Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee
Date 15th June 20
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, G. Channon (ex officio), C. Davies, C. Gore, H. Hawksworth, N. Merchant, K. Quant and M. Willmot. Student Governors by invitation – C. Wassall and M. Wood.
In Attendance In attendance by electronic device
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)
P. Morgan, Director of A Level Studies (DoALS)
C. Pemberton, Group Vice-Principal, Quality and Curriculum Management (GVP – Q&CM); and

Clerk to the Board – T. Cottee
Apologies None.

29/20. Declarations of Interest

A. Allen declared an interest as an employee of Harper Adams University.
The GVP – CS&BD declared an interest in Minute Number 42/20, as a parent of a child affected by the matter under consideration.

H. Hawksworth declared an interest in Minute Number 42/20, as a parent of a child affected by the matter under consideration.

Both left the meeting during consideration of the item.

30/20. Minutes – 23 March 2020 (Appendix – Agenda Item 3)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 23 March 2020, were approved as a true record, subject to an amendment that:

    • Minute No. 26/20 – the report had been tabled; and
    • The addition of a note that the following scheduled meeting would be held remotely.

31/20. Matters Arising

The Chair reported that this would be the last scheduled meeting of the Committee to be attended by M. Wood (16-19 Student Governor), who would be leaving the College to attend University and P. Morgan, DoALS, who would be retiring from the College in September 2020. He thanked both for their support of the Committee and wished them both well.

32/20. Quality Improvement Plan (QuIP) (Appendix – Agenda Item 4)

The Committee considered the latest College QuIP (previously circulated).

The GVP – Q, S & C reported that, due to the impact of the temporary closure of the College in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, certain projects could not be progressed. However, as directed by the Board, the College had focused on demonstrating progress against projects in areas subject to the recent OFSTED Inspection Report.

Having reviewed the progress of projects against expected targets, the Chair asked the Student Governor (16 – 19) to report on her experience with the remote learning arrangements provided by the College as a result of the temporary closure. The Student Governor reported that she had been able to engage with tutors, access resources (which had focussed on revision, as she was a Second Year A Level student) and use the technology effectively. Overall, she had been happy with her experience and the quality of learning and engagement offered to her.

The Chair mentioned that some Committee members had joined a recent Sixth Form Colleges Association webinar on how governors should ensure the quality of online learning. He asked officers to explain the College’s current quality assurance arrangements. These arrangements consisted of regular dialogue between the College and tutors and that remote learning lessons had been observed.

The Board Chair asked how the College knew students were still making progress against set targets during lockdown Across all provision, students and apprentices had been expected to engage with the learning opportunities provided for them and tutors and progression specialists had been working closely with those students identified as at risk (using the risk indicator system on ProMonitor) of not engaging to the expected level. Through weekly analysis, students not meeting expected targets were identified and approaches to improve engagement were undertaken on a risk assessed basis. The DoALS explained that A Level Year 2 students were expected to be in a position to undertake examinations in October 2020, if desired. As the Government announced the partial re-opening of the College from 15 June 2020, the College had identified those students most at risk of not progressing to expectations and had contacted each personally and invited them to either return to College or demonstrate the expected level of engagement with remote resources going forward. The GVP - I&SD explained that the College had moved quickly to put remote assessment arrangements in place for apprentices, based on best practices identified from the sector. The arrangements appeared to have been successful and the College was looking to incorporate remote assessment, where appropriate, going forward.

The Committee, whilst accepting of the impact of the College’s partial closure on the progress of all projects in the Improvement Plan, stated its expectation that progress against targets be demonstrated at the next review.

33/20. Higher Education

Higher Education Access and Participation Plan 2020-21 to 2024-25 (Appendix – Agenda item 5a)

Further to Q, S & C Min. No. 45/19, the Committee reviewed the Higher Education Access and Participation Plan 2020-21 to 2024-25 (previously circulated).

The GVP – Q&CM explained that –

    • The Office for Students (OfS) required the Plan to be considered in full by the Board;
    • The Plan referred to a relatively small number of full-time students;
    • The Plan had been submitted to the OfS and was now subject to dialogue prior to final acceptance.

The HE Link Governor sought assurance that the Draft Plan had been submitted to expected deadline. This was confirmed. The HE Link Governor considered whether the Plan should be amended in light of the impact of Covid-19, as there may be some longer-term issues which may affect HE access and participation, for example, an increased rate of redundancy in some sectors and a consequent demand for re-training, the impact of increased financial hardship on households’ ability to access higher education and mental health issues, which could affect vulnerable students. The GVP – Q&CM explained that the Plan had been accepted by the OfS as it had been drafted and that the Higher Education Quality Improvement Plan would be the most appropriate report to record longer-term issues arising from the pandemic, particularly as the College was looking to improve its TEF Rating to Silver. This suggestion was agreed, and the Committee directed that the HE Quality Improvement Plan be reviewed, amended if required and submitted to the next meeting of the Committee.

The HE Link Governor also accepted the offer of a Link meeting between the Head of HE and the GVP – Q&CM.

The Board Chair sought assurance that the College’s approach to HE course selection did not adversely affect recruitment and student experience. The GVP – Q&CM explained that the College would close courses with low recruitment numbers, to preserve student experience and the integrity of the College’s offer. It was likely that the number of 2020 – 21 full-time HE enrolments would increase both in response to new courses offered, such as HND Sport, and through the HE marketing strategy with current students, who may now not wish to study away from home, due to Covid-19 concerns. However, the College, in common with all other HE providers, now had to manage the impact of the recently introduced Student Control Numbers.


Office for Students Update

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

    • The OfS continued to produce guidance and briefing notes during the Covid-19 lockdown period, including -
      • new guidance for registered providers on how the OfS would approach the regulation of student protection during the period of disruption resulting from the coronavirus pandemic;
      • a briefing note on how universities, colleges and other organisations were providing information, advice and guidance for prospective students during the coronavirus pandemic;
      • a recent event on supporting Black, Asian and minority ethnic students during the coronavirus pandemic.
    • However, the OfS continued to pause all existing consultations and routine information requests until further notice, to help reduce the burden on providers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

34/20. Student Surveys (Appendices – Agenda Item 6)

The Committee had directed that it receive at every meeting, progress against actions raised through student surveys conducted, with an expectation that actions be completed to target.

Action Plan to follow up the 2018-19 Student Leaver Survey

The Committee noted that all of the actions in the Plan (previously circulated) had been completed; the majority in advance of or by the expected completion date. The GVP Q&CM explained that this year’s survey would be conducted by remote access, meaning that direct year-on-year comparison with previous surveys would be compromised. The Committee noted that –

    • The Apprenticeship Survey had been issued in March 2020, with an increased participation rate;
    • The Student Union Executive had progressed the use of focus groups to analyse differences in Gender, Ethnicity and Sexuality subgroups as part of raising satisfaction.

Action Plan to follow up the Student Induction Survey – Autumn 2019

The Committee noted that all but two of the Actions in the Plan (previously circulated) had been completed. The Committee stated it expected these actions to be completed by the next review.

35/20. Student Voice Update (Appendix – Agenda item 7)

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

    • Following the partial College closure in March 2020, the newly-appointed 2020/21 Student Union Executive (SUE) officers had met with the current SUE via Microsoft Teams for handover and induction, which had been very successful.
    • An extensive programme of Teams meetings had been created, so officers could meet regularly and plan for the new academic year, including a meeting with the Director of Communications, Admissions & Marketing on how the College promoted itself to students.
    • Going forward, the SUE would hold regular focus meetings allowing students the opportunity to engage in the issues relevant to them and their groups. Plans were in place to have a vote at the end of each meeting to decide on the topic of the following meeting. The first focus meeting had discussed Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality and Equality, which had been attended by the Board Vice Chair and the Equality & Diversity Link Governor. The SUE had concluded that a diversity group might be a better way to engage more students.
    • All new officers were keen to start promoting the SUE to students starting in September, with some officers recording a video or voice over to welcome new students and a producing presentation on the SUE.
    • The 16-19 Student Governor appointment would be confirmed at Board in July 2020.

The Committee acknowledged that the partial closure had prompted the College to explore new ways of communicating with the wider student body, which had resulted in greater engagement and would be further developed.

36/20. Student Engagement Reports (Appendices – Agenda item 8)

16 – 19 Vocational

    • Curriculum Leaders had been required to keep a log of the extent of engagement from the vocational student body since lock down commenced, primarily to ensure students were given the best opportunity to progress and succeed in their qualifications.
    • The GVP – Q&CM reported that vocational awarding bodies had been slow in bottoming out which units and whole qualifications could receive a centre assessed grade (‘CAG’ - similar to A levels), which units and qualifications could use an adapted approach and which would still need to be signed-off as competent, often by being assessed in College; one of the main awarding bodies, City and Guilds, had not yet finalised all subjects.
    • Teachers, progression specialists and support staff had been relentless in their pursuit of maximum engagement and, as a consequence, engagement in 16 – 19 vocational had been very high throughout lock down – 90%. Teachers had used many different methods to engage students, in particular Microsoft Teams, the telephone, email and the VLE.
    • The College had identified areas with some of the least engaged and these students had been invited to come into College from 15 June 2020. The second phase was to identify students that had less than expected lower engagement than their peers – although low in number, this would be in the technical and professional qualifications where whole cohorts would need to come into College to complete.

16 – 19 Academic

    • Staff had, with very little notice, worked hard to enable students to continue learning from home with as little disruption as possible, including changing how practical tasks could be delivered in subjects such as Chemistry or subjects with NEA (non-exam assessment) where specialist facilities were needed (e.g. L3 Fashion/Textiles, Product Design). Programme leaders had been directed to ensure delivery of lessons in usual timetabled slots.
    • Assessment (marking and providing feedback) had proved a challenge for subjects with specialist symbols not easily captured by computers (e.g. maths) or essay style, hand-written assessment.
    • Training had been available to staff throughout. The Learning Enhancement Team had created a series of mini-Professional Exchange meetings designed to offer teachers the opportunity to explore effective approaches to online TLA using technology. These were designed to provide a forum for teachers to share their ideas as well as consider new approaches and develop the training sessions offered. All ran on Microsoft Teams and most were recorded to enable access at a later date.
    • The student ‘working from home’ survey, conducted in June 2020, would inform the College’s approach to improving student engagement, teaching delivery and learning experience. The actions would focus on supporting motivation, managing workload, learning new material in the absence of face to face teaching and the need for a consistent delivery platform
    • Those students identified as not fully engaging to expectations were invited to work in College to have a 1:1 with the SST and then a meeting to set an action plan with their Programme Leader.

Higher Education

    • There had been 100% engagement across provision, with additional support given where requested.
    • Some programmes still had to complete practical elements (e.g. Counselling), hopefully during September.

The Committee expressed its thanks to all staff who had worked so hard to engage students. Whilst appreciative of these efforts, the Committee recognised that the role of the Board was still to seek assurance on the quality of learning and to expect student progression to targets. The Committee recognised that preparing the College for the possibility of blended learning going into 2020 – 2021, was very challenging with pressures on staffing, estates, facilities, access to technology, safeguarding and unions.

In response to a question from the Staff Governor (Academic, London Road), it was confirmed that engagement numbers would be broken down across subject areas, once students invited back into College, had met their Programme Leader to produce an Action Plan for engagement.

The Committee sought assurance on how the College was addressing the mental health and wellbeing of students. The GVP – CS&BD explained that students identified as vulnerable were contacted regularly and offered support through a variety of platforms. Safeguarding issues that had arisen which required intervention were subject to weekly reports. The College had recruited two new Emotional Health & Wellbeing Practitioners since lockdown to commence transition work with Year 11 students enrolling at the College from September 2020 and identify themselves to current students. Communications to students, parents and stakeholders signposted resources to support students. The Safeguarding Link Governor confirmed that she had recently met the Head of Student Services to seek assurance on this issue. College officers undertook weekly catch-ups with Looked After Young People and their partner agency workers to ensure they were safe and supported effectively by social services.

The Board Chair reported that all governors had received an email from a student asking the College to consider its response to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Principal/CEO had responded personally, setting out the College’s proposals for tutorials and raising student awareness. He had also invited the student to attend the SUE’s Focus Group on Diversity and join the College’s Equality & Diversity Committee. The student had responded positively to the College’s proposals. The Board Chair asked that a copy of the Principal/CEO’s response be sent to governors.

37/20. Equality and Diversity Committee (Appendix – Agenda Item 9)

The Committee received the report of the Equality & Diversity Link Governor (previously circulated).

The Equality & Diversity Committee had met in May 2020 and the Link Governor reported that, since the meeting, the Rotary had agreed to provide financial support to the virtual Star Awards 2020. The closing date for nominations was 19 June 2020.

38/20. Safeguarding Committee (Agenda Item 10)

It was noted that the meeting of the Committee had been rescheduled and there was no update to report. However, all Committee members had been present at the GVP – CS & BD’s recent Development Briefing on the College’s safeguarding arrangements during the Covid-19 lockdown period (previously circulated).

The Student Governors left the meeting at this point.

39/20. Apprenticeships Update (Appendix – Agenda Item 12)

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

    • Recruitment had remained modest throughout lock-down.
    • The Business Development Team had been working actively with employers to encourage the continued recruitment of apprentices to target for September 2020.
    • COVID-19 had impacted usual activity; however, it was anticipated that most areas would recruit to target and close to the normal planned start dates, although certain sectors, such as Hair & Beauty and Hospitality & Catering would be impacted by likely extended closures.
    • Engagement during lockdown had remained high - around 95% of apprentices had continued to complete work during lock-down with a lower than national average number of suspensions and withdrawals. Assessors would be progressing back into employers subject to detailed risk assessments that have been reviewed by unions, Senior Leadership Team and employers.
    • The next round of Apprenticeship Progress Grades would give a clear indication, across all apprenticeships, of any specific interventions that might be necessary to safeguard achievements over the coming months.

The Committee sought assurance over the College’s actions to mitigate the possibility of further withdrawals and suspensions due to the on-going impact of COVID. The GVP – I & SD responded that areas of concern had been identified and, wherever possible, suspensions would be used to allow apprentices to restart within six months should the situation change. Soft intelligence from employers suggested they would prefer not to withdraw apprentices if possible.

The Committee received the results of the Apprenticeship Survey undertaken in March 2020. The results would inform improvement planning and Apprentice Pre-enrolment and Induction programmes were being reviewed in light of the feedback. Review paperwork had already been amended to provide regular reminders support services, PREVENT, and EPA requirements. Target setting had already been shifted towards the requirements of Standards, with specific focus on the three areas of Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviours. The percentage of respondents who felt safe was high at 97%; those who had not responded positively were being contacted individually.

The Committee challenged the percentage return of students who did not know what to do if they felt unsafe. The GVP I&SD advised that an Improvement Plan would be put in place; the Committee directed an update report be presented to the next meeting.

The College had been notified by ESFA that too many of its apprenticeship achievements for 2018/19, were below the Minimum Standard (MS) overall achievement rate. The Committee received an explanation for this and that the ESFA did not intend to apply any conditions of funding to the College. However, it would continue to monitor provision closely moving forward. The ESFA had now confirmed that no national performance tables for apprenticeships; Qualifications Achievement Rates (QARs), would be published for 2019/2020; what this meant for OFSTED and Minimum Standards was unclear at this stage.

The Committee acknowledged that achievement rates could be affected by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, although the Team had completed over 20 apprentices during the lock-down through alternative forms of assessment and online observations. However, apprentices requiring on-site assessment or online exams had been particularly affected during this period.

The Committee challenged the basis of the College’s assumptions and arrangements to mitigate the risks to expected achievement targets. The GVP – I &SD explained that the projections were based on optimistic projections but was confident that plans were in place to restart on-site observation and online exams again as soon as it was safe to do so. The Team remained optimistic a significant proportion of planned completers would do so by the end of July 2020.

40/20. Strategic Plan – Committee Remit Actions (Appendix – Agenda Item 14)

The Board Chair explained that he had directed each ‘core’ committee and the Board to consider objectives in the Strategic Plan that related to their terms of reference. The Committee was required to review the relevant actions for progress made, how the Committee could evidence that progress had been made, and had the Committee been effective in monitoring progress and providing support and challenge.

Having reviewed the Plan excerpt (previously circulated), the Committee was advised that the following projects had not been completed to target date –

    • A.1 – Point 6 - Improve Apprenticeship Achievement rate from 63% to 75%. Achievement rates had improved but not at the expected rate. The Committee had been informed of the circumstances behind this.
    • A.4 – Point - Review tutorial model and programme. Whilst not achieved to deadline, significant changes to the tutorial programme planned in response to the changing profile of the student cohort had been agreed and would be in place for September 2020. Tutorials would be developed across themes, linked up with students’ destination expectations and on more generic topics, such as managing well-being and dealing with anxiety.
    • D.3 – Point 4 - To train staff in Mental Health First Aid to support early identification. It had been planned to implement his action at the Staff Development Day; however, other staff development considerations had taken precedent.

The Committee agreed that this report be a standing item on the Committee going forward.

41/20. Risk

The Committee concluded that the risks identified in the 2019 – 2020 Strategic Risk Register were adequate and that there had been sufficient discussion of the issues at the meeting; particularly with respect to students not achieving predicted grades.

The Committee also concluded that Risk 4.7 (Risk that the College won’t be ready for a UKBA inspection due to the absence of appropriate International Recruitment knowledge and compliance) be recommended for removal, as, due to the College’s Ofsted Grade 4, the College could not recruit international students.

Having declared an interest, the GVP – CS&BD and H. Hawksworth left the meeting at this point.

42/20. CAG (Centre Assessed Grades) (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 11)

Prior to leaving the meeting, the Staff Governor (Academic, London Road Campus), had advised the Committee that it had been challenging as a member of teaching staff, to be fair and transparent in submitting predicted grades for students; however, the College had provided good guidance and support for teachers.

The Committee reviewed the CAG process applied (previously circulated) and the anticipated, but not, as yet confirmed, appeals process, should students be dissatisfied with their grades.

43/20. Committee Self-Assessment 2019 - 2020

At the end of the 2018 – 2019 governance cycle, the Board and each committee completed an evaluation exercise and governors were requested to undertake an individual self- assessment in July 2019. These informed the Board’s self-assessment return and improvement action plan 2019 – 2020.

The Committee Chair directed members to consider the Committee’s performance during 2019 – 2020 and submit the outcome to the Clerk.

44/20. Date of Next Meeting – to be confirmed.

The meeting concluded at 7.45 p.m.