Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee
Date 22nd March 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 (Apprenticeship Link), A. Benghiat (H.E. Link), H. Hawksworth (Academic Staff Governor, LR Campus), N. Merchant (Parent Governor), K. Quant, J. Rowe (E&D & SEND Link Governor), J. Sharrock (Safeguarding & LAYP Link Governor), Claire Wassall (H.E. Student Governor) and R. Wilson (ex-officio, Chair of the Board),
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 Co-opted Committee member Joe Wildman (16 – 19 Student Governor)

15/21. Declarations of Interest

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

16/21. Minutes – 25 January 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 3)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 25 January 2021, were approved as a true record.

17/21. 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.

18/21. 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 on whether the College benchmarked its performance against Target 4 (Ensuring disadvantaged students EHCP/High Needs and LAYP make the same progress), the D, CS replied that the College this internally at each progress review and the end of the academic year. Performance with respect to supporting EHCP students was good. To improve its support to LAYP, the College had employed an additional Progression Specialist specifically for LAYP, with the intention of improving this group of students’ retention; as a result, this was now improving.

In response to a question on whether the College would meet its intended target to close the achievement gap for these students to within 2%, the GVP – Q&CM acknowledged that these were challenging stretch targets, and whilst the College was on track to meet them with respect to EHCP students, this was more challenging for LAYP.

The Committee Chair observed that the Board had made clear its desire to see improvements with respect to apprenticeships and enquired if the College was on course to meet the expected targets set. The GVP – I&SD explained that it was anticipated that the College would see significant improvements this year, particularly compared to last year. The main challenge facing the College currently was driving apprentices through to achievement when there had been barriers to the completion of practical assessment due to lockdown and Covid 19 restrictions. The College had conducted assessments against each apprentice to safeguard achievement rates and, where appropriate, had put in place support interventions to meet the projected targets.

19/21. Higher Education (Appendices – Agenda Item 5a to 5e)

EE & EVA Reports (Appendix – Agenda item 5c)

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

The report provided a general overview, highlighting good practice, common themes and key areas for improvement 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 Consultatives. 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 (Appendix – Agenda item 5b)

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

In response to a question on how the College was looking to develop its HE curriculum provision further to meet the demands and needs of the local community, the GVP explained that the College was currently considering offering higher level Health & Social Care qualifications; however, they had to meet the high-quality standards expected of any provision offered by the College. Whilst the College had staff skilled to deliver this provision, it may need to recruit additional staff, should the course be offered.

Higher Education Access & Participation Plan 2019 – 2020 – Update (Appendix – Agenda item 5c)

The Committee reviewed the Higher Education Access & Participation Plan 2019 – 2020 (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 Committee would consider the 2021 – 2022 Plan at its next meeting, which would include some of the 2019 – 2020 targets carried forward.

The GVP - Q&CM reminded the Committee that the College was looking to focus on care leavers entering higher education. Currently, there were no LAYP/Care leavers who had progressed into HE; this would be a focus for the working party throughout the year. Potential students had been identified and a meeting set to develop a strategy for supporting Care Leavers.

HE Consultative Overview – Update (Appendix – Agenda item 5d)

The Committee reviewed the outcomes of the consultatives conducted in the Spring 2021 term and progress against issues raised (previously circulated).

In response to a question from the HE Link Governor, who highlighted that the most consistent feedback from students across the consultatives had been a desire to return to face-to-face teaching, the GVP – Q&CM confirmed that HE students had returned to the College from 22 March 2021.

The Staff Governor added that feedback from the consultatives often acted as confirmation of teachers’ own conclusions and helped to inform content planning and implement improvements going forward.

In response to a question from the Committee Chair, the GVP explained that the higher education reports submitted were used as evidence of the College’s Quality Assurance reporting processes.

In considering how to receive further assurance on the quality of the College’s higher education provision, the Committee AGREED that, going forward, it should receive in addition to these reports, the following –
- June 2021 Meeting - Colleges’ HE Academic Freedom - Position Statement;
- Autumn Term 2021 - National HE Students’ Survey outcomes;
- Autumn Term 2021 - HE ‘Annual Report’, covering key strategic issues
and that the Committee Workplan 2020 – 2021 be amended accordingly.

At this point, the Committee Chair invited the Committee to consider what other topics within its Terms of Reference should be subject to further assurance reports and pointed out its current Terms included the monitoring and review of Careers Education, Information , Advice and Guidance and that the Committee was responsible for monitoring and evaluating the quality and impact of careers advice and guidance provided by students. It was AGREED that the Committee receive an update report on this at its next meeting.

It was AGREED that the Committee Chair, GVP – CS&BD and D, CS meet to map out the Committee’s requirements for this report.

Office for Students (OfS) Update

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

      • In a letter sent to universities and colleges, the OfS had detailed its actions in response to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular the latest lockdown restrictions. The OfS had set out actions for universities and colleges to ensure they continued to meet regulatory requirements so that students could continue to benefit from their education and had asked universities to assess the extent to which they had met the commitments made to students in relation to teaching and alternative arrangements.
      • The OfS had published its latest access and participation data which highlighted the gaps in access and outcomes experienced by groups of students underrepresented in higher education. The data showed that there had been progress in closing a number of gaps, including for access to higher education for students from the most underrepresented neighbourhoods. Updated data dashboards had been published which allowed users to compare performance at English universities, colleges and other higher education providers registered with the OfS.

19/21. Student Surveys: Autumn 2020 Student Induction Survey Action Plan - Progress (Appendix – Agenda Item 6)

The Committee reviewed the 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 survey had been carried out between October and November 2020, through Microsoft Forms survey to all first-year students. There had been 1,173 respondents (compared to 1,264 for 2019) and additional questions had been added to provide more refined information for analysis.

Regarding recommendation 1 (Review the format of the student handbook and consider a more accessible option such as an app), the Board Chair sought assurance that the College would take into account students’ feedback on the implications of loading too many apps onto their phones (see Min No 20/21 below). The D, CS explained that the any apps would be tested with focus groups before roll-out.

20/21. Student Voice (Appendices – Agenda items 7a & 7b)

Student Voice Update (Appendix – Agenda item 7a)

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

The GVP – CS&BD additionally reported that –

      • The PRIDE and Friendship groups, Debate Club and Culture Club established by the College to support students would continue once the College reopened fully. The Friendship Group, which had been developed in association with Student Ambassadors with the intention of supporting isolated and lonely students had proved to be very popular, with a steady flow of students asking to join each week.
      • The next round of student rep meetings had been held on 10 and 11 February 2021, with the focus around practicalities of returning to Campus and helping promote positive mental health.
      • The following activities had been planned for March:
        • The March Student Rep meetings had been held week commencing 15 March 2021;
        • A daily quiz in aid of Comic Relief had been held over lunch time every day, the week commencing 15 March
      • With respect to student surveys, a survey had been issued to students regarding remote working in February 2021; the results indicated an increase in satisfaction in students being able to work from home. 99% of students had work set (an increase of 1%). 78% of students stated they knew where to find information about well-being and there had been an increase in students knowing here to access Careers and UCAS information.
      • Apprentices had also been issued with a survey. The Committee acknowledged the positive change in responses to each question regarding safety, well-being, and support, which showed a positive increase in students’ responses. One student had indicated they felt unsafe; this was followed up and the issue was Covid related.

Autumn 2020 Student Forums (FE) – Action Plan – Progress (Appendix – Agenda item 7b)

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 summary –

      • Feedback suggested that the Safeguarding Team be introduced during tutorial and induction sessions. Email and the intranet homepage were the preferred digital media, with large colourful posters and signage, particularly outside the Safeguarding Team Office;
      • There was mixed feedback regarding the College’s investigation of the use of an app to share key information such as wellbeing services, financial services, work experience support. Some agreed that they would use it as the handbook was not in a suitable format. Others would not use it and would prefer the website as an app took phone storage which many students struggled with (particularly iPhone). Other suggestions included reminders via WhatsApp and QR codes.
      • Students had suggested: Genderless toilet signage, support for the use of pronoun badges, displaying both sex and gender on registers, online and face to face support groups promoted via tutorial and tutorial sessions to promote understanding.
      • The feedback suggested that Teams was now widely in use in preference to Facebook and other previously used platforms. The feedback was positive; however, students did prefer face to face teaching. There was a collective agreement that it was very useful to have recorded lessons.
      • Regarding information about working online safely, feedback suggested this include how to avoid online scams.

21/21. National Online Safety – College Programme (Agenda Item 8)

The GVP – CS&BD gave a presentation to the Committee of the recently-purchased National Online Safety Resource and explained that the resources had been purchased through the College Improvement Collaboration Funding, to enable students, staff and parents to access up-to-date safeguarding information.

College staff had all been encouraged to sign up to the resource, which featured online courses and information on a wide range of safeguarding and PREVENT issues and, to date, had been received positively, with staff using the resources to upskill and support tutorial and lesson planning. Students and parents also now had access and the College was able to monitor how the resources were used.

The GVP advised that the resource was available to governors. The Clerk to the Board agreed that the resource would support governor development, both to keep governors aware of the current issues around safeguarding and PREVENT and, going forward, as part of Induction.

In response to a question, the GVP confirmed that the resources were subject to an annual renewal payment and the College intended to retain the resource into 2022 and beyond, subject to an assessment of its continued effectiveness.

It was AGREED that the GVP pass to the Clerk details on how to access the resource, to make available to all governors, going forward.

22/21. Equality and Diversity Committee – Verbal Report

The Clerk to the Board had attended the meeting of the Equality & Diversity Committee on behalf of the E&D Link Governor and gave the following verbal report –

      • The Committee had received a presentation from two students who were members of the College’s BAME Cultural Society and Shrewsbury’s Black Lives Matters Group;
      • The GVP – Q&CM had given a verbal report to the Committee on the outcome of the College’s recent OFSTED Monitoring Report, which had reported Significant Progress;
      • The Committee had received updates with respect to College communications, estates matters, HR and campus issues relevant to equality and diversity issues;
      • The D, CS provided an update on how the College was supporting students with protected characteristics. The Committee would continue to monitor the impact of the College’s Covid measures on protected groups and experiences of Adult learners compared to 16 – 19 years.

The newly appointed E&D Link Governor joined the Board in January 2021 and was currently on Induction. He had met with the Committee Chair as part of his Induction.

23/21. Safeguarding Link Governor Report (Appendix – Agenda Item 10)

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

      • She expressed her thanks to the Clerk, GVP – CS&BD and D, CS for their support since her appointment. She would continue with her Induction and would review the College’s Central Single record system on 23 April 2021;
      • She had received a full briefing on the College’s arrangements with respect to its Covid provision/lockdown support to students and safeguarding arrangements during lockdown, given full details of the support in place for vulnerable students and those attending/working for home and the safeguarding measures in place to cope with a lockdown/remote situation.
      • With respect to the OFSTED Monitoring Visit undertaken in January 2021, she had met, with other governors and the Inspector. The Monitoring Visit Report ‘Significant Progress’ outcome was thoroughly well-deserved and reflected the intention of the College to safeguard its students and backed up the latest surveys that students and staff feel safe at the College.
      • She had received a written concern regarding the College’s response to an incident in 2019 and, after undertaking a thorough investigation into the matter, was able to respond that she was satisfied that the College had followed its safeguarding policy and procedures and had responded to the concerns with the utmost care. She asked, as Safeguarding Link, that the well-being of the College’s Safeguarding Team be a consideration going forward;
      • Regarding arrangements reported to the Safeguarding Committee to Safeguard the Estate, she was assured that the new site security arrangements would be implemented at the London Road Campus
      • Regarding Prevent, she would have the opportunity to review the College’s Prevent Policy, as Link Governor.

In conclusion, she reported that, because of her work as Link Governor so far, she was assured that the College’s safeguarding arrangements were robust, and she was looking forward to working with the College. In particular, she was keen to visit the College when current restrictions were lifted, to get a feel for safeguarding in action and the culture of the College.

24/21. Progress Grade and Quality Reviews – Period 3 (Confidential Appendices – Agenda item 11)

The SLT officers updated the Committee on Progress Grade Period 3 for A levels and vocational provision (confidential reports previously circulated), being the third set of progress grades for the academic year. The reports included the current position for each individual A level subject with both the course target for ‘Meeting Target’ grades (set during the Quality Review Meetings in the autumn term), as well as the historical pattern of ALPS grades for comparison.

The DoALs highlighted –

      • The report presentation had been amended as requested by the Committee (QSC Min No 11/21 refers);
      • This report was based on the progress grades submitted by teachers in February 2021. The College had been teaching remotely since January 2021, with generally high levels of attendance and engagement, though there were some students who had found this period more challenging and would need some focussed work to help them catch up.
      • Staff were currently working through the details of the Government’s proposals for summer 2021 awarding; to determine the evidence base for grading decisions and plan the remaining assessments to be completed with students before the end of May 2021. Exam boards were not due to publish their frameworks until the end of March, therefore, the College was putting in place an initial framework which should be easy to adapt should that prove necessary.
      • Regarding Year 2 A Levels –
        • Progress grades suggested 81.1% meeting targets; exam results achieved in previous years were 81.8% (2020 CAGs), 67.6% (2019) and 72.6% (2018). It should be remembered these were aspirational targets set at the 75th percentile nationally.
        • The judgements for high grades were currently 58.1% which was similar to the high grades achieved last year 58% (2020 CAGs) but higher than 44.9% achieved in 2019 and 2018 (51.6%) (exams). This figure assumed an averaging of split progress grades such as A/B or B/C. If all students achieved the lower of the split, then high grades would be 50.8% whereas if everyone achieved the upper of the split, the outcome would be 64% high grades. The Committee acknowledged the challenge with the Teacher Assessed Grade (TAG) process in striking an effective balance between under and over-assessment of grades and sought assurance that the College had in place effective and robust procedures to support a fair and transparent system of assessment, particularly to prevent unconscious bias.
      • Attendance was 94.5% (94% at the last report) demonstrating the high levels of engagement during the online learning period since January 2021.
      • Regarding BTECs, progress grades for the current cohort of year 2 students indicated good or excellent outcomes in line with previous years, both in raw results and value-added.
      • Regarding year 1 A Level, the Committee noted the prior attainment score for this cohort was significantly stronger, in theory, than previous cohorts, partly due to the GCSE grades being CAGs for this group. There was likely to be an impact on value-added outcomes for this cohort in 2022. Currently, attendance was 95.3% (95 % at this point last year) and the high-grade judgements had improved to 56.9% from 55.4% at PG2 whilst meeting targets was consistent at 71.7% from 71.4% at PG2.
      • CTEC Extended Certificate (Year 1). These courses were assessed by a mix of exam and coursework units with the first entry for exams taking place in January 2021. The College had decided to run the exams, increasing the distance for seating, and reviewing arrangements for arrival and departure from the exam suite. The majority of students had attended these exams, clearly wanting the opportunity to demonstrate what they had learned; those that did not attend would have another opportunity later in the course. 52% of results were Distinction or Merit with no fails.
      • GCSE Courses - The Committee was advised that the interventions put in place with the intention to improve attendance had started to show an impact with overall GCSE attendance for the year improving from 69.8% at the last report to 73.1%.

Regarding vocational provision –

      • For level 3 vocational extended diploma/ three A level equivalent programmes 82.7% (84.7% PG2 2021) were currently predicted to meet minimum target grade. There were exam-based units within these qualifications designed to challenge overall grade outcomes and these subjects had an overall headline of 73.6% MTG (68.8% at PG2).
      • The health check cycle was underway with Functional Skills English and maths, Access, and Business level 2. Functional skills had a new revised and more detailed action plan to help increase achievement. Assessments would continue as normal where possible in this area for 20/21.
      • GCSEs had the added challenge of having more students at grade 3 or lower who might have been given a favourable grade from previous schools or colleges. English GCSE was predicting 44.5% high grades. Maths GCSE was predicting high at 51.4%. Recent resit results in the vocational area saw 59% of students pass their English (including 10 grades ’s) and in maths 26% pass.
      • Vocational provision was in line to reach red ALPS 2/3 in line with previous years for value added with overall 2-year MTG of 83.7%.

In response to a question from the Staff Governor, on the College’s arrangements for keeping students and staff advised of the arrangements, the GVP explained that the P/CEO had sent out a communication to all students and parents explaining the top-level arrangements and explaining the process for assessed grades.

25/21. Apprenticeships Update (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 11)

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

      • Online teaching continued to take place throughout the latest lockdown. To mitigate the challenges of delivering practical sessions, various approaches had been adopted to try to fill the gap as effectively as possible. For example, a hairdressing assessor had attended site to stream practical demonstrations live from the salon. The Committee sought assurance on the College’s mitigations for the delivery of practical sessions.
      • Assessment visits had taken place wherever employers could accommodate. Alternative arrangements had been available where circumstances had not allowed a physical visit, e.g. remote live observations, online reviews, video evidence submissions.
      • External examinations had continued to take place for apprentices. Formal exams and assessments had taken place on campus throughout lockdown.
      • The College was producing detailed projections of recruitment from August 21, 2021. Initial planning showed growth in Construction Trades, and modest starts in other areas. The College was hopeful that, as restrictions eased, depressed sectors, would commit to more apprentice places.
      • Starts planned for January 2021 in Electrical and Gas Operatives had been delayed by the lockdown, but these were now planned to start during March and April.
      • The funding position for 2020/2021 remained positive considering the COVID impact on recruitment.
      • The College had continued to facilitate EPA throughout lockdown in a socially distanced format; all apprentices who had undertaken EPA to date had achieved.
      • Feedback from the annual apprentice survey indicated:
        • 99% of apprentices feel safe at College, up from 97.2% last year. The respondent that did not feel safe had been contacted by the safeguarding team. Their feeling was related to COVID risk, but they now felt more assured having seen what the College had done to make the campus safe;
        • 92.3% of apprentices were happy with their apprenticeship, up from 88.7% last year;
        • 95.6% of apprentices would recommend Shrewsbury Colleges Group, up from 90.1% last year.
      • The College had submitted the Minimum Standards update report to the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in early February 2021, as required by the condition of funding letter. The report highlighted that the minimum standard percentage remained well below the 40% threshold at 21.9%, which compared favourably with the 2018/2019-year end position of 47%. On seeking assurance from the Committee Chair, the GVP expressed confidence that the College had the capacity to remain well below the MS for the 2020/2021 year. Currently, the latest lockdown had not led to a significant number of withdrawals that would directly impact achievement rates. However, delays in practical subjects were having to be carefully managed to ensure that achievements are not delayed to the detriment of the MS calculation.
      • The College had an overall possible best-case achievement of 75.6%. The College had continued to assess apprentices on-site and deliver external examinations and was, therefore hopeful that, whilst some delays in achievement could be expected, progress should continue to allow apprentices to achieve in this academic year as planned. The Committee sought assurance that this expected achievement could be sustained. The GVP explained that the College could continue to assess apprentices on-site and deliver external examinations and was therefore hopeful that, whilst there could be some delays in achievement, progress should continue to allow apprentices to achieve in the academic year, as planned.

26/21. Risk

The Committee considered the strategic risks relevant to its remit.

It confirmed that with respect to QSC 7 (Risk that student destinations targets are not adequately measured or are not positive), a report on the College’s arrangements with respect to careers guidance and advice and progress against the Gatesby Standards would be considered at the next meeting.

27/21. Date of Next Meeting – Monday, 14 June 2021.

The meeting concluded at 7.31 p.m.