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Agenda item

Performance of Free School Meals pupils and other vulnerable groups of learners

To consider the report of the Lead Member for People – Education

Minutes:

(Members declarations of interest in relation to this item are set out in Minute 41 above)

 

The Lead Member for People (Education) submitted a report (HF/08/18s) to provide Members with information about the standards achieved by groups of vulnerable learners in Wrexham in 2017 and to provide Members with information about the verified GCSE results in 2017, focusing on the Level 2 inclusive indicator.

 

The Head of Education reported that owing to the small cohort size the outcomes for Looked After Children had not been included in today’s report but would be shared with Members as a confidential information report.

 

The Chair welcomed representatives from GwE to the meeting.  He then invited Committee members to comment and ask questions on the report.  The following issues were highlighted in debate:

 

·         The improvements in free school meals (FSM) performance across most key stages in 2016 were noted and welcomed by the Committee.  The need for improvement at Key Stage 4 was identified.

·         The inadequacy of the FSM indicator as an identifier of need in light of changes to the benefits system.  Requested that representations be made to Welsh Government in this regard.

·         Difficulties in identifying pupils not claiming FSM but who had similar needs. This impacted upon the support that schools could provide via the Pupil Development Grant.

·         Changes to the indicator used by the Welsh Government to calculate the Pupil Development Grant (PDG) were reported to the Committee which could disadvantage schools with increasing FSM levels. 

·         Difficulties in sharing information to promote eligibility for FSM arising from GDPR requirements.

·         The difficulties in measuring the impact of PDG on achievement.  It was noted that PDG could be used to provide activities for groups of pupils requiring intervention, so long as it primarily targeted FSM learners before other vulnerable groups.  The GwE Officer commented on the role of GwE in providing advice and guidance to schools on the effective use of the grant. 

·         Increase in the incidence of pupils with additional needs on early years entry and its impact on the Foundation Phase.  The GwE Officer reported that this was a key priority for the regional early years intervention group in terms of the continual professional development offer from GwE.

·         Further information sought in respect of support for speech and language development in early years.  It was reported that the early years PDG in Wrexham was used to employ a speech and language outreach officer who worked with staff and parents with the early identification of issues and developing strategies of support.

·         Members were informed of a programme of targeted support for schools at key stage 2 to support teachers in improving the outcomes of FSM learners.

·         Members were reassured that the improved performance at key stage 2 was likely to continue, based on the tracking data provided to the local authority by schools.

·         The difference in the targets set and level of achievement at key stage 4, level 2 inclusive.  It was reported that changes to the GCSE qualifications and criteria had had a greater impact on FSM learners than non FSM learners and there had been difficulty in setting meaningful targets at level 2 inclusive.   The GwE Officer reassured the Committee that target discrepancies were challenged by GwE advisers.  It was noted that there had been a reduction in targets for FSM pupils at the Foundation Phase and Key Stage 4 in order to allow changes to be embedded.

·         The Committee acknowledged and welcomed the improvement in EAL (English as an additional language) performance.

·         Noted that there was a high number of EAL pupils in Wrexham schools.  The Head of Education provided further information on future funding proposals which may impact upon EAL pupil support and stated that he would report back to the next meeting regarding the outcome of onging discussions with Welsh Government regarding continued funding for these pupils. 

·         Noted that owing to cohort size it was not possible to compare Wrexham’s EAL performance with that of other local authorities.  The Head of Education assured the Committee that EAL performance in Wrexham was very good, highlighting that the performance of EAL pupils was near to or above the Wales average once language acquisition at level D was achieved.

·         Noted that the complex needs of some SEN (Special Educational Needs) pupils resulted in difficulties in making realistic comparisons.  Officers commented that it would be more useful to track the quality of provision.  Members agreed that this should be submitted in a separate report.

 

AGREED –

 

(i)         That the Chair and Vice-Chair work with Officers to develop a separate report which focuses on the quality of SEN provision and demand.

 

(ii)        That representations be made to Welsh Government regarding the inadequacy of the use of the FSM indicator as an identifier of poverty.

Supporting documents: