Mike Stoneman and Debbie Anderson presented the report, highlighting the Portsmouth Education Strategy's four key areas which would be the focus of Year 2.
Digital learning - officers will continue to work to reap the benefits of progress made during Covid; schools are now in a much better position to support digital learning. At the PEP summer conference TSAT set out a digital learning vision with a number of themes for the autumn term, for example, reducing digital poverty by ensuring good access to the internet at school and home.
Peer review - Portsmouth is highly collaborative but can be inward-looking so the new peer review framework will be non-judgemental and focus on lines of enquiry such as how school improvement plans are working and how they can work better. A process has been written with LA maintained schools who do not have the access to peer review that academies have and which can be costly for smaller schools. Peer review teams will comprise different schools who can learn from each other. All schools have signed up to the process. A second PEP process encourages LA maintained schools and MATs to benefit from each other's expertise. The aim is to look outwards while using the best of what is available in Portsmouth.
Improving literacy outcomes - KS2 outcomes are still a concern though the Maths Hub has helped improve maths. The Early Language & Literacy Development Group is for all years, not just early years. The "plan on a page" has been refreshed to become a "commitment" with strands of expectations showing what families, the local authority, culture and leisure organisations are meant to be doing to improve early language and literacy. There is a particular focus on reading. Portsmouth is twinned with the Hastings Opportunity Area and as part of their funding Hastings has to assist other areas so Portsmouth benefits from Hastings' use of Hackney Learning Trust's Destination Reader programme. It is used in ten schools and has shown to be really effective - a 'game changer' for some. It comprises high quality teaching of reading and oracy and encourages a love of reading using high quality texts. Portsmouth's report on progress to Hastings can be brought to the next meeting. The twinning arrangement with Hastings will continue next year so another ten schools at KS2 can join. The Hackney Learning Trust have not used Destination Reader in secondary schools but they are willing to adapt it for Year 7 in Portsmouth schools. The aim is that all subject teachers are also teachers of reading as children need to read well to do well in the subject. Two secondary schools have expressed interest in being a pilot. Portsmouth's approach to reading is on the PEP website and is a useful source of information.
In response to questions from members, there are termly monitoring reports for Destination Reader which members can see if they wish. Attainment information is available for the Pompey Pirates reading scheme for up to April 2021; the average improvement in reading age was 11 months and 35% children improved their reading age by a year or more. Members thought successes should be widely publicised and be part of future reports to the Board.
Portsmouth is looking to expand Pompey Pirates to three literacy hubs across the city so more schools can benefit. Officers are currently looking at sites in north and central Portsmouth. The Chair encouraged people to volunteer with Pompey Pirates, having found it a very rewarding experience.
Attendance and fixed-term exclusions (FTE) - there is concern with statistical neighbours and disappointingly FTEs are rising. Great work is being done with restorative practice. Claire Copeland of Trafalgar School has significantly reduced FTEs with restorative practice at the heart of work. FTE figures rise where there is a more punitive approach. Collective efforts to address similar issues have resulted in change. Portsmouth was at the bottom for permanent exclusions but is now in the top ten, likewise with electively home educated children; there is no evidence of any off-rolling now. Mark Finnis, a guest speaker at the PEP summer conference, gave great examples of how restorative practice greatly reduced FTEs in Hull.
Officers recently held an attendance workshop for schools. Portsmouth has adapted attendance campaigns during Covid so that Miss School Miss Out is on hold with Welcome Back / Return to School campaigns used instead. The theme of what children could become will be resumed in the autumn with images of careers rather than sharks. The three LA Link Co-ordinators focus on chronic non-attenders (less than 50% attendance). Schools are challenged when they use reduced timetables for more than six weeks and there have been improvements.
In response to questions from members, officers explained giving a clear picture of attendance is complicated due to Covid and some figures do not look good, mainly as so many children are having to self-isolate. Next year's figures will reflect attendance more accurately and hopefully it will have improved due to measures implemented during Covid.
The Chair noted that with regard to the impact of long Covid on attendance, some families are being over-cautious about sending children to school whereas other children are badly affected. Attendance may have to be approached on a case by case basis as it is a complex issue.
NEETS (not in education, employment or training) - the PEP has endorsed adding NEETS as a tenth priority. Portsmouth has a statutory duty to prevent NEETs and compared with other local authorities is good at tracking and monitoring them. Significant progress had been made since 2013 when NEETs were at the highest, but in recent years the figures have begun to increase again, exacerbated by the pandemic. Officers referred to the various initiatives that have been run to help reduce the proportion of young people who are NEET.
In response to questions from members as to the effectiveness of initiatives, it was made clear that without such initiatives the figures would be substantially worse and in some LAs the situation is far worse. Officers would not recommend reducing or changing the initiatives as they have had an impact. Funding is a big issue for programmes as they tend to rely on external funding but Portsmouth is doing the best it can with limited resources. Tracking and monitoring young people helps.
RESOLVED that the Education Advisory Board note the following:
a. The agreed focus of the PEP Strategic Board for Year 2 of the
strategy as set out in section 3 of the report, namely: digital learning, peer review; improving literacy outcomes; and improving school attendance
b. The inclusion of an additional priority to the Education Strategy
that focusses on NEETs as set out in section 4 of the report
c. The next steps and the refresh of the Education Strategy for Year
2 as set out in section 5 of the report.
The Chair thanked officers for their reports.
Members passed on their thanks to Alison Jeffery for her hard work and wished her the best in her new post. She has worked tirelessly to help children, families and education in Portsmouth.
The next meeting is on Wednesday 13 October at 4 pm (location to be confirmed).