The Medway Annual Schools’ Performance Report for the school year 2019-20 is attached at Appendix 1. This report summarises activity in Medway’s schools in raising achievement throughout the previous academic year. The annual report is usually rich in comparative data for the local and national picture, but due to the pandemic, many of the assessments that feed the data were cancelled nationally, or there has been national agreement to withhold publication because of a lack of standardisation and comparative ambiguity. Consequently, all raising achievement analysis for early years foundation stage, key stage one, two, four and five is not available to drive this report. Where data is available through census or local, internal, granular data then comparisons to national have been made if they are available.
Officers introduced the report which summarised activity in Medway’s schools in raising achievement through the 2019 to 2020 academic year. Due to the pandemic, many assessments had been cancelled or withheld nationally therefore analysis was not readily available. Officers drew attention to the number of pupils attending a good or outstanding school in Medway, which was 92% pupils (84% nationally) and the number of fixed term exclusions in primary and secondary had reduced to the national rate and below the national rate respectively, which was a significant improvement. Key Stage 2 continued to be a real focus.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments, which included:
· Key Stage 2 improvements – officers confirmed that education leaders were committed and focussed on this area of improvement, which had progressed but needed to improve further. Reading, particularly for those children from disadvantaged backgrounds was a focus. Improvement in Key Stage 2 needed to continue which was supported by officers who confirmed this remained a key priority, as identified by the Medway Education Partnership.
· SEND and Pupil Premium – comment was made that pupils who had a special educational need (SEN) or were pupil premium children, had generally been more difficult to engage with remote learning during lockdown periods over the past year, which lead to a concern that this would widen the gap for these young people. In response officers confirmed they shared this concern and had worked on a geographical basis to identify vulnerable children who needed focus and support.
· Children who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) – in response to a question about levels of NEETs, officers confirmed that the number of children who had been unknown had been far too high in Medway and so efforts had been focussed on bringing down that number. This had driven up the NEET number. It was also explained that attempts were being made to increase provision in Medway to help reduce the level of NEETs. It was also acknowledged that there were a higher number of people at risk of being NEET from September due to the impact of the pandemic and officers were working on preparing for this. Lastly, it was confirmed that white British young people were the biggest cohort within NEETs.
· Collaborative relationship – The Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) commented on how the pandemic had enable this relationship to be strengthened and built on. Agreed priorities included promoting collaboration including school to school support; promoting inclusive practice; and supporting schools through the pandemic.
· Interventions for the LA and RSC – the RSC confirmed her intervention powers generally linked to Ofsted effectiveness. If Ofsted provided an inadequate judgement to a maintained school then the RSC could issue an academy conversion order. If it related to an academy, the RSC could issue additional conditions or move the school under a different trust. The point was made that Ofsted had not been conducting inspections during the pandemic which had caused there to be little change in the system but informal dialogue had continued, particularly with trusts which were responsible for any schools causing concern. Officers added that the local authority (LA) also had enforcement powers in relation to maintained schools but was required to initially issue warning notices, including informal notices, which was used where necessary.
· Supporting children with special educational needs (SEN) – officers confirmed that inclusion in Medway, particularly at secondary, was poor and therefore, supported by the RSC, secondary schools had been challenged to increase resourced places. Schools had responded positively and plans were in place to create 225 additional places in resourced provision over the next five years (in addition to 330 additional special school places).
· Categorisation of schools – Officers explained that school effectiveness was a duty of the LA to challenge and support all schools to be good or better. Majority of schools in Medway were good or better and the Council’s categorisation of schools was largely based on Ofsted outcomes, but not completely. It was added that school improvement was the responsibility of schools and so the LA would discuss with Headteachers to ensure there was clarity around improvement required, with an expectation that every school was then held to account by its Governing Body to identify robust actions for individual improvements.
· Key Stage 4 strength – in response to how this judgement in the report had been made, officers confirmed that this was via data analysis to compare the performance supplied by secondary schools with national data.
· Performance of maintained schools compared to academies – officers confirmed that as an LA that was pro-academy, it did not disaggregate the data between maintained schools and academies.
· Inclusion – officers confirmed that they had worked with primary and secondary schools to develop a number of protocols, which included Fair Access Protocols for when a child required some intervention, to collectively consider the child’s needs and address the concern; Reintegration Principles, to consider how to move excluded children back into mainstream education successfully; and Inclusion Principles, for all schools to sign up to and hold each other to account on.
· Progress 8 score – In response to a question about Medway secondary Progress 8 performance, it was confirmed that KS4 results were generally good in Medway and above average so given that KS2 needed to improve it would indicate that progress was good. Officers confirmed that some of the schools referred to by the member would have included private schools which were not part of the duty for local authorities and would include many children who were not from Medway.
· Absence and the impact of covid – Officers explained that in September 2020, attendance bounced back extremely well but did deteriorate in term 2, which was later understood to be the impact of the Kent variant of Covid-19, which particularly affected Medway and Swale. Officers were hopeful that the return to school on Monday would see good attendance return.
· Budget for staffing – in response to a question about why the salaries for teachers in Medway were below average officers confirmed that the budget formula for Medway was low than other local authorities in the South East including Kent, which meant schools had less budget available for staffing costs.
· High Needs Deficit – officers confirmed that the plan to address this deficit was in place and was being regularly scrutinised by senior Members and officers. The main reasons for the overspend was a lack of sufficient specialist places in Medway, 17% more Education Health and Care Plans in Medway than the national average, and lastly that officers believed Medway was under funded by the Government and would be meeting with the Education and Skills Funding Agency to challenge funding allocations.
The Committee noted the report and requested to have a report on the plan to address the High Needs Budget deficit.
In accordance with Council rule 12.6, Councillors Howcroft-Scott, Johnson and Osborne requested that their votes in favour be recorded.