Agenda Item No. 4
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 18th April, 2016
Report of the Director of Learning and Skills
Individual School Performance Progress Panel Meeting
Purpose of the Report
- To provide the Committee with an update of the School Progress Panel Meeting held at Barry Comprehensive School on 24th February, 2016.
- THAT the Scrutiny Progress Panel findings as detailed in paragraphs 34 to 39 of the report be accepted.
- THAT an update report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in the Autumn following the GCSE results in August 2016.
- THAT this report be referred to Cabinet for consideration and/or approval.
Reasons for the Recommendations
- To apprise Committee of the findings of the Progress Panel.
- To monitor progress.
- For Cabinet's consideration.
- 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
- The School Progress Panel meeting for Barry Comprehensive School comprised Councillors N.P. Hodges (Chairman of the Panel), Councillor R.A. Penrose and Dr. C. Brown (Co-Opted Member of the Scrutiny Committee), Councillor C.P.J. Elmore (Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Schools), Mr. G. McNamara (Headteacher), Mrs. K. Beaudette (Chairman of Governors), Mr. A. Thompson (Deputy Headteacher), Mrs. A. Forte (Vice-Chairman of the School Governing Body), Ms. J. Hill (Director of Learning and Skills), Mr. M. Glavin (Head of School Improvement and Inclusion) and Mr. G. Davies (Scrutiny Support Officer).
- 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%.
- A Panel meeting had therefore been convened on 31st January 2014, in order to review the school's plans for improvement. At that time, the Panel determined that it was uncertain as to whether improvements in 2014 would be sufficient to meet the agreed targets and recommended that a standards committee of the Governing Body be established to assist with the challenges facing the school and to monitor and evaluate school performance.
- An Improved set of results was reported in August 2014. However, the school was not able to achieve all of the agreed performance targets and so the Panel convened a further meeting on 28th April 2015. At this meeting, the Chairman advised the school that the Panel had an improved level of confidence that the school was working towards its targets. The Governing Body and Senior Leadership Team had a clear view of the improvements needed and had put in place an effective plan of action. Furthermore, the Panel considered that the appointment of a new Deputy Headteacher and senior leaders had made a positive impact and was confident that the school was using tracker systems to effectively target interventions. The Panel recognised the improvements made to strengthen the governance arrangements on the working of the Senior Leadership Team and was pleased with the Governing Body's decision to appoint a School Improvement Working Group.
- On the 12th October 2015, the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) received a report which outlined school performance at Key Stage 4, which followed the publication of the GCSE results in August 2015. At this meeting, the Committee agreed that the Progress Panel should be reconvened. The meeting held on the 24th February 2016, therefore offered further 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.
- Since 2013, following an Estyn Inspection, there had been significant developments within Barry Comprehensive School. Estyn had decided that it would monitor the school's performance in the summer term 2015. Estyn's subsequent report highlighted that the school was in need of 'significant improvement'.
- As part of the commitment to ensuring improvements at Barry Comprehensive School, the school has been supported by the Schools Challenge Cymru Pathways to Success programme. This has involved the following:
- a Challenge Cymru Advisor working with the school in partnership with the local authority and the Central South Consortium
- partnership working with Treorchy Comprehensive School on key improvement activities linked to priority areas
- additional funding provided to support key initiatives to bring about rapid and sustained improvement
- the appointment of an Accelerated Improvement Board (AIB) that meets on a monthly basis to monitor the progress being made in respect of the key issues for improvement recommended by Estyn. Board Membership included representation from the local authority, the primary sector and Governors.
Outcomes at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4
- At the Panel Meeting held in February 2016, the outcomes achieved at Key Stage 3 in 2015 were relayed to the Panel. Performance at Level 5+ had improved in English, Maths and Science, which had placed the school above the average for boys within its family group of schools and also above the school's challenge position. The improvement within the school's challenge position was also replicated at Level 7+.
- With regards to outcomes in Welsh as a second language, during 2015 and at Key Stage 3, the school reported that the percentage of pupils achieving at least level 5 had increased to 76%. At Key Stage 4 Level 5 in 2015, 91% of pupils achieved between and A* and a G grade, which when compared to 2014, had shown a small (0.5%) drop. The school however, was able to report, an increase in the percentage of pupils achieving level 7, which in 2015, had risen to 29% achieving A* to C grades.
- In highlighting performance at Key Stage 4, in 2015, the Headteacher advised that 50% of pupils had achieved the Level 2+ indicator (the percentage of children achieving 5 A*-C grades including English and Maths). This was 3% above the school's target and this represented the first year that the school had ever achieved a 50% pass rate. In terms of the core subjects, the Panel noted the following:
- English - 60% of pupils had achieved at least a C grade, which had meant that the school benchmark position increased from quartile 4 to quartile 3.
- Maths - in 2015, 57% of pupils achieved the minimum C grade. This was 3% below the school's target.
- Science - the performance last year had been strong with 80% of pupils achieving a C grade or better. This had placed the school above its challenge position within its family group of schools.
- With regard to progress for this academic year (2015/16), the Panel was shown the school's targets for pupil attainment at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. The Headteacher made specific reference to the Key Stage 4 Level 2+ indicator. For this, the school's target was for 56% of pupils achieving five A*-C grades including English and Maths. He stated that the school was forecast to hit this target and this could rise to 57% or 58%.
- The Panel was further informed that for Key Stage 4 and Maths, at present, 62% of pupils had already achieved the minimum C grade, which was set against a target of 65%. In English, the school was confident about the performance of 60% of pupils with the target being 63%.
- In reference to pupil attendance, in 2015 the school achieved a 93.7% attendance rate; this is a 1.7 percentage point increase on the previous year's attendance. For the current academic year, attendance is projected to reach 94.1%, which is set against a target of 94.2%. The school, in order to increase attendance, had recognised that it was important to target those pupils with persistent absenteeism, which related to pupils missing around 39 days per year. Over the past few years, the school had been successful in reducing this number by half, which was down from 93 pupils in 2012/13 to 41 pupils in 2014/15. The current school target for persistent absenteeism was for a further reduction to 27 pupils. The Panel heard that without persistent absenteeism, the level of pupil attendance would be 97% or 98%.
- Improved attendance has also been achieved by strengthening the communication with parents to inform them about the importance of good attendance. In addition, the school reported that almost all pupils were informed of their levels of attendance and were clear about the school's expectations and procedures. School leaders also work closely with form tutors, pastoral leaders and the attendance and the education welfare officers. The school also rewards good attendance and is challenging parents and pupils when attendance starts to decline.
- Another main area around attendance was in relation to exclusions, which although had reduced, was still above the Welsh average. School Challenge Cymru funding was supporting the school to improve the rate of exclusions. This had resulted in the school creating an Inclusion Room which meant that pupils would be able to remain within the school environment and would therefore not miss out on any opportunities for learning.
- Furthermore, the Headteacher explained that the school requires a written note from parents, otherwise any period of absence would be recorded as unauthorised. He advised that the school had used Fixed Penalty Notices and had been proactive in meeting parents where the school had concerns. This was highlighted by the school's outreach service, which had been set up in Gibbonsdown, Barry, to allow the school to better engage with parents.
Teaching and Learning
- In terms of initiatives to improve the teaching and learning within Barry Comprehensive School, this included the development of a new coaching programme for teachers. This had commenced in September 2015 and involved two dedicated teaching and learning coaches, each of whom, would at any one time, be assigned two members of staff. The aim of this programme was to support teachers to improve and consisted of blocks lasting 6 to 8 weeks that focused on specific aspects of teaching.
- The school's plan had been produced to specifically support classroom practice and leadership of departments. A number of staff have attended the Improving and Outstanding Teacher Programme. In addition, the school carries out systematic observations of teaching and learning and would triangulate observations around pupil performance, scrutiny of students work and day to day teaching and learning.
- The school had also brought in a teaching and learning consultant, who had been trained by Estyn, which, along with peer observations and learning walks, had been used to assess teaching within the school. Another important initiative included a bespoke twilight Continual Professional Development programme that covered areas such as marking and assessments, use of data, differentiation and effective questioning. The school has also developed close partnership working with its pathfinder school, namely Treorchy School and also with Cardiff High School.
- An important element around teacher self-evaluation was the introduction of IRIS Connect. This is a system that allowed teachers to review their lessons so that they can observe and reflect on their teaching methods. This also allows teachers to compare and contrast each other's styles and to show how teachers supported pupils who had more challenging needs.
- The school was working to improve and ensure senior leaders impacted on key performance indicators. This involves monitoring the quality of teaching and learning through the programme of departmental and thematic reviews, regular lesson observations and scrutiny of pupils work. The school indicated that 85% of lessons at Key Stage 3 were judged to be good or better and this stood at 80% for Key Stage 4.
- The Chairman queried the reaction of the staff to lesson observations. The Deputy Headteacher explained that this had improved and the key point for the Senior Leadership Team was about being reasonable. He also commented that the use of the school's strategies included using the IRIS Connect system, which allowed teachers to view good lessons. This was much less time consuming and allowed the school to share what good lessons should look like.
- In relation to early entry examinations, the Headteacher explained to the Panel that the school would only enter pupils for early entry if those pupils were completely ready and this would depend upon the individual pupil. Furthermore, the school does not have a blanket policy in which all pupils were entered and early entry was based on the professional opinion of the teachers. He stated that usually the lower / middle range pupils would not sit early entry as these pupils would need more time to learn the subject and because some pupils may be adversely affected by lower results.
- The Chairman of Governors was able to advise the Panel of the improvements made to the governance arrangements within the school. A review of the make-up and structure of the Governing Body had taken place, following which a number of committees had been formed with delegated responsibilities that separated out areas such as finance, school buildings and pupil attainment. The School Improvement Working Group is seen as an important development and had been established as a result of a recommendation of a previous Panel visit. The School Improvement Working Group concentrated fully on the curriculum side of the school and had developed close links with 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. It is planned for this sub-group to become a stand-alone committee, which will also focus on the use of the Pupil Deprivation Grant to ensure that this money can be used more strategically.
- The Chair of Governors advised the Panel, that during 2015 and in order to strengthen the Governing Body, a number of new Governors were appointed. This included two new Parent Governors, two additional Local Authority appointed Governors and one new Teacher Representative. The Panel was informed that the school had worked hard on improving the skill set of its Governors and that a skills audit of all Governors was being conducted. The Panel also noted the amount of time and effort spent by Governors in managing and resolving Human Resources issues.
- In addition, the Panel was informed, that meetings of the Governing Body are closely linked to monitoring data and the progress of improvement within the school. As suggested by the Panel during its initial visit, at each full Governing Body meeting, a detailed Headteacher's report is presented that highlights 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 can be undertaken.
- The Panel questioned concerns regarding fire safety within the school and the Panel was informed by the school that at no point were pupils or staff at any risk. The main issues were to do with the age of some of the buildings which had meant that the school was not fully compliant with some fire regulations. In response to these concerns, the school has developed an action plan and is working closely with the Council to rectify the issues.
- At the previous Panel meeting held in April 2015, the Panel had requested that the school provide details of how it intended to meet the challenges around the fall in the number of pupils and reduced finances. In response to this, at the Panel meeting the Headteacher explained that during 2014/15 the number of pupils on the school roll was 1,079. It had been projected that this would fall to around 952 pupils by the end of 2017/18. This was of concern to the school but they felt that the fall in pupil numbers may be to do with demographics as it was recognised that a similar fall in pupil numbers was also being experienced by the other secondary schools in Barry.
- In terms of the challenges around finances, the school had used voluntary redundancies to reduce the school's budget deficits and during 2014 and 2015 the school had also made some compulsory redundancies. Going forward through to 2016, as a way of reducing the budget deficit, it was hoped that natural wastage and voluntary redundancies could be considered once again.
- The Panel enquired about the future use of the funding provided through the School Challenge Cyrmu initiative. In answer, the Headteacher explained that the school was in its second year of bidding for this money, which would be match funded. This money had been invested into the English and Maths Departments to recruit additional teachers and to create extra classes. In addition, this money had enabled the school to create an 'Inclusion room', which allowed the school to teach those pupils who had been excluded. Going forward, the school planned to invest financial resources to target pupils at an earlier stage at year 7 as opposed to year 11.
- Following consideration of all evidence, the Panel determined that progress had continued to be made and the Panel acknowledged that the school had achieved improved results in 2015 and that the school had an effective system for pupil tracking. The Panel was reasonably confident that most targets would be met in 2016.
- Useful links continued to be maintained with Treorchy Comprehensive and Cardiff High schools and the Panel hoped that these links would continue to be developed. The Panel also recognised the input and support provided by School Challenge Cymru and was keen for these to be maintained.
- The Panel noted that the Governing Body was being developed and acknowledged the positive impact following the appointment of the two additional Local Authority Governors. Acknowledgment was also given to the pressure placed on Governors, but the Panel requested that the Governing Body should not lose sight of statutory requirements such as fire and safety matters.
- It was important for Governors to monitor future funding and to build in sustainability following an anticipated reduction in funding provided through the School Challenge Cymru initiative. The Panel also suggested that the school develops a positive marketing campaign and to celebrate the success of its pupils and to build it's standing in the local community. The Panel acknowledged that the role of new Deputy Head and Heads of Departments had bedded in and continued to make a positive contribution.
- The Panel considered it important for the school to focus on the next monitoring visit by Estyn, to ensure that the school was fully prepared, with particular focus on those areas judged in July 2015, as having 'limited progress'.
- Finally, it was noted that a follow up visit would be considered sometime during the Autumn term 2016, following the publication of the GCSE results in August. These results will be the subject of reports to Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee, following which it would be determined whether a follow up visit is required.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- Within existing resources with the role of school progress meetings being reviewed.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- There are no sustainability and climate change implications arising from this report
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- There are no legal implications arising from this report.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.
- Raising overall standards of achievement.
Policy Framework and Budget
- The recommendations of the report are within existing policy framework and budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- Not applicable
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Lifelong Learning
Mr G.Davies, Scrutiny Support Officer, Tel 01446 709249
Head of School Improvement and Inclusion
Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills