Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People Select Committee - Tuesday, 8th September, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Remote Meeting. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services 

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No. Item


Declarations of Interest


Maureen Powell expressed an interest as a governor of King Henry VIII Comprehensive School.


Public Open Forum


No members of the public were present.


School Examination Performance Summer 2020: Verbal Update by Will McLean, Chief Officer, Children and Young People Directorate


The two stages of education to discuss are Key Stage 5 (pupils leaving school at age 18, having typically completed A Levels and BTEC qualifications) and Key Stage 4 (the end of statutory education.) The first thing to cover is the decisions taken across the EAS region (EAS are our partners in school improvement, working closely with our schools and as part of the national picture.) The way that we use performance data has changed significantly: the days of publishing on the day how each school has fared, the pass rates, etc. have largely left us. This is for good reason, as they led to behaviours that weren’t positive, with schools taking decisions about how they entered children for certain qualifications, and the way that they taught children. Now, exam results are a key part of how we work with schools, but are used in a more nuanced and sensitive way.

Throughout May and June, Quals Wales (the independent regulator in Wales) undertook a consultation with stakeholders about how it would standardise exam results in Wales this summer. Concerns were raised about that the process, but we worked through it with Quals Wales, and Welsh Government were obviously involved too. The now-famous algorithms were determined as the process by which the grades could be determined. As we got closer to A Level day in particular, there was intensified speculation about how the algorithm would work, and the impact it might have on students. In Wales, there were several discussions and decisions made in a number of days, that affected the way children receive their exam results. The first, for Key Stage 5, was the Minister’s announcement on 12th August that any student would be able to access their AS Level grade if it was better than the algorithm-determined A2 Level grade (at the end of the first year, children sit their AS Level, which makes up 40% of their A Level, and in the second year they sit their A2, which makes up the remainder.) On 13th August, the exam results were published. The schools supported their children, as always, and worked hard to make sense of the announcement the day before, and understand what its impact would be on children’s ability to access their next step. For the majority of students, that next step entailed studying in further education.

However, as you will know, there was a huge outcry across the UK about the impact of the algorithm, its unfairness, and how children in larger schools or colleges in disadvantaged areas seemed to be penalised to a greater extent than those elsewhere. Not all of that is relevant to Wales: here, the argument put forward by the government, examination board and Quals Wales was always that for A2 we had a much better indicator of existing attainment because we already had the AS grade. Following discussions across the UK, Welsh Government took the decision to move to a position whereby centre-assessed grades (CAGs), which were those submitted by schools  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Return to School: Verbal Update by Will McLean


At the end of last term I briefed this committee about the return to school: at that point, there was a return to school for three weeks at the end of the summer for ‘staying in touch’ contact sessions, with no more than 30% of pupils in school at any one time. This three-week period was very successful. We had one of the highest participation rates in Wales, with the pupils and staff reportedly very happy to be back. Over the summer, the headteachers and leadership teams, colleagues in catering and transport, etc., have put a huge amount of work in to make sure that we could fulfil the guidance provided by Welsh Government for the return to school this autumn. As CYP staff, we met with headteachers every Friday during the last 3 weeks of the holiday to work through questions and queries. We also met with trade union reps and teaching bodies each Friday to ensure that they are comfortable with how things are progressing.

We have also seen significant changes to the guidance: we are now on version 3. It sets out quite clearly that schools have 2 weeks to build up to full school occupation. We had discussed this locally, deciding that it was appropriate for schools to have 2 days without any pupils on site, in order to prepare their facilities and processes adequately. These two days of preparation were subsequently adopted nationally, and would be additional to the 6 inset days for staff development due to be taken throughout the year. The return to full occupation will be achieved by all schools by Monday 14th.

The vast majority of primary schools will have reached full occupation before 14th, with many doing so in the coming days. 3 out of the 4 secondary schools are working through a rolling admission programme: most started last week with years 7 and 12 (transition years), moving perhaps to years 13 and 10 after that, and so on. One school is taking a different approach, having years 7 and 12 in last week, followed by 11 and 13 this week, so that they can work with them as key exam groups to catch up where needed, with the rest of the school receiving a blended learning offer i.e. working from home until 14th.

We have worked very carefully with HR colleagues to ensure that members of staff who had been shielded can return to school safely. The guidance is clear about measures which should be taken, all being premised on prevention as the most important aspect: as expected, anyone who is symptomatic, or who has a symptomatic household member, shouldn’t be in school; measures such as hand cleaning, increased cleaning in communal areas, “catch it, bin it, kill it”, etc., are also stressed. Minimising contact between individuals and maintaining social distancing are also key considerations. Welsh Government made it clear that social distancing did not have to exist between children, but it did between contact groups. Typically, in a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


To confirm the minutes of the previous meeting

Additional documents:


The minutes of the previous meetings held on 9th July 2020 were confirmed and signed as an accurate record.


Work Planning pdf icon PDF 799 KB


Councillor Brown requested consideration of the ALN strategy, as highlighted in the previous Estyn reports, as well as an update on the pupils from Mountain House school, following its closure, with particular regard to the alternatives types of teaching which might be available to them. There is also the issue, given what is spent on ALN, of whether it is cost effective to consider a special school, or better to outsource.

Councillor Groucott recalled that in County Council it was proposed that in the post-Covid world there should be specific officers looking at the whole picture of supporting families that have been particularly impacted. As many of these families will have children, those officers could report to this committee on the problems being faced within families during the coming recession, and what the authority is able to do to try and ameliorate them.

Councillor Thomas would like to invite Jane Rodgers, Head of Children’s’ Services, to report on children who are in care, and vulnerable children. It will be important to continue to balance the committee’s interests between education and broader concerns.

Councillor Powell would like the committee to consider what help can be given to young people who have left school but are not yet in work, given how high the unemployment level will be as a result of Covid-19. This might need to be considered at a later date, given how full the upcoming agenda will be.


To confirm the date and time of the next meeting


The next meeting is on Tuesday 13th October 2020 at 10.00am.