Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee

14/03/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Darren Millar AC
Hefin David AC
John Griffiths AC Cadeirydd Dros Dro
Temporary Chair
Julie Morgan AC
Llyr Gruffydd AC
Mark Reckless AC
Michelle Brown AC

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Claire Morgan Cyfarwyddwr Strategol, Estyn
Strategic Director, Estyn
Meilyr Rowlands Prif Arolygydd Ei Mawrhydi dros Addysg a Hyfforddiant yng Nghymru, Estyn
Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales, Estyn
Simon Brown Cyfarwyddwr Strategol, Estyn
Strategic Director, Estyn

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sian Hughes Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sian Thomas Clerc
Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 10:25.

The meeting began at 10:25.

Penodi Cadeirydd Dros Dro
Appointment of Temporary Chair

Bore da. Unfortunately, the Chair, Lynne Neagle, is unable to attend today's meeting. Therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, I call for nominations for a temporary Chair, for the duration of the meeting.

Any further nominations? I therefore declare that John Griffiths has been appointed temporary Chair, and I invite him to chair for the duration of today's meeting.

Penodwyd John Griffiths yn Gadeirydd dros dro.

John Griffiths was appointed temporary Chair.

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Thank you very much. I thank the Members for that. Welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee. The first item on our agenda today is apologies, substitutions, declarations of interest. Obviously, Lynne Neagle isn't able to be with us today. We haven't received any other apologies. Are there any declarations of interest? No.

2. Ymchwiliad i Gyllid wedi'i Dargedu i Wella Deilliannau Addysgol: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 8
2. Inquiry into Targeted Funding to improve Educational Outcomes: Evidence Session 8

We will move on then to item 2 on our agenda, the continuation of our inquiry into targeted funding to improve educational outcomes, and evidence session 8. And I'm very pleased to welcome Estyn here this morning to give evidence to the committee. Would you like to introduce yourselves for the record, please?

Meilyr Rowlands, chief inspector.

Claire Morgan, strategic director.

Simon Brown, strategic director.

Okay. Thank you. And welcome again. If it's okay, we'll move straight into questions—we have quite a number of questions to get through this morning. Firstly, Llyr.

Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd, a bore da. Rwyf jest eisiau dechrau drwy ofyn i chi am eich canfyddiad chi o sut mae ysgolion yn defnyddio'r arian grant datblygu disgyblion, ac i ba raddau y maen nhw'n wirioneddol dargedu yr arian yna yn ecsgliwsif ar gyfer plant sydd yn gymwys i dderbyn cinio am ddim.

Thank you, Chair, and good morning. I just want to start by asking about your perception of how schools are using the pupil development grant funding, and to what extent they are genuinely targeting that funding exclusively towards children eligible for free school meals.

Diolch am y cwestiwn. Mae'r grant yma wedi cael ei dargedu llawer iawn yn well erbyn hyn nag oedd e yn wreiddiol. Mae Estyn wedi gwneud nifer o adroddiadau ynglŷn ag effeithiolrwydd y grant, ac, a dweud y gwir, yn mynd yn ôl cyn y grant arbennig yma, yn ôl i grant tebyg o'r enw RAISE. Bryd hynny, ac ar gychwyn y grant yma, mi roedd yr arian yn aml yn cael ei wario ar fynd i'r afael â thangyflawniad, yn hytrach na delio â thangyflawniad plant sydd yn derbyn prydau bwyd am ddim yn benodol. Ond, dros gyfnod o amser, rydym ni wedi gweld ei fod e'n cael ei dargedu llawer iawn yn well erbyn hyn. Nid yw hynny ddim yn dweud bod y targedu yn berffaith o hyd. Ac rwy'n credu ein bod ni yn gweld enghreifftiau ble nad yw'r targedu ddim yn mynd jest i blant sy'n derbyn prydau bwyd am ddim. Mae ysgolion weithiau yn dehongli tlodi mewn ffordd ychydig bach mwy eang na hynny. O ran beth mae ysgolion yn ei wneud â'r grant, rydym ni wedi rhoi tystiolaeth i chi o'r math o beth maen nhw'n ei wneud. Maen nhw'n tracio cynnydd disgyblion, maen nhw'n ceisio gwella presenoldeb, maen nhw'n ceisio gweithio gyda theuluoedd a'r gymuned yn gyffredinol, maen nhw'n gwneud gwaith arbennig i wella fel y mae plant yn ei wneud mewn arholiadau yng nghyfnod allweddol 4, yn benodol—mae yna dipyn o arian yn cael ei wario ar hynny—gwella hyder myfyrwyr, mynd â myfyrwyr ar weithgareddau allgyrsiol, gwella llythrennedd a rhifedd. Dyna'r math o weithgareddau sy'n cael eu defnyddio.

Thank you for the question. This grant has been targeted far better by now than it was originally. Estyn has made several reports regarding the effectiveness of the grant, and, really, going back to before this specific grant, to a similar grant, called RAISE. At the start of this grant, the funding was often spent on tackling underachievement, rather than dealing with the underachievement of children who are eligible for free school meals specifically. But, over a period of time, we have seen that it is targeted much better by now. That's not to say that the targeting is working perfectly still, and I think that we are seeing examples where the targeting isn't going just to children who receive free school meals. Schools sometimes interpret poverty in a slightly wider way than that. In terms of what schools are doing with the grant, we have given evidence to you of the kinds of things that they are doing. They are tracking progress of pupils, they are trying to improve attendance, they are trying to work with families and the community in general, they're doing work specifically to improve how children are doing in exams, in key stage 4, specifically—a lot of funding is being spent on that—improving the confidence of students, taking students on extra-curricular activities, improving literacy and numeracy. Those are the kinds of activities they're being used for.

Achos mae'r gwaith ymchwil gan Ipsos MORI a'r Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods wedi dangos bod yna rhyw 'blur-io'—rwy'n credu mai dyna yw'r term y maen nhw'n ei ddefnyddio—rhyw ddrysu o safbwynt pwy sy'n gymwys. Ond rydych chi'n eithaf cyfforddus â'r ffaith bod yna dargedu digonol yn digwydd. Roeddech chi'n cyfeirio at y ffaith ei fod e'n cael ei ddefnyddio, efallai, i gyrraedd ychydig yn ehangach na dim ond y rhai sydd yn gymwys i gael cinio ysgol am ddim, ond rydych chi yn teimlo bod y cydbwysedd yna, o'ch profiad chi, beth bynnag, yn dderbyniol.

Because the research by Ipsos MORI and the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods has shown that there is some kind of blurring—I think that's the term that they use—in terms of who is eligible. But you are relatively comfortable with the fact that there is sufficient targeting happening. You referred to the fact that it is used, perhaps, to reach a slightly wider cohort than just those who are eligible for free school meals, but you do feel that that balance, from your experience, is acceptable.

Ie, yn sicr, mae e wedi gwella llawer iawn. Pan roeddwn i'n edrych ar hwn i gychwyn, nid oedd y targedu ddim yn bodoli o gwbl. Roedd e’n cael ei wario ar blant oedd yn tangyflawni, ac un o’r pethau wnaethom ni sylwi yn yr adroddiad cyntaf hwnnw oedd bod llawer mwy o arian yn cael ei wario ar fechgyn na merched. Wrth gwrs, roedd hynny’n codi’n syth y cwestiwn: wel, nid yw’n cael ei wario, felly, ar y plant oedd yn gymwys am brydiau bwyd am ddim, achos mae’r rhifau yna'n gyfartal. Felly, nid oedd e ddim, ond mae e wedi gwella. Mae yna drafodaeth ynglŷn â phwy ddylai’n union gael e, a beth yw’r diffiniad. Ai prydiau bwyd am ddim ydy’r diffiniad gorau? Felly, rwy’n meddwl nad yw ysgolion yn dilyn hynny’n union, ond o fewn ysbryd y grant, rwy’n gymharol gyfforddus. Mae yna gwestiwn penodol—nid wyf yn gwybod os ŷch chi’n mynd i ofyn hyn—ynglŷn â phlant mwy galluog.

Yes, certainly, it has improved a great deal. When I was looking at this initially, the targeting wasn’t happening at all. It was being spent on children who were underachieving, and one of the things that we did notice in the first report was that much more funding was being spent on boys than girls. And, of course, that raised the question immediately that it wasn't being spent then on children who are eligible for free school meals, because those numbers are equal. So, it wasn’t, but it has improved. There is a discussion about who exactly should have it and whether free school meals is the best definition. So, I think that schools are perhaps not following that exactly, but within the spirit of the grant, I think I’m fairly comfortable. There is a specific question—I don’t know if you are going to ask this—regarding more able and talented pupils.

10:30

Dyna lle roeddwn i'n mynd nesaf. 

That's where I was going next.

Felly, os oes yna garfan o ddisgyblion sydd yn colli mas ar hyn, y plant mwy galluog sydd yn derbyn prydau bwyd am ddim yw’r rheini. Mae yna nifer o resymau am hyn, rwy’n meddwl. Un ohonyn nhw ydy bod yna dal rhywfaint o deimlad taw plant llai galluog ddylai fod yn cael y grant yma, plant sy’n tangyflawni. Nid yw’r ysgolion ddim bob tro yn adnabod tangyflawniad y plant mwy galluog. Maen nhw’n ymddangos fel eu bod nhw’n gwneud yn o lew, ond petaen nhw'n cael mwy o gymorth, bydden nhw’n gwneud hyd yn oed yn well.

So, if there is a cohort of pupils who are missing out on this, they are the more able and talented pupils who receive free school meals. There are a number of reasons for this, I think. One of them is that there’s still some feeling that less able children should be receiving this grant, children who are underachieving. Schools don’t always identify underachievement of those more able children. It seems that they are doing okay, but if they were given more support, they would do even better.

Felly, ai diffyg ymwybyddiaeth o natur y grant, a bod angen targedu’r unigolyn yn hytrach nag efallai dim ond y rhai sy’n tangyrraedd yw’r broblem? Neu ai'r gyfundrefn sydd yn ffocysu ar ganlyniadau arholiadau, ac yn y blaen, a’r angen wedyn i dynnu’r rhai sy’n tangyflawni lan, yn hytrach, efallai, na chymell y rhai sydd eisoes yn cyflawni i gyflawni mwy?

So, is it a lack of awareness of the nature of the grant, and that the individual has to be targeted rather than just those who are underachieving? Is that the problem? Or is it the regime that focuses on exam results and the need to draw those pupils who are underachieving up, rather than incentivising those who are achieving to achieve better?

Tipyn o’r ddau, buaswn i’n ei ddweud. A’r drydedd ffactor yw adnabod plant mwy galluog. Rwy’n meddwl bod yna dipyn o waith gyda ni i wneud hynny. Roeddwn mewn cynhadledd i brifathrawon yr wythnos ddiwethaf, ble oedd yna ddata newydd yn cael ei drafod, ac roedd y data hynny’n dangos cynnydd plant o bwynt penodol, sef profion blwyddyn 6. Rwy’n meddwl bydd y math yna o ddata yn ddefnyddiol iawn achos beth mae’r data yna yn gallu ei wneud yw helpu ysgolion uwchradd i adnabod plant mwy galluog a'u bod nhw yn tangyflawni. Er eu bod nhw’n gwneud yn reit dda, mae’r math yna o value-added data yn ddefnyddiol iawn. Felly, rwy’n meddwl bydd hynny’n help hefyd.

A bit of both, I'd say. And the third factor is identifying children who are more able. I think that we have a bit of work to do in that regard. I was in a conference for headteachers last week, where there was new data being discussed, and that data showed the progress of children from a certain point, year 6 tests. I think that kind of data will be very useful, because what that data can do is help secondary schools to identify more able children and that they are underachieving. Even though they're doing quite well, that kind of value-added data is very useful. So, I think that that will help as well.

Yes. I just wanted to ask about the more able and talented stream. It was good to read in your report an increased emphasis on this and to see your awareness of its importance in the PDG as well. Can I just ask—? Would you look at one area regarding schools' engagement with the Seren network, particularly for the more able and talented, and what more Estyn can do through its inspection criteria and otherwise to encourage this from schools?

Well, I think Estyn has always been very strongly focused on improving the performance of more able pupils. For example, in last year's annual report I raised it, and a lot of the debate around this now, I think, was generated by some of the things I've said in previous annual reports.

We gave a lot of evidence to the—. Paul Flynn, I think, did the—no, who did the report? Paul Murphy did the report. So, we gave evidence to that. And on Seren, I'm particularly proud that my alma mater, Jesus College, is a very strong supporter of the Seren work. So, I'm personally quite interested in the work of Seren.

And we look at the performance of more able pupils in all our inspections. It's a particular part of our inspection framework—looking at the relative performance of different groups. So, we look at the different performance of boys and girls, free school meals and non-free school meals, ethnic minorities, but we also look at the performance of more able pupils in particular, and we question schools about how they provide for the more able pupils, and we've referred to Seren in several of our inspection reports.

10:35

And where schools work particularly hard to engage with Seren and take up opportunities from that and push as many pupils as appropriate to work with that, is that something that you would recognise within your inspection reports? And, on the other side, where schools don't do that, is that something you would pull them up on?

Yes, we've done that. We've done it in several reports.

Throughout our inspections, we are looking for best practice, because part of our strategy is always to identify where there are weaknesses, but actually to point schools in the direction of where they can find a solution. So, capturing different approaches to more able and talented is part of the role of inspection.

Jest yn fyr, fe gyffyrddoch chi'n gynharach ar ddefnyddio'r mesur o'r rhai sy'n gymwys ar gyfer cinio ysgol am ddim fel modd i adnabod, efallai, plant o gefndiroedd difreintiedig i dargedu'r arian yma. Mae yna dystiolaeth amrywiol wedi cael ei rhoi i ni, mewn gwirionedd. A oes gennych chi farn ynglŷn ag ai dyna'r ffordd orau?

Just briefly, you touched earlier on using the measure of those who are eligible for free school meals as a way to identify children from disadvantaged backgrounds so that you can target this funding. Varied evidence has been given to us on this. Do you have an opinion on whether that's the best way?

Yn sicr, mae'n ffordd dda o'i wneud e. Mae yna correlation cryf rhwng y plant sy'n tangyflawni a'r mesur yna, felly, mae yn fesur cryf. Ond, mae yna le i drafod, rydw i'n credu, sut yn union mae'n gweithio. Er enghraifft, mae rhai pobl yn dweud, os ydych chi wedi derbyn prydau bwyd am ddim am gyfnod, a nawr nid ydych chi ddim, efallai y dylech chi'n dal i fod yn derbyn yr arian am gyfnod o amser, er enghraifft. Felly, mae yna ffyrdd o fireinio'r mesur, rydw i'n meddwl. Mae'n werth ystyried y ffyrdd yna.

It certainly is a good way of doing it. There is a strong correlation between children who underachieve and that measure, so it is a strong measure. But, there is scope to discuss how exactly it does work. For example, some people say that if you have received free school meals for a period of time and now you're not receiving them, then perhaps you should still be receiving the funding for a period of time, for example. So, there are ways of fine-tuning that measure, I think. It's worth considering those approaches.

Thank you. Good morning, everyone. You've reported that the proportion of schools making effective use of the PDG remains around two thirds of secondary and primary schools, meaning that a third are still not using that PDG effectively. Why do you think this is?

I think that sort of proportion broadly corresponds to the schools that don't have particularly good leadership. I think, ultimately, all of these sorts of initiatives come down to strong leadership and effective leadership—that they know how to organise and use those grants effectively. One of the shortcomings that we often identify is evaluation—that money has been spent on a particular way of using the grant, but it has not been evaluated well. So, I think quite a lot of it is to do with generic leadership skills. But those are some of the specific shortcomings to do with evaluation.

I don't think there's any patterns that we've identified in terms of region.

As Meilyr said, it's very strongly linked to leadership capacity.

Okay. Thank you. What are the most effective uses of PDG, from your point of view? Is there something in particular that you think that schools should be focusing on?

I think there's a lot of evidence on what constitutes good practice in this area. There's the Welsh Government guidance, there's our guidance, there's a lot of research—the Sutton Trust toolkit—and they're the sorts of things I mentioned earlier. I think that more attention does need to be given to the community-focused element of this work. So, schools do a lot of things that they are in control of—the things I mentioned earlier: things like improving attendance, offering extra-curricular activities, literacy and numeracy support, tracking pupils—all those sorts of things. But an important element of this, I think, is engaging with the learners, but also with parents and the community. I think what we've found is that the most effective schools—the ones that really do make a big difference to this cohort of students—are the ones that do that most effectively.

10:40

I think that there are different situations in different schools, but in the best schools, they evaluate the barriers to learning for their particular children. Often we see that engagement with communities is part of that engagement with families. In Brackla Primary School, in Bridgend, they've got Families at Brackla, and it's a range of activities to engage with families. Families often have had a negative experience of education themselves, and the schools are trying to address some of those concerns. Cefn Hengoed in Swansea, which I'm sure many of you know about, have had an extensive strategy for engaging with the community, with the families, and equipping their children to participate in decisions around the curriculum, making them more confident learners. So, it is about removing the barriers for disadvantaged learners.

Thank you. You've made the comment that secondary schools are focusing too much on key stage 4 and not enough on developing pupils' skills in a sustainable way. Can you expand on that and give us a bit more detail on that, please?

Yes. I think this is sort of generally accepted now. The latest guidance on the grant now says that 60 per cent of it should be spent on key stage 3. I think that acknowledges this general point. But what a lot of schools did with this money was precisely that, to target key stage 4—to have catch-up homework clubs, revision clubs, specifically to get children better GCSE results, and getting C grades, in particular. Of course, that is an important part of your armoury of tools to use, but I think there was too much use of that.

Part of the problem with that is that it doesn't either develop the long-term transferable skills that those pupils have, or should have, nor does it produce the kinds of skills that the teachers need as well. So, it's kind of a quick win, a quick-fix solution, while what we feel would be more effective in the long term, and more sustainable in the long term—because if this money goes, then those quick fixes won't be possible—what would be more effective in the long term is to improve the curriculum and the pedagogy, the quality of the teaching, the quality of the curriculum, so that children are naturally enthused by what is on offer, that they attend better because they want to be in school, that they want to learn. So, we feel that getting the curriculum right, tailoring the curriculum to the needs of the pupils in that area, and improving teaching, is a more sustainable long-term solution.

Do you think there's anything in particular driving the focus on the key stage 4?

Well, again, I think most people would say it is the performance indicators. I think there's a general acknowledgement of that. Again, I said last week—. There was a conference of all the secondary heads in Wales, and that was one of the major discussion points in the conference: how do we get the performance indicators right so that there are no perverse incentives in it?

To what extent are decisions being made in schools concerning the application of the PDG actually evidence-based? To what extent are they using research to back up how they're using the PDG or is it effectively just guesswork?

10:45

I think that, of all the areas of school policy, this is the one that's most evidence-based. I think that, generally, schools can do much more about using evidence and research findings, but this particular area is probably the one that schools are strongest at using research in. That's partly because the guidance strongly suggests that you should do that, but also because there is a lot of easily accessible research evidence available. So, there's a lot of research on this. As I mentioned earlier, the Sutton Trust toolkit is a good example where researchers have really tried very hard to simplify all the evidence that exists in a way that schools can use. So, there are little pound signs to show how costly an intervention is and little stars or something to show how many months of gain pupils get out of this particular intervention. So, it makes it much easier for schools to make a decision.

But I think what's missing is that you can't just take that evidence as it is, because you have to implement it in your own school, and that then will affect how effective that particular intervention is. Just because it is evaluated by researchers as being generally very effective doesn't mean that you will necessarily implement it effectively. So, it is therefore important that each school does evaluate. So, there are kind of two sides to using research. There's looking at research, but there's also doing your own research and evaluating how effectively you have implemented something. I think that's been a weakness.

Do you think there's an attendance crisis at key stage 4 for those students eligible for free school meals?

'Crisis' is maybe too strong a word, but I think there's been a lot of attention given to attendance, quite rightly. Over a long period of time, I was a member of the national behaviour and attendance review board under Ken Reid about 10 years ago. So, there's been a lot of attention on attendance, and that's very important because attendance has a very strong correlation with outcomes.

Of those students at key stage 4, 35 per cent of those eligible for free school meals are attending for 95 per cent of the time, whereas it's 60 per cent for their peers. Is the PDG making an impact on that? You've mentioned engagement with the curriculum. What more can be done?

I think what's happening now is that people are targeting their attention on attendance. Attendance has improved in primary and in secondary generally. It has also improved for these cohorts as well, and at a faster rate than the rest of the cohort. So, there have been improvements. Nevertheless, I agree with you totally that it is a major, major problem, and that is why schools do use the PDG specifically to improve attendance. 

Did I say that? They are using it, and attendance has improved, and the attendance of this cohort has improved more, but there's still a major, major problem. So, I think there needs to be even more attention—

So, what—? I'm looking for specifics. What can be done with the PDG?

I think, as I said earlier, that these are major social issues. So, I think what can be done that hasn't been done currently is to give more attention to the community-focused side of schooling. I think the schools that have done well, that have really improved attendance of this particular group of pupils, are the ones that have taken community relationships very, very seriously and worked with parents.

10:50

Yes, you mentioned working with families when you were answering Llyr. How does that happen, though? What does it look like? If I'm a parent, what does it look like?

Okay. I'll ask Claire to give you an example. Cefn Hengoed is a good example of a school that has not cracked it but made a lot of progress.

Often, in the best schools, the headteachers consider themselves to be community leaders as well as headteachers, and they often set up arrangements where they engage directly with the families of disadvantaged children or children who are underachieving generally. They try to build very strong relationships with the families so that the school is in a position to either liaise with different agencies or to bring agencies into the school to address some of the issues that are outside school control.

This sometimes is used for appointing staff whose role it is to facilitate these arrangements to give one-to-one support to children, to monitor attendance, to visit homes where children are not coming into schools, to try and address what the barriers are in getting them into classrooms.

And those lessons you've learned from Cefn Hengoed: how are you going to spread that? How does that get spread?

Well, we've done it in a number of ways. Obviously, the first thing we do is the inspection report, and we highlight the practice there. We also have things—. This is an example of our best-practice case studies. We also have conferences as well, where we invite the headteachers from those schools to come and present to other headteachers. We also tweet, use social media, to try and get the message out there. But there's also—

This all seems like stuff that's done to teachers. It doesn't seem very engaging.

Well, it is—. Headteachers tell us that learning about best practice from other headteachers is very, very useful. When we had a conference, and when we looked at leadership and improving schools, Cefn Hengoed, along with a number of other schools, presented, and we had very positive feedback from that. So, it is actually schools learning from other schools, and I think the work that the consortia have been doing on school-to-school support as well can contribute to it.

We're spreading the PDG very thinly now, if we're talking about attendance, and then we talk about exclusion as well. Is it possible that it can have an impact on reducing the higher exclusion rates for EFSM students?

I think it has the potential to. I think all these strategies have a potential to remove those barriers. But this is—

But it is a difficult challenge for schools. These are often complex issues that schools are grappling with, and they are trying a variety of approaches.

Okay. I'm not being overly critical, but it does seem very hit and miss, to me. Some of the answers that you're giving—they seem to be giving certain examples, but there doesn't seem to be a coherence to it.

I think it comes back to leadership. Where we have very strong strategic leadership in schools, they are more direct in their approach, and they have a very strong strategy. Where there's weaker leadership, sometimes they are trying different things, perhaps in more of a scattergun approach, rather than trying strategies, evaluating and finding out what works. There is an element of the impact of leadership there.

I think it is true to say that it's difficult to distinguish what some of these better schools do with PDG, as opposed to their general money. If that's what you're getting at, I would totally agree. Schools like Cefn Hengoed will be using more than just the PDG to do this work.

And it appears to be a lot about the way things are done, as much as how the money is spent.

It is to do with the ethos and the culture of the school.

10:55

Thank you, Chair. You've observed that the attainment gap between pupils on free school meals and those who aren't on free school meals hasn't closed significantly at any stage of learning. Is the PDG actually working?

Well, I'm in danger of repeating myself now. It's quite difficult to identify the cause and the effect in terms of the PDG. So, where there have been improvements, it's quite difficult to say, 'Well, that's definitely down to the PDG', and similarly vice versa: if it's not working, it's difficult to say that it's because of PDG not being used properly. To come back to something else I said previously, there have been small improvements. Whether you say that that is due to PDG or not is quite difficult, but there have been some improvements. But there hasn't been a major step change in closing that gap, that is true, and I think the conclusion that I draw is that these are major societal challenges and barriers that these young people face. Schools can do a certain amount, and of course they must do a certain amount, but to have a step change you do need to engage with the learners, with the parents and with the community and that's why the more successful schools do actually succeed—it's because they do that. So, I think more of a push on that area at a national level would be welcome.

In most successful schools, how much is the attainment gap being narrowed, in the schools that make the most effective use of PDG?

Well, that would vary from school to school. We can look up specific examples for you of specific schools if you like.

Yes, I could have a list of schools and how much they've closed, perhaps.

Perhaps you could include in that what you would consider to be a significant increase.

Thank you. In 2017, we saw a re-widening of the attainment gap between pupils on free school meals and those not on free school meals. What effect do you think the Welsh Government's changes to performance measures have had in terms of impact?

Yes, they definitely had a direct impact on it, and probably there might well be an indirect, longer-term impact as well. But, clearly, changing the performance indicators had a direct, immediate effect, because some of those examinations, qualifications, courses that were typically followed by this cohort of students weren't any longer part of the headline performance indicators. So, you've all heard about BTEC Science and the key skills qualifications. Those sorts of things that many of these pupils used to succeed at, and therefore get the performance indicator for the school, no longer count. So, it's had a direct impact, and it's one of the reasons why it's quite difficult to compare the results of one year and another, because of these changes in performance indicators.

Yes, that makes sense. Do you think there hasn't been any—? Can we take it from what you've said that there's been a positive improvement, or has it been negative?

I think there's a growing realisation that secondary schools, key stage 4, is driven overly by performance indicators, and, whatever performance indicator you come up with, there will be unintended consequences. So, it's not, I think, useful to keep changing the performance indicators and think that you will get to a point where you solve the problem. That's not likely to happen. What needs to be done is to have a different approach to accountability that doesn't put so much attention on these performance indicators, because what you're doing is you're just moving the problem around by changing the performance indicators. 

Some of these vocational courses that I mentioned are a good example of this. So, I think the previous performance indicators encouraged schools to enter, for example, whole cohorts to do BTEC science, and that's not a good idea because the GCSE sciences are better preparation to go on to A-level science, for example. So, you're cutting out the possibility of progression for those pupils. On the other hand, by discouraging—the new performance indicators discourage BTEC and now people are saying, 'We're not offering BTEC at all', and it is suitable for a certain cohort of pupils. So, it's very difficult to get the performance indicators absolutely right if you put so much pressure on schools to actually achieve those performance indicators. 

11:00

I share some of your concern around the unavailability now of BTEC in some schools. It strikes me that the decision to discourage the availability of BTEC, which is what the performance measures do, really is sending a message about vocational qualifications that is not helpful, actually, to many young people for whom vocational qualifications may be perfectly suitable. Is that something with which you concur? 

I think it's one of the unintended consequences, and what I'm trying to say is that, almost inevitably, there will be unintended consequences. So, you can sympathise with the original decision to change the performance indicators in such a way that it encouraged more pupils to do GCSEs, for example, but it does have that unintended consequence. In theory, there's nothing stopping a school entering pupils now for those qualifications.  

Okay. Michelle, we need to move on at this stage, so we'll move on Julie Morgan. 

Yes, thank you very much. I wanted to ask you about looked-after children and adopted children, and how effective the PDG has been for those groups of children. So, to begin with, how well do the schools know that the PDG does exist for looked-after children and adopted children? 

I think what we found—we did a review of looked-after children fairly recently, and we found there was some confusion about where the grant was, who had the grant and how it was spent, and what the priorities of regional consortia were, because I think the grant goes to regional consortia now. I think previously it went to local authorities. So, I think schools aren't quite sure about how it's spent and what the priorities are.  

I think we've seen a bit of improvement there. Meilyr was right; there was a lack of clarity. Schools weren't always aware of the grant and the possibility of using it to support those learners. But the consortia are now using the grant, and there's some training being offered to schools around emotional behaviour and attachment training. There's some school-to-school work that is now being funded by the grant to share best practice, and there are some individual bursaries to support the work. So, from quite a concern, some action now is appearing to be done.

11:05

And on other developments, regional consortia, they've have appointed regional LAC co-ordinators, which has been helpful—

Yes. It has happened since July 2016 and they're now in post and beginning to work. And, as Claire said—she gave some of the spend that the regional consortia are using, targeted spending. It's an improving area of regional consortia's work. They are improving their tracking of looked-after children. There's an issue about adopted children, I think, because, currently, the pupil-level annual school census data doesn't differentiate whether children are adopted or not. So, they're more difficult to track. But looked-after children are being tracked by the consortia. So, it's an improving area, as Claire mentioned. 

Could you give some examples of some work that's been done with looked-after children that you feel has been effective?

I think we'd probably need to go away and get that from our evidence base. That would be helpful.

That would be great if you could do that and send something in to us. I've mentioned before in this context that this previous committee, in the previous Assembly, did an inquiry into adopted children, where we met with a lot of adoptive parents. And one of the big issues that did come out was the fact that there was a great deal of concern about some of the insensitivities in the schools in dealing with adopted children, asking for pictures of when the children were born and things like that that didn't show a degree of sensitivity. Do you feel that those sorts of issues are being addressed on a wider basis now, and are they being addressed through this grant, through the PDG grant?

We probably do need to come back to you with some more evidence on this. This is certainly on our radar. We've got two pieces of work currently that we're doing, which will give a little bit more evidence on this. We're doing a piece of work on managed moves and I think that will be helpful because a lot of these pupils are subject to managed moves, and that's the sort of thing we'll be looking at in that report: what information is transferred from one organisation and from one school to another. I think that generally hasn't been very helpful, and there isn't necessarily a good system for exchanging particularly their educational needs—some of the basic things about their date of birth and whatever are transferred, but their educational needs, when children move from one school to another. So, we've got a report coming out on that. The other piece of work we've been doing is on children who have had adverse experiences in their childhood and how schools deal with those traumatic backgrounds. 

That would, of course, be much wider than looked-after and adopted children. 

It is wider. It is wider. That is wider. But, if you don't mind, we'll try and get you something specifically on—

If you could, because there does generally seem to be a lack of knowledge about how effective this work is with looked-after and adopted children. You don't have any information about exclusion rates, for example, with looked-after children, and the way this grant has been used to address those sorts of issues? 

I think there is some data available. I don't think exclusions have gone down particularly for that group more than any other group. But there has to be quite a bit of caution used with data on exclusions. The Welsh Government's statistics on that come with a big cautionary note, because that data is subject to a lot of variation—exactly what you're talking about, I think: different counties and different authorities do things differently. And I think the work we're doing on managed moves is very pertinent to that because managed moves don't count as part of the exclusion. So, the exclusion rates will differ from area to area, depending on the policy on managed moves. 

Right. And what about attendance? Anything about attendance with looked-after children? Any evidence of—

11:10

I'll have to look that up as well I think.

I think, Chair, if we can have some more information on all of this, it would be great.

Okay, yes, we'll look forward to receiving that further information from you. Mark.

Could I just ask a follow-up to a response that we had last week when we had the EAS consortium in, amongst others? They told us that the specific grant—the pupil deprivation grant—principally for looked-after children, they were responsible for, and that certainly the vast bulk of that was spent on a specific programme, aimed not at LACs specifically, but at all children considered vulnerable at times of transition, particularly into year 7. Does that strike you as an appropriate use of that grant?

I think transition is appropriate—that's quite sensible, but clearly if the grant is for looked-after children, it should be spent on looked-after children.

Are there any other comments on that approach? I think, to take up what EAS has said, there were difficulties about having particular programmes aimed specifically at individual looked-after children, and it was felt that they would benefit vulnerable children, who had more transitions between schools perhaps than others. Is that a sufficient link to justify how that grant is spent? I think this is really in the wider context of how much schools need to make sure this grant goes towards the group it's specified for, and to what extent it is acceptable to blur the boundaries of that and perhaps this is just an example of a higher degree of blurring than some others.

I don't know enough about this particular initiative to comment, but I would have thought that looked-after children is a very small group and if you were to blur it that much, then it wouldn't be very targeted. I would have thought that if the grant is specifically for looked-after children, it should be more targeted, but I don't know the details.

Just following up on another point, I think you said that the 'PLASS' data—. I apologise that I'm not familiar with the abbreviation, but could you explain if anything was being done to address previously looked-after children who are now adopted and seeking to ensure that they are measured to that data to allow proper tracking. Is that work that's in hand, do you know? Could you just clarify for me the 'PLASS' description and what information system that that refers to?

That's the information that schools give formally to Welsh Government and every so often, the data that is collected formally by Welsh Government is improved and expanded. Exclusions is a good example. Previously, exclusions weren't collected through PLASC—the pupil level annual school census—and so we had no proper data at all on exclusions. Now that's been improved, but I'm afraid I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to here.

Well, I think what you were referring to—. I think you were saying that previously looked-after children who are now adopted, unlike looked-after children, that wasn't tracked by the PLASC data.

That's our understanding. Looked-after children are differentiated, but whether they're adopted or not—whether any children are adopted—isn't picked up in the data at the moment.

But I think for the grant, it's previously looked-after children who have since been adopted rather than all adopted children, isn't it?

Again, perhaps you could clarify that for us in the further information that you will provide.

Although, you'd probably be better off asking the Welsh Government directly.

Yes, I agree—I think that would be better, but just to clarify finally from me, Chair: is your point that, if that group isn't measured, then it is difficult to target them with this grant, and if we want them to be targeted with this grant, we should ensure that they're tracked through that data system?

Yes, that sounds sensible.

Okay. Mark, I think you have some further questions on Schools Challenge Cymru.

Yes. Did you consider that the Schools Challenge Cymru programme was a success?

It was certainly variable. It lasted for a relatively short period of time, so it's quite difficult to be definitive about the evaluation of it, but it was certainly variable. It varied from school to school. Some were very successful, some didn't make as much improvement. If it had lasted longer, maybe it would have made a difference. Overall, the data made—. There were improvements overall for the 40 schools over and above the general improvement that there was for all schools in Wales. So, you could say that it was successful in that respect. So, it's quite difficult to say whether it was successful, because that was a fairly limited improvement for quite a lot of money. It is, you know, quite a difficult judgment to say whether it was successful or not overall.

What strikes one, I think, was the variability in the success of it, and I think that was clear also at an operational level. It was clearly more successful in certain areas where all the various people involved in the work worked together effectively. So, the challenge adviser and the local authority and the regional consortia were all working effectively together. And, in other cases, they weren't, and there had to be changes in personnel and that sort of thing. So, it was quite variable.

11:15

Of the five schools within the programme that Estyn actually inspected in the last year of the programme, I think that three of those were in special measures and two required significant improvement. Doesn't that suggest that, as far as Estyn engaged with the programme, your evidence was not to suggest that it was being successful?

Not wildly successful, certainly, but many of these schools would have been in those sorts of categories in the past as well. So, it's not very surprising that many of them still remained. So, it wasn't a huge success, clearly. As you say, many of these schools are still struggling schools, so it hasn't been a panacea.

Bearing in mind your remarks earlier over the focus on key stage 4, in particular the C to D grade boundary, what sort of minimum length of time should a programme like this run for if we are to expect success?

That's a hugely difficult question to answer, and it is at the core of whether this initiative was successful. There has been research, and people have looked at things like the City Challenge and have suggested that two or three years is too short a period to make a proper evaluation of how successful those particular initiatives were. I don't know of similar evaluations to that particular point in Wales for the Schools Challenge Cymru, but with similar initiatives in England, the suggestion has been that you need at least three years to be able to evaluate it properly.

The Schools Challenge Cymru advisers, I understand that Estyn met with those termly through the programme. Can you explain how useful that engagement was, and also perhaps compare or contrast it to the ongoing engagement you have with the advisers from the regional consortia?

You know, the engagement we had with local authorities, and regional consortia, and with Schools Challenge Cymru advisers was not really a problem for us. That was fine. I think the engagement with each other was more of the issue, really. I think the challenge for Schools Challenge Cymru was that it was introduced at a time when regional consortia were just beginning. So, you had a period of time when it wasn't entirely clear what the responsibilities of regional consortia were, compared with local authorities. That has developed and clarified over time, but at that time it wasn't entirely clear. Plus, you were bringing in another player to the school improvement landscape. When all of those different agencies worked well together, then that was a positive thing for schools. When they were all saying the same thing, having that extra resource, extra money, extra attention, was a positive thing; but, clearly, in some cases, that relationship didn't always work, and some schools felt that they were being told different things by different agencies. Clearly, that was one of the reasons why that wasn't as successful.

11:20

So, is Welsh Government now trying to do, through the regional consortia, what it was then trying to do through Schools Challenge Cymru?

Well, what you had then was you had all three: you had local authorities and regional consortia and Schools Challenge Cymru. So, what you have now is a clearer demarcation of who does what. I don't think what Welsh Government are doing now is the same as what they were trying to do in Schools Challenge Cymru, because I think what Schools Challenge Cymru did, and did well, I think, was identify that there are a small number of secondary schools that have particular challenges and they need over and above the normal local authority/regional consortia support, they need over and above that a certain quantum of support and resource. I think that's specifically what Schools Challenge Cymru was trying to do, and that's not quite the same as what the more universal provision of regional consortia is.

Okay, that's all we have time for in this session, I'm afraid. There are some questions that we haven't reached that we'll write to you on to obtain further responses, and there are some matters that you've identified where you need to provide us with further information also. May I thank you very much for coming along this morning to give evidence? You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Thank you very much. The committee will now break for just over six minutes until 11:30.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:23 ac 11:31.

The meeting adjourned between 11:23 and 11:31.

11:30
3. Craffu ar Adroddiad Blynyddol Estyn 2016-2017
3. Scrutiny of Estyn Annual Report 2016-2017

Welcome back, for item 3 on our agenda today, scrutiny of Estyn's annual report for 2016-17. We've got a number of areas to cover, but please, Members, feel free to raise whatever issues you think appropriate, because the areas that we've identified are a general guide only. 

Okay, welcome back to Estyn, our witnesses for this session also. I don't know if we need further introductions. I don't think we do, really; we've already had that on the record. So, we'll move straight into questions then, and Llyr.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Jest i ddechrau, beth yw eich barn chi ynglŷn â'r modd y mae'r Llywodraeth wedi bod yn cyflwyno diwygiadau yn y sector addysg dros y cylch arolygu diwethaf? Yn gyffredinol, beth yw eich barn chi ynglŷn â pha mor effeithiol mae hynny wedi bod a faint o argraff mae o wedi'i gael?

Thank you very much. Just to start with, what's your opinion about the way the Government has been introducing reforms in this area over this past inspection cycle? In general, what is your opinion about how effective that has been and how much of an impression has it had?

Mae'r saith mlynedd o'r cylch yn rhychwantu tair Llywodraeth i ddweud y gwir, ond mae yna rywfaint o ddilyniant, rydw i'n meddwl, a chynnydd i'w weld yn natur gwaith polisi yn gyffredinol, gan gychwyn gyda phethau sylfaenol fel llythrennedd a rhifedd yn y man cychwynnol, a hefyd ymddygiad a phresenoldeb, fel roeddwn i'n sôn yn gynt y bore yma. A wedyn maen nhw wedi datblygu erbyn hyn gynllun llawer mwyn cynhwysfawr sy'n ganolog i ddatblygu'r cwricwlwm a phedagogeg yn benodol. Rydw i'n meddwl bod y symudiad cyffredinol yna o'r sylfeini—o'r llythrennedd a'r rhifedd—i'r cwricwlwm ac addysgeg yn gwneud synnwyr. Y duedd arall rydym ni wedi'i gweld ydy hyrwyddo cydweithredu a'r system hunanwella, fel mae'n cael ei alw. Rydw i'n meddwl hefyd fod yna nifer o wledydd blaengar yn gwneud yr un math o beth. Felly, rydw i'n meddwl bod y trywydd cyffredinol yn gywir.

Well the seven year cycle encompasses three Governments if truth be told, but there has been a sense of continuity and progress made in the nature of policy work in general, starting with the fundamental things such as literacy and numeracy in the first instance and also behaviour and attendance, as I said earlier this morning. And then they've developed a far more comprehensive scheme that is at the heart of the development of the curriculum and pedagogy specifically. And I think that that general shift from the foundations—of literacy and numeracy—moving towards the curriculum and pedagogy does make sense. And the other trend that we've seen is to promote collaboration and the self-improvement system, as it's called. I also think that there are a number of progressive countries doing the same kind of thing. So, I think that the general direction is right.

Felly rydych chi—a byddwn i'n cytuno hefyd—yn meddwl bod y ffocws ar addysgeg yn bositif, mae'r diwylliant sy'n ymddangos nawr i fod yn rhoi mwy o bwyslais ar hunanwella ac yn y blaen yn bositif. A oes yna agweddau sydd ddim wedi gweithio cystal yn eich barn chi? 

So, you think—and I'd agree—that the focus on pedagogy is correct and that this culture that appears to be putting more emphasis on self-improvement, and so on, is a positive one. Are there aspects that haven't worked as well in your opinion?

Mae rhywun, wrth gwrs, yn derbyn y byddai rhywun yn hoffi gweld y datblygiad a'r cynnydd yn llawer iawn cynt, ond mae'n rhaid, hyd yn oed yn fanna, cydbwyso'r angen sydd gyda ni i gyd i weld cynnydd a'r pwysau sydd ar athrawon—mae cymaint o bethau yn newid. Rydw i'n meddwl mai'r agwedd fwyaf trawiadol, o edrych yn ôl dros saith mlynedd, ydy bod pob agwedd o waith y system addysg—rydw i'n trio osgoi dweud 'ysgolion', achos mae'n fwy na jest ysgolion; mae'r colegau a'r system i gyd—wedi newid. Mae pob agwedd o hynny wedi newid, ac rydw i'n meddwl bod angen hynny hefyd—bod yr holl bethau yna angen eu newid a'u gwella—ond mae'n rhaid cydbwyso hynny gyda'r ffaith bod yn rhaid i ni beidio mynd yn rhy gyflym, oherwydd bod pwysau gwaith athrawon—. Mae'r holl gyfrifoldeb yma o hunanwella yn golygu bod mwy o faich gwaith ar athrawon yn y pen draw, a phrifathrawon. Felly, dyna pam roedd Estyn yn falch iawn o gydweithio gyda 15 o gyrff eraill i roi canllawiau baich gwaith i athrawon, achos mae'n rhaid i ni fod yn ofalus iawn i gael hynny'n gywir hefyd.

Of course, one accepts that one would like to see development and progress happening far more quickly, but, even in that instance, we need to balance the need that we all have to see progress with the pressures that are on teachers—there are so many things changing. I think that the most striking aspect in looking back over the past seven years is that all aspects of work in the education system—I'm trying to avoid saying 'schools', because it's more than just schools; it's colleges and the system as a whole—have changed. All aspects of that have changed, and I think that we need that—all of those aspects need to be changed and improved—but we need to balance that against the fact that we need to not go so fast, because workload on teachers—. This responsibility of self-improvement means that there is more pressure on teachers and headteachers, ultimately. That's why Estyn was very pleased to collaborate with 15 other bodies to give guidance on workload for teachers, because we have to be very careful to get that right as well.

11:35

Ond a ydy hi'n siomedig, felly, yn yr adroddiad blynyddol diweddaraf, eich bod chi i bob pwrpas yn dod i'r casgliad bod perfformiad yn gyson â fel mae e wedi bod yng ngweddill y cylch arolygu? Oni fyddech chi'n disgwyl rhywfaint o gynnydd neu rywbeth bach yn fwy arwyddocaol o safbwynt canlyniadau?

But is it disappointing, then, in the latest annual report, that you are to all intents and purposes coming to the conclusion that the performance is consistent with how it has been over the past inspection cycle? Would you not expect some kind of progress or something more significant in terms of outcomes?

Mae hynny'n un ffordd o edrych arno fe. Ffordd arall o edrych arno fe ydy, fel roeddwn i'n dweud yn gynt, fod yr holl bethau yma'n newid ac, o dan yr amgylchiadau hynny, ei fod e'n beth da bod athrawon a'r system addysg wedi medru cynnal safonau ac ansawdd addysg.

That's one way of looking at it. Another way, as I said earlier, is that all of these things are changing and, under those particular circumstances, that it's a good thing that teachers and the education system have been able to maintain standards and the quality of education.

Mae'r sector, wrth gwrs, yn esblygu'n barhaol. Hynny yw, rŷm ni'n gwybod bod nifer o'r diwygiadau yn dal i chwarae allan ac yn dal i fod yn cael eu datblygu a'u cyflwyno. Mae yna berig, wrth gwrs, ein bod ni yn y sefyllfa yna yn barhaus, ac felly byddai setlo am lwyddo i gynnal, yn y cyd-destun yna, efallai, i fi, ddim yn dangos digon o uchelgais. A oes yna berig ein bod ni'n ffeindio ein hunain, yn barhaol—? Fel rydych chi'n dweud, mae'r cylch arolygu wedi gweld tair llywodraeth; yn anochel mae yna newidiadau, blaenoriaethau gwahanol, polisiau gwahanol yn dod. Mae hynny felly, yn ôl beth rydych chi'n ei ddweud, yn llesteirio datblygiad y sector.

The sector, of course, is continually evolving. We know that a number of these reforms are still playing out and are still being developed and introduced. Of course, there is a risk that we are in this situation continuously, and therefore settling for managing to maintain, for me, perhaps wouldn't show enough ambition. Is there a risk that we will find ourselves continually—? As you say, the inspection cycle has seen three Governments. There are changes and different policies and priorities being implemented. From what you say, that does prevent the development of the sector.

Rydym ni yng nghanol cyfnod o newid mawr, ac rydych chi'n iawn fod yna fwy o newid i ddod. Bydd y cwricwlwm newydd yn cyrraedd cyfnod allweddol 4 mewn rhyw saith mlynedd eto, felly rydym ni'n wirioneddol yng nghanol y cyfnod yma. Mae 'chwyldroadol' yn air rhy gryf, rydw i'n siŵr, ond dyma'r newid mwyaf rydw i wedi'i weld yn fy ngyrfa i. Mae'n rhaid i chi fynd yn ôl i'r 1980au a'r 1990au i weld newidiadau tebyg. Wrth gwrs, rydym ni i gyd yn dymuno gweld cynnydd cyflymach, ond beth mae hynny'n golygu yn ymarferol ydy gwthio mwy o newidiadau neu wthio newidiadau sydd gyda ni yn fwy cyflym. Fe fuodd yna drafod, er enghraifft, pryd ddylai'r cwricwlwm newydd gael ei gyflwyno. Felly, dyna'r math o gwestiynau ymarferol. Mae'n rhaid i chi gofio mai, ar lawr y dosbarth, beth sydd gyda chi yw athrawon unigol yn gorfod paratoi am TGAU newydd, Safon Uwch newydd, manylebau newydd, ac mae hynny'n lot fawr o waith. Felly, mae'n rhaid i ni fod y ofalus iawn pan fyddwn ni'n dweud bod angen cyflymu'r broses.

We are in the middle of a period of major change, and you're right that there is more change to come. The new curriculum will reach key stage 4 in around seven years again, so we're genuinely in the middle of this period of change. Perhaps 'revolutionary' is too strong a word, but it is the biggest change that I've seen in my career. You have to go back to the 1980s and 1990s to see similar changes. Of course, we all wish to see swifter progress being made, but what that means in practice is that you push more changes through, or that you push through the changes that we currently have more quickly. There was discussion, for example, about when the new curriculum should be introduced. Those are the kinds of practical questions that arise, and you have to remember that, in the classroom, what you will have are individual teachers having to prepare for a new GCSE, a new A-level, and there are new specifications in that regard, and it's a great deal of work. So, we have to be very careful when we say that we need to accelerate that process.

Ond rŷch chi'n deall y pwynt roeddwn i'n ei wneud ynglŷn â'r perig bod ni'n ffeindio'n hunain yn y cyflwr yma yn barhaus, ac felly mae dweud, efallai, i ddehongli'ch canfyddiad chi yn yr adroddiad diweddaraf, fod canlyniadau wedi bod yn gyson dros y cylch arolygu ddim yn golygu ein bod ni'n gwthio'n ddigon, neu fod y diwygiadau'n digwydd mewn ffordd sydd yn caniatáu cynnydd o safbwynt perfformiad. 

But you understand the point I was making about the risk of finding ourselves like this continually and therefore to say, if we were to interpret your conclusion in the recent report, that outcomes have been consistent over the inspection cycle doesn't mean that we are pushing enough or that the reforms happen in a way that allows progress in performance terms.

Byddwn i yn gobeithio nad ydym ni'n mynd i fod yn y sefyllfa yma yn barhaus. Rydw i'n meddwl bod—

I would wish to see that we wouldn't be in this position continuously. I think that—

Ond rydych chi newydd awgrymu bod yna saith mlynedd o'n blaenau ni eto o gyflwyno'r diwygiadau yma.

But you've just suggested that there are seven years ahead of us yet in terms of introducing these reforms.

Ond rydw i'n meddwl bod y diwygiadau, o edrych arnyn nhw yn eu cyfanrwydd, eu bod nhw'n rhywbeth sylfaenol iawn, fel roeddwn i'n dweud. Mae'n rhaid i chi fynd yn ôl ryw 30, 40 mlynedd i weld rhywbeth tebyg. Felly, mae'n rhaid edrych, rydw i'n meddwl—. Un o'r problemau—. Rwyt ti'n gofyn beth sydd ddim wedi gweithio yn y gorffennol, ac mae'n anodd ateb y cwestiwn yna, ond un o'r pethau sydd ddim wedi gweithio yn y gorffennol ydy jest gwneud un peth, un gongl o'r system. Mae'n rhaid edrych ar weddnewid y system addysg i gyd ar yr un pryd, achos os ydych chi'n newid rhyw un darn, efallai fod gyda fe ryw effaith nad ydych chi'n ei disgwyl yn rhywle arall. Felly, rydw i'n meddwl bod angen edrych ar y system yn ei chyfanrwydd, ac rydw i'n meddwl mai beth sy'n digwydd ar hyn o bryd ydy newid strwythurol i'r system.

But I do think that the reforms, in looking at them holistically, are fundamental, as I was saying. You have to go back 30, 40 years to see something similar. So, I do think that we need to look at—. One of the problems—. You ask what hasn't worked in the past. Well, I think one of the things, and it's difficult to answer that question, but one of the things that hasn't worked in the past is just doing one aspect of the system. We need to look at transforming the entire education system at the same time, because if you just tinker with one part then it might have an unintended effect in another place. So, I think we need to look at the system as a whole, and I think that what's happening at the moment is a structural change to the system.

11:40

Ie, rydw i'n meddwl bod hynny'n bwynt digon teg. Beth yw'ch asesiad chi, felly, o ba mor abl neu ba mor barod yw'r ysgolion i ddelio, wrth symud ymlaen nawr, â'r holl newidiadau ?

Yes, I think that's a fair enough point. What's your assessment, therefore, of how able or how ready schools are to deal with, in moving forward now, all of these changes and reforms?

Wel, fel roeddwn i'n dweud, rydw i'n teimlo eu bod nhw wedi ymdopi â fflyd o newidiadau. Mae hynny, rydw i'n meddwl, yn rhywbeth i'w ganmol. Rydym ni'n siomedig, wrth gwrs, nad yw safonau wedi gwella cymaint â byddem ni'n hoffi gweld, ond mae eisiau i ni hefyd longyfarch y gweithlu am fynd i'r afael â chymaint o newidiadau mewn cyfnod cymharol fyr. Felly, mae hynny yn rhoi hyder i rywun y byddan nhw yn medru ymdopi â newidiadau eraill yn y dyfodol. Felly, rydw i'n hyderus yn yr ystyr yna, ond mae'n rhaid i ni fod yn wyliadwrus ynglŷn â'r baich gwaith, yn enwedig, fel roeddwn i'n dweud, gan fod y diwylliant yr ydym ni'n ei hybu yn un o roi mwy o gyfrifoldebau i athrawon, i ysgolion, i golegau, i brifathrawon. Felly, mae'n rhaid i ni fod yn arbennig o wyliadwrus nad yw'r baich gwaith yna yn mynd yn ormodol.

Well, as I said, I think that they have coped with a whole host of changes, and that's something to be praised. We are disappointed the standards haven't improved as much as we would have liked to have seen, but we also need to be congratulating the workforce for getting to grips with so many changes in a relatively short period. So, that does give one confidence that they will be able to cope with other changes in future. So, I am confident in that sense, but we do have to be careful in looking out for the workload, because the culture of promoting is one of giving more responsibilities to teachers, to schools, to colleges and to headteachers. So, we have to be very careful that that workload doesn't become excessive.

A fyddech chi'n rhannu hefyd y consýrn bod y crebachu ariannol sy'n digwydd i gyllidebau ysgolion ar hyn o bryd yn mynd i ddwysáu'r peryglon yna yr ydych chi wedi cyfeirio atyn nhw?

Would you also share the concern that the reduction in school budgets will worsen those risks that you referred to?

Byddwn. Fel rydych chi'n gwybod, mae'r dystiolaeth ymchwil rhyngwladol yn dangos nad yw'r maint o arian sy'n mynd i mewn i systemau addysg yn pennu pa mor effeithiol ydyn nhw. Ond, wrth gwrs, mae'n wir i ddweud, os ydych chi'n cael toriadau ariannol, eu bod nhw'n creu problemau ymarferol i brifathrawon i ddiswyddo staff, ac yn y blaen. Mae'n cymryd lot o amser ac egni i ddelio â thoriadau.

Yes. As you'll know, international research evidence shows that it is not the amount of funding that goes into education systems that dictates how effective they are. But it is true to say that, if you have financial cuts, that does cause practical problems for headteachers in having to lay off staff, and so on. So, it does take a lot of time and energy to deal with cuts.

Could I ask the reasons for Professor Donaldson being asked to undertake a review of Estyn's role?

Yes. I think any good organisation would welcome external scrutiny. I would say that, wouldn't I, because I'm an inspector, but I think it's important that we practise what we preach. There have been in the past systems of quinquennial reviews. I think it is healthy for anybody to have that sort of external view, and I think in particular we're proud in Estyn that we are a body that is developing and trying new things and evolving continuously. So, I think it's that. But if you were to ask, 'Why now?', it's because of the extent of the education reform that we're particularly facing. So, I think it's a good thing to do at any given time, but considering the range and speed of change that we're facing in education now, I thought it was particularly important that we ask Graham Donaldson to look at the implications for our work of all this education reform.

What have been the biggest benefits to Wales of having Estyn as an independent body inspecting schools and other institutions in Wales compared to the work that Ofsted has done in England?

Well, we have very good relationships with Ofsted and with Education Scotland and the Education Training Inspectorate in Northern Ireland. I wouldn't like to compare—I don't think it would be fair to compare ourselves. We do things slightly differently, but we benefit a lot from each other. We have inspectors from Ofsted or from Scotland, from Northern Ireland, on our inspections. We shadow them, and our inspectors go to their countries. So, we're working quite closely with the home countries, but also further afield with Holland and with the Republic of Ireland, for example. So, we're always, all of us, learning from one another about what we think they do well and what they think we do well. We're constantly learning from each other. I wouldn't think it's fair for me to say what I think—you know, where we're better than another country.

11:45

Of course. I'm not asking you to criticise Ofsted. I agree that wouldn't be appropriate. But I think what is fair for me to ask is: perhaps could you highlight one or two areas where you believe that Estyn has a particular difference of emphasis and approach from Ofsted?

I think one of the things we've done and we've developed over many years is the use of the nominee and peer inspectors in particular. So, we've got, I think, a really good tradition of doing that in Wales, and when we do meet other inspectorates, they're always very interested in that part of our work. We're a very small organisation; we're only about 50 HMIs. We inspect a wide range of sectors, as you know, but the bulk of that inspection work is actually done now by peer inspectors. So, I think that, and the idea of a nominee, is also of interest to other inspectorates across the world. So, there's always someone from the body that we are inspecting on the inspection team. They're part of all the discussions so they actually understand how we've come to our report, and they can then help the organisation move forward after we've left.

I've clashed with Welsh Ministers on the absence of league tables for schools in Wales, with less accountability for their results than is the case in England. I note it as a parent myself. But, from, I think, at some point in 2014, you started in your inspection reports of primary schools putting the comparison of how they were doing compared to other schools and local authorities and nationally, as well as what you've described as their family of schools, and being more transparent over their key stage 2 results. So, what led you to do that? What difference has that made? And was that decision taken by Estyn on its own account, or was that something that was agreed with Welsh Ministers?

I did listen to Plenary, so I've heard you raise this issue. I'm sure it's inadvertent on your part, but you've confused absolutely everyone with this.

It's not actually true. The data that you refer to is published by the Welsh Government on My Local School. So, if you want to know about your own school or any other school, you should go onto that website. That's hugely—. It's very clear. There's a huge amount of data on it, but it's very, very clear. You can look at it in terms of tables and data and graphs and it shows all that data that you refer to, and that's the right place to have it. We do refer to some of that data in our reports, because our reports are based on evidence. Most of it is first-hand evidence that we see in the classroom and see in pupils' work, but we triangulate that with data and with what parents and pupils say and interviews with staff. So, we refer to that data and we always have referred to the data. Pre 2014, it was in the body of the text, and then after 2014 we put it in an appendix. We had a mid-cycle review and people felt it would be better in an appendix than in the body of the text, but it was always there. There's pros and cons on whether it should be in the body of the text or in an appendix.

Well, certainly, the data became clear to me in reports after 2014 in a way it wasn't before. So, I will leave that there. Can I just highlight a few of what I felt were either particularly striking statistics or comparisons or points that were made in your annual report of potential concern? You state that headteachers do not understand the principles of good pedagogy or good practice in about three quarters of schools—this relates to the foundation phase. I find that quite a shocking statistic. Do you share that view?

11:50

Yes. That's why I highlighted it in my foreword. I think there is a general consensus about the benefits of the foundation phase. There's a lot of research, and our own evidence shows that, where it is implemented well, pupils benefit a lot from it and they're well prepared to be independent thinkers. So, it's a development that we should be proud of in Wales, I think, the foundation phase. It's a great thing. But, we are disappointed that only about a quarter of primary schools are implementing it fully.

There's a whole range of reasons, as I discuss in the annual report, why that might be the case. It is quite an innovative idea, and I think it's misunderstood by saying it's learning through play, because that's a bit too simplistic a definition of it. We have written a report recently on good practice in the foundation phase, so that we can try and explain clearly to people what the benefits of it are and how best to implement it. But I think it is true that too many headteachers—. Many of them might not have taught in foundation phase, they might not have that infant background, they might have a junior-school background. There might not have been enough—well, we say there wasn't enough training—or there might be people who missed any training that there was then. So, overall, there is a large number of leaders who don't fully appreciate what the foundation phase could deliver.

Yes, it is on this. I was just wondering—. I mean, one of the problems that I know you've identified in the past is this lack of good practice being able to travel into all parts of Wales, and, of course, we've got local authorities, we've got regional consortia, we've got the Welsh Government—all of which want to see good practice replicated where possible. What opportunities are there, perhaps, to develop some other further opportunities for good practice to be shared and promoted? I know that the Wales Audit Office, for example, has its good practice exchange. Is there something similar that schools can engage with to make things happen?

It's a good question. I mean, specifically to do with foundation phase, there is a foundation phase—I can't remember what it's called now—excellence network I think, which is being relaunched. I think it was supposed to be relaunched during the snow period. So, there are networks being established. There's one for mathematics—a national network for excellence in mathematics—there's one for science and there's one for foundation phase in particular. So, I think it is a challenge that we haven't cracked yet in Wales: how do we make sure that good practice does travel? I think one specifically for foundation phase is a good idea, because we've got a specific issue with the foundation phase.

Mark, just before you go on, I think Julie wanted to come in on this point as well.

Yes. I just wondered if you could give us some examples about how the foundation phase is not being implemented in the true spirit of the foundation phase in the three quarters of schools that you think fall—.

Well, what we mean by that is schools not necessarily teaching badly, but in a more traditional way. And where we've seen that most obviously is in year 1 and year 2. Some schools actually reverted, after the introduction of the new tests, from what was pedagogy that was in line with the foundation phase. And basically, if I understand it correctly, it's more to do with the children making their own choices about what they do. And that is pretty common in nursery and reception classes, but it's less common in year 1 and year 2.

I think it is very much, as Meilyr said, the difference between a pupil-led learning experience or a teacher-led learning experience. Because of the lack of training and maybe the confidence to pursue that active and experiential learning approach, teachers have tended to resort to what they feel more comfortable with, which is more of an adult-led learning—often still high quality, but it doesn't ensure that the learners become far more independent, far more engaged in their learning. So, it's almost holding children back to an extent. They're making good progress, but they could be making even more progress.

11:55

So, when you say that some teachers are sort of holding children back, and in the report that three quarters of schools don't understand the principles of good pedagogy or good practice, what you mean is that teachers are using traditional methods, including whole-class teaching, rather than moving towards a pupil-led learning experience and one that you said was oversimplified as learning through play. May not the issue here therefore be that Estyn is seeking to impose this different approach on teachers who think that they are better able to teach children in the traditional way, which, at least in my experience, would be supported by quite a number of parents?

I don't think it's Estyn that's imposing it. That's the national policy.

Well, we do, actually. We do. Our evidence, as I said, is that, when it is implemented properly, pupils do actually gain from it. But we're not imposing it, and what we're saying is that headteachers are not necessarily understanding it. I think there is quite a lot of jargon around it. I was just looking in the annual report. Quite unusually, in this section, we have had to actually explain some of the technical terms, like 'continuous provision'. So that's, I think, one of the reasons why people don't understand it fully. That's why we did produce this quite substantial bit of work, trying to unpack what this actually means in practice and giving a lot of good examples of the practice.

You referred to evidence of this approach working. Given the timing of when it was brought in and where we are now, has that really had time to distil through the system and give compelling evidence that this approach works better than more traditional approaches?

I think it has, to be fair. I think this has, because we're talking about a lot of developmental work related to the foundation phase prior to 2010, but it became compulsory for all schools to deliver it from 2010 onwards. So, that gives enough time for children to have been through the whole of the foundation phase onto key stage 2, and we can see the effect of it. In the schools where there is good practice in the foundation phase, we can see the effect when we inspect on key stage 2 children. 

So, would you be confident about this, in the next few years, feeding through into an improvement in Programme for International Student Assessments, rather than a further deterioration?

Yes. I think that if we did what Darren was talking about, getting more schools to share good practice, I think it will expand and more schools will take it on, yes.

Okay. On the sharing of good practice, you put emphasis in the report on this being an improving area and trend for the future as well, but I think you did raise concerns that it wasn't monitored or evaluated sufficiently well, particularly where one school was supporting another. How should that be done better?

Well, I think this has been a theme of many of the issues we've raised: that, whatever the initiative, you can't tell whether it's been successful or not unless you evaluate it properly. So, those evaluation skills, I think, are very important. I think that, with the development of the national academy for educational leadership, I would hope that research skills and evaluative skills would be part of the kind of training that headteachers get that maybe in the past they didn't. So, that becomes more of the day-to-day work of schools—that naturally, whenever you do something, you evaluate it afterwards. We've evaluated a lot of the school-to-school work. We've published two or three reports on it, and we've identified what we think is good practice and not-so-good practice.

12:00

Okay, Mark? If we move on at this stage—I wonder, before other Members come in, if I could ask about community-focused schools. Quite a lot of what we discussed earlier was around the importance of getting families and the community more involved in education, and one way of doing that, I think, is through community-focused schools that are very much accessible to the community, linked well with outside organisations, having an extended school-day offer. We have the twenty-first century schools programme, but we have a lot of schools existing that haven't been part of that. I just wondered to what extent Estyn might encourage or highlight the need to encourage greater consistency in community-focused schools across Wales, because I think there is a feeling that it is very inconsistent.

Yes, we would very much be happy to support anything like that. We discussed it earlier. We were talking about targeting vulnerable learners earlier this morning. We see that as, particularly, a solution for that long-standing issue we have in Wales in particular.

So, yes, we do have good examples of good practice. We mentioned some of them earlier this morning. I've puzzled about this. I think there was a bit of a misunderstanding about the term 'community-focused school'. I think it became thought of as meaning the community just uses the facilities in the evening and, of course, it's a much, much broader concept than that. I think some schools particularly didn't like the community using their facilities in the evening, and that became, I think, possibly part of the reason why community-focused schools didn't become more popular. The way I look at it is, as Claire was explaining earlier about the school offering all kinds of services to people—you know, family learning, those sorts of nurture groups, all those sorts of educationally focused services available from the school, and generally building relationships. They're more to do with the culture than the actual building and the facilities. But, yes, we certainly have seen and identified where that good practice exists.

So, if there might be a mechanism that could have community-focused schools working in the way that you've described right across Wales, would Estyn be in favour of such a mechanism?

Okay. Could I just ask one further question, then, before, as I said, I bring other Members in? There is a particular concern at the moment—and has been for some time—about white working-class children, and perhaps particularly boys, not attaining as they should through our education system. Is that something that Estyn recognises? Has Estyn done much work on that, and if so, what is that work?

We've done work on boys and girls, and we've done work on deprived children—you know, identified, as we were discussing this morning, by eligibility for free school meals. We haven't specifically looked at white working-class boys, but a lot of the solutions, and a lot of the good practice that we have identified generally, through the PDG and whatever I think is the way forward for that particular cohort as well.

So, you wouldn't see the need for a particular focus or a particular piece of work to identify whether there are aspects of education that might particularly benefit that group. 

12:05

I wouldn't object to doing a piece of work on that, in case we have missed something, but I suspect it would be the same schools that do well with that cohort that we've identified already for the same reasons, I suspect. 

Thank you. To what extent has the rate of improvement differed between the primary and secondary sectors? 

I'm not sure if there's been a difference in the rate of improvement, but certainly I've raised in this annual report, and indeed in previous annual reports, the difference between primary and secondary. We've got 7 in 10—nearly three quarters—of primary schools doing well and about half of secondary schools. So, I did open debate on why that is the case in last year's annual report. There are several reasons, I think.

Generally, there is a widening of gaps when you go from primary to secondary, but also it's from foundation phase to key stage 2 to key stage 3 to key stage 4. There's a general widening of the gender gap, for example. There's a widening of the free-school-meals gap and so forth. So, there are particular challenges facing secondary schools that don't exist in primary. I should say that what you get in secondary schools is greater variability. So, there's actually more excellence in secondary schools according to our inspections than in primary, although the overall proportion of good or better schools is higher in primary than in secondary. So, I think it is a challenge to think why this is the case.

It's partly because of the challenges of adolescent, young people. That is part of it. I think also, although I've got no evidence for this, it's probably more difficult for that community focus to work in a larger secondary school than a smaller primary school. You go to primary schools, you often see the parents much more engaged than in secondary school. So, I think that's a bit more of a challenge as well. So, there is a whole range of issues.

The other one, of course, is the one we were talking about earlier this morning, the pressure on secondary schools to address performance indicators and examinations in particular. Another possible reason is the structure of secondary schools is subject-based, departmental-based, so children will get 10 to 12 different teachers. In primary school, for a whole year, they will have the same teacher. It's easier, therefore, in a primary school for the school to see the child as an individual and recognise their problems and their needs as a whole. So, I think there is a whole range of issues that explains or goes part way to explaining what you've identified.

Okay, thank you. You touched on this quite a bit in your earlier evidence, but you said in the annual report that there's a danger that accountability measures might be having an effect on the advice being given to pupils about subjects they study. Do you have any evidence of that or is that a perception?

Well, I think everyone agrees that there's very strong evidence about that. We discussed examples this morning. When you change a performance indicator, the examination pattern changes. We talked about examples like BTEC science this morning. There's a very, very direct and immediate impact on them. There's plenty of evidence of that.

12:10

Okay, Michelle? Perhaps we'll move on at this stage—we haven't got a great deal of time left—if that's okay. Julie. 

I wanted to ask about special schools in terms of your views about the standards in special schools—whether you've got any views on that.

Yes, we highlighted special schools as a successful sector in the annual report, as we have over many years. Over 90 per cent of them are good or better. It's a very successful sector. The small number of schools that don't do quite as well tend to be the schools that deal with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. But the sector as a whole is a good example of sharing good practice. They work very, very well together. They're constantly—. It's difficult to say why that is in this particular sector, as opposed to other sectors. Possibly they don't have an overlap in catchment areas, they're quite geographically separate, so they don't feel as if they're in competition with one another. But they certainly work very well together, sharing good practice, doing peer reviews of each other. So, it is a successful sector. 

Sorry, I should have said that was mainly to do with the maintained sector. The independent sector tends to focus maybe on those children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, so they have the more difficult task to begin with. But because they're independent, they are, to some extent, in competition with one another. So, we have seen improvement in that independent special sector over the cycle. That's partly down to the work we do in Estyn. We visit them on an annual basis to make sure that they're addressing all our recommendations, and continue to meet the needs of those pupils. And also, I think there's been a trend where more of those independent schools now have—. Several of them have the same owner, so they share good practice amongst that little chain of schools. So, that has been a trend we've seen over time as well. 

Right. And what about pupil referral units? How are the standards there? 

Yes, they're more variable. I think they have a lot of challenges. We've contributed a lot of evidence to the various working groups that have been looking at EOTAS—that's education other than at school. Half the children in EOTAS—educated other than at school—are in PRUs. So, we've done a lot of work about that. ADEW, which is the Association of Directors of Education in Wales, have now set up a national body to share good practice amongst PRUs, so I think that is a very positive step forward, because that sharing, I think, wasn't happening with PRUs. 

I think what we need to do with PRUs is to get them to be more of a part of the education system as a whole. They tend to be sort of semi-detached a little bit from the system. So, the more we can do to involve them in national events, and also, I think, make their governance more like that of a school so that they become more similar to schools—that makes it easier for them to share practice with schools. 

Diolch. Fe licien i jest dreulio munud neu ddwy yn edrych yn fwy penodol ar addysg ôl-16. Mae'r ganran o golegau addysg bellach sydd wedi cyrraedd safon dda neu well wedi cynyddu, wrth gwrs, yn y cylch arolygu diwethaf. Fe fyddwn i jest yn licio gofyn beth ydych chi'n meddwl sy'n gyfrifol am hynny, ac a oes yna ryw wersi y gallwn eu cymryd ac efallai eu trosglwyddo i rai o'r sectorau eraill o fewn addysg? 

Thank you. I'd just like to spend a minute or two looking more specifically at post-16 education. The percentage of further education colleges who have reached a  good or better standard has increased, of course, over the past inspection cycle. I'd just like to ask what you think is responsible for that, and are there any lessons we can take out of that and transfer to other sectors within education?    

Diolch am y cwestiwn, ond rydw i'n mynd i ofyn i Simon ateb hwn.  

Thank you for the question, but I'm going to ask Simon to answer. 

As you're aware, the number of colleges from 22 to 12, and I think those mergers resulted in establishments that were stronger in terms of their leadership in particular. That leadership, I think the characteristics we have seen in the 'good' or 'better'—as you say, 80 per cent leadership good or better—has been a culture of openness, a culture of clarity of purpose about where the college is going. High staff morale has been maintained, because a number of those colleges—. Obviously, if you're merging large colleges as they did in north Wales, keeping staff morale high is quite a skill, and I think the leadership have done that very well. 

They've also supported managers at all levels, and they've encouraged managers to support staff at all levels. So, it's become a very collaborative, very supportive organisation. I think another characteristic of the FE sector is that it's got very strong governance arrangements. I did a training session for college governors about a month ago, and what struck me was the breadth of experience of the college governors, from industry, from academia. They are a very challenging set of governors, I think, who hold the senior leadership to account in the colleges, and that helps to push standards forward. Teaching is 'good' or 'better' in 70 per cent of colleges because the senior leadership team are encouraging teachers in colleges to innovate, encouraging them to engage actively in performance management systems, and to become reflective practitioners in the colleges. And this is impacting, obviously, on the standards at the end of the day. 

So, I think those are the key features. 

12:15

And how many of those do you think could effectively be transferred or encouraged in other sectors?

But I think one sector that—. I think the other post-16 sector, which is work-based learning— 

Well, yes, I was going to ask you. Conversely, of course, there's a different experience there. 

Yes, there is a contrast. And we do have concerns about work-based learning. And, again, those concerns tend to sit mainly with the leadership. As we said in the annual report, standards are 'good' or 'better' in only 50 per cent of work-based learning companies, mainly because the completion rates of learners are not what we'd expect, the progression that learners make isn't what we'd expect. And that is mainly due to the way in which the leadership teams monitor progress—monitor progress in themselves as a provider, but, more importantly, the way they manage sub-contractors, because, as you will already know, there's 19 lead providers; there's about 100 training providers. And the companies that are doing better, or the training providers doing better, are those that have got a firm grip on their sub-contractors, and, most importantly, they put quality as the top part of any agenda at any meeting. And, of course, if you're challenging your sub-contractors about quality, that will impact on standards of teaching, and, hopefully, ultimately, on standards of performance on the learners. 

And I think, to go back to your original question, Llyr, the sort of leadership models that FE colleges have, I think some of the work-based learning providers would be wise to start to emulate those. It's beginning to happen, because FE is getting more engaged in the work-based learning world, so I think some of those behaviours will start to rub off on the companies.

So, who would you look to drive some of those changes through then? Is it the sector themselves,  or to what extent can Government and others do things?

Well, as you know, Meilyr alluded to the changes across all sectors. We've got PCET—we've got the post-compulsory education and training reforms under way. The Welsh Government is looking at the implementation of Hazelkorn's recommendations. So, ultimately, that will start to drive the sectors closer together in post-16. But I think, in the shorter term, some of the work that groups like Colegau Cymru and the National Training Federation Wales are doing, sharing best practice, bringing the colleges and the training companies together, is beginning to help. 

I'm going to the national training federation conference tomorrow in Cardiff, and I notice the attendance there—there's a lot of FE colleges attending, senior staff of FE colleges, as well as from the work-based training companies. So, that sort of osmosis of good practice is beginning to happen quite naturally. 

Okay, Llyr? We haven't got very long left, but we've got five minutes or so for some further questions from Hefin David.

With regard to local authorities, you found shortcomings in your 2010-14 inspection in 15 of the 22. And one of the things that struck me in the report was where you said that you found ineffective processes for self-evaluating improvement within those authorities, but you've also said that there's been a high turnover of directors and new directors in place in many of them. Has that had a positive effect on that self-evaluation process?

12:20

As you're aware, over the past three years, out of the 22 authorities, there have been 40 new directors, over the past three years. Those directors have got a range of experience. Some of those directors are very experienced. Other ones have come from headteachership fairly recently. So, that's one factor. I think the other factor is that the status of education directors has changed quite significantly. Some local authorities are a member of the corporate team and they are directors of education and children's services, so they've got very broad portfolios. In other ones, they're being treated more like heads of service, so heads of department level.

I know that Caerphilly went in the opposite direction—from having a chief education officer to then appointing a director, I think.

In Caerphilly county borough, they went from having a chief education officer and now have got a director again. But, in many cases, they're the same people, aren't they? It's just that their roles are changed.

Yes, it's the changes as the corporate structure of councils shift and change. I think the other thing that's happened, of course, with the role of the director of education, is, because of the regional consortia now doing the school improvement function, a large chunk of that role has now moved to the consortia. So, I think it's early days to say what the impact of that new cohort of directors will be, but, of course, we're starting a new inspection cycle in September. We don't do pilots. We looked at Neath Port Talbot in December; we looked at Denbighshire in February. Those reports are not yet published, but what I can say is that neither of those authorities are in follow-up.

But you said, even though it's not in follow-up, it was still showing signs of not being able to reflect effectively on improvement—in the report.

Not in those two authorities.

Right, okay, but some of those not in follow-up were not reflecting effectively on their improvement—is the statement that was made in the report.

What we're seeing, and we've seen this before in the previous cycle, is that the performance of some authorities is patchy. There are authorities that we have concerns about. Those are the authorities—. I think I said to committee last year those authorities are ones that we held improvement conferences in last year. That was to get the senior leadership—both political and officer-led leadership—and the consortia and Welsh Government and the Wales Audit Office and, as it was, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, around the table to get those senior leadership teams to actually identify what the longer-term issues are, to surface those issues and to put together an action plan. We're revisiting those three authorities very, very shortly. The first of the revisits is in April to see what progress they've made over the past 12 months or so.

Okay. And, with things like the curriculum reforms, you've identified the new directors in place, but you've said that, although they're new directors, they're actually very experienced in education, so therefore you're confident that they're going to manage the reforms well as they are developed in the next few years.

I think one development, and I've raised this in committee before, was—. One of our concerns, apart from the fact that there was a large turnover of directors, was what sort of level of training senior leaders and middle managers were getting in those authorities. One of the things that I'm quite pleased to report is that the Association of Directors of Education in Wales and Welsh Government have stepped up to address that issue. Last year, all serving directors attended residential courses run by the Staff College Wales, facilitated by ADEW, and ADEW have just finished the first round of director—. The name of the course is the 'Welsh future leaders in education' course and 26 people have just finished that—aspiring directors. They're preparing for another cohort in September. That course, again, is developed by the Staff College Wales, but it has a lot of external input. They're putting in directors and chief executives from Scotland, they're putting in headteachers of very successful schools in England, who've got current grass-roots experience to share with these aspiring directors. So, I think the concerns that we had previously about the professional learning for middle managers and leaders in local authorities are being addressed. The proof will be in the pudding when we start to do the inspection cycle, but at least the issue now is being tackled.

12:25

Can I just look at, then, consortia? One of the criticisms in the report was that national policy wasn't being put in context—I think that was the statement in the report—in certain consortia. Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?

Yes, when we talked, we said that—. Well, two things are at play. One is that the national model for regional working is being revised at the moment, and that work is ongoing by Welsh Government. That is to bring greater consistency to the four consortia, because one of our concerns, which we expressed in this report and we expressed in previous years, is that, although the national model had a particular approach back in 2012, when Robert Hill did the first review, it had a particular approach to the consortia being fairly similar, over the years, they've gone in four different directions. To be fair, over the past couple of years, the consortia are now collaborating much closer together. They are working together—for example, I mentioned earlier about the regional co-ordinators for LAC. Those four people are meeting regularly. So, they've all got different co-ordination roles in their regions. Whereas before they were working more in silos, they are now working much closer together. So, I think what we were referring to, and what we were talking about in the report, is the fact that the consortia need to have a more consistent approach across all four regions. But that will certainly be driven by the new national model.

Okay. And the relationships with local authorities, you said that the sharing of information with the local authorities is not always acted upon by local authorities—from the consortia. Is that a failure of communication, or is that something that sits with the local authority to acknowledge?

I don't think it's a failure of communication. In the cases where some authorities haven't acted sufficiently in intervening in schools or in issuing warning letters, the consortia have been quite clear. The challenge advisers have highlighted these issues. It's the authority that hasn't acted as swiftly as we would expect it to. But, again, I think that is beginning to improve, because the local authorities are quite sensitive to the fact we are now going to be re-inspecting them and looking at them, and that is one of the issues we'll be picking up on.

Okay. And, in order to do their jobs, the consortia need to be suitably resourced. Are they, and are they fit for the challenges ahead?

It's not for us to comment on whether each consortium is sufficiently funded or not, but what we would say is that, generally, in the past, they've spent perhaps too large a proportion of their funds on challenge work and not enough funding on support work, but that, again, is moving. We've picked up that GwE, for example, is in the process of renaming their challenge advisers 'support advisers', because they're moving their culture more over to supporting schools to deal with all the raft of reforms that Meilyr mentioned, and that is, it seems to me, an entirely sensible way to go.

Okay. Well, that brings this session to an end. So, thank you all very much once again for giving evidence to committee today. Once again, you will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy. Diolch yn fawr. 

4. Papurau i’w Nodi
4. Papers to Note

Okay, the next item on our agenda today, item 4, is papers to note. We have one paper to note, which is a letter from the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee to the Welsh Government regarding the Hwb programme. Is committee content to note that paper? Yes. Thank you very much.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Item 5, then, is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Is committee content so to do? Okay. Thank you very much. We will move into private session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:29.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 12:29.

Dysgu am Senedd Cymru