Agenda Item No.












The Chairman presented the report which provided the Committee with an update on the progress meeting held at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School that had been undertaken by a Panel of three Members of the Committee.  The Panel had comprised of Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Councillor Mrs. M.E.J. Birch and Mr. L. Kellaway (Co-opted Member) with Councillor C.P.J. Elmore (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services), the Headteacher, the Chairman of Governors, the Chief Learning and Skills Officer, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion, the Democratic and Scrutiny Officer and the Scrutiny Support Officer in attendance.


The report outlined that following an Estyn inspection of the school, the Estyn monitoring visit had concluded that the school should not move from the follow up category since insufficient progress had been made and concern expressed about the capacity for rapid and sustainable improvement and outcomes.  Whilst clear improvements had been made in 2013 compared to 2012, the progress had been insufficient to meet the agreed target or to match the achievement in 2010 or 2011 and as such the school's performance was affecting the school's ability to meet the Level 2+ indicator and the core subject indicator. 


The improved school performance in 2013 for the Level 2 threshold of 5 A* - C grade GCSEs including English and Maths was accepted, but the performance was still below the family of schools, the Vale average and the all-Wales average. Improvements had however, been made in Key Stage 4 although more improvements would be needed if minimum expectations were to be secured. 


The school was a single sex school for the age 11-16 with a joint sixth form with Barry Comprehensive School.  Following the inspection in May 2012 one of the issues for action had been the underperformance in certain aspects of Key Stage 3. The school had initiated several changes which included increasing the number of teaching groups in Year 9, the appointment of two additional English and two additional Maths teachers for Key Stages 3/4, targeted mentoring support for Level 5 borderline pupils, close data monitoring for CSI combination subjects and additional LSA targeted support for literacy and numeracy..


The school performance of pupils gaining 5 or more GCSEs at any grade for the Level 1 threshold had risen slightly in 2013 and remained ahead of the family, the Vale of Glamorgan average and the all-Wales level.  The Level 2 threshold performance had risen by 13.7% and overall the school performance had exceeded the family mean by 15.9% and the family girls by 11%.  For the Level 2+ threshold including English and Maths the school had improved performance against the results in 2012 by 8.7%.  Staff had also visited a number of other schools and considered the strategies and interventions that had been used and had taken the best for Bryn Hafren. 


Although the Panel was made aware that the Headteacher would be retiring at the end of the summer, the Headteacher had advised that it was his intention to ensure that sustainable strategies were put in place in order to further improve performance at the school.  A range of interventions had been agreed, including extra lessons, outside expertise, lunch time work clubs which had also been undertaken during the half term and been paid for out of the PDG fund.  A new Head of Department in English had also been appointed and the second in Maths was focussed on the challenge agenda.  The Headteacher also met on a regular basis with the English and Maths Heads of Departments and reported in detail to the Governing Body.  It was noted that the Heads of Departments viewed the role of Governors as a critical friend and any changes to the Key Stage 4 curriculum were agreed with the Governing Body.


The School was moving to the SIMS management information system which would provide further robust data and information as a management tool with the intention that the system was installed into every classroom to allow teachers to monitor progress.  A Governors monitoring group had been established and regular monitoring of the school's performance at Key Stage 4 was being reported against all key stage 4 indicators with particular emphasis on the core subjects.


The Headteacher was of the view that the school would comfortably exceed figures for English but may be very close in Maths.  The school was however, also having very high stay on rates for extra revision lessons and there was also spare teaching capacity for Maths.


In referring specifically to improving performance in the key core subjects the school had also initiated several changes which were detailed at paragraph 13 to the report.  The school was also targeting pupils who needed to improve their English or Maths as well as those who needed to address both.  There were some queries regarding the accuracy of teacher assessments in Maths with the suggestion that there was the need for a review of systems and processes in the Maths Department.  The System Leader would also be spending more time with the school and senior leadership team in monitoring activities for the progress of targeted Year 11 D/C borderline pupils. 


The Panel had raised concerns at the potential for instability of leadership with the Headteacher retiring in the summer but considered that a positive move had been made by appointing a Governor Panel in relation to performance.


The Panel’s overall conclusion was that it had some measure of confidence that the school would meet the target in English but limited confidence in Maths, which also gave concern for the Level 2+.  The Panel however, as stated above, welcomed the decision of the Governing Body to regularly monitor school performance by establishing a Governing Monitoring Group.  They noted the robust actions that had been taken in the leadership of the English department and that some changes had been made in the Maths department.  However, in order to further boost the school's capacity to drive improvement the Panel suggested that the Council's 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 the opportunity of accessing further support.  The Panel also emphasised the importance of timely and thorough delivery of any interventions for pupils and that the GCSE results in 2014 would be critical to Estyn's judgements in October 2014. 


The Chairman, in conclusion, referred to the fact that in respect of early entry examinations this was a contentious issue, particularly in light of the recent WJEC performance in schools where examinations had been marked differently from previous years.


In considering the report Members raised concerns in relation to consistency of approach in light of the retirement of the Headteacher and any potential impact for the appointment in respect of the consultation being undertaken for the new school.  The Head of School Improvement advised that Governors would be interviewing for the position on 8th April 2014 and all prospective candidates had been given the information in relation to the consultation for co-education.  It was hoped that a start date for the appointment of the Headteacher could be agreed for September 2014 with the Council providing support as appropriate. It was accepted that the transition although difficult would be exacerbated further with the addition of the anticipated examination results and the Estyn follow up.


With regard to the findings that had been identified in relation to school transition assessments from primary to secondary school, Members asked whether this was an issue for all schools. The Chairman confirmed that this had been an issue which had been mentioned at all the Panel meetings. The Head of School Improvement confirmed that in previous years SATS had been used to measure performance but that as these had now been abolished teacher assessments were provided. However, a recent Acer report had, advised that teacher assessments were not fit for purpose. It was also accepted that comprehensive schools received children from a number of primary schools throughout the Vale with it being recognised that teacher assessments varied from all schools.  It was further accepted by all present that early read across was required to assist performance in English and Maths.  


In referring specifically to the reference in paragraph 13 of splitting the potential C/D teaching sets into smaller classes it was noted that these were made up of 6 to 12 children per class.  It was fully recognised that the earlier children were supported the better chance there could be to change C/D grades.


In conclusion, the Chairman reiterated the role of School Governors and reminded Members of the Committee who were themselves school Governors of their responsibilities to challenge and hold the school to account in respect of performance. 


It was subsequently




(1)       T H A T the Scrutiny School Progress Panel findings as contained within the report be accepted.


(2)       T H A T a follow up visit to the school take place later in the year by the Panel Members, as appropriate, following the GCSE results in August 2014.


(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for its approval and consideration.


Reasons for recommendations


(1)       To apprise Committee of the findings of the School Progress Panel.


(2)       To monitor and undertake a follow up visit if appropriate.


(3)       For Cabinet consideration.






Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 7th April, 2014