To consider the report of the Corporate
Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Education which was presented to provide Members with an update on the BG Improving Schools Programme, in line with national changes to school evaluation, improvement and accountability. The report will also cover the pilot of the new regional approach 2021-2022, which reflects the national changes.
The Corporate Director of Education spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein. The EAS had collaborated on the report and gave a brief update on each school.
A Member commented that good leadership and good planning was key to taking schools forward to make improvements. The EAS were playing a major role in supporting schools and staff and he enquired how Blaenau Gwent schools compared with our family of schools. He said in the past there had been concerns with Abertillery Learning Community that pupils were transitioning out of the area and this had led to low pupil numbers and resource implications. The Director agreed with the Members comments and reiterated the importance of leadership. In relation to benchmarking and our family of schools, there had been a relaxation of performance measure reporting arrangements across Wales but assured Members that on a school by school and learner by learner basis they would be looking at progress at a forensic level. With regard to the creation of Abertillery Learning Community, one of the key drivers was around sustainability, he reported that for the third year running the school’s year 7 pupil population had exceeded the capacity of 150 learners. The cohort going through in year 7 was now 160 learners and they were above school in-take capacity, which was important in terms of getting resources into the school and making sure that learners had continuity from primary into secondary phase learning.
A Member raised concerns regarding the River Centre Learning Community and felt this provision needed to get back on track or it could impact on other schools in the borough. The Director said they were working closely with the school and EAS to ensure that support was fit for purpose. The River Centre was engaged with the Council around areas for improvement via the schools causing concern discussions. He assured Members that this was a top priority as the provision of the River Centre did impact on placement of learners from all other schools across the school estate. It was important that the right provision was in place for learners and the right learners were placed into the setting with the support that they needed.
The Director clarified that requirements around the Council’s expectations were clearly outlined in both the pre-warning notice and the statutory warning notice. The Inclusion team had been working to secure the improvements needed and they were committed to making those differences where challenges had been identified. He advised that the EAS had also been supporting the leadership and governing body within the setting.
Councillor Martin Cook left the meeting at this juncture.
A Member commented that it was pleasing to note the progress that had been made in Abertillery Learning Community. With regard to Brynmawr Foundation school he commented on one of the recommendations from the Estyn report regarding the unsatisfactory target setting, tracking and assessments and enquired if this had improved. The EAS representative said that the target setting processes were receiving support and was an ongoing piece of work. A challenge facing all schools was ensuring that children were baselined from the beginning of autumn term so that schools could monitor their progress. Cardiff High School were working directly with leaders in Brynmawr Foundation school to look at their systems and had supported with some standardisation activity to ensure consistency i.e. that a C grade was a C grade.
In relation to the River Centre the Member raised several issues and sought clarification on the pre-warning and statutory warning notices and also, as a unique setting, what was the designation of the River Centre i.e. Special school. He also commented on the revolving door policy, and enquired regarding dual registration between the main comprehensive or primary school and the River Centre.
The Director clarified the nature of the pre-warning and statutory warning notices, there were three strands, the first related to capacity of the school, second to admission arrangements, and third to an element that had emerged around school improvement. The statutory notice indicated that it was a school that falls within a special school category. The officer confirmed that revolving door activity was a key component ensuring that learners had the right support and was a key part of the admissions issues that were outlined within the statutory warning notice. With regard to dual registration, the Director said there would be an element of dual registration for certain learners. Moreover, in line with the requirements of ALN reform there would be Individual Development Plans that would have bespoke arrangements and requirements for learners based upon their own individual needs.
The Head of School Improvement & Inclusion added that the overarching requirements for the River Centre were being reviewed and were working with the school to ensure that there was a clear policy for pupils that attended on a revolving door basis and for those that attended on a permanent basis.
The Member felt that 64 places was not sufficient and that some pupils would be there for a longer period than others and the setting would suit some pupils throughout their educational needs. He felt it was about ensuring that pathways were set correctly so pupils came out with qualifications as this affected every school within the county borough.
The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 2; namely that the report be accepted as provided.