EAS Value for Money Study - Debbie Harteveld (EAS)
Assistant Director Pryce delivered a presentation to the committee. The report was written by an external consultant. The review’s purpose is to reflect on, and know, what we’re doing well, and also know where we need to improve. The review drew on a range of data aggregated across the local authority, and evidence from external experts. The review concluded that EAS is doing the right things and doing them well, and having an impact.
Does Monmouthshire have a generic problem with secondary teaching, as compared to primary performance, or with it not being sustained over time?
Estyn’s report agreed that primary improvement has been more rapid than in secondary. Time and attention has been spent to ensure good leadership is now in place at secondary level. Time has been taken to agree between us, the schools and EAS what our expectations for outcomes are (they are at the highest level.) Traditional metrics will unfortunately not be available in the future: first, because of the way exams have been undertaken for this cycle, we won’t be using that data in the coming year. Second, the minister has announced that categorisation is not likely to go ahead in the future year. Third, we were going into the year when Estyn was not undertaking inspections. We will have to work with EAS to find a way to give this committee, and the council generally, confidence that our schools are progressing in the right direction.
King Henry VIII school is now supporting another school, which should allow for positive, distributed leadership within that school to be developed. The existing partnership between Caldicot and Bishop of Llandaff is bearing fruit. We’re seeing progress in Chepstow under its new leadership. Monmouth Comprehensive welcomed a new headteacher yesterday – this should stimulate that school. The four secondary schools are therefore well placed to improve in the future.
With fewer staff, has there been more delegation to schools to improve, and how has that altered your method of working?
There are fewer staff in EAS, which is part of our approach to move towards a self-improving system, and enable capacity to be built within the school community. In turn, that increases the delegation and resources into schools. Much of our approach for that is to engage schools to deliver services for other schools, providing appropriate professional learning and quality assurance for that mechanism. This also helps schools to feel very connected to our work. It is logical for practitioners in schools to be the ones giving that guidance.
Under the new curriculum, humanities covers a number of subjects: will EAS ensure the right amount of resources for the different subjects?
Over time we will ensure that the appropriate resources are in place, whether that is schools working on the development of the new curriculum or staff with that expertise enabling coordination to take place. 2022 will see the introduction of a curriculum for Wales; already work has been undertaken with schools to help them think about its implementation. Not everyone is in the same place, as would be expected.
Is the new curriculum not being postponed, considering Covid?
The bill has been put before the Senedd for the curriculum for Wales. Schools have been given the opportunity to start planning now. We will listen to practitioners and headteachers and adapt in light of the feedback that they give.
A third primary school will open in Monmouthshire in the next few years. Will we miss out on Welsh medium teaching staff, given that they tend to live in Cardiff?
It is a national concern. We recently launched an ‘Aspiring Leaders’ programme to focus on Welsh medium teaching, and other areas where there is a shortage. We are also focussing on the engagement in sabbatical schemes, which are important for promoting the Welsh language across the region. We are able to pool resources across Monmouthshire and the other four local authorities, and generate interest in those roles. Hopefully we can retain high quality practitioners in this region. The links with universities that undertake teacher training is also critical for us, not only to engage new practitioners into the region but also to keep them here – to give them high quality professional learning, make them feel valued, and then identifying those in that cohort who can be leaders of the future.
Have grades been given on assessments?
A wide process has been undertaken by the schools to determine what they believe the outcome would have been for each child. Those grades have been given to the exam boards who have undertaken their own process. The process is therefore not based on particular assessments. Every child will receive their results as normal, but the means by which those grades were calculated will have been different. We therefore won’t use those grades for accountability purposes this year.
We touched on the issue of the effectiveness of schools over time, particularly secondary schools – this issue needs to be monitored. Moving forward, listening to the recipients of the service is very important. We considered the implementation of the new curriculum and the pressures that it will bring. It is a very challenging time.