work being undertaken by the Deputy Head in relation to improving attendance with the school adopting the "Bobbies on the Beat Scheme" and receiving advice from the Education Department.  The school would also be considering putting in place procedures that had been developed by Treorchy Comprehensive School and would be contacting that school in due course for advice.  The Callio system was currently being adhered to and although there had been a number of initial difficulties, these had been improved upon and the school was now working more closely with the Local Authority.  In order to improve on attendance the school had also instigated a number of initiatives. The Director of Learning and Skills advised that a number of schools in the area had also had difficulties with increasing attendance levels and encouraged the school to seek further support and good practice ideas to assist in raising the level. 

25.      Following concerns regarding the sustainability of improvements, the Headteacher advised that the school had recognised that more curriculum time would be afforded to the lower years within the school, for literacy and numeracy and for embedding literacy and numeracy in the wider curriculum throughout the school. 

26.      In conclusion the Headteacher advised that he would lead from the front with the help of all the strategies that he had put in place, including early entry, which would be embedded within the school.  Such strategies had been used successfully in other schools and he had no reason to believe they would not work for Bryn Hafren.  Members were informed that attendance at the revision sessions was good, with more sessions commanding over 30 pupils at each session with evidence to date showing that two thirds of the girls had seen the benefit of the extra sessions and regular telephone calls to parents had encouraged attendance.

27.      Following consideration of all  evidence the Panel concluded that there was a measure of confidence that the school would meet the target in English as evidenced at the meeting, but it had limited confidence in the school meeting the Maths target, which gave the Panel cause for concern.

  • The Panel had welcomed all the measures and procedures that the school had put in place, i.e. new initiatives, the pods, the lesson observations and the ME+3 project that had been introduced.  The Panel had also been pleased with the decision of the Governing Body to appoint a Standards Committee and were aware that meetings were taking place with the level of challenge as mentioned by the Chairman of Governors and as reported to the Panel at the meeting.  The Panel welcomed the enthusiasm of the Headteacher and the confidence portrayed by himself and the Senior Leadership Team Member, Anna Davies, but of course the proof would be in the results in August 2015. 
  • In referring to attendance, the Panel  wished to see this improved upon and would urge that further work was pursued to seek that improvement. 
  • The Panel was confident that the school was pursuing as many avenues as possible for improvement and wished the school every success for the future.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

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

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

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

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

33.      Improving outcomes and wellbeing for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

35.      Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

36.      Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

 

Contact Officer

Mrs. K. 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, Director of Learning and Skills

 

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