Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee

16/01/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dawn Bowden AC
Hefin David AC
Janet Finch-Saunders AC
Lynne Neagle AC Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Sian Gwenllian AC
Suzy Davies AC

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Andi Morgan Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr Dros Dro, Ein Rhanbarth ar Waith
Interim Managing Director - Education through Regional Working
Arwyn Thomas Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr, Gwasanaeth Gwella ac Effeithiolrwydd Ysgolion Gogledd Cymru
Managing Director, North Wales School Effectiveness and Improvement Service
Debbie Harteveld Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr, Gwasanaeth Cyflawni Addysg ar gyfer De Ddwyrain Cymru
Managing Director, Education Achievement Service for South East Wales
Louise Blatchford Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr Dros Dro, Consortiwm Canolbarth y De
Interim Managing Director, Central South Consortium
Sue Walker Cyfarwyddwr Arweiniol, Consortiwm Canolbarth y De, a Phrif Swyddog Addysg, Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Merthyr Tudful
Lead Director, Central South Consortium, and Chief Education Officer, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council
Will McLean Cyfarwyddwr Arweiniol, Gwasanaeth Cyflawni Addysg ar gyfer De Ddwyrain Cymru, a Phrif Swyddog, Plant a Phobl Ifanc, Cyngor Sir Fynwy
Lead Director, Education Achievement Service for South East Wales, and Chief Officer, Children and Young People, Monmouthshire County Council

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Llinos Madeley Clerc
Clerk
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy 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 09:30.

The meeting began at 09:30.

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

Okay. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. I've received no apologies for absence. Can I ask Members if they'd like to declare any interests, please? No. Okay. Thank you very much. 

2. Gwella Ysgolion a Chodi Safonau: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth gyda'r Consortia Addysg Rhanbarthol
2. School Improvement and Raising Standards; Evidence Session with Regional Education Consortia

Item 2 this morning is our first evidence session for our inquiry into school improvement and raising standards. I'm very pleased to welcome Debbie Harteveld, who is director of the Education Achievement Service for south-east Wales; Will McLean, who is lead director of the Education Achievement Service for south-east Wales and chief officer for children and young people at Monmouthshire County Council; Louise Blatchford, who is interim managing director at Central South Consortium; and Sue Walker, who is the lead director at Central South Consortium and chief education officer at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council. Can I welcome you all? Thank you for attending this morning. We've got a lot of ground to cover, so we'll go straight into questions if that's okay. The first questions are from Janet Finch-Saunders.

Good morning. Could each of you as members of the consortia briefly outline the approach to school improvement in your own regions? 

Shall I start? I think we've got very similar approaches. So, in our region we've spent quite a long time building the capacity of schools to be able to deliver a number of services and to build autonomy within the system. So, over the last five years, the resources that we've received through grants have been utilised to enable us to do that. We've moved very much down the mode of using cluster delivery—so, secondary school and feeder primaries—as a model for delivery, and to almost use a train-the-trainer model, so that we've got 35 clusters across our region and we use special schools and pupil referral units as a cluster as well. We use the role of challenge adviser as a facilitator, but also other school improvement advisers to enable that brokering of support and challenge to have rigour across the system. We also use peer review models, the use of research and, really, moving more towards use of e-learning materials, so schools, staff, governors are able to access resources in their own time, trying to move with the times, really.

I think one of the things to say is that we're trying to give autonomy into the system and we're also trying to enable schools to take ownership—not all schools are in the same place. To help them do that, we've helped to fund a professional learning lead in every school, so that becomes our mechanism for sharing the knowledge. We've also funded a vulnerable learner lead in every secondary school, not fully funded but part-funded, to enable those messages around some of our vulnerable learners to be shared more effectively. In the paper that we submitted, I went into a lot more detail. I understand that we don't have huge time here today, but, in essence, that's how we are funding our model. And that support is underpinned by a broad professional learning offer against all of the areas within the national mission. But some of the areas as well that are particular areas for us around secondary school performance—it's still a challenge for us, particularly in our region. 

I think that the word that really sums it up for me is that it's around that partnership, and it's that tripartite partnership between the schools, the local authority and the EAS. And it's about bringing out the strengths of those three different parts to really maximise the impact they can have. So, there are some things that the local authority is responsible for, and it's really important that we fulfil our support mechanisms to the schools—that's fundamental—and that then allows the impact of the support around professional learning and so on from the EAS to really gain good traction in the schools. We want to make sure the foundations and the conditions are right for the learning that Debbie's just outlined. But the schools are a fundamental part as well, and that notion around schools beginning to work together to begin to want to support each other in a really collaborative way is a key part of our journey. So, it's that tripartite equal partnership that underpins, I think, everything we try and do. 

Thank you. We're very, very similar to EAS in many ways, although we established what we call the Central South Wales Challenge back in January 2014. There was a subtle difference there as well, in that those were built on the London Challenge and the Manchester Challenge and had separate elements to them. One of the key elements of that was school improvement groups. So, initially, we didn't work under a geographical cluster model, we worked with the school improvement groups, and those were groups of schools from across the region—so, they weren't in their local area—to provide schools with yet another way of networking with other schools across the region. Back in, then, 2019, we revised that model to include, at the heart of the model, cluster working, to ensure that we were enabling schools to be ready for reform where they needed to work very specifically with their geographical partners. So, they had their schools improvement groups, we had hub schools leading our professional learning, and have done since 2014, and publishing our professional learning offer—so, very much schools supporting other schools in their reform journeys. Peer inquiry, as Debbie has also mentioned, has had many iterations and we continue to build on that very positive aspect of the challenge. We have challenge advisers, obviously, as a part of that to broker and ensure that they are receiving the best possible support according to need. And, when it's needed, there are very bespoke partnerships brokered between schools that need very specific support over a limited timescale to ensure a speedy outcome. 

09:35

I think, similar to what Will was saying about us actually working together, one of the successes that we've had is through the additional learning needs transformation work, whereas although the lead officer is a based on a regional footing, actually sits within central south, works very closely within central south, is a key partner in the central south business plan and is a key partner in all our local authority business plans and with our schools in actually working together to ensure that we take that forward. And Louise mentioned the school improvement groups—we do work closely as a cluster, but that opportunity for our schools to reach out to other schools in the area, in the region, has been very positive, because quite often you can become quite isolated in your own local authority, working across. And we've taken that further and we've gone down governor improvement groups, which are called GIGs, but we don't—perhaps that gives a different connotation, but governors working either together—our special school governors work together, our PRU management committees work together—so, you've got that opportunity for learning across different areas. 

Thank you. So, to what extent is self-improvement and schools as learning organisations an increasing feature of the approach to school improvement and raising standards? 

I think the principle of schools as learning organisations is paramount to the ongoing school improvement journey. It's an element within all our professional learning offer and how we deliver support to schools, and we've had the pilot schools delivering, then, support to other schools in that. We used to have a readiness tool—certainly, within central south and I'm sure you did the same—about readiness for curriculum reform, but that has been superceded by schools as learning organisations and ensuring that is the main driver for their own school improvement journey. 

Very similar—so, schools across our region, the uptake is fairly high, so the survey is now open and available to all schools across Wales. The purpose of the SLO model is to prepare schools for change, part of a change management to get them to explore the areas in which their mission, their vision and their ability to support change for all members of staff in their schools is in the right place. At the end of the day, doing a survey isn't going to fix it, so the support that follows up is through, as was, the pioneer schools, who are now moving into a different role, but also challenge advisers, to support schools to address the areas that they need to improve within their own survey results that they've had back. So, it's a powerful tool to help schools to think about how they can start to tackle some of the challenges that are inevitably going to be ahead of them. 

Okay. Thank you. How can a suitable balance be struck between self-improvement and school autonomy on the one hand and accountability and rigour on the other? Are there any risks that a loosening of accountability could lead to a decline in standards? 

I think the critical thing for the system, certainly in the EAS area, is that we maintain very high challenge to our schools and we have very high expectations but with that comes high levels of support as Debbie's outlined this morning. I think that's really fundamental, so everybody knows that our expectations are of continuous improvement, everybody knows where we expect our schools to be. So, the changes in accountability with regard to publication and so on actually don't diminish the level of accountability that we expect and the levels of progress that we expect those schools to make. So, I think the two are absolutely compatible in that sense and that's very much the way that we'll continue to work in the EAS region. [Interruption.]

09:40

Just on the back of that, you said the word 'expect' a number of times there. I was rather hoping to hear the word 'ensure'. Can you tell us the difference between those? 

Well, I think we set very clear expectations of our schools in terms of where we expect them to be, and that's around how they perform, what we expect their children to achieve, and that's by looking at data and so on. And then we ensure that they get there by the high levels of support that we're able to put into place, and that might be through specialist support from the local authority, of course, through the EAS, the very specialist learning advisers that they have, the ongoing challenge adviser role. So, the expectations are what forms where we want them to be and the ensuring and the assurance that we take are from the systems that we put in place to help them get there. 

I'm going to ask you some questions about this later. I just thought I'd—.

I'd just add to that that I think that giving schools in the system autonomy—so, the schools that are in the lower levels of support, giving them autonomy—to help the system, that's one way of providing an example of self-improvement, but it doesn't mean that because they've got that autonomy the checks still aren't there. And they come in different ways, so it's not a top-down—it can be used through peer review, peer challenge and the EAS or the local authority being part of that team. But it starts to feel very different. The accountability may be changing at a national level but, at a local level, the rigour around monitor, challenge, support and intervention is still there. Schools being held to account who are not where they need to be—. Sorry, you mentioned the word 'ensure'—we're able to hold schools to account, give advice, but Will talked about that everyone has a role to play and the culture—I don't think we can underplay how important culture is in schools. When that culture is right then change and improvement happens, so it is about striking the balance between high support and high challenge, but being very balanced about how we do that. We want to bring people with us. I'm not saying they necessarily always want to come on that journey. 

Okay. Central south, have you got anything to add on the issue of accountability? 

Just to reiterate really what both Will and Debbie have said. The accountability at the individual school level is still very much there, whether it's—. What we publish is not necessarily is not the same as it used to be. But certainly through the appropriate challenge, through challenge advisers and the partnerships that we have with the local authority—. We know school improvement isn't just the role of the consortia. There are ways in which we need to work in partnership very, very closely with the local authority to ensure that all aspects of school life are looked at, because it may not just be standards that we need to look at; it could be wider. 

Well, it's just on that point. How do you differentiate between your role for school improvement and the local authority's role for school improvement? Because you both have money allocated for it, so it's—.

Could you just answer very briefly on that, because we have got some questions on that later on?

Okay. We work very closely together and we will sit together and we will actually work out plans for the schools to show where the support is coming from—is it most appropriate to come from the central south or is it most appropriate to come from the local authority. So, we've actually got the best—

What I will say, just for the accountability, is that there's accountability at a local level as well. We're accountable to those young people, the young people going through our schools, and it is important that that accountability at a local level is challenged through our local scrutiny systems as well, so the schools have that understanding that they're accountable to their local community for getting the best results for those young people.  

Thank you. What are the reasons behind the renaming of challenge advisers as school improvement advisers and what is the significance of this? And do you have any difficulties recruiting and returning people of a sufficient calibre to fulfil that role?

09:45

We actually haven't renamed challenge advisers in our region, they are still challenge advisers. The name has changed over time, but they are challenge advisers now, so we haven't renamed that. I can see how the role has evolved over time, and there probably is a case for looking at what we call them, because their role is support and challenge. But nevertheless, there is a national set of standards that challenge advisers work towards and adhere to, and there is some work nationally around what their role will be in the reform agenda, and we're looking to work with Welsh Government to start to unpick some of that. 

In our region, around recruitment, historically, there have been some issues and concerns around recruitment, particularly in specialist areas—Welsh medium is one of those areas. We've overcome that in our region around using current serving headteachers to work with other schools, and we call them partner challenge advisers. So, we have around about 50 current serving headteachers now who work in that role across our region. So, we are building the capacity within that model over time.

What we're also looking to do is around using strong leaders—whether they be in the primary, the special, the pupil referral unit sector—to work across phases, because, actually, improvement is about leadership, and improvement is about quality teaching and learning. So, I think we're all working to try to look at different models for challenge advisers, and I've seen benefits in moving towards a more flexible model of that.

Officially, we haven't also changed, they are still officially challenge advisers. Although, as an overarching umbrella, all our staff are school improvement advisers. We have strategic staff, their current job description is a strategic adviser with a particular area of responsibility, and challenge advisers. We too are using many more partner headteachers. Our actual core permanent employees has reduced significantly over time, so we are also continuing to use serving headteachers. I'll reiterate what Debbie said about recruitment, on the salaries, especially in the secondary sector, to recruit the secondary challenge adviser role is difficult, unless you are seconding in from their substantive roles.

Okay, what about the second part of the question? Do you have any difficulty recruiting and retaining people of a sufficient calibre to fulfil that role?

We did, but now we've moved to different models. So, we are using current serving headteachers to do that. We don't have issues in recruiting in that way, because it's a flexible model and headteachers are also gaining professional learning as part of that role. We're building the capacity, understanding and knowledge of the expectations within. And the other benefit with that is, when we're looking for a support model, current serving headteachers have their own schools to be able to offer that live example of practice, which I believe is a strength in the system, moving forward. So, the only area where we have struggled is, as Louise said, around secondary—but we're looking for different models for that—and particularly Welsh medium. 

No, just that with the secondary, which we were talking about, by using the partner headteachers and seconding in for periods of time, that gets away with the issues that we had.

Could I just ask on that? When I speak to my headteachers in Aberconwy, they're under immense pressure. How do they fulfil that role when they've got their responsibilities as a headteacher?

I think there has to be the capacity within the school to be able to ensure that that headteacher—with the agreement of the governing body within the school and conversations with the local authority—and that school does have the capacity to be able to support others in the self-improving system.

Okay, thank you. How have you drawn on the experiences and lessons from Schools Challenge
Cymru? How has the approach to raising standards evolved since the closure of that programme and the role of school improvement was fully taken on by consortia?

We had significant positive experiences following and during the Schools Challenge Cymru programme, and the lessons that we've taken on from that have included things like the continuation of using some of the previous Schools Challenge Cymru advisers.

We created a role called 'accelerated progress leads' to ensure we didn't lose the learning that they had within our own schools. It's only a short-term role to add capacity to the current challenge advisers. As you may know, during the period of the programme, substantive challenge advisers weren't used—they were brought in—and so we needed a period whereby the learning that took place of those Schools Challenge Cymru advisers could be passed on and we didn't lose at that point, so we created this role.

Also the other lessons that we've learnt: we've kept a lot of the school improvement forums, they've been a real success, and I'm sure Sue will mention some of that in her work as well. Also, the lessons have been used as the basis for our 'schools causing concern' strategy, developed with the local authority, in line with national developments as well.

09:50

Okay. And my final question on this area: to what extent are you satisfied that, where schools made progress under Schools Challenge Cymru, this positive momentum has been continued after
that programme ended?

I think some of what I've just talked about with the accelerated progress leads—that's how we've ensured the learning has carried on. And that learning: they've provided training to our challenge advisers as well as part of that ongoing dialogue to support the different methods that they were able to use. It's very dependent on each individual school and how they identified their priorities within that particular time. Some of them were leadership concerns, and if you look at the schools, certainly in our region, there have been many changes to the leadership teams that have gone on, either during that period or in the intervening years afterwards. But we've ensured that we've continued with that with employing those particular advisers as well.

Debbie, it wasn't such a success in south-east Wales, was it—Schools Challenge Cymru? So, how have you managed to take that experience and build on it?

It was a mixed success, I'd say. So, we had 14 schools; 15 at the start, two schools merged. There was mixed success. I think there were two parts to Schools Challenge Cymru. There was the part around funding for the region to build capacity. That gave us huge advantages and benefits, and we've continued to build that, as you can see from previous answers that I've given. So, huge learning around creating schools to support other schools.

Also learning around, as Louise has said, the basis for our 'schools causing concern' approach. So, the use in Schools Challenge Cymru of IBs—they were intervention boards—we've used that model and continued that model right across the region with all of our schools, bringing all key partners together. So, again, that was incredibly helpful to us.

The other element that we have built on systematically, year on year, is the use of research. So, Schools Challenge Cymru was very embedded in the use of research to guide and shape future school improvement activity. So, we have invested quite heavily in that over the years, since Schools Challenge Cymru.

Some of the other learning that we've taken from it is that, actually, the Schools Challenge Cymru advisers were not employed by the region, and we didn't always have that much traction in some of those schools that we would have wanted at the outset. Particularly local authorities and elected members, they didn't have the role that they would have liked. So, there's some learning in that for us.

And also, some of the other learning for us is around the choice of those schools. There are around six of those schools now that are in the lowest levels of support and have continued to improve year on year. The leadership in those schools was strong, it was ready to take on change, and there was capacity too, and the culture was right. So, I think some of the learning is around the right school at the right time. I think we've tried to embed that in other strategies as we've moved forward.

One of the other things that we had to remember, going forward, is that it isn't just about fixing the end of key stage 4. It's not a sticky-plaster approach, and much of the work that we do, going forward, in our strategies is around the quality of teaching and learning has got to be good everywhere. It's not just about that end-of-key-stage approach. But we have had schools that have had significant improvements. Around half of them have had ongoing sustained improvements. Three remain still in need of significant improvement.

09:55

Okay, thank you. Right, I've got some questions now from Siân Gwenllian. Before I bring Siân in, I'm going to have to remind everybody that we've got a lot to cover in a short time, so concise questions and, if possible, concise answers, please. Siân.

Troi at gategoreiddio ysgolion a'r system genedlaethol o fesur safonau ysgolion, sut mae'r system yna'n dylanwadu ar y ffordd rydych chi'n gwneud eich gwaith, y ffordd rydych chi'n herio a chynorthwyo ysgolion?

Turning to categorisation of schools and the national system of measuring school standards, how is that system influencing the way that you're doing the work, the way that you challenge and support schools?

Categorisation was brought in, I think, around about four years ago. At the time, I think categorisation gave us something in Wales that we didn't have: it gave us a national system, it gave us a system that enabled us to identify the levels of support that schools needed to be able to drive improvement. It was around, I believe, creating an entitlement for all the schools, which possibly wasn't there across all parts of Wales.

I think time has moved on now, and I think—well, I know—that we know our schools well. We know the levels of support that they need, Categorisation is not a one-off process. I think it's worth saying it's not something that just happens once a year. It's an ongoing dialogue with the school. It's a flexible model that helps us to identify the stress in the school and the areas that they need to improve upon. And in the best cases, schools—with us—identify those so we're able to agree the strengths of their self-evaluation and whether they can identify their own priorities.

I think categorisation over time has become less attractive for school leaders because of the public nature of it. Actually, there are very few schools that are in the highest levels of support in our region that don't actually want the support, what they don't want is the public nature of that support.

I think it does impact on their relationship with their communities, with their partner schools, with their clusters, with their families of schools, because of this label that it's become, and I think that is a real concern. The actual process and identifying of priorities within the school, I think everybody agrees, is hugely important. That, therefore, links us to ensuring that the schools get the absolute best support that they require. I think, as Debbie said, over time, it has become more of a—. People have focused on the colour, and not actually on the support and the process.

It was designed as a preventative tool to get in early, to be able to identify that. I think, possibly, publicly, it may have lost the intention that it set out to achieve. But for us regionally—in answer to your question—it's a tool that we use. It's a tool that we use to know what support a school needs. 

It's wider than just school attainment and just school data. From a local authority perspective, there may be schools that have got financial issues, that might have HR issues, or health and safety issues that, actually, under the school categorisation system, wouldn't come out as needing support. So, it's that dialogue where they've been identified as a school that doesn't require support, and yet the local authority needs to come in and say something. So, it can actually put barriers up between governing bodies and local authorities and consortia, because of the way that the support is viewed.

But being devil's advocate, parents may want to know how their school's improving and want to measure against other schools. 

From a local authority perspective, I think very much that the processes around schools causing concern have evolved and matured to such an extent that what the risk is is that the publication of categorisation acts as a snapshot, when actually the process could tell a very different story. And it's about us finding the mechanisms—. One of the things that we have to do very often is help support schools when they do go into a red or amber category, to make sure that they can tell the right story to their communities about what that means. And that can be quite difficult, because if you hear the stark message that the school has—the language tends to be, 'Gone red'—then that's very difficult, but we have to provide that.

But it's actually that we understand where the school's needs are, and that other schools, the EAS and the local authority are working together now to help improve that school. And we've done things like governing body meetings and parent meetings to help manage that message through. I think i's really important that everybody does that, but this is about the level of support that the school receives. This isn't a judgment on the school. This is about us recognising that that school does need some help. 

I think the other evolution that's happened is that we're recognising more factors. So, those local authority factors that might be around attendance, behaviour and all those different things are now much more readily part of the focus and the discussion that we have when we're talking about those schools and how we determine the judgments.

10:00

So, you're talking about maybe moving away from the school categorisation model. If you had your way, you'd prefer to have that dialogue with the parents and explain, 'Actually, your school's not actually doing very well at the moment', and do it in that kind of way.

I think we would all recognise absolutely the need to have public accountability. 

And I think parents, including myself, want to know where schools are. You can't just rely on Estyn—they're too infrequent at the moment, and that is a snapshot in itself. And I think that, in light of the reforms, we're in a period of change and I think the anxiety is about public accountability and that view on a school isn't clear enough and it could look blurred—it could look like we're not trying to give the right messages.

I think a tool that could be used is around the school development plan: it's a statutory document; it's a public document for parents to be able to understand the priorities that the school is working on and the progress it's making in working on those priorities with support from broad partners. But there is no one answer. I think we would always need a tool to be able to identify the levels of support a school needs.

Okay. Explain to me then the relationship between the school categorisation as it is now, and the Estyn reports. Do they concur usually? If you're in special measures, are you 'red' in your—? That's a simple way of saying it. And how do you use the information that comes through the Estyn reports, and is it time to think about: do we need those Estyn reports?

I am a strong believer that Estyn have a clear role in the system. We need independent, inspectorial advice. There needs to be that confidence, and I think that's what Estyn bring. I think there needs to be that. That's my personal view. 

I think it's fair to say that categorisation is not inspection, but the point you raised is what we don't want to say is that all schools that are in the categories in red—the highest levels of support—will always necessarily be a school that, if they're inspected, would go into a statutory category. But, inevitably, by the nature of the highest level of support, there will be areas that that school needs to work on.

And especially in the secondary sector, having a category of 'red support' doesn't mean that every department and every area in that school is in requirement of that higher level of support. So, it is a broad brush when they are categorised as 'red', because it could be that we are also using them, and have done in the past, as a school providing support to other schools across the region, because they have a very particular strength in certain areas, so—

And the way that the new accountability system is working, and we can see this through the pilot for school improvement, Estyn are very much part of that dialogue and discussion with us. So, there are a number of schools across Wales—I know I've got two in our region—where Estyn are sitting around the table with all the partners, the school included, to talk abut the areas that need to improve so that we're all part of the solution.

We provide reports with the local authority prior to any school inspection and we wouldn't expect our areas for development to be hugely different from the recommendations that Estyn come up with. And we have dialogue with Estyn around that, around our knowledge of schools. But to say that categorisation is the same as Estyn, it isn't, and I think there is a role for the two. I think they perform very different roles. Outwardly—

But what teachers say to us is that there's duplication in the system and that they are trying to have this good relationship in the classroom with the pupils, which is the essential part of education, isn't it? And then there's all this stuff coming in from various people in the system: from Estyn, from the local authorities, from the consortia, from the school governors, and that there's duplication there and sometimes they're not quite clear what you do and what Estyn do and what the local authorities do, and what worth that is adding to what's going on.

That wouldn't be my experience. We are working with school development plans, so we don't have any additional plans in schools across our region. We don't input anything that the school hasn't already identified as an area that they need to work on. So, all our professional learning, all our support, is dovetailed to the school's own priorities. And, as for duplication, we don't duplicate with Estyn. We have very different roles and, actually, more recently, we are working with Estyn colleagues to support schools together, so that they're not getting different messages. Duplication with the local authority doesn't exist in our region because we have very different roles. In fact, there's a complementary role.

10:05

Yes. I think, increasingly, over time, we've become much better at working in partnership. Obviously, initially, there were some areas of duplication, but I think now we work exceedingly closely together to ensure there is no duplication of what we do compared to what the local authority would do.

If there's a plan of support around a school—this particular school that's causing concern—it would be clear what the role of the consortium is and what should be undertaken by local authority officers. So, that would be shared at leadership level; whether it gets down to the teaching-in-the-classroom level, that's a leadership issue at a school level as opposed to our level, because I think our plans would be quite clear: this is what the challenge adviser is doing, this is what a local authority officer's doing, because that's particular. And it's whether that gets down.

That's a leadership issue.

It may be that the problem is now solved, but we were getting some schools in my area—which isn't your areas, incidentally—saying that they were getting contradictory advice from Estyn and the consortia about what they needed to do to improve. Is that something that's been reported? Obviously, this is just anecdotal from individual schools, but even if one school says that to me, that would be a worry.

I think, from our perspective, everything is driven by the school development plan. That's become the key vehicle and document that a governing body and the leadership in the school own. We have a key part in the signing off of that process. The Estyn part then is the recommendations that emerge from an inspection. You would very, very much look to ensure that there was commonality in those two and you would expect, following an inspection, those recommendations to then become part of the school development plan, because that then allows that to be that single conduit that we then manage all of our resources going to that school to support it.

But if the school's getting contradictory advice, what are they going to put in their school development plan?

That would be for a school leader to determine.

I can't talk about the individual case that you're talking about—

—but certainly, if that advice came through in our region, we would talk to Estyn. There would need to be a dialogue about, 'Actually, that's not helpful to a school.' And the school leader would need to be part of that to ensure they fully understood what messages they were being told.

We do meet regularly with Estyn—regionally, cross-regionally and by local authority—to ensure that we have that dialogue with Estyn.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning, everyone. Do you have a clear enough understanding about what schools causing concern criteria actually are? Because we've heard that the definition's very wide, it can be a little bit woolly. What criteria do you apply in your respective areas, in terms of schools causing concern? 

We have a clear document that has been pulled together with the consortium and with the five directors on what is a school causing concern and the support that would be given. That is about to be shared with schools, because we've just recently relooked at it, and we've recently redrafted it. If you actually look where local authorities can use statutory powers, obviously that’s still used as a lot of the accountability measures, which we're not using at the moment—the level 2 plus et cetera, et cetera. So, we've had to relook at that schools causing concern document this year, and it's going out this week.

It is going out. It's also mindful that the schools causing concern pilots are going on at the moment, so we need to ensure that we learn the lessons from those pilots that will also inform the strategy moving forward, because as I think it was Debbie who was saying, Estyn now sit around that table for agreeing what the priorities are for schools, so there shouldn't be this disconnect between what the consortia are saying and what Estyn is saying, because all partners sit around the table at the same time. Agree the priorities, but what's important for me as well, agree what progress looks like at certain milestones. So, there isn't any ambiguity about how will we know we have made progress.

10:10

Okay. So, accepting that you're reviewing this at the moment, so it could change, what are the key areas, the key criteria that you use. What are the red flags for you, in terms of identifying a school causing concern?

You would, obviously, use data as one of the analysis to challenge as far as there's intelligence, but it's much wider than that, because it could be elements that sit within the local authority, there may be human resources issues, there may be finance issues, attendance, exclusions, et cetera. So, it's a very wide—. 'Wide' isn't the right—. There are a number of key indicators that we would look at, and we have joint discussions with the senior challenge advisers and with the directors over those schools causing concern to agree the best way forward for those.

And the senior challenge advisers and challenge advisers in each of our regions sit around within the local authority and have those conversations about all schools, and then narrowing it down to the schools causing concern when we're talking about the various aspects of school improvement or school life.

It is very similar. We have a regional strategy and a regional policy that's shared with head teachers and governors whereby it sets out the criteria that we would use to judge a school that's causing concern. However, we don't want to get to that point—the whole point of it is to try to catch schools.

Some of the criteria that we would use would be: the pace of progress against their own school development plan; is it what we would deem to be an appropriate pace; the categorisation; the levels of support; have they been in that level of support for what we would deem to be too long; and are they not gaining traction. Obviously, data would be part of it, but progress of learners, using a range of first-hand evidence, not just taking a snapshot. We would look at attendance; we would look at exclusions; we would look at finance and HR. And there are a number of triggers. And the only way that you can get a full picture of a school is when all partners sit together.

So, we have those regular meetings every six weeks where all of us in the region talk about schools together, regardless of which LA they're in, and share and embed knowledge that has worked well in schools. But I would say, headteachers and governing bodies are part of this process.

Sure. I understand. So, given what you've said, and there are some clear similarities in terms of what you do, would you feel confident that—and this may not be a fair question—would you feel confident that the approach to this across all of the consortia is fairly consistent?

I can only talk for our region.

You wouldn't know. Okay. Well, we've got the other two consortia coming in later, so we'll ask them and see.

It would be very helpful if you might be able to share those documents with the committee, that guide your decisions on that. Thank you.

Thank you. Can I ask each of you how many schools in your regions are currently in the two statutory categories?

Currently, in our region we have four schools in significant improvement—two primary and two secondary. And we have seven schools in special measures—five secondary, one pupil referral unit and one primary. 

We have three schools in significant improvement—one secondary and two primary—and three schools in special measures.

And what's the approach for dealing with those in both areas? 

The categorisation. Sorry, yes. We've got two primary and one PRU.

Okay. So, what's the approach? What are you doing to address these?

Every school is taken individually. We ensure that we take the outcomes of the Estyn inspection, as well as our own identification of the areas of need. It's then a holistic approach with the director of that local authority, with the wider school improvement officers, with our teams, to ensure that we develop a very bespoke support plan for that school. And on occasions that's jointly funded between ourselves and the local authority, and that there are very significant milestones included to ensure that we can monitor the progress of that school, and ensure that we can move and help support that school to move out of those categories in a timely fashion.

And you're fairly confident in your region that the measures you're putting in place can deliver positive results?

10:15

Very similar. There are statutory processes around these schools, as I know you'll be aware. But, again, it is very much around working with them on their individual school priorities and wrapping the support around the school. What I would say, in answer to your question, 'Are we confident in the processes?', many of these schools have got significant challenges, and this is about the quality of leadership, the culture, the climate, that they actually know where they are and have the right people in the right places to drive improvement. Yes, the processes, I think, are sound, but I think what will add weight to that and gain traction is having Estyn around the table with us, giving those messages systematically. And, in very early days, I can say, in our region, that that pilot is starting to show some movement with everyone sitting round the table, and actually consortia and local authority being invited to be part of those revisits. So, any duplication, any mismanagement of messages are minimised, because we're all there at that point. So, early signs are that the pilot will add value, and there will be some messages that we can gain from that.  

Thank you both for that. Can I just ask whether you feel—? You might be aware that the chief inspector of education and training's report—it's a couple of years old now—but he did identify that underperforming schools weren't being identified early enough. Is that something you recognise? Or is it something you did recognise, and now you're confident that you are identifying those underperforming schools early enough?

I think one of the things that we've seen—. We have a regional 'schools causing concern' register, and we meet—all of the senior staff from the EAS, all of the directors—collectively to discuss that. And I think one of the things that we're really seeing is that recognition of schools coming to that register before they're in a category, or before they're in a statutory category, with Estyn. And I think that's evidence of, actually, collectively, people see that, they're prepared to identify, to talk about and listen and learn from each other about the approaches that have been taken elsewhere that might be successful in helping remedy those particular challenges. So, I think that there is much better intelligence used much earlier in the system. So, hopefully, we're seeing far fewer surprises than we might have done in the past. 

You're identifying them earlier. And that would be a similar—.

I think, just to add, one of the most positive things is that, through the termly evaluation and improvement sessions that we have with the Welsh Government, they've enabled us to share our practices across each of the four regions as well around our approaches to schools causing concern, and particularly in catching schools early. So, those schools that are showing a gradual decline—the triggers, the lights are flashing—and I think we've found that very, very beneficial, because that hasn't happened before. So, again, that's something that we'll continue to learn from.

We haven't had as much of a formal process as you've just described, but, certainly, a couple of months ago, at our directors' meeting, we learned the lessons from EAS and have taken those on board and we'll formalise that process moving forward. So, I think they have been really valuable sessions. And I think it also can be true to say that of each of the directors around the table as well—there's a lot of sharing of good practice around the processes that are used there as well. So, relationships—both nationally and regionally—I think have really developed over the last few years.

Thank you both again for that. Can I just ask you, then, in terms of raising school standards—and it was interesting to hear what you were saying about the statutory categories: in your region, no secondary schools in that category; there are in your region—would you generally say that the school improvement standards, the statutory categories, are more of a concern for you in secondary schools than in primary schools? Bearing in mind that you don't have any secondary schools in your region, but would that generally be more of a concern?

It depends on the timing, though, of a secondary school inspection, doesn't it? Because, I think, if you actually look at the schools within my authority, you might say: if Estyn were to come in to a couple if them, would they go into a category? Yes, they possibly would. It's the timing of that inspection. But that's not to say that—. We're not waiting for Estyn to come in to put the support around—

And putting other mechanisms around.

It's very much a profile for us. Our primary schools perform generally well in categorisation terms, in Estyn terms—however you want to look at it. The levels of support that we're putting into our primaries are far lower than we're putting into our secondaries. The number that are in the statutory categories—. There is another group of schools that, if they were to be inspected—exactly like Louise—they've got areas that they need to work on, and there are significant deficits. But, equally, we have secondary schools that are in the lowest levels of support. So, yes, it is definitely a theme in our region. Much of the business plan—. If you see our business plan, it talks about, particularly, the secondary phase. Much of our work or resource is centred around that element, and there can be many reasons for that.

10:20

I think that Sue has mentioned the timing of it, but it is also the actual cohort that's looked at for that particular period. If I look back since 2018, for example, only two of our red-category secondary schools have been inspected in that time, whereas it could have been very different, and so, therefore, it does depend on the cohort that is chosen, as well as the timing.   

We need to move on now to attainment and accountability measures, and I'm going to repeat my appeal for brief questions and brief answers if possible, please.

I'll keep to just two questions in that case. This one I think you can answer pretty quickly. Can you just clarify who you're all accountable to, who sets your KPIs, and how transparent is that process of accountability?

We're accountable to the joint committee—

Of the central south consortium. So, that consists of the portfolio holders for education for each of the five local authorities and the chief executives, but the members are of the joint committee. 

I am personally accountable to my board—my company board. But our business plan and all our KPIs I report through to JEG—a similar model: the executive members for education in each of the local authorities.

So, ours are set through our business plan. Our business plan goes through a formal sign-off process through our JEG, our joint executive group.

Okay, so it's pretty much the same. That's great. Thank you very much. Back in December, the Welsh Government published the key stage 4 regional aggregated attainment statistics, despite the fact that, earlier in the year, they'd said that they don't need to be compiled and monitored anymore. Why do you think that they published some data when they had been telling you not to compile any data, and why have you been asked not to compile this aggregated data? Is it because it is just not meaningful, or is it because they don't like the results that they're seeing? 

I think that the reason for why it was published when were told it wasn't going to be published—. I think that there needed to be some consultation. I think that the statistical releases are separate and independent to the process, and that data is used by a wide variety of different people and organisations. So, if you were going to change the publication, my understanding is that there would have needed to have been a period of consultation to do so. Is that—?

That's what we were—. Yes.

Okay. So, that's the answer to the first question. Why do you think that they've changed it? Why don't you need to compile and monitor this information anymore?  

I don't think that that's quite accurate from our perspective. So, internally, of course we collect that information. We scrutinise that information. But, actually, looking at high-level aggregate data—even at a local authority level, a regional level or a national level—doesn't give us the detail that we need to answer all of the questions that you've just asked us. So, for us, it's about: how have individual schools performed? What are their areas of strength? Where do they continue to need to work to improve certain key elements of their individual profile? So, I think it's not a matter of either/or.

But, for us, the value of aggregating that data—it doesn't tell us very much about the progress that our schools are making. The danger with that is it can sometimes—. Aggregate data can sometimes mask coasting schools. It can sometimes mask under-performance. It can mask the lack of traction that the region or the local authority has. So, for us, it's not either/or. It is about paying regard to that data, but actually to find out the reasons behind it. But I absolutely accept that it has been a process that we've had in Wales for such a long time now, aggregate data, that it's difficult to start to scrutinise without that. So, it's incumbent upon all of us to provide different types of data, and we've been doing that work in partnership with the WLGA, the Welsh Government and Estyn, in working with elected members within each of the local authorities to start to talk about the different types of information that could be available to enable them to do their important role of scrutiny and holding schools to account. That information is still there, and I think it's worth saying that, just because that data isn't being talked about in an aggregate sense, the activity at regional and local level hasn't stopped.

10:25

Okay. That's great. I'm not going to ask you the same, because I can see you've been nodding, and we are short on time. So, the information is available if we want it. I would agree with you that it's about individual schools that we need to be talking, particularly as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are still finding that it's the standards within schools that are as much of a problem as between schools. However, you've spent a considerable amount of time in this meeting talking about peer-to-peer support, schools working together. As a result of that, we need to see how well that regionalisation of the raising of standards is also working. So, it would be useful for us to see published data to see whether the general ships are rising as well as the individuals.

Absolutely, and I think that it is more about talking about different types of things. It's about talking about improving the quality of teaching and learning in every classroom. It's about improving the quality of leadership at every level. If we get the culture and the climate right, and we get the right professional learning to enable us to improve elements of teaching and learning, standards will improve. But it's not always going to be evident in immediate end-of-key-stage data. That's where the range of first-hand evidence is important.

And one area that we've not even mentioned at the moment is well-being.

Well-being, talking to learners, looking at their work, looking at books. So, it's a much broader, practical type of activity. But you are right: how does that then reflect for accountability purposes? That's what we need to work with in this period of change—how we can present that type of information. The school development plan is a good way to do that, because all of those things should be in school development plans—how much progress is being made at school level. And it's not possible to aggregate that.

I'm going to get a row in a minute. I understand that, so that's why I'm cutting you off, I'm afraid. But this point about seeing regional improvement matters, because of the way you say that you're working as a region, using individual schools to support other schools. We need to see evidence that that's working as well. So, the information is there; it's just not published. That's lovely. Thanks.

Hoffwn ofyn yn y Gymraeg, os gwelwch yn dda. Ydych chi'n barod? Soniodd Dawn am hyn yn gynharach, ond hoffwn ofyn i bawb: sut fyddech chi'n disgrifio perthynas waith eich consortiwm gydag ei hawdurdodau lleol cyfansoddol?

I'd like to speak Welsh, please. Are you ready? Dawn mentioned this earlier, but I'd like to ask everyone: how would you describe the working relationship of your consortium with its constituent local authorities?

I think that, from a local authority perspective, it's very positive. It is that sort of engagement, and it is that sort of partnership, where we actually work together. We do have directors' meetings without the consortium, because there are various things that we do that don't reflect on the consortium. But we do have regular meetings with the consortium, with the wider part of the team. So, it has developed into a very positive, very open relationship that we have between the consortium and local authority.

Strong collaborative relationships—not cosy, challenging. Strong, effective governance systems in place. The core of the relationship is centered around common agreements on the areas that we need to develop, and that's through the business plan.

I'd thoroughly echo that, absolutely. It's that absolute recognition that we both have key roles to play in improving schools and securing better outcomes for our children. We do different things in that system. We recognise that, and, in recognising that, we can work together really positively. I think that it has evolved over time, and it will continue to evolve over time.

So, some of the things that Sue talked about that the local authorities own, I guess is the right term, at the moment, we are beginning to share that in a more collective way, so that, when any partner goes into a school, they are really fully appraised of everything that's going on in that school. So, nobody walks in with a view to go and look at finances and isn't aware that there's a school standards issue, potentially. Equally, when a school standards adviser might be engaging with a school, they aren't unaware that there might be significant HR or finance issues. It's that holistic view, in and of a school, that's really important to secure the right aspects for its improvement. 

10:30

Okay. That's generally my understanding from the Caerphilly perspective. 

Diolch. Beth yw eich dealltwriaeth o'r sefyllfa ddiweddaraf o ran gwaith yr Athro Dylan Jones yn adolygu rôl yr haen ganol?

Thank you very much. What is your understanding of the latest position regarding the work of Professor Dylan Jones in reviewing the role of the middle tier?

Actually, we're all part of that work with Dylan Jones, and actually myself and Sue sit on the sub-group that met for the first time yesterday, and I've got to say, the group is refreshing. It's moved over time with all key partners—we call them people from the middle tier—so all key organisations starting to talk about what we all do and what we're going to need to change, what will our revised roles be, as we move forward in the reform agenda, to avoid exactly the question that was asked from here around mixed messaging.

We've talked about the need to make sure that the offer to schools has clarity, that we're not stepping on each other's toes, we're not causing confusion and the relationships and the discussions have been incredibly open. It is also about us all having an understanding. We've talked about the common policy direction and the main aspects of work that we can add value to, because there are a lot of jobs to do, and we've all got our own expertise as part of that. We started talking yesterday in the sub-group, which is where more detail will emerge, about what each organisation needs to start doing, what we need to stop doing and what we'd like other organisations to start and stop doing.

So, the dialogue is becoming quite challenging, professionally challenging, but it's incredibly open, and part of the other work will be when the findings from the OECD recent review are published—that that group will start to challenge each other and start mapping out how we will start to address that in a more collaborative collegiate way across that middle tier.

Felly, sut gallai hyn effeithio ar ddarparu gwasanaethau gwella ysgolion yn y dyfodol?

So, how could this affect the delivery of school improvement services in the future?

I haven't got a crystal ball but the possibilities are that the landscape becomes more collegiate. We all have a clearer understanding of the needs, possibly, in each region—more clearly—and we could see—. I'm thinking, in my region, we could see more collaboration, in my business plan particularly, of other partners looking to work more collaboratively and I don't think we're in that place yet. But certainly I would hope that it would bring more clarity to school leaders about the types of offers and we would see more joint delivery. So, we're talking with Estyn—it's very early days—about how we can jointly deliver some of the training but knowing that each of us have got separate roles then in enacting some of that professional learning. So, I think there's a lot of scope and I think in Wales we're in a unique position where all the key partners are in one room. We're all on the same page, but we all realise that there may be some challenges ahead, but I don't sense that people aren't up for that change.

We've been beaten by the clock, so we will have to write to you with some questions, if that's okay, that we weren't able to cover. Can I thank you all for attending this morning and for answering all our questions? As usual, you'll be sent a transcript to check for accuracy following the meeting? Thank you very much, all of you, for your time this morning. Diolch yn fawr.

The committee will break until 10.45 a.m.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:34 a 10:44. 

The meeting adjourned between 10:34 and 10:44.

10:40
3. Gwella Ysgolion a Chodi Safonau: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth gyda'r Consortia Addysg Rhanbarthol
3. School Improvement and Raising Standards: Evidence Session with Regional Education Consortia

Welcome back, everyone. I'm very pleased to go into our second evidence session this morning on school improvement and raising standards and to welcome Andi Morgan, who is interim managing director at Education through Regional Working, and Arwyn Thomas, who is managing director, North Wales School Effectiveness and Improvement Service. Thank you both for your attendance this morning. We'll go straight into questions, because we've got lots of questions for you—

10:45

Chair, just before, can we—? I think both of us want to give apologies on behalf of our lead directors who had hoped to be here this morning, but had other engagements, unfortunately. So, Ian Roberts from the north and—

Kate Evan-Hughes—last-minute and sincere apologies from Kate.

Okay, thank you, that's fine. Thank you very much for putting that on the record. Siân Gwenllian.

Rwyf eisio trafod categoreiddio ysgolion a dulliau eraill sydd yna o fesur safonau ysgolion, gan gynnwys arolygiadau Estyn. Sut mae'r system genedlaethol ar gyfer y categoreiddio yn dylanwadau ar y ffordd rydych chi'n herio ac yn cynorthwyo ysgolion?

I want to discuss categorisation of schools and other means of measuring school standards, including Estyn inspections. How does the national school categorisation system influence the way that you challenge and support schools?

Byddwn i'n dechrau drwy ddweud bod y system yn cynnig rhyw fath o feincnod cychwynnol inni sicrhau bod holl ysgolion y rhanbarth yn cael y ddarpariaeth sydd ei hangen i wella beth bynnag yw'r agwedd benodol o welliant ar y pryd. Dwi'n ymwybodol bod nifer o sgyrsiau addas iawn yn cymryd lle ar hyn o bryd i ystyried addasiadau i'r model yn bellach, mireinio agweddau, cryfhau trywydd y gwaith. Ond, yn sicr, o'n safbwynt ni, mae'r cyswllt rhwng ein hymgynghorwyr her a'r ysgolion yn barhaus, felly mae'r broses o dymor yr hydref yn cael ei neilltuo—rhan sylweddol—ar gyfer y broses yma—efallai nad oes angen hynny'n gyfan gwbl, achos trwy'r flwyddyn, mae agweddau'r categori yn cael eu trafod, eu trin. Hynny yw, yn syml iawn, mewn brawddeg Saesneg: it's not a one-stop shop event. Mae e'n digwydd yn barhaus trwy'r flwyddyn academaidd, trwy'r ymgynghorwyr her sydd â bys ar y pwls yn ddiddiwedd.

I would start by saying that the system offers an initial benchmark for us to ensure that all schools in the region have the provision that they need to improve, whichever specific aspect of improvement they need at the time. I'm aware that a number of appropriate conversations are taking place at present to consider further adaptations to the model, to refine aspects of it and to strengthen the format and the pathway of the work. But, certainly, from our perspective, the link between our challenge advisers and the schools is ongoing, and so the process in the autumn term is for it to be set aside, to a great degree, for this process. Perhaps we do not need that entirely, because, throughout the year, aspects of the categorisation are discussed. That is, in a simple English sentence: it's not a one-stop shop event. It happens on an ongoing basis throughout the academic year, through the challenge advisers who always have their finger on the pulse.

Mae'n debyg y byddwn i'n dweud ei bod yn broses gafodd ei sefydlu sawl blwyddyn yn ôl erbyn hyn, a bwriad y broses oedd penderfynu beth oedd natur a maint y gefnogaeth addysgol unigol sydd ei hangen. Pan ydych chi'n edrych yn lleol i ni, er enghraifft, roedd y model o ran dyddiau yn cynnig rhywbeth fel 83 y cant ar gyfer y cynradd, 2 y cant ar gyfer arbennig a 15 y cant i'r uwchradd. Felly, mae'r model, os ydych chi'n ysgol fach gynradd dau athro neu'r ysgol uwchradd fwyaf—os ydych chi'n un lliw, dyna ydy'r dyraniad. Felly, rydyn ni wedi symud yn sylweddol oddi wrth y model dyrannu yna, oherwydd mynd yn ôl angen—y gefnogaeth mae ysgolion ei hangen yn hytrach na beth mae'r broses gategoreiddio yn ei ddweud.

Rydw i'n meddwl mai beth sydd wedi esblygu hefyd yn y broses gategoreiddio—mae wedi cael ei gweld fel bathodyn ansawdd, yn hytrach na beth ydy natur y gefnogaeth mae ysgol ei hangen a dwi'n meddwl bod yn rhaid inni ysgaru'r ddau beth. Nid bathodyn ansawdd ydy hi yn sylweddol, oherwydd, ar ei gwaethaf, mae'r broses—oherwydd tymor diwethaf daeth y broses i ben, felly roedden ni'n cynnig categori ar gyfer ysgol. Mae'r ysgolion yn croesawu'r gefnogaeth ond nid ydynt yn croesawu—dibynnu beth ydy'r dyfarniad o liw sy'n mynd efo hi ar y diwedd. Rydw i'n meddwl bod angen gwahanu'r ddau beth.

Mae'n rhaid inni ofyn y cwestiwn erbyn hyn hefyd: pa mor gynaliadwy ydy'r fath yna o drefn? Y pwynt mae Andi'n ei wneud—mae staff yn yr ysgolion yn gyson ac yn aml, ac nid y broses yna sydd yn penderfynu beth mae ysgol ei angen. Rydyn ni'n ymweld â hwnnw'n gyson iawn, iawn. Felly, nid un digwyddiad sy'n penderfynu ydy o. Mae yna gynlluniau gwella o gwmpas yr ysgolion ac mae'r rheini yn cael eu hadolygu yn ôl yr angen ac fel mae pethau yn newid. Felly, os ydych chi'n edrych ar y fframwaith ar hyn o bryd, mae'n debyg os—rydyn ni’n gwestiynau'r 'os'—yw'n parhau, yna mae'n rhaid ichi edrych hefyd ar ba mor barod ydy ysgolion ar gyfer y daith ddiwygio sydd yna. Mae hwnnw yn ystod newydd o dystiolaeth sydd angen ei ystyried, oherwydd mae y diwygiadau mawr ym maes anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, y cwricwlwm ac asesu ac yn y blaen, mae'r rheini—. Lle'r oedd y gorwel yn eithaf pell rai blynyddoedd yn ôl, mae'n eithaf agos i ni erbyn hyn yn ogystal.

Dwi'n meddwl mai un camgymeriad arall mae pobl yn ei wneud ydy trio edrych ar beth mae Estyn yn ei osod fel dyfarniad, a beth yw'r gefnogaeth y mae ysgol ei hangen, ac mae'n rhaid i bobl sylweddoli eu bod nhw'n ddau beth hollol wahanol.

I would say that it is a process that was established many years ago now, and the intention of the process was to decide what the nature and size of support for a school is needed. When you look at a local level, for us, for example, the model in terms of days offered something such as 83 per cent for a primary, 2 per cent for a special and 15 per cent for a secondary. So, the model, if you're a small primary school with two teachers or the largest secondary school—if you were the same colour, that was the allocation. So, we've moved significantly away from that allocation model, going on the support required by schools rather than what the categorisation process is saying.

I think what has evolved in the categorisation process is that it's been something regarding quality, rather than the nature of the support that a school requires. I think we have to divorce those two things. It isn't a badge of quality substantially; at its worst, it's a process—last term, the process came to an end, where we provided a category for the school. The schools welcome the support, but they don't welcome—depending on the judgment of colour that goes along with it at the end. I think there is a need to separate those two issues.

We have to ask the question now also: how sustainable is that kind of system? The point that Andi is making—staff are in schools consistently, and it's not that process that decides what a school requires. We visit them very consistently, so it's not one event that decides that. There are improvement plans around the schools and those are reviewed according to need and as things change. So, if you're looking at the framework currently, if—I would question the 'if'—it continues, you have to look also at how ready schools are for the reform journey. There is a new range of evidence that needs to be considered, because these large reforms in additional learning needs, the curriculum and assessment and so forth—. Where the horizon was quite far some years ago, it's now quite close to us.

I think one other mistake that people make is to try to look at what Estyn gives as a judgment and what support a school needs, and people have to realise that they're two different things.

10:50

Ond maen nhw'n cyd-fynd, gan amlaf, onid ydyn?

But they do correlate generally, don't they?

Fedrwch chi ddadlau ar y ddau ben, Siân, mae'n debyg—y ddau ben eithaf. Dwi'n cymysgu fy lliwiau, fel mae hi, ond mae'r gwyrdd ar un pen a'r coch ar y pen arall, ac mae hwnna'n reit absoliwt, onid ydy? Ond mae'r darnau yn y canol—. Dwi'n meddwl bod honno'n neges beryg iawn, os ydy pobl jest yn gweld lliw ansawdd ac arolwg Estyn. Os ydych chi'n gofyn beth ydy'r ateb, dwi'n meddwl ei bod yn bryd inni ailedrych ar adroddiad blynyddol i rieni. Mae rhieni yn cael adroddiad blynyddol, ac mae'n statudol i lywodraethwyr ei rannu. Os ydych chi'n edrych yn ôl, nid ydyn ni wedi ailedrych ar hwnna ers tua 2011 yn statudol. Mae cymaint wedi newid mewn degawd o amser—ydy'r gofynion am adrodd i rieni'r un fath rŵan ag yr oedden nhw naw mlynedd yn ôl? Yr ateb y buaswn i'n ei ddweud ydy 'na'. Mae yna bethau ychwanegol angen eu gwneud, ac rydyn ni'n gwybod, mae'n debyg, fod rhai rhieni yn edrych ar y lliw yna fel dangosydd i ba ysgol maen nhw eisiau hanfon eu plentyn. Os ydyn ni'n gallu cael naratif cliriach yn y grynodeb o'r adroddiad blynyddol, sydd yn cael ei gyhoeddi ar wefannau ysgolion, mi fyddai rhieni yn cael darlun mwy cyfansawdd o beth ydy ansawdd yr ysgol ar adeg benodol mewn amser.

Yes, the two extremes—I'm mixing up my colours here, but you have green at one end and red at the other end, and that's absolute, isn't it? But the bits in the middle—. I think that's a very dangerous message, if people just look at the colour and quality, and the Estyn inspection. If you ask what the answer is, I think it's time for us to revisit the annual report for parents. Parents have an annual report, and it's statutory for governors to share it. If you look back, we have not revisited that since about 2011. So much has changed in a decade of time. Are the requirements for an annual report for parents now the same as nine years ago? I would say 'no'. Something in addition needs to be done, and we know that some parents look at that colour as an indicator regarding which school they're going to send their child to. But if we could have a clearer narrative, and a summary in an annual report that's published on school websites, the parents would have a more complete picture of the quality of the school at a specific period of time.

A'r awgrym gan y ddau—wel, un o'r consortia eraill—oedd efallai fod y cynllun datblygu ysgol—petai hwnna'n rhan o'r adroddiad i rieni, neu wybodaeth am hwnnw, byddai hwnna'n rhoi gwell ddarlun. Ond mae gennych chi dal y sefyllfa bod yna fathodyn ansawdd gan Estyn beth bynnag, felly. Oes angen y ddau, mewn ffordd?

And the suggestion from one of the other consortia was that maybe the school development plan could be part of the report for parents, and that that could provide a better picture. But you still have a situation where there is a badge of quality from Estyn, anyway. So, do we need the two things?

Mae gan Estyn rôl, onid oes, o arolygu pob ysgol yn ei thro? Mae yn ddigwyddiad o fewn y cylch chwe blynedd y mae Estyn yn ymweld ag ysgol. Mae'n debyg mai beth ydy'r broses gategoreiddio ydy, ble bynnag mae'r ysgol ar unrhyw bwynt mewn amser, gweld beth ydy'r gefnogaeth sydd ganddi hi i fod yn ysgol dda neu well. Mae'r ddau beth yn wahanol.

Estyn has a role, hasn't it, of inspecting every school in turn? It is an event in the six-year cycle that Estyn visits a school. The categorisation system, wherever the school is at any point in time, is to see what the support is for a school to be a good school or a better school. The two issues are different.

Ond efallai y byddai rhieni yn fwy tebygol o edrych ar adroddiad Estyn, a'r categori yna, ac mae hwnna hyd yn oed yn fwy amrwd na chategoreiddio ysgolion. Felly, os ydyn ni'n mynd i newid categoreiddio ysgolion, mae'n debyg bod eisiau newid system Estyn hefyd.

But maybe parents would be more likely to look at the Estyn report, and that category, and that is even more raw than the school categorisation. So, perhaps if we're going to change the school categorisation we probably need to change Estyn as well.

Os ydych chi'n gwrando ar beth oedd y prif arolygydd yn ei ddweud, mae Estyn yn mynd i flwyddyn—beth bynnag ydy'r term am y flwyddyn nesaf; blwyddyn 7, blwyddyn drawsnewid, neu beth bynnag ydy'r term—yn dilyn hynny, maen nhw'n sôn am fynd i arolygiadau heb roi dyfarniadau i mewn, ac wedyn i system arolygu sydd yn system hunanwella. Mi fedrwch chi ddadlau, yn y drefn hunanwella yna, ein bod ni'n ffurfioli adroddiad blynyddol ar ysgol, sydd yn cael—beth bynnag ydy'r term Cymraeg—ei seinio ffwrdd gan bartneriaid i ddweud, 'Dyma yn union le mae'r ysgol', ac yn cael ei gyhoeddi ar wefan yr ysgol sydd yn nodi wedyn, 'Dyma ydy cryfderau'r ysgol. Dyma le mae angen gwella'—bod y naratif yn un cyson. Oherwydd mae arolwg pob chwe blynedd—mae ysgol yn gallu newid yn eithaf sydyn yn y cyfnod yna. Mi fedrwch chi gael adroddiad sydd i'r ddau begwn, un ai'n dda iawn neu yn wael, ond byddai'r ysgol wedi newid yn sylweddol yn y cyfnod yna hefyd. Felly, mae cadw'r rhieni yn gyfredol—byddai angen ailedrych ar yr adroddiad hynny.

If you look at what the chief inspector was saying, Estyn is going to year—whatever the term is for next year; year 7, a transformational year, or whatever the term is for next year—following that, they're talking about going to inspections without judgments, and then into a system of self-improvement. You could argue, in that self-improvement system, that we formalise an annual report on a school, which is—whatever the Welsh term is—signed off by partners saying, 'This is exactly where the school is', and that that's published on the school website, showing, 'These are the strengths of the school. This is where there's room for improvement', so that narrative is consistent. Because a six-year inspection—a school can change quite suddenly in that period of time. You could have a report at the two extremes, it could be very good, or bad, but the school could have changed during that term as well. To keep parents up to date—maybe the report would need revisiting.

Prosesau cyfathrebu sydd yn fy meddwl i a meddwl am yr awgrym yna ynglŷn â'r cynllun datblygu ysgol. Mae yna arfer bresennol ardderchog, rhagorol, gydag ysgolion lle mae'r cynnwys yna yn cael ei rannu trwy nosweithiau i rieni, llywodraethwyr ac yn y blaen. Felly, dyna'r math o beth, dyna'r cyfathrebu, dyna'r negeseuon allweddol sydd yn rhoi blas i gymunedau o beth yw safon cynnwys perfformiad ysgol, efallai bach yn fwy na lliw ar safwe.

Communication processes—that's what's in my mind. I'm thinking about the school development plan. There is excellent practice in schools where that content is shared through parents' evenings and governors and so forth. So, that's the kind of thing, that's the communication, and those are the key messages that give a flavour to the community of the quality of the content of performance of a school, perhaps more than a colour on a website.

Yes, and it's about this relationship as well. We've had categorisation for four years, maybe five—I can't quite remember myself. By now, would we not be expecting Estyn reports to be showing better results? Because if we've been having categorisation to help support schools and get that support, it would be a surprise to me now for Estyn to be producing lots of 'adequates' as the results of the schools, because, surely, they should have been identified by now as needing support and have had it.

10:55

I think we have the clear evidence that, over time, those that did need additional support have improved. I can't pull the statistics from my head now, but most definitely I'm certain every consortium could go back to the ranch and put that together. There's definitely an improvement journey there. However, the very nature of what we deal with does fluctuate, as cohorts fluctuate, as staffing teams fluctuate. There are a lot of issues in that conversation around schools needing additional support. So, I wouldn't be wholly sure, personally, that we haven't been able to evidence impact and improvement. I actually think the opposite, I think we have. But I would be foolish not to confirm that we still have areas—specific schools, specific elements of our provision—that obviously are requiring a further improvement, hence the reform programme. That's what all the revised curriculum is driving towards.

Okay. Thank you. We've got some specific questions now on schools causing concern, from Dawn Bowden.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. To what extent do you think there's a clear enough understanding of what's meant by schools causing concern? We've heard that the very wide-ranging definition, if you like, makes it more difficult. So, what criteria do you use in each of your regional areas?  

I would agree that I think there is confusion around the term, and it's a little bit of a clunky phrase to use. We operate a system where we have different categories in our school performance teams. With our senior challenge advisers, we meet on a half-termly basis and undertake a school performance team meeting, which gives the opportunity for those locally based senior challenge advisers—a slightly different model to the other three consortia, but that's how it works in ERW—and we can then put on the table any areas of early identification, any signs of concern, or can we put a package in, a specific measure to support a given school. The 'schools causing concern' bit for us is then more deeply around a school that, potentially, may have had a local authority using its powers or is in special measures for significant improvement. Those sorts of issues would define more for us that term 'schools causing concern'.

Okay, so do you—. Sorry, I'm interrupting there. Do you have a specific criteria, or is it more a sense of you see what's coming back from the school from your regular interface with them, and then you say, 'This is causing us a bit of concern'? Is it more like that?

There's an element of a matrix, because of the matrix we use to support the work around our core support visit 1, which drives the national categorisation. So, we always have that as a reference point, but it's not a scientific, academic exercise, it's about ongoing contact and feedback from the challenge adviser and the school. And that climate, that culture, needs to be one of great openness and transparency, obviously. Because not many schools, possibly, historically, would feel, 'Well, I'm going to share this with Andi and it's going to put me into a category or it's going to make me red.' That's quite a challenge. That's the direction of the current reform across the board, to try and create a more trusting environment across all the partners that we work with. I know we're going to talk about the middle tier later on. That's the drive we have to achieve, the goal we have to achieve. Then, we can really be sure that we're using the same terminology nationally to define these key pieces. We have schools causing concern, for example, that have improvement panels in place with governors sitting around the table—parent governors, chair of governors, et cetera, et cetera—and local authority input. All those elements are absolutely crucial to ensure success.  

It's a similar approach. But the nub of your question is: I think the label is too broad. What we've done for our own local benefit is break it down into four categories—the strong schools that need some support to move forward, and working the way through. Now, going back to Siân's question, which was the red schools are the schools in special measures, I wouldn't say those are schools that are causing concern—those are a concern. The cause of concern is the preventative stuff. How do we identify those early enough, and the mechanisms to do that—I think that's the key challenge.

There's a model that the Department for Education produced, by David Carter, going back a few years, that plots the improvement journey for schools. You've got the ones that are bobbling around the bottom, you've got those who are rapid improvers, rapid decline—so there are several elements there. I think it's important to know the particular journey that the school is on. 

Now, what we've got in place as a local mechanism is what we call the local authority quality board. We've got staff who are—. We've got a core lead for primary and a core lead for secondary for each of the local authorities, and they meet on a fortnightly basis with the local authority. So, the concerns could be—. It's information sharing about: are there schools that are causing concern? But I think the main messages there are to share—the local authority, from the finance, human resources and the managerial side, ourselves sharing from the school improvement—and then being clear what the plan is. The whole philosophy is to get the prevention before the slippage—

11:00

So, you'd have some key data that you would use, presumably, but it's more a process of work with the schools from an early stage. 

I think Andi's earlier point, around the categorisation—we're in schools on a regular basis. I think the first characteristic of schools causing concern is the leadership, and what the leadership is actually doing and identifying the strengths around the leadership, especially in secondary schools— senior management and middle management is key in the first instance. We've got information about the quality of teaching and the quality of provision, which is the curriculum they offer, and then the outcomes. 

Now, what we've got to be really—. This is where we've got to use that information. That qualitative stuff is extremely important, because the impact on the data has a lag effect all the time. So, when you're improving the school, the last thing that's improving is the outcomes for the learners coming through. And this is similar in the decline, so the decline for the pupils will come through later. So, the ability to capture that early enough, I think, is the key. So, going back to the—

So, you're not just focusing on performance and exam results and all that.

It's got to be a wider suite, because we're actually then in the searching bit of—

I understand that. Can I ask you both how many schools in your regions you've got in the two statutory categories? 

In ERW, we have five schools in significant improvement, and the breakdown there is three secondary, two primary. And then we have five in special measures—two secondary, three primary. 

It just happens to be at the moment that's the balance: five and five.

We have nine in the statutory categories—two primary, seven secondary. 

Okay. So, would you both say in general terms that improvement in secondary schools is of greater concern for you than primary? 

Yes. Improving performance in key stage 4 is our main priority. What's interesting this year—. I know you've got a question about the aggregation of data, and so on. I think we need to be clearer on what constitutes success, because we've tried to measure it in the past by the level 2 plus. We've had several conversations around this table on that very narrow focus around that C/D borderline. What we've seen this year is schools with a capped nine offer, offering a wider curriculum is those schools, outperforming those who had narrowed their curriculum to the level 2 plus. 

So, I think we need to get a better balance of qualitative and attainment data that captures schools in the round, because if you're looking at our lowest-performing schools, attainment wise, they're doing a lot of qualitative work around well-being of their learners, which we actually don't capture in that attainment data effectively enough. So, again, getting that holistic picture to get that accurate judgment.

What we are refining more and more is we've got to map each individual's journey, so capturing the progress of each individual to capture a school level is really key in going forward, rather than going for that global—and then benchmarking and, as we used to do in the previous years, quartiling that level 2 plus. Even if the whole system moved 10 per cent, it always had 25 per cent in the lowest quartile all the time. So, we measure. 

We've got a couple of supplementaries. Before I bring the supplementary questions in, can you just break down for us the schools, in the same way as ERW did, in terms of which category and whether secondary or primary, please?

11:05

Yes. We've got one primary in both categories. So, one in significant improvement, one in special measures. And in secondary—my maths is terrible here, I'm counting on two hands. [Laughter.] One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. So, it's three in significant improvement, four in special measures.

There are four secondary schools in special measures, three in significant improvement. One primary in significant improvement, one in special measures.

Right, okay. Thank you. You had supplementaries, Siân, then Suzy.

Sut mae'r cyhoedd efo sicrwydd bod yna gysondeb ynglŷn â'r ysgolion sydd mewn gwahanol gategorïau? Hynny yw, sut ydym ni'n gwybod eich bod chi yn GwE ddim yn fwy—beth ydy'r gair—cadarn o ran gosod mewn mesurau arbennig, neu o ran yr ysgolion sydd angen gwella, o gymharu efo chi? Lle mae'r fframwaith cenedlaethol yma'n dod mewn iddo fo?

How does the public have assurance that there is consistency in terms of the schools that are in different categories? That is, how do we know that you in GwE aren't more—what's the word—robust in terms of putting schools in special measures, or in terms of the schools that need improvement, compared with you? Where is that national framework?

Mae yna ddau beth yn fanna: o ran y categoreiddio, mae gennym ni broses genedlaethol lle rydym ni'n cymedroli'n lleol, rydym ni wedyn yn cael cymedroli allanol gyda'r rhanbarthau eraill, ac wedyn mae'r pedwar rhanbarth, efo'r Llywodraeth, yn eistedd rownd y bwrdd i gael y cysondeb cenedlaethol yn fanna. Estyn sy'n gosod yr ysgolion yn y categorïau yna, ac wedyn—mae hwnna’n genedlaethol—mae'r cysondeb mewnol, ai peidio, yn fanna.

There are two things there: in terms of the categorisation, we have a national process, so we moderate locally, and then we have external moderating, and then all the four regions, with the Government, sit around the table and have that national consistency there. Estyn places the schools in those categories, and then—that is national—the internal consistency, or not, is there.

Does yna ddim dadl dros gael un asiantaeth, y pedwar consortia yn un ond yn gweithredu'n rhanbarthol, er mwyn cael y cysondeb yna?

Isn't there an argument for having one agency, the four consortia in one but operating regionally, to have that consistency?

Efallai, i ryw raddau, fel yna y mae hi, achos rŷm ni fel cyfarwyddwyr—er fy mod i dros dro—mae cyfarwyddwyr yn cwrdd yn aml. Rŷm ni'n cyd-drafod yr holl faterion yma gyda phartneriaid eraill. Mae'r gwaith ar yr haen ganol yn cynnwys, fel rŷch chi'n gwybod, y Llywodraeth, Estyn, ac yn y blaen. Felly, mae'r datblygiadau diweddaraf, dwi'n teimlo, yn cefnogi trywydd eich cwestiwn i sicrhau na fyddai rhieni yn Llangollen yn wahanol i rieni yn Llanelli. Ac mae'r broses o'r cymedroli yna, y gweithdrefnau sydd gyda ni, yn achosi hefyd i gydweithwyr deithio o'r gogledd i’r de, dwyrain ac ar draws. Rydym ni yn cyfnewid swyddogion, sydd yn bositif iawn.

Maybe, to a certain extent, that's as it is, because as directors—even though I am interim—we meet often. We discuss all the issues with other partners. The work in the middle tier, as you know, includes the Government and Estyn and so forth. So, the most recent developments do support the thrust of your question to ensure that parents in Llangollen wouldn't be any different to parents in Llanelli, for example. The process of moderation and the procedures that we have do cause workers to move from north to south and across. We do interchange officials, which is very positive.

Un o'r pethau, yn y cyfnod dwi wedi bod yn y swydd, ydy cymaint yn agosach mae'r pedwar rhanbarth yn gweithio efo'i gilydd. Yn aml iawn, mae gennym ni wedi'i gytuno'n genedlaethol ond yn cael ei ddelifro'n lleol. Felly, mae hynny gyda ni ar sawl elfen sylfaenol o'r gwaith. Mae gennym ni raglenni arweinyddiaeth wedi'u cytuno ar y cyd. Rydym ni rŵan yn gweithio ar sut rydym ni'n cefnogi ysgolion o dan y daith ddiwygio o ran y cwricwlwm. Unwaith eto, yr un arlwy genedlaethol ond yn cael ei gweithredu'n lleol yw'r elfen yna hefyd.

One of the things, in the period that I've been in post, is how closer the four regions are working together. Quite often, we have an agreement nationally that's being delivered locally. We have that on a number of levels of the work that we do. We have leadership programmes we've agreed jointly. We're now working on how we support schools on the curriculum reform journey. That's also the same national provision, but being delivered locally.

The final question from me, Chair, is just in relation to Schools Challenge Cymru and whether any of the schools in your regions were involved in that. Have you noticed any difference in performance since the end of that programme with those particular schools?

We had a very small cohort—four schools—involved and certainly the key messages coming from it would be the focus on using specialist expertise; having colleagues who are able to work one to one with schools in a specific given area was very beneficial. That, I feel, is replicated through the current work that we do. I think also the recognition clearly that—however challenged the school may appear, however red, special measures or whatever title it has—within that school community we have to respect that there could well be, and very often is, a pocket of good, excellent practice, and we always want to make sure we take advantage of that.

I think the 'culture' word is the crucial one there as well. We learned that through the work undertaken across Schools Challenge Cymru. Creating the right culture to ensure improvement across the school community is your bedrock; that's your starting point. So, lots of those early messages I think replicate themselves now through our peer review work and school-to-school models. There's an ongoing theme, clearly, there.

11:10

I would say so. I would say so—definitely.

We were very similar, because, between us, we had less than a quarter of the schools, so you could actually—. From the resource perspective, we had a very small slice of the cake, as Schools Challenge Cymru. Lessons learnt: you can't do it in isolation, the one person doing the challenge; challenge on its own doesn't improve schools, it's what happens after that debate and discussion, it's the process in going forward. I had some particular elements regarding the accelerated improvement board and I think a lot of the local authorities adopted those in going forward as positive mechanisms. Sustainability—in our region it was minimal. I think you heard from colleagues earlier, the greatest success came in central south, I would say, from the regional perspective. What we are seeing very clearly is the way the Welsh Government are working now in partnership with Estyn, the local authority and ourselves with the schools sitting around the table, having all the agents sitting around the table on the analysis and the identification, but also on what needs to be done to improve, I think the green shoots in that are everybody on the same page, no mixed messages, clarity for the leadership in the school, and then being clear who does what to take them forward.

I just wanted to add, if I may, I think the main process that we felt came out of it—and again, it's one that's an ongoing theme and a central theme for all work nationally—is that self-evaluation process is undertaken in a very open and transparent manner. Easy words to say in any form of meeting, but to actually operate that across a school community, particularly a large secondary school, is not easy work, but that's the work that gets you the ongoing, sustainable improvement, for sure.

And I think, just going back to where you started the questioning as well, we need to be really clear what we want in the system, because if the purpose of moving a school that's causing concern is just to get them out of an Estyn category, the danger is that you put all the effort in to tick all the right boxes and to jump those hoops, and then everybody relaxes and then it's not sustained; your foot comes off the peddle, and everybody relaxes, 'Thank God, we won't see them again for a few years.'

But the reality of it is it's far easier in primary—you're talking about a small number of people who actually need support to move forward. In secondary, you're talking large numbers and that's a process that takes longer. You'll have good pockets and you'll have average pockets. So, the secondary school is a large beast to move from the depth of special measures to be a sustained, improving school. 

So, part of the key to that is identifying them early. I don't know whether you're aware, but Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education and Training said to this committee a couple of years ago that he didn't think that underperforming schools were identified early enough. Do you think that that isn't the case now? Do you think that that has improved and that you're able to more readily identify an underperforming school early enough to be able to get in there and start to make the changes?

I think we know the schools very well. There's a balance at times of where you put your resources because you can see early signs of, 'Are things as effective as they could be?' Trying to arrest any decline is where to put your resources, but at the same time, you've got learners in the weakest of schools that need the better deal. So, it's a juggling act on resources, and with declining resources, that’s a competing dialogue that we have on a regular basis.

I would echo that. Again, it's one of the reasons ERW put in place its school performance team, which is the link between the local authority-based challenge advisers and the central team, to have that early identification process. I don't think any system is a perfect answer, but at least taking note of what the chief inspector said at that point, people are realising, 'Yes, of course, we don't want to wait for the cure bit, let’s do the prevention bit, let's do the early work, if we have the capacity to do it.' 

I think the last bit of it as well—. I think the major lesson from Schools Challenge Cymru is that if you really need to make sustained improvements you've got to work with teachers in the classroom. That's where the actual difference is. We can improve the systems and how well you evaluate and how well you plan, but the real nitty-gritty of it is getting into the classroom, working with the teachers and modelling. That's the thing that actually accelerates improvements for the learners. 

11:15

Thank you. I will be asking you some questions about this aggregated key stage 4 data, but I just wanted to come back to something that Arwyn mentioned when speaking to Dawn, and the interim measures—you know, the capped 9 points score and so forth. Bearing in mind the problems that we had with the C/D boundary before, so I can understand your concerns about that, at least that data was understandable to the world outside. What we've got at the moment is a range of points that will mean nothing to parents, I suspect, even though they might be useful internally. They seem to be predicated on best scores, whereas at least with GCSEs, the modules are all added up and you had an average score, effectively. Do you know why the best scores are now being used to help identify pupil attainment, rather than the averages within the GCSEs?

I'm not sure I understand the question.

Well, if you have a GCSE, it'll be done over three exams, for example, and your final score is an average of those three exams, speaking broadly, isn't it? Whereas, this strikes me that you're allowed to just rely on the best of those three exams in a given discipline to justify a good score for your school. 

We've got a variety of—

It looks a little bit like inflation, if you can see where I'm coming from.

We're between systems; we're between processes; and we're between cultures—and I'm sorry I'm using that word an awful lot, but I think that really is what the conversation is about. We would certainly take the approach that performance data, whether it's best grade, APW, whatever element it is, it's there and it's used appropriately, at the right level and between the right conversations, as part of the right conversations with the right agents in the room.

I personally would not sign up to where we have been with such a focus on comparing local authorities, comparing schools—all that comparative agenda. I think history has shown that it hasn't had the impact—if it was intending to—that you would want to have out of something like that. Hence the drive towards—and I've just come hot foot from one of the initial workshops with local members in partnership with Welsh Government and the WLGA yesterday afternoon in Llandeilo where we had this really enthusing, broad conversation around, 'What should we be reporting?', and, 'How should we be reporting?' And everybody in the room agreed and was signed up to it. We're not saying that we don't collect data; we're not saying that we don't analyse trends, et cetera, et cetera, but we do it in a much more proactive and user-friendly way to ensure that we're creating the right culture in our schools. We have, potentially, through—in the worst-case scenarios—conversations with unions around the pressures on heads of departments to, 'Perform, perform. Get Andy through from that D to that C'. Well, you know, is that the way we should be approaching supporting our young people for their future careers, et cetera?

Can I just butt in? I know all that argument; that's why I said that I understood what was being said. My worry is we've now got a new set of measurements here, and they won't be lasting very long because they're interim measures. I'm looking at your accountability as consortia, and actually, seeing how you compare us against each other is important in holding you to account to see which of you is working better than others and what you can learn from each other. And, at the moment, I've just got a pile of points here that mean nothing to me, quite honestly. 

Okay. I get what you're—. Sorry, I'm a slow learner, you've got to believe me there. [Laughter.]

I mean, I asked you a different question about why we're suddenly talking about best results rather than average results, but I'll move on from that.

Yes, but I think—. There was a joint statement, wasn't there, in July between the Minister, the chief inspector and the WLGA? And we've got to behave to that statement and work within the framework of that statement. It's challenging because it's engrained in us, this comparative data that we've been using for as long as I can remember, having worked in the inspectorate for years as well. It's a safety valve because you've got numbers to—. It's far more challenging to do the qualitative stuff and get to an accurate judgment rather than use the raw numbers. We have tended to think that the raw numbers are actually always accurate, and there's always behind that data—. You're right, I think, in sight of what Siân has questioned earlier, how do we communicate this effectively to the public and to parents—comparing a letter to points? It is complicated, and I think we've got to find ways of better explaining that. It's new to us. What's the difference between 45 points and 40 points? We've got to learn that new language and translate that into something meaningful, and it's challenging. To be fair to our elected members, in the past our elected members would be saying, 'Well, has Gwynedd performed better than Ynys Môn?' or vice versa, and they were quite happy. But now it's looking at the individual schools and learners in the round, and members, to be fair to them, have embraced the messages that have come out of it, but we're all on that journey. And to answer, I think we've got to work out what is a simple narrative to give to parents. 

11:20

I agree with that, and actually I also agree with the point that it's the individual schools and what's happening there that matters. But, for all the crudeness of the existing system, what you got out of the aggregated attainment results was, over a period of time, an opportunity to see how the consortia themselves could demonstrate that they have raised all boats, and the reason I say that is that, even though the focus is on individual schools, the whole process now is about schools working with other schools, leaders raising other leaders, and you would expect in those circumstances to see an overall rise in attainment, however it's measured. By changing the system now, we can't do that anymore, and by getting rid of the aggregated score, crude though it was, we can't now see whether individual consortia have improved, and whether they've improved against each other. Part of this inquiry is about your accountability, and, in fact, one of the questions I want to ask you is about your accountability. 

If you look at the wider system, Suzy, we've just had the PISA results, and you can argue that, like categorisation, like Estyn and like our work, it's another indicator. But it's a positive snapshot of the system in Wales, and that the system has actually moved in three years against all the domains. There has been improvement there. Compared to where we were three years ago, we were split in the middle of the countries; now, we're performing towards the top third. 

Forgive me—I don't know where those results have improved. I just know they've improved in Wales. I don't know whether they've soared in GwE and plummeted in ERW, for example. 

Because the results haven't been published for PISA on a regional basis.

No, we haven't got that level of detail. It would be useful for us. We've got schools who undertook to get to that level. We work together as four regions to support the schools. So it would be interesting for us to see how those schools have actually performed. The other bit that would be interesting for us is how they're actually performing against our categorisation, how they're performing against Estyn, and how they're performing against GCSE results. There are all kinds of those elements there that are extremely important for us to take into account in going forward. 

So, the accountability question is multilayered there, isn't it? Because our accountability—

It's your accountability I'm interested in in this inquiry. Can you just very briefly give us an indication of who you're accountable to, who sets your key performance indicators, how transparent that is and what happens if you don't meet those KPIs? Could you do that in three sentences?

Joint committee. Conversations, obviously, then with—

Sorry—joint committees populated by local authority representatives, yes?

Yes, indeed. The six local authorities have representation there—the lead chief executive, et cetera. So, that's our main driver, and then all of our success criteria are basically set out in the cynllun busnes, the business plan. 

So it's set by the boards rather than by Welsh Government, for example. 

I think the partnership meetings we have with Welsh Government gives certainly plenty of— 

Challenge and review—thank you, Arwyn—and tiers of appropriate, purposeful, constructive discussion that demonstrates its accountability. Our annual evaluation and improvement meeting just held in the autumn term there across the consortia is certainly an accountability process. 

I'm glad you asked the question, Suzy, because it's my hobby horse, this one, because people think we're a nebulous group that isn't accountable. Like Andi, we're formulated on a joint committee of the six local authorities. However, on the last count there was 42 different accountabilities during the report that we had to count out. We have Estyn visiting each of the local authorities three times a year, and ourselves, so there are 21 elements to those. We've been inspected three times in the last three terms, so we've got that level of accountability. We've got then the accountability to local scrutiny and that happens twice a year in each of the six local authorities: one is on performance, one is on what the service is actually providing. So, we've got that level of accountability. We've got two meetings with Welsh Government: one is with the Minister, which is the challenge and review. So, yes, we might have our own plans, but the Minister actually challenges whether they are the right plans. And then, we have a meeting in the summer with Steve Davies and his team, and then a similar challenge and review of the four regions across those.

So, we've got a plethora of people from the outside but, for us, I think the major one of those is the schools themselves. We've got user groups of schools where we take—. We're trying to get this as a bottom-up process: what the schools want as support, bring that into—. Each local authority will have their primary and secondary user group; we'll discuss it there. We'll then have a regional user group. So, it comes all the way up through the system and then we meet with the directors of education, and then we thrash out what is universal to the six, what is pertinent to each single one of the local authorities, and then it's submitted to the joint committee for discussion and approval.

11:25

That's a really helpful answer. Thank you. You haven't answered what happens when it all goes wrong, though.

All of those on top of us. [Laughter.] And we're invited here a couple of times a year as well. So, I think if you can simplify the accountability model, avoiding duplication, because to prepare every time, it takes time away from the core role of the improvement bit as well.

The same model in ERW: regular across the six local authorities, direct scrutiny with their scrutiny committees. We also have an ERW scrutiny councillor group, so we have a combined process as well, so you're not just going to Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire separately. In two weeks' time, there's an occasion where we have a scrutiny session with selected members—nominated members, I beg your pardon—joint together.

I wholly reinforce Arwyn's comments around the accountability to schools, which therefore means our children and our young people, and through our six strategy groups that consist of directors of education, local authority officers, advisory personnel from the central ERW team and headteachers. That's the largest group within those strategy groups. I am absolutely certain we have several appropriate and constructive tiers of accountability. 

That's actually really, really helpful. I hope you don't mind me asking, Andi, because obviously ERW has difficulties at the moment. How do you deal with the situation where you've got one local authority, which happens to be in my region, that wants to be pulling out of ERW, and you have another local authority, Powys, who is delighted that you've able to help them deal with the problems they've been having? You know, huge fans on one hand, people don't like you on the other—not you specifically, obviously. [Laughter.] How does the accountability—? No, I genuinely mean that. How does the accountability process manage that kind of difficulty? How does it help a consortium that finds itself in that sort of difficulty? I'm sorry to use you as the example, but it's the one that's at the forefront of my mind.

I think the mechanisms, the systems of accountability—. Wherever people are in their decision process, the mechanisms drive forward. Monday comes, you open the door, you get on with the job. That's what the team is about, as is the same—absolutely, of course—across all consortia, all schools. That's why we get up in the morning. So, that doesn't worry me. The processes are there, the mechanisms are there and, actually, they could be beneficial because they out any potential misgivings, misunderstandings through that open conversation that you will always have through a scrutiny committee process. So, I think it's business as usual: we drive forward and we get on with the job of supporting our practitioners, who then support our children and young people.

11:30

Gaf i jest ofyn un cwestiwn yn sydyn ar ERW? Dydyn ni ddim wedi cael y dyraniadau yn ôl cynghorau tuag at eich cyllideb chi. Oes posib cael y rheini?

Could I just ask one quick question about ERW? We haven't had any allocations by council towards your budget. Is it possible to have that?

Dim problem o gwbl. Dim problem. Gwnaf drefnu hynny. Diolch. Ymddiheuriadau.

No problem at all. I'll arrange that. Thank you. Apologies for that.

Lovely. Thank you very much. Okay. Well, we've got some questions now from Hefin David.

Ydych chi’n gwbl fodlon nad oes dyblygu a bod synergy effeithiol rhwng gwaith eich consortiwm a’r awdurdodau lleol yn eich rhanbarth o ran gwella ysgolion?

Are you content that there is no duplication and that there is an effective synergy between the work of your consortium and the local authorities in your region regarding school improvement?

Ocê. Gwnaf i ddechrau. Os ydych chi’n edrych ar y daith ddiwygio, mae yna elfennau o’r daith ddiwygio sy’n gofyn y cwestiwn: pwy sydd yn ei arwain hi? Cymerwch, er enghraifft, y trawsnewid anghenion dysgu ychwanegol. Beth rydym ni wedi'i wneud fel rhanbarth, o dan arweiniad y cadeirydd Karen Evans o sir Ddinbych, oedd dod i fyny efo, mwy neu lai, math o dashboard neu windscreen sydd yn adnabod yn glir beth ydy rôl y consortiwm a beth ydy rôl, wedyn, y chwe awdurdod. Ac wedyn, fel rydym ni yn ei ddisgrifio, mae gennym ni gyfrifoldeb universal, sef y plant sydd yn y prif lif yn ein hysgolion ni, yn yr unedau cyfeirio, ysgolion arbennig, ac yn y blaen, ac mi fydden ni’n eu cefnogi nhw ar gyfer ystod o bethau.

Cymerwch anghenion dysgu ychwanegol fel enghraifft, mi fydden ni’n cefnogi'r addysgu, y dysgu, y gwahaniaethu, y mapio ymyrraeth sydd yn yr ysgolion. Pan rydym ni’n mynd i anghenion ychydig bach mwy cymhleth, mae rôl yr awdurdod a’i wasanaethau arbenigol yn mynd i mewn, a rydych chi’n mynd i’r elfen fwy acíwt, wedyn, felly, lle maen nhw’n gweithio yn aml-asiantaethol efo iechyd a gwasanaethau cymdeithasol. Felly, pob tro mae yna rywbeth newydd ar y bwrdd, rydym ni’n cael y drafodaeth ar bwy sy’n gyfrifol am beth. Oherwydd y cyllidebau fel y maen nhw, fedrwn ni ddim fforddio dyblygu, a dyna un o’r rhesymau pam fod gennym ni'r bwrdd ansawdd sirol yma sy’n cyfarfod yn rheolaidd sydd yn pasio gwybodaeth yn ôl ac ymlaen rhwng y rhanbarth a’r awdurdodau unigol fel ein bod ni’n glir pwy sy’n gwneud beth.

Ac os oes yna adegau mewn ambell i faes lle rydym ni’n teimlo ein bod ni angen gweithio ar y cyd—a dyna lle rydym ni wedi symud fwyfwy yn ystod y blynyddoedd diwethaf. Mae’n debyg yn ateb i gwestiwn Dawn yn gynharach: rydym ni eisiau y cynlluniau gwella yma mewn cynlluniau cyfansawdd o gwmpas yr ysgol, sef: beth yn union mae’r ysgol angen ei wneud, ond pwy sy’n cefnogi?Felly, rôl y consortia’n cael ei adnabod yn glir, rôl yr awdurdod yn cael ei adnabod yn glir, wedyn, pan fo’n dod i arfarnu hynny, mae yna arfarnu o effaith y partneriaid i gyd. Felly, ar adegau, heb drio, rydym yn sefyll ar draed y naill a’r llall, ond rydym ni’n cael y drafodaeth o sut mae wedi digwydd.

Cymerwch y Gymraeg, er enghraifft, targed o 1 miliwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg, mae’r cyfrifoldeb am WESPs yn gorwedd yn yr awdurdod, ac mae gennym ni rôl i ddatblygu’r gweithlu ac i weithio yn yr ysgolion. Felly, rydym ni’n gweithio ar hynny ar hyn o bryd: beth yn union ydy rôl pwy wrth symud yr agenda yna yn ei blaen? Felly, pan fo yna agenda newydd, rydym yn gwyntyllu honna yn fanwl fel ei fod yn glir pwy sydd i fod i wneud beth. Felly, rydym ni’n weddol, neu’n fwy na gweddol, rydym ni’n hyderus does yna ddim dyblygu bwriadol yn digwydd rhyngom ni.

Okay. I'll start. If you look at the reform journey, there are elements of the reform journey where they ask the question: who is leading? For example, the transformation of additional learning needs. What we've done as a region, under the leadership of Karen Evans from Denbighshire, we've come up with a dashboard or a windscreen that recognises the role of the consortium and what is the role, then, of of the six authorities. And as we've described, we have universal responsibility for the children in our mainstream schools, in our referral units, in our special schools and so forth, and we will support them on a range of things.

For example, take ALN as an example, we will support the teaching, the learning, the differentiation, the intervention maps in the schools. When we go to perhaps more complex needs, the role of the authority and their specialist services come in, and you then go to an acute level where they do work in a multi-agency approach with health and social services, for example. So, every time there's a new aspect on the table, we have the discussion regarding who's responsible for what. Because of the budgets being as they are, we can't afford to duplicate, and that's one of the reasons that we have this county quality board that meets regularly that passes information back and forth between the region and the individual authorities so that we're clear regarding who is doing what.

And if there are times in certain areas where we feel that we need to work collaboratively—and that's where we've moved more and more in the last few years. And it probably answers Dawn's question earlier: we want to have these improvement plans as part of composite plans around the school regarding exactly what the school needs to do and who is supporting. So, the role of the consortium is recognised clearly, the role of the authority recognised clearly, and then when it comes to evaluate that, there is an evaluation in terms of the impact of all the partners. So, at times, without trying to, we're treading on each other's toes, but we have a discussion about how that happens.

For example, the Welsh language and the aim of 1 million Welsh speakers, the responsibility for WESPs lies within the authority, but we have a role to develop the workforce and work in the schools. So, we're working on that currently: what exactly is the role of whom in moving that agenda forward? So, when there is a new agenda, we air that in a detailed manner so that it's clear regarding who's doing what. So, we're quite confident, more than that, we're confident that there is no intentional duplication between us.

Sefyllfa debyg iawn gydag ERW; y brif elfen yn y fan yna fyddai’r cynllun busnes, achos mae cynllun busnes wedi’i osod mas i ddangos yn glir rolau, dyletswyddau, cyfrifoldebau pob asiant yn y broses. Mae’r cyfarfodydd misol rhwng cyfarwyddwyr ac Andi, te, a swyddogion eraill yn sicrhau bod trafodaethau rheolaidd yn bodoli. Felly, yn aml iawn, nid mater o ddyblygu yw hi ond mater o ffeindio ffordd i gryfhau gwaith ein gilydd er lles y sefyllfa unigol.

Dydw i ddim yn cofio sgwrs ynglŷn â dyblygu ar bethau, ond rwyf yn cofio nifer o sgyrsiau adeiladol iawn: sut allwn ni helpu; oes yna arbenigedd penodol mewn rhyw awdurdod gall gyfrannu at waith tîm canolog ERW? Felly, plethu’r ddwy at ei gilydd, fel roedd Arwyn yn ei ddweud, er mwyn cael y gorau i’r ysgol unigol yw hi.

A very similar situation with ERW; the main element there would be the business plan, because the business plan has been set out to show clearly the roles, duties and responsibilities of every agency in that process. The monthly meetings between directors and Andi, then, and other officials ensure that regular discussions take place. So, very often, it's not an issue of duplication but an issue of finding a way to strengthen each other's work for the benefit of the individual situation.

I don't remember a conversation about duplication, but I do remember a lot of very constructive conversations about how we can help and whether there's specific expertise in an authority that could contribute towards the work of the central team in ERW. So, interweaving those things together, as Arwyn said, in order to get the best results for the individual schools.

Ocê. Felly, beth yw eich dealltwriaeth o'r sefyllfa ddiweddaraf o ran gwaith yr Athro Dylan Jones yn adolygu rôl yr haen ganol?

Okay. So, what's your understanding of the latest position regarding the work of Professor Dylan Jones in reviewing the role of the middle tier?

11:35

Gwaith cyffrous iawn. Rŷn ni wedi bod, fel pob consortiwm, yn rhan o hynny o'r cychwyn cyntaf a'r gynulleidfa eang sydd wedi bod o gwmpas y bwrdd cychwynnol. Yn ddiweddar, rwy'n credu dim ond yr wythnos hon, mae'r is-grŵp wedi cwrdd, felly mae'r gwaith wedi esblygu. Gwnes i ymuno nôl ym mis Medi diwethaf. Yn amlwg, roedd y gwaith wedi cychwyn sbel cyn hynny, ond wrth i fi ymuno ces i flas sydyn o bwrpas y peth: i gydlynu holl ymdrechion pob asiantaeth at wella ansawdd yr ysgolion a'r cynnwys ac yn y blaen. Mae'r penderfyniad, rwy'n credu, yn ddiweddar i ddosrannu hynny i'r is-grŵp yn bositif iawn, achos yn aml iawn, fel mewn unrhyw sefydliad, os oes yna ormod o bobl yn yr ystafell anodd yw hi weithiau i ddreifio ymlaen gyda'r prif bethau rydych chi eisiau datblygu. Felly, rydw i'n ei groesawu'n fawr iawn, a dwi'n ymwybodol yn barod fod ysgolion yn pigo lan ar, os caf i ddefnyddio'r gair, vibes sydd yn dod allan ohono, yn croesawu'r ffaith bod yna fwy o eglurdeb a sicrhad o rôl pob un ohonom ni yn y broses cefnogi darpariaeth a gwella ysgolion.

Very exciting work. As every consortium has, we've been a part of that from the initial stage and the broad audience that has been around the initial table. Recently, I think only this week, the sub-group has met, so the work has evolved. I joined in September. The work had started long before that, but as I joined, I had an immediate flavour of the purpose of this in terms of co-ordinating all of the efforts of each agency towards improvement of the quality of schools and the content and so forth. The decision, recently, to allocate that to the sub-group is very positive, because often, as in any organisation, if there are too many people in the room, it's very difficult to press ahead with the main things you want to develop. So, I welcome that greatly, and I'm aware already that schools are picking up on the vibes—if I can use that word—from this, and they welcome the fact that there's more clarity and assurance about the role of everyone in the process of supporting provision and improving schools.

Sut gallai hyn effeithio ar ddarparu gwasanaeth gwella ysgolion yn y dyfodol?

How could this affect the provision or delivery of school improvement services in the future?

Mae'n mynd i wneud ac mae'n gorfod gwneud. Yn y cyfnod byr—mae'n mynd mynd yn dair blynedd ers pan ydw i yn y rôl yma, mae'r academi genedlaethol yn newydd, mae yna rôl fwy gweithredol gan y prifysgolion hyfforddiant cychwynnol athrawon yn y gyfundrefn. Rydyn ni wedi cael adroddiad gan Graham Donaldson ar yr arolygaeth sy'n dysgu. Mae gan y rheini i gyd oblygiadau a'r peryg o fod pobl yn gweld yr angen i gefnogi ysgolion, ac os ydyn nhw'n gweld bwlch, mae pawb eisiau llenwi'r bwlch. Felly, mae'r gwaith mae'r Athro Dylan Jones yn arwain arno fo yn mynd i fod yn allweddol yn fanna i fod yn glir beth yn union ydy rôl pawb. Mae yna bethau yn mynd i orfod newid a bydd yna benderfyniadau anodd ar y diwedd, a buasen ni'n rhagweld bydd angen i ambell i asiantaeth, gan gynnwys ni'n hunain o bosib, i adlewyrchu ac edrych arno fo.

Pan oeddem ni yma o'r blaen, pan oeddech chi'n edrych ar y cyllid, hwnna ydy dechrau'r datrysiad ar gyfer cael mwy o effaith ar y cyllid yn y gyfundrefn addysg yma yng Nghymru. Felly, gwneud yn siŵr bod yna rôl glir i nifer o'r asiantaethau yna. Beth sydd wedi digwydd dros amser, efallai, ydy bod cylch gorchwyl ambell i un ohonyn nhw wedi ymestyn ac wedyn fod yna bobl yn dawnsio ar fat y naill a'r llall o bosib.

It's going to do in the future, and it has to. Since the short period of time—in the three years since I've been in this role, the national academy is new, there is a more active role for the initial teacher training universities in the system. We've had a report from Graham Donaldson on the learning inspectorate. Those all have implications and the danger of people seeing the need to support schools and if they see a gap, everybody wants to fill that gap. So, the work that Professor Dylan Jones is leading on is going to be key in that to be clear what exactly is the role of everybody. There are things that are going to have to change and there are going to be difficult decisions at the end, and we would foresee that there'll be a need for some agencies, including ourselves, possibly, to reflect and look at that.

But to go back to when we were here before, when you were looking at finance, that is the start of the solution to have more impact on the funding in the education system here in Wales. So, it's about ensuring there is a clear role for a number of those agencies. What's happened over time, perhaps, is that the remit of some of them has broadened out and then people are dancing on each other's mats, perhaps.

Yn dilyn o hynna, roeddech chi'n sôn am efallai bod eisiau mireinio beth mae pob asiantaeth yn ei wneud, bod angen cael gwared ar ambell i asiantaeth. Oes yna ormod o gyrff gwahanol? Efallai ddim eich lle chi ydy dweud hyn, ond buasai'n ddiddorol cael—o'ch profiadau chi mewn ffordd.

Following on from that, you were talking about the possible need to refine what each agency is doing, that there might be a need to get rid of some agencies. Are there too many different bodies? Maybe it's not your place to say this, but it would be interesting to hear your experiences.

Mae'n gwestiwn twrcis a 'Dolig, Siân. [Chwerthin.]

It's a question of turkeys and Christmas, Siân. [Laughter.]

Wel, nid chi efallai, ond asiantaeth arall. [Chwerthin.]

Well, maybe not you, but another agency. [Laughter.]

Mae pob agwedd o fywyd yn esblygu, on'd ydy? Yn sicr, mae addysg yn gyfarwydd iawn â newid ac esblygiad, felly dwi'n croesawu'n wresog iawn y fformat, y trafodaethau manwl sydd yn mynd ymlaen ac rwy'n credu y bydd gwaith yr is-grŵp yn allweddol wrth wyntyllu pa agweddau pellach sydd eisiau eu haddasu. A bod pawb yn barod i wneud yn iachus, ontefe?

Every aspect of life evolves, doesn't it? Certainly, education is very familiar with change and evolution, so I do warmly welcome the format of the detailed discussions that are going on and I think that the work of the sub-group will be vital in terms of airing the further aspects that need to be adapted, and that everyone is willing to do that.

Os ydym ni jest yn edrych arnom ni'n hunain, mae'n rôl ni wedi newid mewn amser byr. Lle'r oeddem ni'n canolbwyntio yn y lle cyntaf ar y gwaith o godi safonau a gwella ansawdd ein hysgolion, un darn o'r gwaith ydy hwnna. Darn mawr o waith rŵan ydy helpu cefnogi'r ysgolion ar hyd y daith ddiwygio. Felly, mae'n rôl ni wedi newid.

Mae hynny'n golygu hefyd pan ydych chi'n edrych ymlaen, os ydyn hi’n sôn am system sydd yn hunan-wella, mae'n rhaid inni a'n staff ni newid ein sgiliau, newid ein dulliau, mae'n rhaid inni fod yn—. Dydy system sydd yn hunan-wella ddim yn mynd i ddigwydd ar ddyddiad penodol, rydyn ni'n gorfod esblygu tuag ato fo. Mae yna rai ysgolion, fedrwch chi ddadlau, sydd yn gweithio tuag at hynny ac yn cydweithredu yn effeithiol. Mae yna rai ar y pegwn arall. Felly, yn union lle mae angen y pwysoliad yn y gyfundrefn. Her i grŵp Dylan Jones a'r Llywodraeth, wedyn, ydy'r her polisi. Beth yn union ydyn ni eisiau'r gyfundrefn edrych yn debyg i, a beth ydy'r math o gefnogaeth mae'n hysgolion ni ei hangen i fod yn ysgolion rhagorol?

Just look at us, our role has changed in a short time. We used to concentrate in the first instance on the work of raising standards and improving quality in schools, that's one piece of work. A large piece of work now is to support schools across the reform journey, so our role has changed.

That means also that when you look ahead, if we're talking about a system that is self-improving, we end our staff have to change our skills, our methods, we have to be—. A system that is self-improving isn't going to happen on a specific date, we have to evolve towards that. There are some schools, you could argue, that are working towards that, and are collaborating effectively. There are others at the other extreme. So, exactly where that balance needs to be struck in the system. The challenge for Dylan Jones's group and the Government is the policy challenge. What exactly do we want the system to look like, and what sort of support do our schools need to be excellent schools?

11:40

Can you just tell me, each one of you, could you outline the approach towards school improvement that you adopt in your own regions? I'm trying to ascertain the differences—

No. Okay. How can a suitable balance—? I'd still like to ask that one.

Not really. The difference of approach is what I'm trying to establish.

Yes. Just the differences of approach you might adopt, each one of you, towards school improvement.

Okay. I think we're the rogue region, if you like; we've changed the name of 'challenge adviser' for a specific reason. It was a cultural message. When the regions were set up, they were set up to challenge performance, and what became very clear was that the relationship between the schools and the region at that time became frayed because it was all about challenge. You could argue that we were duplicating the inspectorate's work, because we were going in, coming out with a view, setting the recommendations, leaving them be and then coming back in a term's time and asking the same questions. Now, from a school's perspective, that just puts pressure on a school, so we deliberately changed the role to be supporting improvement. So basically, if we're agreeing that the school needs improvement, part of our role, then, is to support that improvement journey. It's like going to the GP, isn't it? They ask what's wrong—'I've got the flu', 'Well, improve yourself'. There's a specific reason for it, and from a culture perspective then, it's getting schools to work together, identifying where the main strengths are in the system.

So, over a period of time, especially in the secondary sector, we've used a lot of experienced secondary heads to work with us, and the need is now coming from—. As I answered previously to Suzy's question, the business plan comes from the bottom up; we look at what the needs of individual schools are. More and more, the generic challenge adviser role, in my opinion, we have evolved it and it has to change, because in response to Dawn's question, I think where the challenge is—improving teaching in the classroom is the key. And we need to invest more energy working with teachers on how to improve and help them improve, and direct them to where best practice is in schools within the region. I think you made the point earlier, Andi, that there's good practice in the great majority of schools; it's unlocking that and releasing it, and giving those people the confidence to share it with others is part of that school improvement journey towards that earned autonomy as we go forward.

There's not a great amount of difference there. We operate through a business plan that's constructed by our strategy groups. Our strategy groups focus on Cymraeg, leadership, health and well-being, literacy, numeracy and digital skills, and professional learning. So, we've got those six key themes driving what we do, which drives our approach. We have our locally based challenge advisers, we have our centrally based support teams around curriculum reform and innovation, and our secondary support group. So all of those key elements, I would say, are the drivers for our approach. It's difficult to race through. You could have a session in isolation, I'm sure, but just to give you a flavour.

I know, yes, and we're short of time. Very briefly, question 3, Janet.

Yes, okay.  So how can a suitable balance be struck between self-improvement and school autonomy on the one hand, and accountability and rigour on the other? Are there any risks that a loosening of accountability could lead to a decline in standards?

It's inherent in the question, really, isn't it? Because if you're looking at—. In a self-improving autonomous system, it's got to be accountable and it's got to be rigorous, or there's no point making the movement towards it. I think that's got to be clear.

I think what Andi has described in several of his answers is that at this tipping point now of change, aren't we? And, back to Suzy's question about accountability, we've got to come up with what we mean by accountability going forward, because we can't have an unaccountable system because we've got public money that we've got to be held to account for.

As we're going forward, back to Hefin's question as well, our role will change and you can argue that, in two or three years' time, part of that would be, instead of the categorisation, potentially, we'd be there verifying or authenticating where that particular group of schools are, and it should be an earned autonomy across the continuum. We can't say overnight, 'Now we're going to be a self-improving system', that has got to be earned and it's got to be a gradual process. At the end of the day, in an ideal world, regardless of postcode, each learner would be getting an equitable provision, but we know that that's not the case and, to be frank, it's never going to be the case. Well, that's in our lifetime, anyway. 

What we can see clearly in our model is that a lot of the answers and the resources lie within schools, but not in all schools, so we've got to make sure that that is then transferred across, that we need to be holding—. If you cast your mind back, Ofsted decided not to re-inspect their excellent schools. What's happened over a period of time is a period of decline because, to refer to your question, they became unaccountable, with no public accountability to them, and they slipped. We need that rigour and accountability in the system. You could argue that it could be differentiated, how it looks, but it needs to be there because whoever sits here in five to 10 years' time will need to answer the same questions about rigour and accountability in that self-improving system.  

11:45

I would just like to add that I think—I don't think; I know—that all the school leaders I've spoken with over time, none of them flinch from accountability; they welcome it, they want to be accountable, but want to be accountable in the right way and in a purposeful way. That's what we're all looking at together now to ensure that we have a refined system around it. I wholly understand we're using public money and, obviously—I'm a parent myself—we have that right to know that the money we're putting in is being well used and that the outcomes from that are totally successful for all of our children. So, people aren't flinching from it; it just needs tweaking, it needs revising, it just needs refining. The national evaluation and improvement research piece of work, the resource that's coming steadily through work with Welsh Government, and all the consortia, local authority involvement within that pilot project—superb. That's the sort of kit that will really take us forward, no doubt about it. 

Okay. We've come to the end of our time. There are some areas that we haven't been able to cover in questions, so if it's okay we'll write to you for answers to those questions, but thank you both for your attendance today. We'll send you a transcript to check for accuracy as usual. Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr. 

Diolch i chi. 

Thank you. 

[Inaudible.]—. Thank you very much. 

4. Papurau i’w Nodi
4. Papers to Note

Item 4, then, is papers to note. Paper to note 1 is a joint letter from the Minister for Health and Social Services and the Minister for Education regarding the next steps for our 'Mind over Matter' report. Paper to note 2 is a letter from Adoption UK regarding the impact of recent funding decisions, which we discussed last week in budget scrutiny. Paper to note 3 is a letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services: an update on progress obtaining reliable social services data highlighted in the regulatory impact assessment of the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill. And finally, paper to note 4 is a letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services notifying us that the updated explanatory memorandum for the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill has been laid. Can I ask if Members are happy to note those, please? Thank you. 

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 for 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. Can I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting? Are Members content? Thank you. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:49.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:49.

Dysgu am Senedd Cymru