[Alex Jones, Assistant Director (Schools Standards), to present Education Vision document]
Alex Jones, Assistant Director – School Standards, introduced the report.
The Assistant Director advised the panel that the draft report will be revised to include comments received. The Assistant Director briefed the panel on the main highlights of ‘The Vision for education 2030 – shaping a City of Learning’ document. The panel were advised that work is being done to agree a definition of the term ‘City of Learning’ that will encourage the idea of lifelong learning.
The Assistant Director commented on the important economic and employment benefits that the provision of good schools can bring to the City.
The panel discussed the Ofsted outcomes target for primary and secondary schools summarised in the report. The panel welcomed the progress made to improve educational outcomes and the achievements to date. The panel queried if the report had been presented to City Board and Business Champions for comments. The Assistant Director confirmed that document has been shared with key groups.
The panel discussed the reference to the provision of support to vulnerable children and how schools use their funding. The Assistant Director explained that special schools have a delegated budget to meet the needs of vulnerable children.
The Assistant Director commented on the process used to set the educational targets to be a top performing council for education by 2030 at primary and secondary school level. The panel commented on the challenge in achieving this outcome at a time when the majority of secondary schools are independent of the local authority and budgetary cuts in the education service. The Assistant Director acknowledged the budgetary challenges facing the service but commented that the service has a good relationship with the vast majority of schools and is committed to building on progress made. The Assistant Director commented that the service is looking at schools budget surpluses estimated at £5-£6 million and challenging schools to explain their reasons for maintaining surplus balances of 20% - 30% above recommended levels – 5% primary school and 8% secondary schools. The service will focus on spending money on meeting the educational needs of current children in Wolverhampton. The Assistant Director explained the role of Schools Forum in challenging schools to explain reasons for maintaining budget surpluses above recommended levels and the sanctions it can impose.
The panel commented on the issue of increased demand for school places and the extent to which current provision can deal with the expected ‘bulge’ in pupil numbers, while still offering parents a choice. The Assistant Director commented that 97% of parents get an offer of a place at preferred choice of schools. The Assistant Director suggested that the panel might find it useful to invite the service lead responsible for managing the demand for places to present a report to a future meeting.
The panel discussed the range of challenges facing the educational service, for example, the shortage of teachers and the increase in the number of school appeals as signs of pressure on the service. The Assistant Director commented on the work done to make teaching an attractive and that investment in school facilities and improved educational results will help to support this aim. An assessment by Ofsted reported that 88% of quality of teaching in Wolverhampton schools was rated as being “good”.
The panel queried building ‘snagging’ issues at schools redeveloped as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme and delay in completing the necessary work. The Assistant Director advised the panel that discussions are on-going to get the necessary work done at the two schools concerned and was confident that the issues will be resolved.
The panel queried the proposal to establish an arms-length wholly owned trading company and the risks to plan. The Assistant Director explained that the majority of the cost of the schools standards service is provided by schools and current trading activity. Furthermore, the provision of the service does not provide a financial burden on the Council. The establishment of a fully traded company would allow the service to make a profit, which is not possible at present. The change would also allow the service to bid for lottery funding.
The panel commented on the recent results of the PISA and the poor performance of UK when compared to other countries, when considering local results of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science (with a focus on mathematics). The Assistant Director acknowledged the challenge to close the educational performance gap and that more work will need to be done to improve future results.
The panel discussed the demand the places at popular schools and the resulting increase in the number of school appeals.
The panel welcomed the draft document.
1. The panel comments on the draft City of Wolverhampton Council’s Vision for Education 2030 to be considered when finalising the draft.
2. A report on plans for meeting the demand for schools places to be presented to a future meeting.
3. A report on impact of increasing pupil numbers on the schools appeals service to be presented to a future meeting.