Agenda item

Education Updates - School Performance / Narrowing the Gap / SACRE

This report provides the Panel with a wide range of requested education updates.


The Director for Education, Inclusion & Children’s Safeguarding introduced this report to the Panel, a summary is set out below.


Primary School performance


Due to the CV19 pandemic and the lockdown, no formal tests were sat within

primary schools and as a result neither the DFE nor the LA requested data from

any primary setting. During lockdown all primary schools in B&NES were asked to facilitate home learning for all pupils. This was often delivered via information sent directly from class teachers and tutors to family homes, or in some cases via online lessons. To ensure that all families were able to access education, schools prepared and delivered home learning packs.


All primary schools in B&NES remained open during lockdown to provide face to face educational support to children of keyworkers and vulnerable children. The local authority monitored the school offer to these children and offered additional support to vulnerable families to ensure that children were able to access education. The attendance rates of vulnerable children in B&NES schools was good and in line with the south-west average and above the national average.


This school term all primary schools in B&NES are assessing children to see if the lockdown has impacted upon the educational progress that children could have been expected to make. This information will be used as a baseline and justification for any curriculum adaptations and planned expenditure of the Covid Catch-Up money provided to all schools via the DFE.


Secondary School Performance


Formal examinations for Key stage 4 and 5 were cancelled during the lockdown. Instead, secondary schools were asked to allocate grades at KS4 and KS5. The methodology for doing this was a challenging process with changes to the system used. These challenges were widely reported in the national media and did cause disruption. However, all children, due to finish their education in KS4 & KS5, were allocated school assessed grades to enable them to go on to the next stages of their education, training or employment.


In the spring of 2020, the DFE formally announced that it would not be collecting

any educational performance data from schools and has stated that it does not

expect any school to be judged or compared in any way by this year's formal

examination results. Schools were advised that if they wished to publish their

results, they could do, but that this was a decision for each school.


The LA did ask for some basic results information from each school; in particular, the LA was keen to understand any implications for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. However, the information we received was limited and not submitted by all schools. In line with the DFE request, we have not pursued this any further. In BANES outcomes for pupils were amongst the best in the region in 2019 and there is no reason to believe that this would not continue to be the case in 2020.


Virtual School


The virtual school operated very effectively during lockdown to support carers and young people. Where advisable, the virtual school supported eligible children in care to take up place in a school environment. Where a return to school during lockdown was not felt to be in the best interests of a child, the virtual school offered additional support to families, which included setting timetables and offering 1-1 virtual tuition. However, during the final term of the last academic year, the Virtual School supported 69% of B&NES children in care return to their educational placements, one of the highest return rates in the South West.


Whilst we have not requested across the board educational data, we have followed up the outcomes for our children in care in KS4 and are pleased to report that in the key subjects areas of Maths and English, our children have performed better than expected. Whilst this year's data cannot be compared fairly to previous years; it does look as though our children have performed well. One student has also applied and will be joining their preferred university course this year.


Narrowing the Gap


Whilst the LA does not have data this year that is valid or reliable to judge any

change in the performance of disadvantaged pupils, it is aware that the lockdown can only have had a detrimental effect on the education of these children. Narrowing the Gap for disadvantage pupils was a priority for the LA and the local education landscape before the Covid-19 pandemic and will be more so during the forthcoming academic year.


Schools Standard Board (SSB)


Improving the performance of disadvantaged pupils is a priority for our local SSB. The Board met this September and alongside a presentation on equalities in schools, the Board again re-iterated its commitment to improving outcomes for disadvantaged learners. Members of the Board reported that schools were in the process of carrying out indicative assessments to understand if the educational progress for this cohort of children had been affected by lockdown.  


The SSB has tasked a subgroup of education leaders, with representation from the RSC office, to oversee the collection of this information and to enquire how board members will be deploying strategies and resources across schools to support the most disadvantaged.


St Johns Foundation & Inclusion Expert


During the lockdown, the LA worked with the St Johns Foundation to start to

develop ideas and strategies to tackle the disadvantage gap in B&NES. These

discussions have resulted in the St Johns Foundation developing a pilot

programme that will work with seven primary schools in B&NES with the highest

levels of disadvantage.


The St Johns Foundation will look to target support into five key areas in each

school. These areas are; mental health, nurture, family support, speech & language and literacy and numeracy. This pilot has been named the Primary Empowerment programme and was presented to the Schools Standards Board in September 2020. The support it delivers to schools will be commissioned by the St Johns Foundation and its outcomes tracked and evaluated by an external organisation.


This programme is in early development, however, it is hoped that the pilot should be up and running by the start of the 2021 academic year. The St Johns

Foundation has indicated that this will be a long-term commitment with wider

support to follow once the pilot is underway.


Additionally, in 2019, the local authority commissioned additional educational

support for several schools from an organisation called Inclusion Expert. This

organisation has been providing additional strategies for schools to improve the

educational attainment of disadvantaged children. This work continued throughout 2019/20.


The CV19 pandemic has delayed the completion of this work and a decision was taken to extend the time period for this work to be completed. Schools

involved in the project will be contacted after the October half term to discuss how final parts of the offer can be put to best use and evaluated.




Local Authorities are legally obliged to maintain a Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) whose function is to meet on a regular basis to discuss relevant matters and to produce an agreed local syllabus. This syllabus should be updated every 5 years.


B&NES employs Dave Francis, as an Associate Advisor, (through a system called Bloom) to clerk the meetings, manage communications, monitor RE provision, provide some support to schools, produce the syllabus and any associated resources and write an annual report that has to be published and sent to the DfE.


The significant additional piece of work this year is the five yearly review of the RE Curriculum. The Associate Adviser is leading SACRE members and a small team of teachers in this process, which will fill any gaps in the existing schemes of learning and provide additional materials on religious and moral perspectives on current issues. This is being funded by B&NES Council and is supported by an Award from the Westhill Foundation and the National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on RE (NASACRE). Training for teachers on the revised curriculum is being planned for the Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022 Terms.


Councillor Paul May commented that he would welcome seeing any school data if and when it becomes available.


The Director for Education, Inclusion & Children’s Safeguarding replied that some basic information had been received from some of the Secondary Schools.


The Senior School & Improvement Achievement Adviser added that six out of seven Secondary Schools had supplied data to the Council.


Councillor Liz Hardman commented that she welcomed the work of the Schools Standard Board and would like to see an update on this in six months’ time. She asked if the St Johns Foundation and Inclusion Expert were working with the same schools.


The Director for Education, Inclusion & Children’s Safeguarding replied that there was some crossover. He added that St Johns provide additional support and engage with parents.


Kevin Burnett asked how the Covid-19 catchup funding was to be distributed.


The Director for Education, Inclusion & Children’s Safeguarding replied that the funding was being given direct to schools.


Kevin Burnett asked if there was an agreed list of outcomes to be achieved from the work with St Johns.


The Director for Education, Inclusion & Children’s Safeguarding replied that the framework was still being developed.


Kevin Burnett asked if any feedback had been received from schools regarding the Inclusion Expert project.


The Senior School & Improvement Achievement Adviser replied that feedback had been mixed so far. He added that five schools were working with both projects.


Kevin Burnett asked if training will be provided on the new SACRE curriculum.


The Director for Education, Inclusion & Children’s Safeguarding replied that training will be provided. He added academies do not need to follow the syllabus.


The Panel RESOLVED to note:


i)  They are assured that whilst education results are not available this year to be analysed, that the Local Authority remains proactive and is working strategically to improve the educational outcomes of its most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.


ii)  The good progress the Virtual School for Children in Care continues to make and that it has been awarded additional funding, alongside only two other LA’s in the country, to expand its offer to more children with a social worker.


iii)  That during lockdown the LA worked proactively alongside all schools to ensure that education provision was available for children of keyworkers and vulnerable children.

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