Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee
Date 23rd January 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), K. Quant, J. Rowe (E&D & SEND Link Governor), J. Sharrock (Safeguarding & LAYP Link Governor), R. Wilson (ex-officio, Chair of the Board),
Co-opted Committee members – Claire Wassall (H.E. Student Governor) and Joe Wildman (16 – 19 Student Governor)

The following governors attended the meeting for Minute Number 04/21 –
G Mills and J. Staniforth (Principal/CEO).
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 N. Merchant (Parent Governor)

At this point, the Chair took the opportunity to welcome the newly appointed Link Governors for Safeguarding & LAYP, E&D & SEND and H.E. to the meeting;

01/21. 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.

02/21. Minutes – 16 November 2020 (Appendix – Agenda Item 3)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 16 November 2020, were approved as a true record.

03/21. 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.

04/21. Self-Assessment Report (SAR) – Review and Validation (Appendix – Agenda Item 4)

The Committee reviewed the Draft College Self-Assessment Report (SAR) 2019 – 2020. The Self-Assessment Report had been circulated to all governors for review (previously circulated) and questions from governors had been submitted in advance.

The GVP - Q&CM explained that the Report had been drafted earlier than normal in the College’s Quality Cycle, to provide to the FE Commissioner Team for its visit in September 2020 and the OFSTED Monitoring Visit in November 2020.

In response to a question from governors, the Chair sought assurance on the decision not to provide self-assessed grades within the Draft SAR. The GVP - Q&CM and Principal/CEO explained that, in the absence of assessed student outcomes, the College had taken a decision, in line with other sixth form colleges, not to include self-assessed grades.

In response to a question from the Staff Governor (Academic), the P/CEO explained that the Draft SAR reflected the 2019 – 2020 period and, as a result, would not include commentary on the College’s arrangements regarding Work Experience/Employability during the periods of National Lockdown; these details would feature in the 2020 – 2021 Report. To provide assurance to the Committee, the GVP explained that there had been discussion, in the course level reviews undertaken as part of the Quality Review Cycle, on the lockdowns, their impact, what had been learnt and how this would inform practical improvements going forward. The focus of these discussions had been to prepare staff to deliver work remotely again, in anticipation of a further National Lockdown. As a result, the College was able to transition to effective remotely learning quickly when the National Lockdown was announced in January 2021

In response to a question on how lockdown had affected student attendance and how it was subsequently tracked and reported, the GVP - I&SD explained that, during National Lockdown, the College expected that staff took student attendance registers and monitored attendance and engagement closely. As a result of the procedures implemented, the College had benchmarked well against other colleges in the West Midlands in terms of attendance in the First Term 2020 – 2021.

From March 2020 (during the first National Lockdown), student attendance had been monitored within individual curriculum teams. When the College re-opened for on-site delivery, registers were re-introduced. From September 2020, the College had introduced a register marking system to flag up students whose attendance was affected by Covid, whether it be self-isolating or absence through illness. The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) then monitored weekly these different aspects of attendance as well as the curriculum teams, as this information presented a good indication of how students were being affected. This enabled the College to plan pro-actively support and resources for students unable to attend College. Since the introduction of the third National Lockdown, the College was using attendance registers, supplemented by the Covid markers, with attendance monitored daily. As a result of the procedures put in place, the College had been to anticipate and deal quickly with managing attendance, the impact being that attendance levels had not dropped below expected levels and was improved from this point in 2020.

The Committee agreed the E&D Link Governor’s request that reference to the College’s anti-bullying arrangements be included in the Behaviour and Attitudes Section.

The Committee felt that more evaluative statements should be included into the Draft SAR, to draw out the impact of the College’s progress on outcomes. The P/CEO explained that the College had performed well; however, it was hard to introduce evaluative statements because of the unprecedented year the College had experienced and the use of CAGs. The GVP added that the Draft SAR reflected that the College was a good provider.

The Safeguarding Link Governor observed that there was an opportunity in the Draft Report to demonstrate its commitment to Safeguarding and the impact of the safeguarding measures the College had introduced. The GVP – Q&CM explained that the details of these additional measures and their impact had been set out in the College Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP) and agreed to cross-reference this in the Draft SAR.

Having been assured that governors had read and reviewed the Draft Self-Assessment Report thoroughly, it was unanimously

Resolved: That the Draft Self-Assessment Report 2019 – 2020, be validated, subject to the amendments and additions requested.

05/21. Higher Education (Appendices – Agenda Item 5a & b)

Higher Education Quality Improvement Plan (Appendix – Agenda item 5a)

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

The GVP - Q&CM reminded that 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. The E&D Link Governor queried the percentage targets set out in the Improvement Plan. The GVP – Q&CM explained that these targets had been set in consultation and with the agreement of the Office for Students (OfS) and represented challenging and realistic targets. Compared with other providers, the College had started face-to-face learning from September 2020, leading to a week in, week out arrangement, as Covid measures intensified before the National Lockdown in January 2021. Staffordshire University was supportive of the College’s approach and arrangements to secure student engagement and maintain a positive student experience.

HE Consultative Overview (Appendix – Agenda Item 5b)

The Committee reviewed the outcomes of the consultatives conducted in the Autumn 2020 term and progress against issues raised.

Office for Students (OfS) Update

The Clerk to the Board provided an update (previously circulated) as follows –

      • The OfS had responded to the Government’s interim response to the Augar Review, statutory guidance on funding, and the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF). The OfS had also written to Accountable Officers, on how it intended to take forward the announcements from the Department for Education.
      • The Disabled Students’ Commission: Making a difference for disabled students in higher education had been issued. A copy had been circulated to the HE Link Governor, to provide context in advance of his Link Meeting taking place in February 2021.

06/21. Analysis of the Autumn 2020 Student Induction Survey (Appendix – Agenda Item 6)

The Committee reviewed the outcome of the analysis (previously circulated).

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.

The Committee acknowledged that -

    • The overall response rate had been similar to previous years.
    • 96.9% of students agreed that they felt safe. Those students that did not agree that they felt safe had been contacted directly for support and after this process 98.7% of students felt safe and those that did not, were known to the safeguarding or support teams.
    • Over 95% of respondents felt that the first week of induction was well organised, that they had given information on being safe and would recommend the College to others.
    • Over 90% of students felt happy with their course (94.6 %), knew how to hand in work (92.3 %), knew the importance of good attendance (92.8 5), had accessed online resources (93.4 %), knew who to do go to for help with their course (91.9 %) and felt the College had made suitable adaptations for the pandemic (91.3 %).
    • Only 76.0% of students found the handbook useful suggesting that its format needed reviewing.
    • 86.2% of students felt they had received enough information on their course prior to starting, down from 92,1% last year.
    • 89.8% of students knew how their course will be assessed, a decrease from 91.9% last year (recommendation 2)
    • Only 77.0 % knew how to access resources from the LRC as LRC inductions did not take place this year due to the pandemic and restrictions on its use are continuing.

Picking up this issue, the Committee observed that there were several areas where the communication of information to students was not in line with expectations and sought explanations, asking how the College’s normal Induction preparations had been affected by the requirement to keep the College Covid secure through social distancing, keeping visitors to the College to a minimum and avoiding large gatherings of students.

The Staff Governor enquired how the lockdowns had affected students’ ability to receive information on their courses and what was the College doing to address this? The DoALS advised that, normally, students on academic provision would be invited into College before induction and given the opportunity to interact directly with tutors. Whilst the College had prepared an extensive and well-received set of online resources to support Induction, the lack of opportunity to meet tutors face-to-face to ask questions, due to the requirement to keep the College Covid secure had been reflected in the survey outcomes. Students on vocational programmes had also experienced a different Induction process in September 2020. The Committee stated that it wished to see an improvement in these outcomes in the 2020 – 2021 Survey.

The DCS explained that, normally, the students on Induction spent a week in face-to-face groups, being provided with information on the College’s resources and support programmes. However, information on certain student support services had been challenging to communicate to students on Induction in September 2020, as the College’s focus had been on being Covid secure, As a result of this and the early August 2020 Bank Holiday, the delivery of the College’s induction programme had amended, with students receiving information in smaller groups and remotely.

Following the results of the Survey, the College had worked with focus groups on ways to keep these services and issues in the student eye using posters, digital displays, Moodle strap lines and revisiting and reinforcing core themes in tutorial, particularly access to Safeguarding resources during lockdown. The College was also looking into developing an App to deliver the Student Handbook. The Committee agreed that due to the challenges faced, there was a need for an additional campaign to inform students of the services the College provided to support them.

The Committee also directed that it receives 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.

Having reviewed the report, the Committee

Resolved: That the following recommendations be included in the Student Induction Survey Action Plan and that progress against targets set be monitored by the Committee -

    1. Review the format of the Student Handbook and consider a more accessible option such as an App.
    2. Courses with less than 90% of students agreeing that they know how their course is to be assessed address this in their induction materials.
    3. To run an information campaign on learning support, financial support, emotional health and wellbeing support, the Agency, Prevent and who to approach in the case of a safeguarding incident (linking to recommendation 1).
    4. The College’s E & D Committee investigate the perception of Asian / Asian British students with some follow up actions.
    5. To adjust the language of question 19 to be more accessible for students - ‘I did the Side by Side online training and other tutorial activities to learn about radicalisation and extremism’, rather than ‘I have been given information on Prevent’.
    6. To remind HE staff to direct their students to the internal surveys.

07/21. Student Leaver Survey Action Plan 2019-20 (Appendix No. 6b)

The Committee reviewed a report setting out progress against the Student Leaver Survey Action Plan 2019 - 2020 (previously circulated).

08/21. Student Voice Update (Appendix – Agenda item 7)

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 Student Constitution had been approved and shared with students.
    • The December 2020 Student Rep meetings had met as planned and Student Union Executive (SUE) had now met to discuss how to progress establishing online student friendship groups; this was being facilitated by The Agency, as part of its approach to launching a new lockdown enrichment e-prospectus to students.
    • Students had been consulted on what they would like to include in a Student Charter around how to stay safe during the current pandemic. Following this piece of work, the revised Student Charter had been published.
    • The Cultural Club, Debate Club, and PRIDE Group were now established and since, lockdown, were operating online.
    • A new Enrichment e-prospectus had been launched to support students through lockdown, picking up the outcomes of the Induction Survey and feedback from the Autumn FE Forums.

In response to an invitation from the Chair, the Student Governor (16 – 19) provided a further verbal report on his attendance at the SUE Meetings. Since lockdown, meetings had moved online, meeting twice weekly and considering specific topics, rather than general items. The Board Chair encouraged governors to attend the SUE meetings, as they had a standing invitation. The Clerk to the Board confirmed that all governors received the weekly notices of student activities including the dates of the SUE meetings.

09/21. Review of the Autumn 2020 Student Forums (FE) (Appendix – Agenda item 7b)

The Committee reviewed a report (previously circulated) on the outcomes of the Autumn 2020 Student Forums – Further Education (FE) and the accompanying Action Plan.

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

The Committee reviewed responses and sought assurance that all points were covered in the Draft Action Plan presented.

The Safeguarding Link Governor enquired how the College was implementing the Safeguarding Forum feedback, during lockdown conditions. The GVP - CS&BD explained that the College was looking into the feedback suggestions, analysing how they could be implemented during Lockdown and still have a positive impact. The Committee observed it was positive to see a correlation between the outputs of the survey and the forums. The process had also been enriched by tutors having direct conversations with students and providing direct input in forums. The impact of this was that students felt more connected and engaged.

The Committee also directed that it received progress reports against the Action Plan and impact of the recommendations.

10/21. 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 on 03 December 2020 and had considered -

    • The impact of the College’s mitigations with respect to safeguarding students and staff from an E&D perspective; for example, restricted access to lifts and the requirement to wear PPE in College. 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 recommendations of the Student Leaver Survey 2020 and would incorporate recommendations into its Action Plan.
    • Black Lives Matter. The Colleges sought to embed the concept of allyship through Black Lives Matter awareness; discussions on far-right extremism (as part of PREVENT) and, from the new year, a session on black history. The College was seeking the support of the BAME Cultural Society in this.
    • An update on how the HE Access & Participation Plan Actions would be implemented and monitored.
    • A report on the recently held careers Event ‘Find Your Future’ – the College’s inclusive Careers event: 1,998 students and parents had booked on from across the three campuses. On the live exhibition site, there were 2,434 clicks overall and of those 1,688 were registered as unique visitors.

In response to a question, the DSS provided a verbal update on how the College was keeping vulnerable students engaged and safe during the Third National Lockdown. All identified vulnerable students had been individually contacted, to invite them into College and their individual risk assessments had been reviewed and, if necessary, revised. The College ensured that those who had chosen not to come into College were safe and were able to engage in learning going forward. Currently, between 30 – 50 students were attending College, supported by staff coming on site.

The newly appointed E&D Link Governor joined the Board in January 2021 and was currently on Induction. He had been invited to attend the next meeting of the E&D Committee, as a guest.

The Student Governors left the meeting at this point.

11/21. Progress Grade and Quality Reviews – Period 2 (confidential Appendices – Agenda item 10)

The SLT officers present updated the Committee on Progress Grade Period 2 for A levels and vocational provision (confidential report previously circulated), being the second set of progress grades for the academic year.

The DoALs highlighted –

    • The report was based on the progress grades submitted in December 2020. January would usually expect the mock exam period for year 2 students, but that had been disrupted by the return to a period of partial closure and accompanying cancellation of mock exams.
    • Subject areas were setting alternative assessments which aimed to provide students with meaningful feedback on their learning, however, the 2021 exam cohort had now missed two College wide assessment periods, so there was less data for this cohort compared to last year.
    • The College was considering carefully the proposals for the summer assessment arrangements which had just been published by the Department for Education (DfE).
    • Regarding Year 2 A Levels –
      • Progress grades suggested 77.1% meeting targets (similar to 78.0% at PG1); exam results achieved in previous years were 81.8% (2020 CAGs) and 67.6% (2019).
      • The judgements for high grades were currently 52.4% (up from 51.7% at PG1); high grades achieved in final exams were 58% (2020 CAGs) and 44.9% (2019).
      • Attendance was 94.0%, compared to 92.1% this time last year which was pleasing given the Covid context.

The Committee reviewed the subjects of most interest/concern following 2019 exam results. The Committee acknowledged it was pertinent to use this year’s results, due to the lack of exam results in 2020.

    • 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 the high-grade judgements had improved to 55.4 (52.4% at PG1) whilst meeting targets was consistent at 71.4% (71.1% at PG1). Attendance was 95.0% (94.2 % at this point last year).
    • 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 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 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.
    • GCSE Courses - Attendance on the two resit courses was currently 69.8% and lower than expected. The Committee was advised that small group tuition was being offered to seek an improvement. Regarding the results of the November GCSE sitting, 40% of the entries achieved grade 4 or better across the College as a whole

The Committee reviewed the report and discussed how data on Meeting Grades was presented to support meaningful interrogation. The GVP – IS&SD and DoALs offered to review the Report to provide the additional level of information requested going forward.

Regarding vocational provision, the Committee noted -

    • For year 1 students the largest number of students for level 3 vocational were on the extended diploma/ three A level equivalent programmes. 84.7% (as opposed to 87.1% PG2 2020) were currently predicted to meet minimum target grade. This reflected the College’s commitment to work with individual students to raise their aspirations beyond their expectations.
    • The professional judgements for high grades for year 2 students were 73.3%. Meeting Minimum Target grade was predicted at 86.2% (+5.5% higher than the previous year.). There were 38.1% of students performing over their target grade (+6.1% higher than the previous year). All areas were in line or better than PG upper predictions for overall ALPs score from the previous year.
    • Pass/ Fail only qualifications were predicting a 99% pass rate.
    • English GCSE was predicting 38.7%. Maths GCSE was predicting high at 47.1%. Recent resit results in the vocational area saw 59% of students pass their English (including 10 grade 6’s) and in Maths 26% pass.

12/21. Apprenticeships Update (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 11)

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

    • COVID Impact – The latest lockdown had presented further challenges in supporting apprentices and employers. As with other curriculum areas, in-College apprenticeship delivery had ceased, and lessons had been transitioned online. However, in contrast to the first lockdown, delivery to apprentices had been redesigned/re-sequenced for online delivery. The Committee sought assurance on the College’s mitigations for the delivery of practical sessions. In some cases, teachers had been able to continue to deliver/record practical skills sessions and make those available to apprentices either live or through a stream service.
    • Assessment visits were still taking place as permitted by national guidance and alternative arrangements made where assessments were not possible.
    • External examinations continued to take place for apprentices.
    • Recruitment continued throughout the Autumn Term and into the new year at a greater than usual level for this period. However, the College remained below planned recruitment. Projected starts by the end of January were 170.
    • The funding position for 2020/2021, was positive considering the COVID impact on recruitment.
    • The College had submitted the Minimum Standards update report to the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The report, and the accompanying updated action plan, provided insight into the changes that had been made since 2018/2019 to improve overall achievement rates. The report highlighted that the minimum standard percentage was below the 40% threshold at 19%, which compared favourably with the 2018/2019-year end position of 47%. The Committee sought assurance on the College’s position going forward. Whilst the College was currently confident that it had the capacity to remain well below the MS maximum for the 2020/2021 year, the impact of the latest lockdown could still impact on this position.
    • With respect to Projected Overall Achievement Rates, the College had an overall possible best-case achievement of 76.8%. 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.
    • The College had revised its starting processes and paperwork to support effective target setting for apprentices. The impact of this was that apprentices and employers knew about and understood End Point Assessments (EPA), which were now embedded in the College’s processes. Awarding bodies have adapted quickly to providing online EPA and the College was taking advantage where possible. The Committee requested that EPA data be included in future reports.
    • All apprentice programmes included a tutorial element that mirrored the full-time student programe.

13/21. Risk

The Committee considered the strategic risks relevant to its remit.

With respect to QSC Risk 5 (Risk that Systems in place to support students who are struggling to achieve predicted grades are not effective), the Student Governor enquired on the College’s progress on implement a tutorial programme during the Third National Lockdown. The DSC responded that, as the Country went into the Lockdown, the College had just completed its Progress Grade cycle 2 and the immediate weeks after this period had been set aside for student-tutor 1-2-1s, with no tutorials taking place. Therefore, the Tutorial Programme re-started week commencing 23 January 2021 and each student would receive an individual email, informing them of arrangements. Personal Tutors and Support Tutors were, from 23 January 2021, also contacting individually students identified as falling below expected levels of progress and engagement, as part of the College’s arrangements to maintain expected targets.

With respect to QSC Risk 16 (Risk that inadequate teaching performance is not identified, or addressed, or actions taken are not effective), the Student Governor enquired how inadequate teaching performance was being identified and what impact were the College’s measures having? The GVP – Q&CM and DoALs explained the procedures for the teaching staff and that, going forward, all programme leaders are being questioned on the quality of teaching and the impact of delivering remote learning as part of their regular quality reviews.

14/21. Date of Next Meeting – Monday, 22 March 2021.

The meeting concluded at 7.37 p.m.