Agenda Item No.












The report had been prepared as a result of the Committee’s original recommendation to undertake a 12 month review of school progress meetings that had been set up.


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


The Chairman, in presenting the report, advised of the following.


On 18th February 2013, the Scrutiny Committee had 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 had been established to ascertain whether the schools 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.  


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


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 were also in attendance.  


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


Opportunity was 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.


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. 


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.


Three out of the four schools that had 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


A revised procedure note attached at Appendix 2 to the report had been prepared following the four Panel meetings and it was recommended that this be adopted.


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


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


The knowledge of individual schools gained through this process had been invaluable to Panel Members, who considered that the process had 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. 


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. 


Data tracking was an important aspect in order to monitor student progress and to screen any difficulties and could 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 was 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 was suggested that this be pursued further.


In some instances the visits to the school had been delayed for various reasons. However, it had been considered essential that Panels visit schools as early on in the process as possible to ensure that accountability was acknowledged and challenged and any further support that was needed was identified.


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 was recognised that schools needed 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. 


Schools needed to adopt levels of challenge to ensure that they were targeting the relevant groups and to ensure that pupils were placed in the right categories.  The school should identify the risks in not achieving the targets and ensure systems were 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 were considered good practice as they provided further opportunities for pupils.


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


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


All Governors needed to fully understand their roles and ongoing development training should be pursued.  To assist this process, it was 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.)


Panel Members had recommended that Governing Body Monitoring Groups be established to hold the school management team to account, which would 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 intended to put in place to address such issues.  This was essential to evidence a culture of improvement existed within the school.


It had been 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 was sent to all Governors prior to the meetings of the Full Governing Body.  The reports to include details of school performance issues and the initiatives to be adopted to improve performance in order that effective challenge could be made. 


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 recommended that other schools adopt similar initiatives.


Team leadership in the school was key to success to ensure that all staff worked together and trusted one another in the process. 


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 was 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) had also highlighted that current teacher assessments were not fit for purpose.  


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


The Panel meeting process had 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 had been identified.


Concern was also expressed by a 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. 


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


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


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, the Democratic Services Officer stated that the report recommended that the School Progress Panel approach be continued.  This approach not only allowed for the Council, Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment, but also provided the opportunity to monitor and evaluate the performance measures and support that was required and being put in place to ensure improvement.


The current approach of selecting three members from 14 members of the Scrutiny Committee was considered to have been successful, in that it allowed 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.


The support to the Panels had 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 included the scheduling of meetings, agenda despatch, research required, completion of notes of the meetings and preparation of reports to the Scrutiny Committee.


The Scrutiny Committee had previously 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 wished to address in 2014/15, for example Governor Training, School attendance and holding the JES to account, it had itself agreed to not take part in the Task and Finish Review prioritisation exercise that had been undertaken with all Scrutiny Committees in light of the ongoing work it was already committed to.


The Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer referred to the lessons learned action plan attached at Appendix 1 to the report which detailed  the actions required within relevant timescales.  Appendix 2 to the report detailed a suggested procedure for School Progress Panel meetings with the Chairman requesting Committee approval. 


It was noted in the procedure that 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.


The Chairman also took the opportunity to thank all the members who had been fully involved in the Progress Panels, advising that they were important roles for the Scrutiny Committee to undertake in order to ascertain schools’ plans for improvement and to undertake robust challenge of schools’ performance.  He also thanked the officers for their support in the establishment of the Panels and referred to the fact that he considered that the Scrutiny Committee’s main role was in relation to performance, its promotion and achievement.  He realised the amount of time that was required in order to establish and undertake Panel meetings and recognised their value and importance as significant for the Council.  The Cabinet Member also took the opportunity to thank all involved in the process which he considered had been very robust meetings and he thanked the Scrutiny Committee for agreeing to establish the Panels on behalf of the Cabinet to assist in raising school performance. 


In referring to the presentations by two Headteachers earlier in the meeting and the Progress Panel’s recommendation that good practice be shared the Chairman reiterated that this be addressed by officers with the Consortium. He also advised that the Committee would be inviting representatives from the Consortium to a meeting later in the year where this matter would be further explored.


It was subsequently




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


(2)       T H A T the Action Plan be monitored and reviewed by the Scrutiny Committee in 12 months’ time.


(3)       T H A T 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 the report.


(4)       T H A T all reports of School Progress Panel meetings continue to be referred to this Scrutiny Committee for consideration.


(5)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration, advising of the lessons learnt to date.


Reasons 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.”






Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 23rd June, 2014