As the independent chair of the BEIB I committed to sharing more widely its work and keeping those in the town’s schools up to date with its actions and decisions.
The Board met on 1 July and continued its focus on the three pillars that make up the town’s 10 year education strategy. We gave significant time at the meeting to the literacy strand. Paul Turner explained how the literacy strategy was progressing and how it would be officially launched at a Moving Forward Together event in late September. Elaine Allen, who is the English Hub Lead, Stephen Tierney who has led the Key Stage 3 literacy initiative and Mark Rayner who works for the DfE and supports the Opportunity Area explained the current work being undertaken by the National Literacy Trust. They emphasised how important it was to maintain the momentum and to embed the good work solidly across the town. We committed to this and set up plans to ensure any new leadership of the literacy strategy was made familiar with the current work. In addition, we offered an invitation for the BEIB to present to the governor network to ensure a clear understanding of the literacy element of the strategy.
We considered how schools were planning on using the government’s recovery funding and colleagues were able to share the insights they gained from a Blackpool focused meeting with Professor Becky Francis of the Education Endowment Foundation. This is the charity that has managed the national tutoring and mentoring programmes this year. We agreed to encourage collaboration between schools in the use of tutor and mentors as a way of reducing the administrative burdens involved in managing the programmes.
We reviewed the recently published data on SEND and considered why the proportion of pupils taught within Special schools rather than in mainstream settings was higher than similar local authorities? We also reflected on the trend in these figures over time. With a forthcoming SEND inspection from Ofsted due shortly it was reassuring to see progress on a number of key fronts. It was also good to hear that senior school leaders were engaging fully with these issues.
We also considered the approach we are to follow when we ask schools to undertake GL Assessments in the future. These are assessments of basic skills and provide a snapshot that is particularly useful as many national assessments are not being undertaken due to the pandemic. We agreed changes to the timing and administration of the assessments to ensure a more robust analysis of the data can be undertaken. We also reviewed the summary report provided by the Wellspring Trust who investigated the approaches undertaken by secondary schools to further improve inclusion, including their work on behaviour, attendance and exclusions. The report reveals schools working hard during the pandemic to improve and refine their approaches.
After a short comfort break, we moved on to considering the updates from the various groups that are represented. These are circulated in advance so that any themes or particular points can be raised. I explained that I had raised the issue of wellbeing at the Children and Families Partnership Board and was seeking further action to ensure we get a coordinated approach across the town.
We then considered the actions schools were taking in response to the findings of Ofsted’s recent report on sexual harassment. The Council made clear the considerable support that was available, and colleagues emphasised the need to ensure a strong, ethically driven and open ethos was embedded throughout the school.
We expressed disappointment that the planned transition days to support pupils as they moved from primary phase to secondary phase had been derailed by the pandemic. We noted that much had been achieved using virtual experiences. We agreed to return to transition and look at it more generally in the autumn.
The final item was a review of the work of the BEIB. This is something we committed ourselves to when I started in my role as chair last September. Earlier in the week I was interviewed by a Council auditor who was drawing together a report that considered the effectiveness of the Board. It was an open and encouraging meeting. I suggested a few other colleagues the auditor should speak to, and we will have a draft report in a week or two. We will obviously take on board any recommendations.
We then considered a paper on how the BEIB was drawing on the voice of the child in the evidence we consider. There are many pupil and student surveys both within schools and for particular groups of young people across the town but no formal mechanism to consider the views of children and young people. We agreed to undertake further work in this area and report back to the BEIB in the autumn.
I thanked colleagues for committing their valuable time to the meetings during the year and wished them all some relaxation especially as the autumn is starting to look increasingly challenging on a number of fronts.
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 or at www.frankwnorris.co.uk
Independent Chair of Blackpool Education Improvement Board
2 July 2021