The Medway Annual Schools’ Performance Report 2020-21 is attached at Appendix 1. This report summarises the activity in Medway’s schools to raise achievement during the academic year 2020 -21.
The Assistant Director, Education and SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) introduced the report which summarised the activity in Medway’s schools to raise achievement during the academic year 2020-21.
Members expressed their disappointment that the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) had been unable to attend the meeting and the Chairman had written a letter on behalf of the Committee to confirm its disappointment. The Democratic Services Officer undertook to collate questions from the Committee to send to the RSC who would then respond formally.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments which included:
· Government’s Schools White Paper – reference was made to the Schools White Paper, particularly in relation to the possible forced academisation. In response officers confirmed that feedback from the RSC had been that academisation would not be forced and would only occur when schools underperform. She also referred to high quality teaching and aspirational targets and suggested the RSC be asked about how they would support schools on their journey to achieve them, confirming that the RSC had met with primary headteachers earlier that day about that very issue.
· Government’s SEND Green Paper – reference was made to the SEND Green Paper and officers confirmed that they were consulting with schools on their views and as part of their SEND Strategy review considering its impact and the role of schools.
· PRUs and children with EHCPs – in response to a question about children with Educational Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) being placed in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) officers confirmed this did not happen as a PRU was not the right place for children needing long term additional needs. However, there were occasions when children who had been excluded and placed in a PRU then secured an EHCP. Officers undertook to provide information in the SEND report, scheduled for later in the year, on the numbers of children that had previously been declined an EHCP while in mainstream school and had later been provided one while placed in a PRU.
· Levels of mixed race young people in PRUs – it was queried why there were high levels of mixed race ethnicity young people placed in PRUs. Officers confirmed this was the case and matched the national picture but were uncertain of the reasons why.
· Persistent absence – there were a number of questions asked regarding persistent absence and officers confirmed that a detailed report on this issue would be presented to the next meeting of the committee. It was confirmed that since the production of this report the latest data of absences had been published and Medway’s rate of persistent absence for 2020-21 was 13.4%, compared to 12.8% nationally and that Medway’s primary schools were performing much better than its secondary schools. In addition, officers confirmed they needed to assess the data to remove Covid related absences in order to enable meaningful comparisons with pre-pandemic data.
· Interventions – where schools had been identified as a cause for concern, officers confirmed that in relation to mainstream schools they were able to serve warning notices and force interventions, however, academies were the responsibility of the RSC. It was therefore suggested that the RSC be asked to provide, by way of examples, what action it had taken with academies causing concern over the last two-year period.
· Report data – it was requested that future reports provide more detail and granular data and that best practice examples be sought from other authorities.
· Attendance and advisory service – questions were asked about the service’s caseload, referral rates and how many prosecutions it was undertaking. Officers undertook to include this information in the persistent absence report coming to the next meeting of the committee,
· Secure estate – concern was raised about the education provision and attainment of young people placed in secure estate. Officers suggested a report on the specific issue of secure estate to a later meeting of the committee.
· High Needs Block deficit – in response to a request for an update on this issue, officers confirmed that a detailed report would be provided later in the year and that the Council was working in partnership with the Department for Education to resolve the deficit within the next four to five years. Reference was made about the reduced support to children with complex medical need over the pandemic in relation to medical and therapy support which should also be taken into account and officers confirmed they were working with stakeholders on this.
The Committee noted the report.