Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a joint report by the Principal Education Manager and GwE Senior Challenge Advisor (copy attached) providing information regarding the performance of school teacher assessments and external examinations.


9.35am – 10.15am



The Head of Education introduced the report (previously circulated) which presented the Committee with the verified performance data on Denbighshire schools’ external examinations results at Key Stage 4 (KS4) and post 16.  Benchmarked information was also contained in the report on the Authority’s performance in comparison to other local authorities.  GwE’s Senior Challenge Advisor was welcomed to the meeting and he explained the data contained in the report, advising that the county had improved its overall performance in relation to the main KS4 results indicator and met the set target.  He advised that due to national changes to the curriculum schools and local authorities were currently experiencing a period of some uncertainty, which was likely to last for up to two years.  In addition, some schools had presented pupils for the new qualification a year in advance of other schools, this had impacted on overall performance particularly the Level 2 Threshold results.


Following its establishment GwE’s initial focus had been on supporting the primary education sector to improve.  Consequently, this had led to a slippage in performance of secondary schools across the region.  In a bid to redress this situation GwE and the local education authority had drawn-up a rapid action plan, which included the introduction of better ways of working with secondary schools to support them through curriculum changes.


Members were advised that Welsh Government (WG) reporting requirements in relation to educational data had changed for the 2015/16 year, with local authorities now being required to include in their data statistical information on the achievement of pupils Educated Other Than At School (EOTAS).  However, local education authorities did not have a uniform method for measuring, collating or recording information on EOTAS pupils’ achievements, and consequently this led to some considerable disparity in the overall performance and benchmarking data.  All North Wales authorities were concerned on the inconsistent approach to recording EOTAS information across Wales and as a result they and GwE were in discussions with the WG on how the reporting aspect could be improved.


Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member for Education, Head of Education, Principal Education Manager and GwE’s Senior Challenge Advisor:


·         advised that there had been some significant changes within GwE recently, including a change of leadership.  This had resulted in an evaluation of the organisation which had led to a re-alignment of roles and focus for the service;

·         confirmed that the profile of primary education in Denbighshire was now good.  The focus had now turned towards the secondary sector where teams would be established to work around individual schools to support them on their journey of improvement;

·         confirmed that a strong working relationship existed between GwE and Denbighshire’s Education Service Officers.  Both partners worked effectively together as one team whilst also challenging each other;

·         confirmed that that local education authority tracked the attainment of each individual pupil in the county throughout their educational journey.  Now that both Education and Children’s Services had been merged into one service it would be easier for officers to check whether any social problems were acting as a barrier to a pupil’s achievement.  It was acknowledged that individual circumstances were key to pupils’ performance;

·         advised that as the WG had changed its reporting requirements late in the academic year, too late to enable the Council to amend its education delivery plan for the year, the local authority would now need to re-align its targets to be in line with the WG; 

·         advised that Denbighshire’s Free School Meal (FSM) profile was 14th, this was based on it being the 9th most deprived area in Wales;

·         confirmed that data was held by the Council on high achieving pupils, particularly those who attained A* grades;

·         informed members that there were circa 50 pupils in Denbighshire who were EOTAS.  The County had built up a profile of each of these individual pupils, some of whom had transferred in from outside the area, and a number of which required significant intervention;

·         advised that whilst some of the schools which were currently a cause of concern and would require intensive targeted support were located in Communities First areas, additional monetary resources was not always the answer to their problems.  Some had suffered from a lack of effective leadership, on personnel and governor level, others had pressures placed upon them due to the pupil cohort numbers;

·         accelerated Improvement Boards had been established at all three secondary schools in the county which were a cause of concern at present as it was widely acknowledged that strong leadership on all levels was key if schools were to be successful.  Ysgol Brynhyfryd was a recent example of how strong leadership could improve outcomes;

·         advised that Cabinet at its meeting earlier in the week had approved to proceed to formally consult on proposals to close both primary and secondary Catholic Schools in Rhyl and replace them with a 3 to 16 Catholic School on the same site and to approve funding for designing a new school in due course;

·         confirmed that Head teachers in the county were keen to undertake a piece of work on how to improve educational outcomes for average achievers in the county, as they had some concerns that these pupils may be missing out due to resources and efforts being targeted at high achievers and/or challenging pupils.  The Head teachers also wanted to explore whether it would be worthwhile to introduce ‘other’ more vocational type courses for these pupils in order to support them to realise their full potential.  Members were of the view that this would be a useful piece of work to undertake and that it would also be beneficial to compare data on pupil choices at the start of Year 10 with the KS4 data to see how many pupils ‘dropped’ their chosen subjects during the two year period with a view to understanding what had led to their decision. The Committee recommended that these studies be undertaken and their conclusions reported to them in due course;

·         agreed with members that schools needed to be honest with pupils when accepting their entry to 6th forms.  They needed to be sure that A Levels and University based education was in their best interests and that they were not setting them up to fail.  In some cases apprenticeships may better suit them and help them realise their full potential;

·         confirmed that Denbighshire was performing above its expected ranking with respect of the number of pupils Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET);

·         explained that different ‘measures’ used for school performance benchmarking could sometimes be deceptive i.e. FSM.  Ysgol Glan Clwyd was a prime example of this as it had a low number of pupils receiving free school meals this meant that it was placed in the same all Wales benchmarking ‘family group’ as schools in some very affluent and privileged areas;

·         advised that whilst school absenteeism generally followed a well-defined pattern of being more prevalent amongst older boys, the trend in Blessed Edward Jones’ Catholic School was different as absenteeism was a problem amongst girls.  The local education authority was monitoring this situation closely and in regular contact with the school with respect of the matter.  The Catholic Church’s co-opted representative for education scrutiny undertook to take this matter and other matters relating to the Catholic schools up with the Diocese.


Prior to the conclusion of the discussion the Lead Member for Education assured the Committee that the County’s Education Department was very thorough and had a detailed profile of each pupil educated in the county, be they in the Authority’s schools or elsewhere.  The Committee then:


Resolved: subject to the above observations –


(i)     to receive the information on the performance of the County’s schools and pupils against previous performance and external benchmarks which were currently available;

(ii)   that a report detailing GwE’s new structure, the anticipated impact and timelines for the realisation of the expected outcomes (including the targets that will be put in place to measure the impacts) be presented to the Committee at the earliest opportunity in the term of the new Council; and

(iii) that a report on the findings of the work to be undertaken measuring pupils progress from choosing their subjects in Year 10 to achieving their results at end of year 11 (including projected grades, intervention/support given and consequential final grades) be presented to the Committee when available).




Supporting documents: