A letter to all Blackpool school staff and governors about the BEIB

Colleagues

Blackpool Education Improvement Board (BEIB)

I am the independent chair of the Blackpool Education Improvement Board. I took up this role in September 2020, but I have been supporting the Council’s work for a year longer than this. I am aware that many of you who work in our schools or support the education service on other ways may not be aware of the BEIB and what it does. So, I thought I would briefly let you know what we discussed at our recent meeting to give a feel for the work.

The BEIB meets four times a year and enables key colleagues drawn from schools including multi academy trusts, local and national government to meet and discuss what is going well and what needs to improve. The discussions are open and honest but there is a strong sense of optimism. The group has been in existence for about four years and I am fortunate to have picked up the chairing role from my predecessor, who actually undertook much of the hard work.

This week we met and discussed the government roll out of digital devices and the problems some parts of the town have in gaining a strong broadband connection. We made clear our concern for those families where the number of devices is insufficient or where they are in rented accommodation with no access to wifi. Senior civil servants want to hear these issues so that they can work to try and resolve them speedily. I have just been informed that a large number of additional devices have been secured.

We also considered how we will work together to help pupils and students as more return to face-to-face learning in schools over the coming weeks. Sadly, despite our best efforts, the experiences of children and young people over the past year have been varied and we need to make sure those who have been impacted negatively the most are given more help.

At each BEIB meeting we focus on one of the three strands in the town’s 10 year education plan. This week we looked at the efforts to improve literacy. We noted the financial support from the Council and the Opportunity Area and how we will soon appoint a part-time figurehead to support the existing programmes and reach out to support adults and local businesses. We also finalised arrangements for the launch of the town’s literacy strategy at the virtual event on 24 March. This link provides details https://sjvenglishhub.eventbrite.co.uk/

I have insisted that each group that sends a representative to the BEIB submits a short report outlining their recent discussions and also the emerging risks that they see in the future. This approach ensures that discussions are on the things that matter. You might be interested, and possibly not surprised, to discover that the risks we considered focused on devices and connectivity, mental health for pupils, students and staff, the loss of reading standards for some and the long-term impact of lockdowns on older students moving to education, training or employment.

We always keep an eye on reliable data evidence, and we noted how well the town’s school attendance figures compared to similar regional and national areas. We also noted the strength of many measures for supporting pupils and students with SEND over the past year.

This week’s BEIB marked the final one for Diane Booth, the Director of Children’s Services. Diane has decided to take early retirement and allow her successor to take forward the exciting work that is planned. Diane has been a brilliant colleague to work for and we will miss her honesty and straight talking. We all wished her well.

If you want to know more about how the BEIB is working to improve outcomes for children and families in the town and hopefully change the rather negative narrative that is often perpetuated by those who do not live in the town I would recommend this article that was published recently in Schools Week Plotting a ten-year course is the sensible response to Covid (schoolsweek.co.uk)

If you are interested in knowing more about the work of the BEIB or my views on a variety of educational issues, then follow me on twitter @FrankWNorris

May I take this opportunity to thank you all for the amazing work and commitment you have shown in the past year. Our children and families are fortunate to have such community-minded individuals who have been willing to co-operate and collaborate for the benefit of us all.

Best wishes

Frank Norris

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