Agenda item

Annual Education Standards




The Interim Service Manager – Education Partnerships and School Improvement introduced the item on Annual Education Standards. It was noted that outcomes had depressed nationally in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was highlighted that there was some strong performance among Early Years, however there were concerns around performance at Key Stage 5, especially in A Level results and especially when compared to other London Boroughs, although this was again in line with the national picture. There was an element of reverting back to pre-COVID performance levels, although there was also a national issue around attendance, which had knock-on effects on outcomes.


Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) numbers were referenced, and it was noted that there was good information sharing with schools, as well as a partnership with the London Borough of Ealing. It was noted that there were currently just over 100 NEETs, however there were lots of unknowns, for example where young people may have left the Borough but were still identified as unknown. It was noted that more capacity was needed as some staff were currently borrowed from the DWP. Mental health issues leading to young people becoming NEET was highlighted, and this was linked to the capacity issues and being able to hold conversations earlier in the academic year.


Members referenced page 7 of the report, which stated that 56 childminders had resigned from the sector since the start of the pandemic and asked about the impact this had had. Officers noted that some young people were difficult to engage with, and this this was in part due to COVID-19, but schools were doing all that was expected of them to this end.


It was further noted that officers were tracking numbers of exclusions and suspensions, and reached out to schools where these numbers were high. Reference was made to the inclusion toolkit for early intervention and ensuring that the right steps were taken.


Members asked about the role of the Council in monitoring and evaluation and stepping in. Reference was made to previous questions submitted by the Committee for which answers were forthcoming.


Officers referenced the school improvement approach and the three-tier approach of universal, targeted and intensive. It was noted that this depended on the school type and for academies, the process would have instead involved the Regional Schools Commissioner. There were regular meetings with the CEOs of multi-academy trusts (MATs). Two new School Improvement Partners (known as Education Advisors in Hillingdon) had been appointed, and there was a Primary and Secondary Lead. 16 schools were listed on the Council’s Schools At Risk Register at the end of 2021/22; this comprised of 8 academy schools and 8 maintained schools. It was noted here that concerns could be educational or financial.


Further to this, Members referenced section 1.6 Performance Outcomes of the report, and it was noted that there was a Regional Schools Commissioner for academies. Some schools were within Single Academy Trusts which presented challenges. There was still work to be done with schools at risk, and engagement improvements were also required. Members asked about receiving a sub-analysis of the data by age and ethnicity. Officers confirmed that this could be provided outside of the meeting.


Members referenced School Attendance Orders and asked for further information pertaining to resourcing issues. Officers confirmed that this could also be provided outside of the meeting.


Members asked about how the role of the Committee differed in relation to academies as opposed to maintained schools. Officers noted the more direct accountability over maintained schools and again referenced the role of the Regional Schools Commissioner in the accountability of academies. Officers re-iterated that the Council had a responsibility to all children, but that more engagement was needed. The focus on data had been skewed by COVID-19. Sessions had been run via the Primary Education Advisor on the topic of inspections, and sessions would be run on data.


Members asked about attainment for children with SEND and how it was ensured that targets were set appropriately. Officers noted that in interpreting SEND outcomes data, it was important to note that every child was different, and that attainment could be measured via certification, pathways or employment. Officers noted that challenge with increasing numbers of children with concerns of ASD. The need to upskill the education workforce was noted and part of this should be around higher expectations for children with SEND. It was noted that this had been impacted by COVID-19.


Members referenced the 3.5% of schools requiring improvement. It was noted that Early Years settings rated as Inadequate and Requires Improvement were encouraged to sign up for the Experts and Mentors programme. This was led by the Department for Education. Members asked officers for further information on Pen Green. Further information could be provided on this outside of the meeting.


Members referenced the Key challenges, which stated that there was a higher number of children starting Early Years provision with SEND concerns than pre-COVID. Officers noted that there were occasions of children displaying, for example, a communication delay or attention delay prior to coming into Early Years settings as opposed to as a result of COVID-19. There was also a staffing issue for Early Years settings, which was linked to training needs.


Members asked about the issue of repeat absences and the adequacy of sanctions and officers noted that this had not been raised as a concern by headteachers, and that there was a follow-through in terms of sanctions. The issue of absences in holiday seasons was raised. Officers noted that it was often the case that repeat absentees were known to headteachers, and often these cases were referred to the Stronger Families Hub to identify underlying issues such as mental health and wellbeing, or travel costs. It was highlighted here that absence was a symptom not a cause.


Members referenced the poorer outcomes for Key Stage 5 and asked for possible reasons for this. Officers noted there may be more robustness in Key Stage 3 and 4; that there was a big gap between Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5; and the impact of COVID-19, where some students had sat A Level exams but not GCSE exams. This was being reviewed with schools through a peer review process and via the Hillingdon Learn Partnerships. It was noted that students were building resilience. Members asked about students leaving the Borough after Key Stage 4 to attend out-of-Borough settings for Key Stage 5, if there was a way to measure this, and whether this had a significant impact on the results at Key Stage 5. Officers noted that most 6th Forms in the Borough were full and students moving outside of the Borough was not seen as an issue. Officers noted that they may be able to provide further information on this.


Members asked about the reference in the report to low practitioner morale, and whether this was still the case. Officers confirmed that it was still the case and was linked to low pay and scarcity of opportunity.


Members asked about the table of Placements of Children of Gypsies, Roma Travellers, Refugees and Asylum Seekers, and asked if more details could be provided, possibly through an audit of information for primary schools, either during the next annual report or sooner. It was referenced that the Fair Access Panel worked with secondary schools. It was noted here that representations were being made frequently to the Home Office; that there was lots of turnover; and that this was a huge pressure on resources such as NEET unknowns. Officers noted that there was a strategy for Ukrainian children, and also a strategy for asylum-seeking children.


Members referenced safeguarding in inadequate settings and officers noted that this was a high priority, although a Safeguarding Officer would be beneficial to enable more work done in-house. There was collaboration between schools and via the Primary Forum, Hillingdon Association of Secondary Headteachers, and the Hillingdon Learning Partnerships through which new headteachers were offered mentoring from experienced headteachers.


In relation to Bishop Ardern, a proposed new secondary school in Ruislip, this was currently under review.


Members asked about the Five to Thrive programme which was being introduced across all providers – this was a partnership approach to working with Parents and Practitioners in recognising the importance of and supporting healthy Brain development. This was being rolled out as the result of a pilot scheme.


Members asked about the numbers of children with SEND in mainstream schools and what the proportion was. Members asked if it would be possible in a future Committee to have an audit of numbers of SEND children by individual school and to include comparisons of standards and funding. Officers noted that some of this information could be taken from the school census.


Members referenced the addendum, which noted an area of concern in relation to staffing insufficiencies within a NEET team. Officers noted that this was under review. Officers noted that an update on this could be brought to a future Committee.


Members asked if there was a register of elective home educated children. There were links to the Stronger Families Hub in terms of safeguarding, and there was a robust policy that was robustly implemented including a trigger review of the appropriateness of home education. It was noted that a register of home educated children would not identify those who had never been in school unless identified elsewhere.


RESOLVED: That the Committee:


1.    Noted the key findings set out in the report; and


2.    Delegated to the Democratic Services Officer in conjunction with the Chairman (and in consultation with the Opposition Lead) to agree comments to be submitted to Cabinet


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