Agenda Item No. 7


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 22nd June 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 of the School Progress Panel meeting held at Barry Comprehensive School by the Panel of three Members of the Committee.


1.         That the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 28, 29, 30 and 31 of the report be noted.

2.         That a follow up visit to the school takes place in the Autumn term following the GCSE results in August 2015

3.         That the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and / or approval.

Reasons for the Recommendations

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

2.         To monitor progress and undertake a follow up visit.

3.         For Cabinet consideration.


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 Barry Comprehensive comprised of Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Councillor F.T. Johnson and Dr. C. Brown (Co-opted Member).with Mr. G. McNamara (Headteacher), Mr. A. Thompson (Deputy Headteacher), Mrs. K. Beaudette (Chairman of Governors), Mrs A. Forte (Vice Chairman),  Ms. J. Hill (Director of Leaning and Skills), Mr. M. Glavin (Head of School Improvement and Inclusion), Dr. A. Morley (Schools Challenge Cymru - School Advisor) and Mr. G. Davies (Scrutiny Support Officer) in attendance. 

4.         Following the 2013 external examination results in each of the core subjects, the proportion of students achieving higher grades A*- C had fallen materially since the previous year including a fall from 59% to 42% in English and 52% to 43% in Mathematics. The proportion of students gaining five A*- C grades including Maths and English fell from 45% to 30%. 

5.         At the previous the meeting, held in January 2014, the Panel noted the package of support that had been provided and that improved results were anticipated.  However the Panel was uncertain at the time as to whether improvements in 2014 would be sufficient to meet the agreed targets.

6.         The Panel meeting had been convened as a result of the recommendation of the Panel to revisit the school following the GCSE results in August 2014.  This 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. 

7.         For Members' information, since the meeting in January 2014, a new Chairman of Governors (Mrs. K. Beaudette) and a new Vice-Chairman of Governors (Mrs. A. Forte) had been appointed.

8.         The new Chairman of Governors was able to advise the Panel of the improvements made to the governance arrangements within the school.  She explained that one of the first tasks, in conjunction with members of the full Governing Body, was to look at structures within the governing body.  From this a number of sub groups had been formed with delegated responsibilities that separated out areas such as finance, school buildings and pupil attainment.  The School Improvement Working Group was seen as an important development which was a response to the recommendation of the previous Panel visit.  The School Improvement Working Group now concentrated fully on the curriculum side of the school and had developed close links to individual faculties.  The school had also appointed a Well-being sub group that offered a lot of support to staff and pupils and was tasked with looking at safeguarding issues within the school.

9.         The Chairman of Governors also stated that the role of Governors had been considered with greater responsibility now spread across a wider range of individual Governors and there was a desire within the school for Governors to better scrutinise standards, for which bespoke training had been delivered on various common themes.

10.      In addition, the Panel was advised, that Governor meetings were now more closely linked to monitoring data and the progress of improvement within the school.  At each full Governing Body meeting, a detailed Headteacher’s report was now presented, that highlighted pupil performance and progress to date.  Also a joint sixth form Governing Body group had been created with Bryn Hafren, so that joint scrutiny of performance of post 16 students could be undertaken. 

11.      The Chairman of Governors was able to reassure Panel Members that data / information available within the school was more considerable, in depth and detailed. The Panel was advised that the school was better able to track and scrutinise performance information and there was a greater knowledge among the members of the Governing Body.  Governors were now making better use of their own individual knowledge and experience and she commented on the greater active involvement by Governors, spread across the Sub-Groups and she praised the impact that these Sub-Groups had had.

12.      In terms of improvements to leadership within the school, a number of changes and appointments had been made. These included the appointment of a new Deputy Headteacher along with a Raising Standards Leader. Also there were new Heads of Departments for English, Maths and Welsh.  Leadership roles had been developed through links established with Treorchy Comprehensive School and standardised line management meetings between the Senior Leadership Team and Subject Leaders are now regularly held.  The school had also improved the operational and management systems around students’ wellbeing and the school had improved the analysis of students’ performance data. 

13.      The Headteacher advised the Panel that there was greater accountability to Governors within the school and that underperformance was routinely questioned.  There was increased accountability for Senior Leadership Team link partners and Subject Leaders with specific performance management targets linked to outcomes.  More precise pupil tracking had been undertaken that included fine grading which had enabled pinpointing of personalised interventions and the Raising Achievement and Progress Group regularly monitored progress with emotional and social wellbeing interventions.  The school had also developed appropriate personalised learner pathways for all students. 

14.      Key successes at Key Stage 3 for 2014 were reported to the Panel.  For the Core Subject indicator, this had risen above the expected outcomes against modelled expectations based on Free School Meals.  During 2014, there was an upward movement within English, Maths and Science with students’ outcomes for Level 5+ and Level 6+ above the challenge position within the family of schools.

15.      The school had been able to increase Level 5+ attainment for all Foundation subjects and there was an increase in the number of students achieving Level 7+.  Current tracking within the school confirmed further improvements and upward position within the Free School Meal benchmark quartiles. 

16.      At Key Stage 4, in 2014, 37% of pupils achieved the Level 2 plus pass rate of five A*‑C grades including Maths and English.  This compared to the 30% pass rate achieved in 2013. At the time of the visit, the school was tracking a 48% pass rate at this indicator for 2015, which represented an 18% increase over two years.

17.      Specific interventions undertaken for Year 11 pupils during 2014/15, in order to make learning more effective, included the restructuring of the English curriculum and the creation of extra classes for both English and Maths.  The school had also introduced a more strategic individualised approach e.g. early entry for appropriate students, curriculum restructuring, resetting of classes for targeted students, increased revision sessions for English and Maths (dependent upon early entry passes, security of data, etc.).  The school had further improved the fine level of data tracking systems and the regularity of data capture.  Regular progress reviews are also held between the Headteacher, the Deputy Head, the Raising Standards Leader, Head of English and Head of Maths. 

18.      Additional interventions during 2014/15 included the Senior Leadership Team visiting English and Maths lessons.  Extra revision and lunch time classes had been brought in and the school had introduced targeted withdrawal from other curriculum time which had been revisited and updated.  During December and March walking talking mocks and pre-public exams had been undertaken.  The school had introduced personalised learning checklists for all students and for those students who had banked English or Maths, intensive revision sessions had been undertaken in the one subject they did not have.  There was an increased focus on visible leadership with a student progress board being created within the staffroom.  This was where staff could easily see which students were currently mentored or were having interventions, along with the specific target groups for English, Maths and Science. 

19.      In order to embed and maintain the level of improvements within the school, the Headteacher explained that there would be an increased focus of sharing of best practice across the school at all levels.  The school would further develop teaching and learning via the coaching model and bespoke links with Cardiff High School and Treorchy Comprehensive School.  The school would look to close the Free School Meal gap and would continue the collaborative work with its pathfinder school (Treorchy Comprehensive School).  There would also be continued accelerated improvement through the Schools Challenge Cymru Programme and through the continued support from the Local Authority. 

20.      In questioning the level of early examination entries within the school and the options available to students, the Headteacher advised the Panel that within Maths all pupils had taken early examinations, while in English 70% of pupils had participated.  The options available to pupils would depend upon the individual.  Pupils with As would have the chance to sit additional GCSEs whilst some on Cs would be able to undertake the course again in order to improve their grades.  Those pupils currently on Ds would be the main target group and would be receiving extra support within the school.  He went on to advise that pupils would be on different pathways and some who had English would concentrate on Maths, while those who had Maths would concentrate on English. 

21.      The Panel queried the level of pupil exclusions within the school. The Headteacher explained that exclusion rates within the school were previously very high but that since last year this had been reduced. New systems and policies had been put in place and these had made a significant impact. The use of the Schools Challenge Cymru funding had been focused on targeting the rate of exclusion within the school and this too had made a difference.  An important aspect of this had been the creation of an exclusion room within the school, which allowed pupils to remain on site and still be taught and partake in lessons.  Also, the Local Authority had offered the school invaluable advice and support and the school and its partners had been working with a number of families which had been a success.  These in turn, had also improved the rate of attendance within the school. 

22.      Further to these points regarding exclusions, the Chairman of Governors stated that the school had not had a permanent exclusion for a considerable time and that there had been a reduction in the number of extreme situations that would require a permanent exclusion.   Following an increased focus on exclusions, the school had also been able to increase the range of interventions available and the Wellbeing Sub-Group of the Governing Body had been able to tackle some of the issues within the school.

23.      During the meeting, the School Advisor presented to the Panel, a recent monitoring report from the Accelerated Improvement Board (AIB).  This Board was made up of the School Advisor, the Headteacher, the Director of Learning and Skills, the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher from one of the feeder schools within Barry.  The AIB had five key improvement priorities for which the Board monitored progress.  These included the following:

1.  Improving attainment to the Level 2+, Level 1+ and the Average Point Score

2.  Improve the quality of teaching in English and Mathematics so that it is consistently good

3.  Ensure that all students behave well in lessons and have positive attitudes to their learning

4.  Improve attendance and punctuality

5. Improve standards in Welsh as a second language.

24.      The role of the AIB is mainly one of quality assurance around the work to progress the 5 key improvement priorities. The AIB meets on a monthly basis in order to consider how improvements could be sustained, to monitor the performance of Year 11 pupils and to assess whether the school was track. The AIB also meets to identify if any additional resources are needed.

25.      With regard to lesson observations, the Headteacher reassured the Panel that the school had its own rigorous programme in place and this was based on the Estyn model.  Within the school, 85% of those lessons observed had been deemed to be good and this demonstrated to the Panel that that there was still some way to go.

26.      In answer to a Panel Member’s query regarding how staff felt about the level of monitoring within the school, the School Advisor stated that he wanted to build up the capacity of the staff along with the good practices that there were within the school. This was seen as a way of giving teachers greater confidence and for this, his role was more about helping teachers to learn as opposed to monitoring.

27.      The Panel also referred to the public perception of the school among local residents, and queried the potential impact negative press and headlines could have on future pupil numbers. To address this, the school had created a sub-group which had been tasked with looking at how a positive image of the school can be promoted. 

28.      Following consideration of all evidence the Panel determined that considerable progress had been made by the school to address the areas requiring improvement. 

29.      Overall, the Panel had an improved level of confidence that the school was working towards its targets.  The Governing Body and the Senior Leadership Team had a clear view of the improvements needed and had put in place an effective plan of action.  The Panel made a positive comment about the good links established with colleagues in Treorchy Comprehensive School and the Panel recognised the input of the Schools Challenge Cymru's Advisor.

30.      The Panel considered that the appointment of the new Deputy Headteacher and senior leaders had made a positive impact and was confident that the school was using tracking systems to effectively target interventions.  Also, the availability and usefulness of data / information was of a far higher standard. 

31.      The Panel recognised the improvements made to strengthen the governance arrangements and the working of the Senior Leadership Team and was pleased with the Governing Body’s decision to appoint a School Improvement Working Group. The Panel considered it important for Governors to plan for the worst case scenario in respect of funding, which was linked to pupil numbers within the school and the Panel requested evidence of this to be presented at its next visit.

32.      A follow up visit will therefore be scheduled to take place sometime during the autumn term 2015 to assess progress and to evaluate the school's plans.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

33.      Within existing resources with the role of school progress meetings being reviewed.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

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

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

38.      Improving outcomes and wellbeing for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

40.      Not applicable

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

41.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers


Contact Officer

Mr G.Davies, Scrutiny Support Officer, Tel 01446 709249


Officers Consulted

Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

Legal Services


Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills