Agenda item

Regional School Effectiveness and Improvement Service (GwE)


(a)       That the presentation on supporting the reform journey be noted; and


(b)       That the Committee accepts the offer of a workshop in the Autumn.


The Interim Chief Officer (Education & Youth) introduced the update from GwE including the annual report 2017/18 identifying strengths in standards, provision and leadership, along with areas for improvement and development.


The Committee welcomed GwE representatives Arwyn Thomas, Managing Director and Alwyn Jones, Assistant Director, who gave a presentation covering the following:


·         Wales Reform Journey

·         Accountability

·         Toward a self improving school system

·         Successes

·         Challenges


During the presentation, information was shared on preparations for education reform involving the development of a new curriculum with a local rather than national focus and culture shift to support rather than challenge schools.  An offer was made to deliver a workshop to Members in the Autumn to provide clarity on the next steps to help understanding of the changes ahead.


In response to a question from Councillor Cunningham on governance arrangements, the Managing Director said that regional and local accountability was in place through the GwE joint committee (comprising representatives from the six local authorities) and regular meetings between GwE representatives and the six Overview & Scrutiny committees.  He highlighted the importance of effective communication channels to ensure that schools received adequate support and referred to business plans detailing the offer for each local authority in the region.


Rebecca Stark asked about timescales to show how the eight elements of education reform would come together.  The Managing Director said that milestones were set for the initial two year period and a phased approach would be taken to prepare for the reforms in discussion with Welsh Government (WG).  Timescales would be shared via a cluster approach with the aim of each partner reaching the same stage simultaneously.  The Interim Chief Officer said that timelines published by WG could be made available to Members and she provided clarification on other timelines that were in the remit of local authorities.  In response to concerns about early availability of resources, the Managing Director acknowledged that some materials were slow in emerging and that the preparations would help to achieve more stability in the system.  Rebecca Stark also spoke about the need for funding to help schools implement the changes, particularly in the secondary sector.  The Managing Director said that representations were being made to WG for funding to support schools in becoming reform ready and he referred to a potential increase in teacher training days to assist schools.  The Interim Chief Officer spoke in support of this approach due to the pressures already absorbed by schools and she said there was a degree of optimism for additional funding from the UK Government.


Lynn Bartlett welcomed the focus on support for schools but said that funding was required to support school collaboration.  The Managing Director spoke about the importance of directing funding to clusters to enable those schools to make their own key decisions.  In response to further comments, he spoke about an increased focus on wellbeing as part of the Curriculum Development element.


Following praise by Councillor Heesom for the vision behind the reforms, the Managing Director said that this was about schools supporting pupils to serve their communities and become active leaders.


David Hÿtch called for support across the wider curriculum with reporting mechanisms highlighting pupil achievement in all areas rather than focussing on core subjects.  This view was acknowledged and shared by the GwE representatives.  In response to concerns about Head Teacher welfare - particularly in the secondary sector - and the effect of GwE ‘deep dive’ visits, the increased focus on support was highlighted, along with improving language in a positive way and encouraging openness and sharing problems.


Members were advised by the Interim Chief Officer that there were no significant recruitment issues with Head Teachers in Flintshire as senior posts were filled and well supported, with turnover at secondary level due to natural means, eg  retirement.  Whilst the number of applicants had reduced, the identification of a cohort of emerging prospective future Heads was proving to be effective.


Councillor Roberts spoke about the importance of the School Standards Monitoring Group in providing a measure of challenge to schools on areas of under-performance.


David Hÿtch asked about alternative support to replace that previously given by Governors Wales and was told that GwE would work closely with local authority colleagues to ensure that all Governors were captured as part of training.


Councillor Mackie said that the increased time in core subjects and reduced options available to young people conflicted with the aim for broader improvement.  He reiterated his concerns that more could be done to ensure that young people received the best support possible which would improve Flintshire’s position.  He also pointed out that the drop in performance of all the regional local authorities under GwE since the inception of the service was not replicated elsewhere in Wales.


The Managing Director explained about the funding arrangements to setup GwE when a national approach to challenge had been set.  He said that accountability was now higher than ever before and that teachers sharing best practice would support improvement.  He referred to the change in demographics over the period and said that GwE had been inspected four times this year and had recognised the positive, quality service provision to schools and local authorities in the region.


The Interim Chief Officer agreed that Flintshire’s ranking was unacceptable and that the objective was to exceed the benchmark.  In respect of GwE, the service had developed and the shift in focus to increase resources and target support in the secondary sector regionally would help the improvement journey; this approach was reflected in feedback from schools.


Councillor Mackie said it was important for the Committee to be given information on what was being done to seek improvements for Flintshire.  Assurance was given by the Managing Director that the detailed plan for Flintshire was subject to quarterly monitoring and shared through performance reporting.


Councillor Axworthy asked if the Estyn report on GwE could be shared and she said that the Committee needed to be clear about data provided on schools.  The Interim Chief Officer gave a reminder that information was shared with the Committee in various forms, for example the self-evaluation report at the previous meeting which summarised performance data and improvements.  Requests for specific data could be pursued with officers outside the meeting.


The Chairman thanked the GwE representatives for their attendance and positive presentation, and welcomed the support for schools and staff.  He proposed that the Committee accept the offer of the Autumn workshop, which was duly agreed.




(a)       That the presentation on supporting the reform journey be noted; and


(b)       That the Committee accepts the offer of a workshop in the Autumn.

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