Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee
Date 14th June 21
Time 5.30 p.m.
Minutes Membership In attendance by electronic device and contributing towards the meeting quorum, in accordance with Instrument 12. (Members may count towards the quorum if they are able to be present by electronic or digital communication (including attendance by video conferencing or telephone conferencing).
A Allen (Committee Chair Apprenticeship Link), A. Benghiat (H.E. Link), H. Hawksworth (Academic Staff Governor, LR Campus), K. Quant, N. Merchant (Parent Governor), J. Rowe (E&D & LAYP Link Governor), J. Sharrock (Safeguarding & SEND Link Governor) and R. Wilson (ex-officio, Chair of the Board),
Co-opted Committee member – Claire Wassall (H.E. Student Governor)
In Attendance Members of the Senior Leadership Team:
C. Armstrong, Group Vice Principal - Curriculum Support and Business Development (GVP – CS&BD)
M. Brown, Group Vice Principal, Information & Strategic Development (GVP – I&SD)
S. McAlinden, Director, Curriculum Support (D, CS)
C. Pemberton, Group Vice-Principal, Quality and Curriculum Management (GVP – Q&CM); and
C. Sears, Director of A Level Services (DoALS)

Clerk to the Board – T. Cottee
Apologies J. Wildman (16 – 19 Student Governor)

28/21. Declarations of Interest

A. Allen declared an interest as an employee of Harper Adams University.
It was noted that H. Hawksworth and N. Merchant had declared on their Registers of Interest that they had children at the College and had understood when it was appropriate to declare this interest.

29/21. Minutes – 22 March 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 3)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 22 March 2021, were approved as a true record.

30/21. Matters Arising

The Chair sought assurance that all actions from the previous meeting were either on the agenda for the meeting or were being actioned.

31/21. Quality Improvement Plan – Progress (Appendix – Agenda Item 4)

The Committee reviewed progress against the Quality Improvement Plan (QuIP) (previously circulated).

The GVP – Q&CM explained that the QuIP set out progress against quality improvement actions. Safeguarding actions were set out in the Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP).

In response to a question from the Committee Chair on how the College ensured the quality of the virtual work experience placements referred to in the report, the DCS explained that there were several types of virtual work experience opportunities available at the College; bespoke offers designed by the College in association with local partners and subject to the College’s internal quality assurance processes and, the most popular choice for students, commercially available work experience offers, for example, work experience placements offered by the NHS. Regarding these programmes, the College undertook thorough quality assurance checks on the provider companies. It was confirmed that, in terms of industry placements for the T Level roll-out, the Government would not currently accept remote work experience, instead requiring students to undertake in person placements.

Whilst the Committee acknowledged the progress made by the College in offering work placement opportunities to students with EHCPs, in response to a question from the SEND Link Governor on the reasons behind the apparent drop in the proportion of Looked After Young People (LAYP) taking up placement opportunities, the D,CS explained that at least half of LAYP were placed out of County and providing access to education locally had been challenging. In addition, some young people had moved back to their home authority mid-course and Lockdown appeared to have increased this. There had also been an increase in the complexity of cases which required more input and support. The College had in response to these challenges, appointed a full time Progression Specialist (PS) focussed full time on the College’s LAYP cohort, to ensure it could respond effectively to students’ safeguarding and continued engagement. The PS was already working pro-actively with next year’s intake and their social workers, to ensure they would feel welcome when they joined the College.

In response to a question from the Academic Staff Governor (LR), on the factors behind the progress made by the College in improving student attendance in English & Maths, the GVP – Q&CM explained that this was due in part, to the strong and experienced team’s swift and pro-active response to ensure students’ continued engagement, particularly over Lockdown. In addition, the locally run assessments provided by the College this year, did appear to suit a number of students.

In response to a question on the College’s plans to review the effectiveness of the progress grade process, the GVP – Q&CM confirmed that a review was underway. With regards to Level 3 programmes, the ability to generate a ‘live’ value added score through ALPS Connect using progress grades had improved the ability of teachers to understand students’ progress at every point in the year; this was matched by students’ ability to see and understand their own position. The DoALs added that giving staff the ability to ‘sense check’ the teacher assessed grades using ALPS Connect before uploading to exam boards has proved very useful and therefore she was considering whether the same feature could be built into the progress grades process next year, in order to objectively analyse grades before sharing them with students.

32/21. Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance – Update (Appendix – Agenda item 5)

The Committee Chair explained that the Board sought assurance on the effectiveness and quality of the College’s arrangements through achievement of the Matrix Accreditation and progress against the Gatesby Standards. He had, therefore, requested an update report on the College’s arrangements with respect to careers guidance and advice (previously circulated) (Q, S&C Min. No. 18/21 refers).

Further to the assurance report, the GVP – CS&BD reported that -

      • The College had employed a further Careers Adviser, joining the College in September 2021.
      • A Lead Curriculum Support role has been developed to promote and improve the engagement of the academic teaching cohort and students at the College.
      • The College had developed a range of virtual and in-person programmes, to be rolled out in September 2021, including an enhanced programme of careers pathways linked to the tutorial system to support students who had already identified either academic or vocational careers paths, plus a pathway for students who were unsure of their career path, to support them in making an informed choice. It was confirmed that students could switch between pathways, if required.
      • the College had offered opportunities to 10 local schools to nominate 15 pupils each to experience medical placements, as part of its strategy to develop further high-level work experience opportunities.

The D, SC explained that, whilst the College had a strong career programme, on self-assessment against the Gatesby Standards, the College could be more effective at communicating its offer. For example, the Standards required the College place its career strategy on its website; following the self-assessment, this was being reviewed and would be in place by the end of the Autumn Term 2021. The review would also ensure that the strategy aligned with the new College Strategic Development Plan.

In response to a question, the D, CS confirmed that the self-assessment process had been conducted in partnership with the College’s Enterprise Adviser and Shropshire Council Enterprise Adviser.

In conclusion, the Committee Chair requested the Committee receive regular reports on the College’s arrangements with respect to careers guidance and advice going forward.

33/21. Higher Education (Appendices – Agenda Item 6a to 6d)

EE & EVA Reports (Appendix – Agenda item 6a)

The Committee reviewed a summary of all Higher Education External Examiners (EE) and External Verifier (EV) Reports for 2019-20 (previously circulated).

The report provided a general overview, highlighting good practice, common themes and key areas of concern identified in the evaluation reports received for 2019 - 2020. All higher education EE reports had been shared with students through Moodle and discussion during Tutorials. Course Representatives were specifically asked for comment on these reports at the Student Consultative. The report was also shared with the Committee for comment and feedback and detailed the Curriculum Leaders’ responses, set out the College’s action plan and the impact of progress reviews.

The GVP – Q&CM explained that the EE Report referred to higher level qualifications offered through the College by Staffordshire University and the EVA Report referred to qualifications offered by the College through Pearsons. The EE Report recommendations related to all colleges who offered that qualification and reflected generic comments; the EVA recommendations were specific to the College.

Higher Education Quality Improvement Plan - Update (Appendix – Agenda item 6b)

The Committee reviewed the Higher Education Quality Improvement Plan (previously circulated).

The Committee acknowledged that the Improvement Plan was now cross-referenced with the Access & Participation Plan.

In response to a question from the E&D Link Governor on the College’s strategy to increase the proportion of LAYP accessing higher education, the D CS explained that the College was, in association with partners, developing an approach to raise the aspirations of the College’s LAYP generally, including highlighting Higher Education and how the College could support LAYP looking to transition into Higher Education, including developing a webpage. The College was also looking to strengthen support for students with EHCPs.

In response to a comment from the Committee Chair on the growth in provision, the GVP – Q&CM explained that the College had revived some courses which were proving popular with applicants. Some students may have been attracted to study locally with a college that had continued to provide face-to-face tuition, rather than offer remote provision.

Higher Education Access & Participation Plan 2020 – 2021 (Appendix – Agenda item 6c)

The Committee reviewed the Higher Education Access & Participation Plan 2020 - 2021 (previously circulated).

The GVP – Q&CM explained that the Office for Students (OfS) required the College to submit an update on progress against the 2019 – 2020 Plan in April 2021. The 2021 – 2022 Plan included some of the 2019 – 2020 targets carried forward.

Academic Freedom

The Policy was currently being developed in partnership with Staffordshire University and would be presented to the next meeting.

Office for Students (OfS) Update

The Clerk to the Board provided a verbal update as follows –

      • The OfS had published its annual report and accounts for 2020-21. The report covered the OfS’s third year of operation, and progress in delivering against its regulatory objectives.
      • The OFS had also published a statement of expectations for preventing and addressing harassment and sexual misconduct affecting students in higher education. As part of this, the OfS had written to each accountable officer, restating the OfS’s invitation to review and update systems, policies and procedures in line with the statement of expectations, in advance of the next academic year (2021-22). The statement of expectations provided a consistent set of standards that all universities and colleges could follow to:
        • minimise potential barriers to reporting and disclosing instances of harassment and sexual misconduct
        • ensure that investigatory procedures are fair and independent
        • ensure all students involved receive appropriate support
        • clearly set out behavioural expectations for all students.
          The College was currently reviewing its policies.

34/21. OFSTED Progress Report Recommendations – Update (Appendix – Agenda Item 7)

The GVP – Q&CS explained that the Progress report (previously circulated) set out the College’s progress against recommendations arising from OFSTED’s recent Monitoring Visit Report.

In response to a request from the Board Chair, the D, CS agreed to give the Committee a presentation on the GroFar system to the next meeting.

35/21. Student Surveys: Autumn 2020 Student Induction Survey Action Plan - Progress (Appendix – Agenda Item 8)

The Committee reviewed progress against the Action Plan (previously circulated) created to address recommendations arising from the Autumn 2020 Student Induction Survey (at QSC Min No 07/21, the Committee had directed that it receive an Action Plan on how the delivery of the Survey would be improved going forward and a Progress Report on the implementation of the recommendations.)

The Board Chair sought assurance with regard to Recommendation 1 of the Report (Review the format of the student handbook and consider a more accessible option such as an app), that the College would take into account students’ feedback on the implications of loading too many apps onto their phones. The D, CS explained that the any apps would be tested with focus groups before roll-out.

36/21. Student Voice (Appendices – Agenda items 9a & 9b)

Student Voice Update (Appendix – Agenda item 9a)

The Committee reviewed a report (previously circulated) providing an update on student voice activities across the Colleges.

In response to a question from the Committee Chair on the students’ perception of Black Lives Matter, the GVP – Q&CD explained that the College’s Cultural Society had put together a series of theme-based discussions, including micro aggressions and allyship, to spark debate and discussion amongst students. The Society had also asked the College to deliver a tutorial on the equalities acts and protected characteristics; this was delivered after Easter 2021.

The GVP – CS&BD also reported on the College’s arrangements to celebrate and recognise those students leaving the College in 2021, being unable to provide the usual opportunities, due to Covid restrictions. For example, bunting and banners had been erected at all three campuses.

In response to a question on the College’s response to ‘Everyone’s Invited’ and the recent OFSTED Review that had concluded that sexual harassment, including online sexual abuse, had become ‘normalised’ for children and young people, the GVP – CS&BD explained that a College communication strategy to staff and students on this topic had been discussed at Senior Leadership Team, as some young people did not necessarily make the connection with safeguarding. The College was also working on communications giving advice to students on how to behave safely over the Summer and signposting support as part of the last tutorials of the academic year. The College was also adding to the individual safeguarding record a specific reference to sexual harassment.

Autumn 2020 Student Forums (FE) – Action Plan – Progress (Appendix – Agenda item 9b)

The Committee reviewed the progress against the Action Plan (previously circulated) created to address recommendations arising from the Autumn 2020 Student Forums (at QSC Min No 07/21, the Committee had directed that it receive a Progress Report on the implementation of the recommendations).

Forums had been held by the curriculum leaders in the vocational areas and by the SSTs for the academic tutor groups. The questions were formulated using the feedback from the Student Induction survey and questions that had arisen after the survey had been taken

In response to a question from the Academic Staff Governor (LR), asking how the College knew that students were accessing the recorded lessons they had requested, the GVP – Q&CM explained that the Head of Quality (also a Teacher) had reported that recorded lessons had proved very useful to students. Monitoring access was carried out in the same way that any out of class work was monitored, through follow up in class and in assessments. The Committee observed that it would be interesting to understand the impact of this and how many sessions had been accessed. The GVP – I&SD indicated that this could be looked at going forward.

37/21. Equality and Diversity Committee Link Governor Report (Appendix, Agenda Item 10)

The E&D Link Governor presented his report (previously circulated) and gave the following verbal report –

      • He had attended the College’s Equality & Diversity Committee on 10 May 2021 and found the Committee’s discussions and various positive actions reinforced the clear commitment of staff to promoting equality and diversity. From his observation at the meeting, College staff were actively working to ensure that this commitment was impacting on the day to day work of the College.
      • The Committee had received a presentation on the work undertaken to develop and refine the College’s history curriculum. Considerable work and thought had led to the development of a history curriculum that considered the needs of students and provided an opportunity to explore the struggle of minority groups and campaigns for social justice. This ‘de-colonisation’ of the curriculum in this way was a positive step towards building greater understanding and empathy and clearly supported the development of critical reflection skills and would empower students to consider viewpoints more consciously when engaging in historical study. It was also encouraging that staff had given time to thinking about the particular challenges facing young people growing up in a rural county.
      • Despite the limitations of Covid19, the Committee was considering ways to make sure students developed high levels of respect for others.
      • He would be attending the forthcoming STAR awards to celebrate the achievement of those students who had overcome difficulties to succeed on 24 June 2021, which would be held in accordance with social distancing requirements and subject to a rigorous risk assessment. In response to a question from the Committee Chair, the E&D Link Governor confirmed that the applications did reflect the challenges presented by Covid and lockdown.
      • He had instructed the Clerk to undertake the Annual Assurance Audit into SEND provision at the College and would report its findings to the Board at its July meeting. There were a number of exciting initiatives being planned at the College to raise student awareness of diversity and he had asked the Clerk to bring a number of research papers and publications to the attention of the E&D Committee for its next meeting.

38/21. Safeguarding Link Governor Report (Appendix – Agenda Item 11)

The Safeguarding Link Governor presented her report (previously circulated) and gave the following verbal report –

      • She had been able to visit the College for a brief tour and review the Single Central Register (SCR) (audit report previously circulated). It was clear the College took a thorough and appropriate approach to the SCR and was consistent with the requirements of Keeping Children safe in Education (KCSIE) as reflected in the safer recruitment policy. A further review of staff files would take place on 22 June 2021. The College had made an excellent first impression in terms of site security and student/staff relationships, demonstrating a purposeful atmosphere despite the College having to operate with Covid 19 protocols.
      • She had received a request to investigate further the safeguarding concern referred to in her previous report (Q&SC Min No. 23/21 refers) as further information had allegedly come to light; however, having undertaken further investigations, she had been satisfied that there was no further information and that the concern had been addressed. Moreover, the LADO had confirmed that the College had taken appropriate action. She had therefore responded to the correspondent that there was no requirement for an independent review into this incident and considered the matter now closed.
      • She had met with the GVP – CS&BD and the D,CS about the best way to oversee and support Safeguarding at the College, including a review of the role of the Safeguarding Committee and the need for the Committee to have a revised Terms of Reference and, going forward, act as a vehicle for the ‘eyes and ears’ to feedback on concerns/issues at the College; in this way, the Committee would add value.
      • She would, this year, continue with the assurance reporting to Board that was initiated by the previous Safeguarding Link Governor.

The Committee acknowledged that governors needed both assurance and enough information to offer challenge and critique to meet its duties outlined in part 2 of KCSIE. She invited Committee members to consider what information they would find helpful regarding effective oversight going forward.

39/21. Committee Self-Assessment 2020 - 2021

At the end of the 2019 – 2020 governance cycle, the Board and each committee completed an evaluation exercise. In addition, governors had undertaken an individual self- assessment as part of the Education & Training Foundation Board Review conducted in December 2020. These had informed the Board’s self-assessment return and improvement action planning.

The Committee Chair directed members to consider the Committee’s performance during 2020 – 201 and submit the outcome to the Clerk.

40/21. Date of Next Meeting – to be confirmed.

41/21. TAG (Teacher Assessed Grades) (Confidential Briefing – Agenda Item 13)

The GVP – Q&CM and DoALs provided a confidential verbal briefing to the Committee on the College’s preparations with respect to TAGs. A further assurance briefing, to which all governors had been invited, would be presented prior to the Audit Committee on 16 June 2021.

The GVP – Q&CM explained how the teaching staff had used systems including ProMonitor and ALPS Connect, 6 Dimensions Reports and historical performance data to assess and sense check students’ progress to ensure the accuracy and fairness of the final assessed grades.

The Committee discussed how overall achievement rate statistics could be affected by TAGs and the risk of lower achievement in Functional Skills.

The Committee acknowledged the immense administrative burden that had been placed on teachers and expressed its thanks to teaching staff for their hard work and commitment to students.

42/21. Apprenticeships Update (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 14)

The GVP – I&SD presented an update (previously circulated) of the College’s apprenticeship provision.

      • COVID continued to impact provision. Apprentices who had lost some learning, particularly practical sessions, had been catching up and detailed plans were in place to prioritise apprentices due to achieve this academic year; progress was being regularly monitored for each individual apprentice to inform projections for achievement.
      • Apprenticeship recruitment planning for 2021/2022, had been finalised ahead of setting the budget for the year. Modest recruitment targets were included for areas of greater uncertainty. The College had seen a strong number of starts during the late spring and early summer.
      • The College had been approached by the GMB Union to take on its Trade Union Official apprentices from another College. GMB was keen to work with the College and to also facilitate conversations with the national trailblazer group. The trailblazer group, headed by UNITE, had a mixed cohort ready to start, with another dedicated cohort from the Baker’s Union also waiting. By working together with these employers, the College had been able to start three cohorts of Trade Union Official apprentices, being the only provider of this apprenticeship in the Country.
      • The College had recruited to assessor vacancies. Due to the departure of the Hospitality & Catering Assessor, the College had withdrawn from the sector, given the variable demand and quality of apprenticeship vacancies on offer.
      • The Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) had published the QAR Business Rules for calculating achievement rates for 2020/2021, with some changes -
      • Timely Achievement Rates would no longer be calculated, although the College would continue to monitor rates internally;
      • Apprenticeship Standard achievements would be counted in the year of their End Point Assessment (EPA) achievement date, not their actual end date.
      • The College was starting to make better predictions at individual apprentice level to estimate the likely out-turn given the impact of the delays of COVID and the change in the Business Rules.
      • The College had not been required to submit another Minimum Standards update report to the ESFA since early February; an update was due before the end of July. Current projections, considering the latest position for each apprentice due to achieve this year, indicated that the minimum standard percentage was likely to be well below the tolerance figure of 40% and compared favourably with the 2018/2019 year-end position of 47%.
        The Committee acknowledged the success of the College in securing apprentices additional Trade Union Official apprentices.

43/21. Ongoing Industrial Action - Impact on Provision (Confidential Briefing – Agenda item 15)

The GVP, Q&CM and the DoALs provided a verbal update to the Committee, providing assurance on the actions taken by the College to mitigate the impact on students by the on-going industrial action being taken by the NEU.

44/21. Risk

The Committee considered the strategic risks relevant to its remit and agreed that they had been discussed within the meeting.

The meeting concluded at 7.45 p.m.