To consider a report on the above.
Officers from GwE were welcomed to the meeting.
The GwE Annual Report for 2020-21 was presented.
In presenting the report, the GwE Assistant Director (Standards) noted that he wished to acknowledge the outstanding work undertaken during a very challenging time in schools.
Then the Core Leaders gave details of developments for the new curriculum that would commence in primary schools in 2022.
Members were given an opportunity to ask questions and offer observations.
Individual members submitted the following observations:-
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>It was welcomed that the title 'Challenge Officers' had disappeared and the key words now were 'support', 'development', 'improvement' and 'assistance', etc.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Concern was expressed that children, e.g. Year 10, who received formal weekly tests, did not know if the results of those assessments would contribute to their final grades or otherwise.
In response to the observations and questions from members, it was noted:
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Although performance data would not be available from now on, the practice of going into classrooms, book scrutiny and talking with teachers and children was of benefit to the Service to ensure that they had a very good knowledge of the schools. It was not believed that focusing on a narrow set of performance indicators at the end of a key stage gave a full picture of the school, and in moving forward without this data, it was important to get the full holistic picture of a school around the 4 purposes of the new curriculum. The Service also looked at children's welfare, how learners developed towards the 4 purposes, and by forming a baseline, the Service would prepare a report for every school in Gwynedd, together with a regional report with a local flavour as an appendix, summarising where the schools were, and what the standards were. Obviously, it was necessary to be sensitive to the current situation in schools, and the Service worked very closely with Authority officers, who had a picture of the situation of schools in terms of attendance, inclusion, ALN, etc., to get the fuller picture. There was consistency across the region in terms of the method of operation and identifying schools, and it was necessary to identify any slippages early on and to respond and give support to the schools. By taking co-ownership for the outcomes and working with the schools to put a support plan in place, full support could be secured to ensure the required improvement. It was further noted that Gwynedd had taken a lead role and had implemented this very early. As for every regional plan, a local flavour was required and some minor changes had been made to the plan in Gwynedd in cooperation with the Schools Improvement Service.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>A teacher leaving, who had been responsible for developing an element of the new curriculum locally, should not be a problem as the local curriculum had been prepared by the whole school.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The intention of the Inspectorate in Wales was to re-commence school inspections in the Spring term. Regular discussions took place with Estyn, and the Service needed to be sensitive to the current situation of schools, and to inspect schools in this context. It was further noted that Estyn would pilot inspections in around 30 schools initially, and there was an opportunity for schools to volunteer to be part of this. It was expected that it would be possible to return to the usual inspection system after Easter, although the framework had changed somewhat. Messages from the pilot scheme would be important for schools to be clearer in terms of the expectations when every school would be able to receive an inspection from Easter onwards, and by then the situation in schools would be closely monitored. It was further noted that it was hoped that the absence of school data would update the inspection system to consider the context of local schools and children's attainment, rather than just looking at the bare data, and this process of inspection would result in a more local and useful inspection report for the school.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>There was agreement regarding the comment about the word 'challenge' and the job title had been changed to 'Improvement Support Advisor', that had made a difference in terms of culture change.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Regarding the reference to the local aspect in the curriculum, there was an opportunity here for teachers to go in depth into subjects to improve children's understanding of subjects that would give them work opportunities locally, and also open their horizons to what was in the big wide world. It was also noted that there was an evident link with the previous item and the quality of jobs and employment levels in Gwynedd. Getting this right, and specifically perhaps the STEM subjects, and to target and ensure that children got the depth of knowledge required in the field, a local flavour would not only ensure that children gained access to quality jobs that paid appropriately and enabled them to remain in the county, but would also, considering the experiences and the qualifications our young people would have, be a means of attracting industries to Gwynedd.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The authorities and the Schools Improvement Service consistently brought pressure to bear on authorities such as Qualifications Wales to be clear regarding their procedures with examinations or testing children and young people, and there was a need for this clarity more than ever his year. There was mention that the Government and Qualifications Wales had moved to a model of external examination next summer, if possible, however, the schools were also preparing for the possibility of internal assessments. Clarity was required immediately regarding this for schools to be able to prepare appropriately, however, it was understood that a decision would not be made until April next year, which was too close to the end of the school year. It was further noted that the GwE Joint Committee had written to the Minister calling for an early decision on this, and the region had also taken a lead role calling on the Welsh Government and Qualifications Wales for an early solution. In addition, the Cabinet Member for Education had used every opportunity to send the message and lobby on our behalf, and had been a key voice in the regional discussion that had led to sending correspondence to the Government for an early answer.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>That Qualifications Wales had requested schools to ensure that they informed children beforehand if an assessment contributed to the final grade. They could be confident that the schools were aware of this requirement. The guidelines from WJEC and Qualifications Wales were clear enough, and in addition to the responsibility on schools, there was also a responsibility on the Service to remind schools of the regulations and to support them.
RESOLVED to accept the reports, noting the observations made during the meeting.