The Director of Education and Children’s Services gave an overview of the report and drew Member’s attention to the relevant Wellbeing Objectives.
Members raised the following matters/questions in relation to the report –
In relation to the formatting and content of the report, Members observed that data relating to the National Survey Results noted in the report as ‘due in June/July 2019’ was not included despite the relevant data being available online. The Director of Education and Children’s Services advised that the referenced data would be circulated to Members after the meeting.
Concerns were raised in relation to the school attendance figures on Page 36 of the report, which noted that primary school attendance in Carmarthenshire was the lowest in Wales, having reduced from 94.4% to 93.9% and from 21st to 22nd position nationally. Members asked for clarification on the measures in place to improve attendance. The Director of Education and Children’s Services advised that the figures relate to data from 2017/18 and the department has already identified patterns in 2018/19 that are being addressed, and a letter will be sent to all parents and guardians encouraging full attendance. He further noted that the difference between the best and worst performing authorities was less than 2%. Members were advised that the Education Welfare Service had been remodelled and linked with the Education Safeguarding Officer, with the intention that the change will provide better support and improve the attendance of hard to reach and vulnerable children. Increased and focused support was given to Schools to manage absenteeism. Also in relation to the data under review, the Director of Education and Children’s Services informed Members that the coding of absences was inconsistent, and training and guidance on consistency would be provided; however this would not guarantee an improvement. In previous years, responsibility for consistency with coding fell within the remit of Welsh Government, however it was now the responsibility of each individual local authority. Members were in agreement that the low attendance figures did not correspond with good performance in other areas.
Members asked for clarification on the new scoring system referenced on Page 41, which measured exam results for Year 11 Pupils. The Head of Curriculum and Wellbeing advised that this was a new measure in place of the old system of measuring 5 GCSE results, which included Language and Maths. The new measure would score the best nine results. The Director of Education and Children’s Services advised that comparative data from previous years was available and would be included in the report on Provisional Examination Results due to be presented at the next meeting. Data on attainment in relation to gender would also be included in the report.
In response to a question on the increase in the number of Year 11 and 13 pupils Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) and the Year 13 provision, the Head of Curriculum and Wellbeing advised that significant work was being undertaken across departments to support NEETS. Currently European funding was being utilised to support this work, and in light of the current political situation, there were contingency plans to be put in place to continue with this work in the long term. He further noted that Year 13 provision was non-statutory, however authorities were required to provide at least 30 post-16 subjects which allowed for a broad curriculum. A focus on developing pupils as citizens and employees has moved to a re-assessment of the curriculum with a strong move towards vocational courses and making better informed choices. The Director of Education and Children’s Services advised that Year 11 pupils have been encouraged to consider what their options were and to understand where their choices could lead, particularly in relation to vocational courses and apprenticeships. He also noted that a number of apprenticeships were offered by the authority each year, and Community Benefits from contractors of the 21st Century Schools Programme also provided a number of opportunities for young people.
In relation to the performance measures for the Education and Children’s Services Department, the Director of Education and Children’s Services advised that budget cuts over the last three years had resulted in a reduction in staff and resources. The department continued to work to improve on the measures within the report, under the noted circumstances.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the report be received.