Council 23 July 2019
Questions to the Cabinet Member – Education and Skills, Councillor Gail Giles
Councillor Joan Watkins asked the following question that had been submitted:
‘Given that two secondary schools in Newport remain in special measures Newport High and St Julian’s (St Julian’s now for 2 years) and another Llanwern is in the red zone, can the Cabinet Member give an update as to the progress all these schools are making and how long before they can be removed from special measures or the red zone. Additionally can the Member guarantee that other schools eg John Frost are not in danger of falling into these poor categories?’
The Cabinet Member provided the following response:
‘Newport High, St Julian’s and Llanwern schools have continued on an upward trajectory since the time of their Estyn Inspections. I have full admiration for the resilience, hard work and commitment of all staff within those schools whilst on this important improvement journey. Only Estyn, Her Majesties inspectorate, can determine when a school can be removed from a category of requiring significant improvement or special measures. It is the Local Authority that ensures that the most appropriate support is provided to each of these schools so that they can achieve sustained success in the future. Sustainability requires the correct amount of support over the correct amount of time and the meeting of Estyn Standards.
All schools in Wales are subject to the National Categorisation Process and I strongly dispute Councillor Watkins use of inappropriate terminology in her question when she refers to poor categories. There is no such thing as a poor category that is a term that has been completely fabricated and to randomly suggest that any school could fall into an imaginary category is completely unacceptable. Categorisation is used to determine the level of support a school receives.
All of our schools have a variety of good practise which is shared and celebrated throughout the region, not just Newport. Is there anyone else in this Chamber who does not understand that the colour or categorisation of a school does not reflect the whole school but in fact identifies if there are any areas that require additional support. As I have explained many times to Councillor Watkins many times, the level of support required by each school will vary depending on the particular issue. It could be relating to staffing issues, management, attendance, educational results or governance of the school, and all of us in this room are Governors. It may be one individual issue, or several. So the circumstances will dictate the support and time involved.
The process ensures that the support is provided in a timely and appropriate way to ensure each school can secure the best outcomes for our children and young people. It involves not only the Local Authority and Estyn, but also EAS which is itself reviewed by the join executive group consisting of the 5 cross party Cabinet Members from the Gwent Area. I would like to take this opportunity to inform you all of the excellent work, which has arisen from each of these schools with outstanding examples, such as:
– John Front is leading cutting edge practice through the raising achievement of disadvantaged youngsters project. The focus of the project is to raise aspirations of free school meal pupils using a positive assessment and tracking programme supported and directed by strong teaching and learning. The school has also reported a provisional attendance rate of 92.6% this academic year. This is a 1.3% higher than the attendance rate last academic year and 0.5% above the individual school target. Each school has a different target because it has a different cohort of pupils and circumstances.
– During the last academic year, Newport High School demonstrated a 14.5% rise in the number of young people gaining A-C GCSEs including English and Maths. This was the largest improvement of this indicator in Newport.
– Llanwern High has improved its attendance by 1.6% this year. Provisional data indicates that this is the strongest secondary attendance this year.
– St Julian’s has demonstrated a significant improvement in GCSE Maths with 63% of all pupils obtaining A* to c grade. This has exceeded Welsh Government Modelled expectations so it is more than the Welsh Government would expect for this school and it is an achievement that that the whole school community should be proud of. These are all examples of excellent work that is being undertaken in these schools, and I say to Councillor Watkins again you should be lauding all the amazing work being undertaken by young people, Head teachers, all school staff, parents, carers, congratulating them on their achievements and stopping the constant criticism and negativity.
To reiterate, all our schools have a wide range of issues to consider and celebrate. Newport City Council and the Educational Attainment Service continue to work together to develop the best educational achievement service to pupils across this city.
To sum up, all the schools in Newport are categorised by Estyn, and are fully supported in all areas of their work. The level of support is set by the category. Every action is consistently taken to improve schools and prevent negative events and I repeat my thanks to all young people, Teachers, school staff, parents and carers, and congratulate them on their achievement.‘
Councillor Joan Watkins asked a supplementary question relating to the use of funds for reserve project. Councillor Watkins was advised that this did not relate to the original question and was a new subject matter. The Cabinet Member advised that a written response to this question would be provided following the submission of a full written question from the Councillor.
Councillor Joan Watkins asked the following question that had been submitted:
‘A recent FOI to Gwent Police has shown there were 121 referrals from Newport comprehensive schools since June 2017. Worryingly 58 of these referrals related to bullying, intimidation assault and battery. However further examination of the data indicate a big variance in the number of referrals across Newport schools .St Joseph’s Catholic school had 17 referrals over the 2 year period whilst Liswerry appeared tohave just 5. Is the Cabinet Member confident that all schools have robust anti bullying protocols in place and are they regularly checked by the Authority and not just left to individual schools and Governing bodies.’
The Cabinet Member responded:
‘I am confident that all Newport Schools have anti-bullying policies that outline appropriate procedures for dealing with reported incidents of bullying. All schools in Newport have anti-bullying policies that are published on individual school websites. To check the robustness of this practice, the Authority’s Educational, Safeguarding Care and Support Officer reviews these policies and judges the quality of the individual schools policies against set criteria. All incidents of bullying are recorded on individual schools management information system and are reported to the Local Authority each month. The Local Authority’s wellbeing forum routinely completes an analysis of incidents and interventions and follows up on any issues that may arise from this. This forum also identifies any training needs that arise from the analysis of the data. I am pleased to inform Members that recent Estyn Inspections have highlighted a number of good practice in Newport Schools that I will now describe.
– St Julian’s Primary – Estyn specifically commented on the significant impact of pupils work to design anti-bullying posters to highlight the issue and make presentations during assemblies. As a result of this good work, pupil’s behaviour has improved over time and is now extremely good.
– At St Joseph’s Roman Catholic High School, Estyn reported there were effectively robust systems, with very few instances of bullying or harassment.
– At Malpas Park Primary, a pupil voice group reviewed pupil’s responses to questionnaires and used this information to update the schools anti-bullying policy.
Young people influencing policy.
There are many schools in the city engaging fully with anti-bullying week activities and a number have trained pupils as anti-bullying ambassadors, so we also have anti bullying ambassadors to support this work. There is no doubt an increasing pressure on our school leaders, teachers and inclusions staff to support the growing numbers of young people who are experiencing physical and mental health challenges.
And successful collaboration is strengthening the support provided. An excellent example is the collaboration with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to develop the arrow project, which enables health and educational professionals to work jointly to build pupil and staff capacity around the themes of mental health, wellbeing, resilience and self-esteem. A key part of this work focuses on educating pupils on the acceptable uses of social media and distinguishing between reality and fiction. All pupils also have access to the school based counselling service which is commissioned by Newport from the University of South Wales. Pupils can request access to the service or they can make an online referral via the website.
In conclusion, I am fully confident that all schools have robust anti-bullying protocols in place which are appropriate.
Our Caerleon Labour Councillors support Council Motion: Friends of the Earth Bee Initiative
The Council considered a motion for which the necessary notice had been provided. The motion was moved by Councillor Debbie Wilcox, and seconded by Councillor Laura Lacey:
‘This authority supports the Friends of the Earth Bee Cause initiative, and will continue to ensure that where suitable, planting undertaken within the parks, gardens and green areas owned by the Council will support bee and other pollinating insects’ lifestyles.
It is of vital importance to Newport’s economy of pollinators and the fact that the Council is well placed to make a significant contribution to reversing their decline.
In addition this authority will strive to make Newport one of the first major Welsh cities to have bee friendly accreditation.’
In moving the motion, Councillor Debbie Wilcox outlined that the Council was committed to helping the UK’s pollination by ensuring that the needs of pollinators were considered within the delivery of the Council’s works and duties. The Council would do this through:
1. Ensuring the needs of pollinators were represented in local plans, policy and guidance;
2. Protecting and enhancing the amount of quality pollinator habitats in Newport to prevent extinction and improve the status of local species;
3. Increasing awareness of pollinators and their habitat needs;
4. Improving knowledge and understanding of pollinators in our local area.
Both Gail and Jason supported the motion and Gail spoke about the work being undertaken in schools ensuring all our young people are fully aware and involved in the protection of bees and the wider environment.
Question to Police Superintendent
Gail thanked the Neighbourhood Watch Groups across Newport for the work they undertook, which the Superintendent reiterated this thanks. Gail also highlighted concerns that had been raised in relation to accessibility at Maindee and Alway Police Station, noting that there was no longer a front desk, only a phone. The Police were asked what forms of communication were available at this police station, as not all residents could communicate via email and there were instances where face to face to face discussions would be useful.
The Superintendent agreed to go back to Inspector Cawley who covers this area to comment on this and reply to Councillor Giles.
Jason’s question to the Leader of Newport City Council
Jason asked what the Leader thought of a recent article discussing a recently commissioned report on the Newport Economy.
The Leader responded that this independent report confirmed that Newport was growing faster than the rest of Wales, and above the UK average. Between 2014 and 2017 Newport grew at an average of 2.2% per year, and growth accelerated to 2.4% in 2017. The overall size of the economy was 10.8 billion in 2017 which was a significant development and the Newport region accounted for a 1/5th of the overall Welsh output. The Leader summarised the key findings of the report, and was pleased that this report independently evidenced the central strength and success of Newport City and its growing economy.
To view the full document: www.newport.gov.uk/…/Council-Dem…/Council-and-Democracy.aspx