Lauren Wright of Walderslade asked the Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, Councillor Wicks, the following:
Would the Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services please explain why Medway's school performance has been so low over the past five years? Would he publish whatever action plan is in place to improve this and also establish what funding is available to our schools to help?
Councillor Wicks stated that the Council restructured its school improvement function in April 2011. 2012 saw the best ever results for Medway in Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Key Stage 4 and post 16. At Key Stage 4 performance was above national.
The performance at Key Stage 2 was the subject of an in depth scrutiny review, reported to the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee in October 2012.
There were national performance indicators and 10 performance measures in the Council Plan. Progress was updated quarterly on the council performance monitoring tool (Covalent). Similarly the Service Plan for the School Challenge and Improvement Team was placed on Covalent.
Each school where there were concerns had a school development plan. Each school had a school challenge and improvement lead officer assigned to them.
Funding for schools was provided by central government through the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). Heads and governors on the Schools Forum were consulted on the allocation of that grant and most of the funds were delegated to schools using a formula based on pupil numbers and other factors. One of those other factors related to schools below the floor threshold standards set by government, and schools in that position received an extra £26,000 a year. Schools, therefore, had control of their own funds and were expected to use those funds to improve the quality of education for their pupils.
In addition schools received the Pupil Premium which was currently £600 per pupil who was eligible for free school meals. Schools were required to show how this additional income was being spent to overcome barriers of deprivation and address any underachievement by pupils.
In addition, the Council had allocated another £68,000 last year to schools to fund one to one tuition for 200 pupils in the lead up to the 2012 SATs. This funding was targeted at pupils currently working at level 3 to help them move to level 4 to achieve the national expectation by the end of Key Stage 2 and that would have helped Medway’s position in terms of the national Key Stage 2 league.
Lauren Wright asked, in light of Medway’s position in certain league tables, at the bottom, would the Portfolio Holder agree to public meetings with concerned parents, governors, teachers and support staff?
Councillor Wicks stated that the most important thing he could do was to make sure that the school improvement and challenge team, which had a programme for improving performance in our primary schools, did their work. He stated that he spent a lot of time and effort in doing exactly that. He stated that he did not think public meetings were going to contribute a great deal to school improvement in the short term.