Agenda item

School Attainment


Councillor Carlyle (Cabinet Member for Education, Participation and Skills) introduced the report to the Committee. Annie Gammon (Service Director for Education, Participation and Skills) presented the report to the Committee and highlighted the following key points:


In the 2021/22 exam series, the performance of students in Plymouth matched the national benchmark for attainment 8 for the first time. The gap with regional and statistical neighbour benchmarks was also closed significantly;


In addition, the average progress 8 score for Plymouth students closed significantly with regional and statistical neighbour benchmarks. However, whilst students were making a greater amount of progress between years 7 and 11 than in previous years, they were still falling short by approximately a fifth of a grade across measured subjects.


In 2021/22, the number of students achieving the ‘basics’ measure significantly increased from 37.6% in 2018/19 to 45.9%, closing the gap with the national benchmark to 0.7%;


There were three significant drivers for this change across the Plymouth secondary education landscape. The first was the introduction of high performing multi-academy Trusts into the city (Reach South, Greenshaw, Thinking Schools & Ted Wragg) as well as the expansion of locally based Westcountry Schools Trust. The opportunity of joining a large high performing trust had offered school leaders the opportunity to develop curriculum, share resources and provide teachers with high quality professional development;


The second driver had been Plymouth’s ‘Place Based Approach’. Improving outcomes in English and maths was a focus of the ‘place based’ plan and increased the amount of students achieving the ‘basics’ measure to at least 47% from a baseline 37.6% in 2019 is one of the key performance indicators. That 45.9% achieved of students this measure in 2022 indicates that city schools are on target to achieve this improvement in the 2023 series of examinations;


The final driver for change was the increasing the number of secondary schools graded as good or outstanding in the city. The inspection pause meant that the last comparable point for published data was 2019 when 47% of secondary school were graded good or outstanding. This figure stood at 67%;


It was notable that those Plymouth schools rated good or outstanding outperformed national benchmarks for both the ‘basics’ and attainment 8 measures. This indicated the importance of strong leadership in Plymouth schools. Through our ‘place based’ plan, city education leaders had set themselves the target of 70% of secondary school judged as good or outstanding by the end of the 2022/23 academic year. This figure stood at 67%, with an inspection judgement of an inadequate school pending publication and further secondary school inspections due by July 2023. In addition, the development of strong and sustainable school leadership in the city as a means to secure rapid improvement in schools is captured as a discreet strand of the ‘place based’ plan;


The attainment of those pupils in receipt of free schools meals (FSM) was better than regional and statistical neighbour benchmarks for the first time; Plymouth schools also closed the gap with the national benchmark significantly. However, as is reflected nationally, the gap in attainment between children in receipt of FSM and all children remains stubbornly high. Nationally this gap is 15 points and in Plymouth it is 14.5 points;


In terms of progress, although Plymouth pupils in receipt of FSM made better progress than statistical and southwest benchmarks for pupils in receipt of FSM; the cohort made significantly less progress than all Plymouth pupils (-0.69 Vs -0.20). 25.4% of children in receipt of FSM achieved the ‘basics’ measure in comparison to the Plymouth benchmark of 45.9%;


Lower education performance was mirrored by lower rates of school attendance for this group. The absence rate gap between children eligible for FSM and all other pupils widened by 1.1% between 2018/19 (9.7%) and the last published data point in 2020/21(10.8%). The overall absence rate for Plymouth pupils at the last published data point (2021/22) was 8.8%;


58.7% of pupils who had more than 90% attendance achieved a strong pass in English and maths. 30.7% of pupils who had less than 90% attendance achieved a strong pass in English and maths. 3% of pupils who had less than 50% attendance achieved a strong pass in English and maths.


In response to questions raised it was reported that:


The Committee requested an update as to what work had been done by schools in selecting texts which would better engage boys in reading. The Committee were advised that this was a key strand within the place-based plan and schools had stepped forward to deliver training and gender was a part of that.


There were 7,249 children with SEN support in the city with 2,660 children with EHCP. Parents waiting for a 6 week decision for an EHCP, this had been 95% for January and 94% in February and was above the southwest average which was 49%;


In terms of the 20 week decision, In November the decision rate was 38% and in January had increased to 76% which was further evidence that Plymouth was improving outcomes for families in reducing the time they were waiting;


The Committee agreed to:


Recommendation: For the Education, Participation and Skills service to ensure students in Plymouth were aware of the accompanying entitlements when they receive free school meals to enable better outcomes for children and young people in the city. This information would also be disseminated in Family Hubs to ensure families are aware of their entitlements. 

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