Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee
Date 21st March 22
Time 5.30 p.m.
Minutes Membership Dr J. Barratt (Parent Governor), H. Hawksworth (Academic Staff Governor, LR Campus), J. Sharrock (Safeguarding Link Governor) (Chair), R. Wilson (ex-officio, Chair of the Board) and L. Wright (Parent Governor).

Co-opted Committee member – A Creighton (HE 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. Sears, Director of A Level Services (DoALS) and
Clerk to the Board – T. Cottee
Apologies A. Benghiat (H.E. Link Governor), E. Rees (16 – 19 Student Governor) and J. Rowe (E&D Link Governor)

J. Sharrock in the Chair.
L. Wright, the newly appointed Parent Governor, was welcomed to her first Committee meeting.

13/22. Declarations of Interest

It was noted that Dr J. Barratt, J. Rowe and L. Wright had declared on the Register of Interest that they had a child at the college and had understood when it was appropriate to declare this interest.

14/22. Minutes – 24 January 2022 (Appendix – Agenda Item 4)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 24 January 2022, were approved as a true record.

15/22. Matters Arising

The Chair sought assurance that all actions from the previous meeting were either on the agenda for the meeting, were being actioned or programmed on the Committee Work Plan. This was confirmed.

16/22. Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) 2021 – 2022 (Appendix – Agenda item 4)

The GVP – Q, A & I presented the Draft Quality Enhancement Plan 2021 – 2022 (previously circulated) for review and comment. The GVP also requested suggestions for improvement.

The QEP replaced the Quality Improvement Plan previously used throughout the college and reported to the Committee and Board. The revised Plan had been enhanced to better fit the college’s aspirations for excellence moving forward and now included the most recent OFSTED Inspection recommendations. The actions considered to be the highest priority were now highlighted. The Plan would evolve over time and was intended to be used as an operational document throughout the College.

Whilst the Committee appreciated the revised document as clear progress, particularly cross-referencing with strategic KPIs, it requested some further revisions to ensure that –

      • there was consistent clarity across all the actions in the Plan.
      • all actions in the Plan featured SMART targets.
      • going forward, actions be ‘tightened up’ to focus on priority and strategic priorities.
      • reports should highlight risks and actions being taken to mitigate them; and
      • the document should be of real use to the college operationally.

In response to a question on how the Plan would capture the effectiveness of the college’s careers, information and guidance, the D, CS explained that the Careers Strategy being developed focussed on career pathways development and destinations. To determine its effectiveness, he envisaged KPIs being developed around, for example, timeliness of destination information and numbers of students advancing to university. In addition, the GVP – CS & BD explained that the College was also looking to track the impact of student participation in enrichment activities on destination.

The Committee agreed that the Plan form the ‘core’ of the Committee’s Workplan going forward, with highest priority actions providing topics for more in-depth discussion and that reports on the progress against the Plan be reported back to the Committee.

17/22. Safeguarding & E&D Link Governor – Verbal Reports

The D, CS, in the absence of the E&D Link Governor, provided the following verbal update -

      • The D, CS had now taken on the role of Chair of the college’s Equality & Diversity Committee. The next E&D Committee would determine its specific priorities, informed by both the outcomes of the latest student induction survey and the Strategic Development Plan.
      • He had reached out to staff to gauge interest in the college’s Protected Characteristics Ambassadors.
      • The Student Union had requested the inclusion of a Pride Officer on the Student Council from 2022 – 2023.
      • The college was rolling out a programme of films and speakers, exploring the topic of gender identity.

In response to a question from the staff governor, the D, CS explained that engagement in student groups was facilitated through The Agency.

In response to a question from the Committee Chair, the D.CS explained he was working with students to develop a range of tutorial resources on issues surrounding Ukraine. He assured the Committee that resources for students on challenging issues were highlighted with appropriate trigger warnings.

The Clerk explained that the E&D Link Governor had attended the Search & Governance Committee recently, to support its discussion on Board diversity. He had now been invited to join the Committee and would be working with the Clerk on broadening the diversity of the Board, starting with the priority action to improve the gender diversity amongst Independent Governors.

The Safeguarding Link Governor reported that –

    • Regarding the review of the College Safeguarding Committee, the membership and attendance had been revised to allow wider representation across the college, apprenticeships, employers and students. They had agreed a schedule of half termly meetings with the emphasis on feedback by representatives and measuring the impact of actions and activities. The Link Governor had set an expectation that staff members feed in comments from their colleagues. The first meeting of the ‘new’ Committee had taken place on 31 January 2022.

The GVP – CS & BD provided a verbal update to the meeting.

      • The Safeguarding Team were busy; there had been an increase in students referred to the Team over the same period in 2021. Issues surrounding mental health and anxiety remained the biggest referral category.
      • The college had in place robust links to support students vulnerable to exploitation, undertaking external referrals where appropriate.
      • A Level students were being supported as they faced external exams for the first time; resources and support offered included the wider use of the FIKA mental health support app throughout the College.
      • She had met recently with a governor on the Committee for a specific development session on safeguarding and she extended the invitation to any governor.
      • The Draft Safest College Strategy would be presented to the next meeting of the Staff Forum and then rolled out throughout college.

In response to a question on how the college was supporting students during the upcoming Easter holiday, the GVP confirmed that the college would continue to provide resources to support student well-being over Easter, including a Wellbeing Handbook offered to students during college holiday periods. The DoALS explained that, unlike over the Christmas period, the College would be ‘open’ to students.

18/22. Academic Provision Progress and Vocational Quality Reviews Period 2 (Confidential Appendix – Agenda item 6)

The Committee reviewed the Academic Provision Progress Report (previously circulated).

The DoALs explained that the report was based on the progress grades submitted by teachers in March 2022.

The Committee noted that the grades were not directly comparable with previous years, due to the removal of split grade options for A level courses. A mock exam week had been held in January 2022, for year 2 A level students, the results of which had informed this set of progress grades. The Committee acknowledged that it was a common pattern that progress grades dipped slightly after mock exams.

In response to a question, the DoALS explained that the CTECH qualifications (excluding Art) were new courses to replace the previous BTEC suite. As such there was no comparable data from previous years and therefore a risk that the College would misjudge standards when delivering and assessing work. CTEC courses were assessed by a mix of external exam and coursework units; the Year 1 work had already been assessed and received TAGs in autumn 2021. These results had been ‘banked’ to provide more certainty about potential outcomes. Overall, these courses were on track to meet predictions.

The Committee discussed the key risks for this year, which included lower retention and lower attendance due to covid disruption will would impact achievement rates and impact outcomes. High target grades (based on CAG GCSEs) set against a lower profile of A level exam grades as announced by Ofqual were also likely to lead to lower value-added outcomes for this cohort.

In seeking assurance on the actions being taken to mitigate these risks, the DoALS explained -

      • Careful sequencing of schemes of work at the start of the year had taken place to repair any gaps & plan for full completion of the specification.
      • The tuition fund had been used in different programme areas with qualifying students.
      • The college used advance information provided by exam boards to focus revision for students.
      • Moderator visits (virtual) had sampled work this term and feedback indicated that standards were at the correct level.

The Committee enquired on the impact of the two Learning Mentors for A level courses to support students with organisation and study skills, in particular. The D, CS explained that being very recent appointments, the role was in development and would be reviewed later in the year to assess the impact.

The Committee reviewed the Vocational Provision Progress report (previously circulated).

The GVP - Q, A & I explained that the report was based on the progress grades submitted by teachers in March 2022.

The Committee noted that the projected grades on graded qualifications were not directly comparable with previous years. Most of the Extended Diplomas were now RQF 2016 revised qualifications with a significant proportion of externally examined units rather than the traditional 2010 QCF qualifications which were almost exclusively internal assessment. As Alps reported separately on 2010 and 2016 cohorts there was no meaningful strategic overview at cohort level. In addition, progress grades in 2021, reflected the context of lockdown and the subsequent Teacher Assessed Grades.

The Committee discussed the key risks for this year, which included lower achievement on externally examined units and lower attendance this year due to covid disruption was likely to impact outcomes. High target grades (based on CAG GCSEs) set against a lower profile of externally examined grades was likely to lead to lower value added outcomes for this cohort.

In seeking assurance on the actions being taken to mitigate these risks, the GVP explained that the college was -

      • Taking advantage of awarding body mitigations, of adaptations where appropriate and where students or cohorts qualified because of significant disruption.
      • Using tuition funding in different programme areas with qualifying students to focus on exam preparation, teaching of additional units and small group support
      • Significantly increasing hours allocated to progression specialist roles to provide additional focus on destinations and therefore on maximising achievement through enhancing intrinsic motivation: and to provide more capacity for managing challenging behaviour.

In response to a question from the Staff Governor, the GVP explained that the Student Conduct Policy was being revised and would be presented to Senior Leadership Team. The Staff Development Day on 08 April would also include sessions to support staff to deal effectively with challenging behaviour through the rigorous and sensitive application of the college Student Conduct Policy.

The DoALS left the meeting at this point.

19/22. Apprenticeships (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 7)

The GVP – I&SD presented a report on the College’s apprenticeship provision (previously circulated).

The Committee reviewed the following key issues -

      • Apprenticeship recruitment for 2021/2022 continued to be strong and was above target. Further starts were expected.
      • The funding position remained above budget.
      • Achievement rates were starting to become more predictable, but were still seeing some impact from the pandemic.
      • The likely overall achievement rate was now approx. 65%, a 5% improvement on 20/21, but some way short of the College’s 70% target.

In response to a question on the mitigating actions being taken, the GVP explained that all assessors had received clear direction that all apprentices with a planned end date in this academic year must be completed. The GVP would attend 1-2-1s with the assessors with the largest proportion of apprentices due to achieve to understand their needs, as failure to appropriately use all options to support achievement could bring the achievement rate down further, although there was still confidence that the achievement rate would be in line with national averages.

In response to challenges regarding the availability of EQAs and EPA from awarding bodies, the college was aiming for direct claims status in some qualifications, to avoid the need for EQA. The college was also planning further ahead for EPA and reserving slots a long way in advance to ensure apprentices were entered for EPA by year end, as an inability to have qualifications signed off or apprentices to sit EPA would put achievement rates at further risk in this year and delay the payment for achievement funding.

With additional recruitment of apprentices in September 2022 likely, combined with longer duration apprenticeship standards, recruitment needs were being evaluated now, to allow sufficient time to recruit.

The college had not yet heard the outcome of its Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) re-application in December 2021. Whilst confident of reapproval; failure would result in a lengthy appeals process during which no starts could be processed. The Education & Skills Funding Authority (ESFA) had advised that it intended, from April, to analyse the number of apprentices past planned end date or on suspension. If this number exceeded 15% or 100 in total, further conditions on providers might be introduced.

20/22. Sub-Contracting Report (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 8)

The Committee reviewed a thorough report on the college’s subcontracted provision (previously circulated).

The report was part of a suite to provide assurance to the Board on the effectiveness of the colleges subcontracted provision. The Audit Committee had at its most recent meeting, received the Internal Audit Service Report on sub-contracted provision, which had secured Substantial Assurance; with no issues or concerns highlighted.

The Committee reviewed the report, which set out –

      • Details of the college’s current sub-contracting partners.
      • Funding performance.
      • Recruitment.
      • Provision.
      • Risk.
      • Future Landscape.

For the 2022/23 year, the ESFA would continue the further implementation of the more rigorous ‘Subcontracting Standard’, for the selection and monitoring of subcontracted partners. To support the transition over to the new Standard, the college would completely revisit the entire subcontracting processes, including the contract issued to the partners. The Committee supported this approach. The GVP would also review the criteria contained in the new Standard and map it into the college’s existing processes, to establish where any additional controls or processes were required to ensure that the college met and exceeded the requirements detailed in the standard.

21/22. Higher Education Spring Consultative Report (Appendix – Agenda Item 9a)

The Committee reviewed the latest Higher Education Student Consultation project (previously circulated).

The Committee commended the revised presentation of the consultation outcomes, which clearly showed the results of the consultations and the impact of actions taken in response to student feedback.

22/22. Higher Education – Office for Students (OfS) Update

The Clerk to the Board provided a verbal update to the Committee. She explained that:

      • In response to consultations on quality and standards, the OfS had published new conditions that allowed the Regulator to tackle poor quality provision The new requirements would allow the OfS to intervene more robustly where courses fell below expectations, or where the rates of top degrees awarded continued to rise without good reason. The conditions, which applied to courses at all levels offered by universities and other higher education providers registered with the OfS, would come into force on 1 May 2022.
      • The OfS Student Guide to Tackling Harassment, Hate and Sexual Misconduct had been published and presented OfS’s statement of expectations in a more accessible way for students and students’ union officials. OfS had also published a communications toolkit which included images and videos that students and students’ unions could use.
      • OfS had sent a letter to providers outlining its approach to monitoring access and participation plans and setting out plans for 2023-24 plans.

23/22. Risk

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

24/22. Date of Next Meeting – 04 June 2022.

25/22 Discussion: How to Develop the Committee

The Committee acknowledged that, with the recent change in Committee Chair and ongoing changes to the management of quality at the college, there was now an opportunity to review the Committee’s terms of Reference and identify how it wished to work going forward.

The Committee recognised that it had a wide remit, including to –

      • Scrutinise the standards of student performance, particularly achievement, retention and pass rates and the positive progression of students.
      • Consider the standards of teaching, learning and assessment and its impact on the success and progression of students.
      • Take account of the view of the college’s major stakeholders, particularly students, parents, and employers.
      • Advise and report to the Corporation on the college’s performance and quality assurance system.
      • provide assurance to the Corporation that the college was operating in accordance with the principles and guidance of the Office for Students.
      • to consider national and local priorities for education and training and local employer and local community education and training needs, including monitoring and review of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance

The Clerk circulated to the meeting a suggested Terms of Reference for the Committee, based on assessment of other colleges’ committee terms and best practice, which was broadly accepted by the Committee, which would now be developed further for closer review at the next meeting.

The Clerk also signposted to the Committee development materials produced by the Education & Training Foundation on the governance of quality and curriculum.

In conclusion, the Committee agreed that –

      • the Quality Enhancement Plan would provide the ‘core’ of the Work Plan going forward;
      • in addition to receiving assurance and compliance reports, the majority of meetings would take the opportunity to discuss in more depth specific issues in the Quality Plan, to develop critical thinking and reading;
      • the draft Terms would be reviewed at the next meeting, prior to recommendation to Board.

The meeting concluded at 7.37 p.m.