Personal reflection on the most recent Blackpool Education Improvement Board (BEIB) Meeting on 27 April 2022 

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. I hope you find this short personal report helpful in understanding how the town’s priorities are being supported by the work of early year settings, schools and colleges. 

The Board met recently and considered the possible impact of the government’s White Paper on education and the work of the BEIB. We were particularly keen to consider the stronger push towards academisation and the suggestion that consecutive Requires Improvement judgements could lead to forced academisation. This led to considering the role of local authorities in supporting schools not already academies and how size of a trust may be a factor in ensuring there is sufficient support going forward. We welcomed the greater focus on safeguarding audits that are planned to take place every three years. Blackpool has a strong record in this area with many benefiting from local support and challenge. We acknowledged that many of the proposals in the White Paper still required legislation and were unlikely to be introduced in the short term. 

We then considered the SEND Green Paper and the town’s consultation on inclusion issues. We were brought up to date on the recent Ofsted SEND inspection and given a general indication of likely actions. The report was awaiting publication, so we were keen to preserve confidentiality. We also received an update on local area SEND issues as part of the Board’s drive for greater emphasis on place-based approaches. A key element noted by the Board was the growing number of young children with speech and language difficulties.  

There then followed a short update on the significant progress being made in literacy across the town. This included the positive outcomes from the GL Assessments conducted in many schools in the autumn. The results revealed encouraging news on reading and comprehension outcomes across the town but some deterioration in attitudes to schooling in some year groups. We considered how mental health strategies introduced by schools were trying to address this and how locally driven changes to mental health support would provide more professional expertise. It was agreed to escalate this matter to the Children and Families Partnership Board. 

The Board received an update on the latest NEET (not in education, employment or training) data which revealed a strengthening picture largely due to better tracking of students, so the number of Not Knowns had reduced dramatically. We then received an update on current attendance and exclusion data. We noted how older secondary school students were continuing to cause some concern in terms of attendance and how we can tackle this. It was explained that as some students’ attendance improves they will no longer be deemed to be persistently absent so we anticipate a strengthening picture in the medium term. Exclusions were continuing to show a positive trend downwards despite the challenges faced by students, schools and families. 

The Board considered the detailed reports from the various committees, groups and Boards that feed in to the BEIB. These reports provide an indication of stress within the system and in addition to the points already raised it was felt that more consideration should be given to the recruitment and retention of teaching staff.  

The Board had welcomed Andrew Speight to his inaugural meeting. Andrew is a former student at Blackpool 6th who is the town’s former Youth Parliament Member and currently employed part-time by the Council. Andrew spoke to a paper he had prepared explaining how the BEIB can better understand the views of young people in the town. It was agreed that Andrew would work with me to take some of the proposals forward. I was delighted to be invited to be a panellist at the recent Youth Summit at The Winter Gardens with Andrew chairing the event.  

I provided an update on the significant work being undertaken to improve digital education in the town. I encouraged Board members to join the visit to The Borders on 25 and 26 May to discover the impact of significant investment in infrastructure and devices as well as the cultural shift in teaching pedagogy that had occurred. I am pleased to report that 22 colleagues will be undertaking the journey drawn from education settings and businesses across the town 

The meeting ended with us considering our plans for a formal review of the effectiveness of the BEIB at its next meeting in early July. This would be the first face to face meeting of the Board since I took up my duties in September 2020. 

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. You can email me at frank.norris@Philredom.co.uk 

Best wishes 

Frank Norris 

Independent Chair of Blackpool Education Improvement Board 

18 May 2022 

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