Agenda Item No. 7


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 7th April 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 progress meeting held at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School undertaken by a Panel of three Members of the Committee.


1.         The Scrutiny Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 17 and 18 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 approval.

Reasons for the Recommendations

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

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

3.         For Cabinet consideration.


2.         In February 2013 the Scrutiny Committee agreed to establish School Progress Panels consisting of three Members, this support approach had been agreed in order to seek to increase the accountability of schools for pupil attainment.  To date 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 Brynhafren Comprehensive school took place in January 2014 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), Mr. P. Whitcombe (Headteacher), Mr. D. Noble (Chairman of Governors), Ms. J. Hill (Chief Leaning and Skills Officer), Mrs. L. Jones (Head of School Improvement and Inclusion), Mr. S. Sherman (System Leader) and Mrs. K. Bowen (Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer) and Mr. G. Davies (Scrutiny Support Officer) in attendance. 

4.         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. 

5.         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. 

6.         The school is 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. 

7.         During the presentation to Panel Members the Headteacher advised that much work needed to be done to work with primary schools on the assessment procedures to establish greater consistency.

8.         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%.  The school had also exceeded all the mean results for the all-Wales and Vale of Glamorgan results for the first time ever.  For the Level 2+ threshold including English and Maths the school had improved performance against the results in 2012 by 8.7%. 

9.         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. 

10.      Although the Panel was made aware that the Headteacher would be retiring at the end of the summer, the Headteacher stated 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 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 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.

11.      The School was also 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 is installed into every classroom to allow teachers to monitor progress. The Governing Body had also set aside a budget for the Headteacher's successor to be able to plan for the future.  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. 

12.      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.

13.      In referring specifically to improving performance in the key core subjects, Level 2+ and CSI, the school had initiated several changes as detailed below:

·           Increased the number of teaching groups in Year 11, splitting the potential C/D teaching sets into smaller classes

·           Appointed two more English and Mathematics teachers for Key Stages 3 and 4

·           Targeted mentoring support for C/D borderline pupils with short term intervention strategies

·           Specific data monitoring for pupils in danger of failing to gain the key CSI / level 2+ combination subjects

·           Monitoring on a short term basis to ensure progress

·           Replacement of Head of Department and second in English and early retirement for one other member of staff

·           Replacement of under-performing member of Mathematics team and additional staff.

14.      The school was also targeting all pupils who needed to improve their English or Maths as well as those who needed to address both.  The Headteacher was the Link officer for Maths, the Deputy the Link for English and the Senior Management Team  mentored the targeted children. Each week discussions are also held to consider what further support may be required. 

15.      The Link Support Officer had also advised that there were some queries regarding the accuracy of teacher assessments in Maths and there was a need for a review of systems and processes within the Maths department.  The System Leader would 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 to include detailed examination of pupil data, pupil interviews and sharp interventions being planned and a Raising Achievement Plan (RAP) would be prepared for achieving the interim targets.  Joint lesson visiting was also to be arranged by the System Leader and that it was important that the school considered future sustainable improvement. 

16.      The Panel raised concern at the potential for instability of leadership with the Headteacher retiring in the summer and in view of the follow up visit programmed by Estyn for October 2014.  However, the Panel considered that a positive move had been made by appointing a Governor Panel in relation to performance.

17.      The Panels overall conclusion however, 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. 

18.      The Panel also suggested to the Headteacher and the Chairman of Governors that the school may wish to consider early entry examinations in the future, where appropriate, to assist in the monitoring process and to raise standards.

 Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

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

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

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

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

24.      Improving outcomes and wellbeing for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26.      Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

Not applicable

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